Our History

Our History

The South Carolina Archives possess several treaties made between South Carolina and the Lower Towns of the Cherokee Nation as far back as the mid 1600's. Our history tells of our people living in the Piedmont region; this area has always been our home. The entire area is a rich reminder of our people, past and present. The Nation was divided into into three areas; the Overhills, the Middle, and the Lower settlements. The Cherokees occupied an area from the Seneca River in South Carolina, north into Tennessee, and west into Georgia. Some sixty-four towns and villages have been identified.  The Lower Towns were located in present -day South Carolina west of Greenville along the streams and rivers of what is now Oconee and Pickens counties, and south of Greenville into Laurens County.

One of the main towns was located near the confluence of Brasstown Creek and the Tugaloo River;  it was called Nayuhi or The Place of the Sand Bar. A network of paths crisscross the region around Greenville. One path ran from Whitehorse Road west of the city of Greenville, and Buncombe Road to the north. Two, perhaps three major paths crossed Greenville County.  The upper path ran across Greenville County originating at Keowee Indian Town in the present-day Oconee county. For some this was a direct route from the mountains to the coast. This was of major importance because of the enormous trade with the coastal tribes. This path followed the approzimate route of SC Route 11 east of Pleasant Ridge State Park.

Our Milestones

Our Founding Chief

Chief Howard White Bull Norris


 To recognize and honor the memory of Howard Eugene “White Bull” Norris, First Chief of the State Recognized Piedmont American Indian Association /Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina.


Whereas, Chief Howard E.(Gene) “White Bull” Norris was born on November 27, 1940 in Canton, NC to the late Howard and Florence Norris and departed from this life on May 18, 2017.


Whereas, Chief Norris served in the US Air Force as a Military Policeman, followed by a career as a dedicated and award-winning graphic designer and fine artist. He retired as a Production Manager in the field of Advertising. Chief Norris was a life-long artist and advocate, encouraging the continuation of traditional Native American Indian Arts and Crafts within his Tribe and throughout the State. He was listed on the SC Arts Commission Roster of Approved Artists. He established a craft store on tribal grounds to bring handmade crafts to the public.

Chief Norris advocated for the inclusion of traditional Native American Arts through legislation and policy changes in South Carolina.


Whereas, Chief Norris was a dedicated public servant with a purpose driven life. In 1991, he established “Christmas in the Park” in Simpsonville, SC to help needy families have a brighter Christmas, earning him Simpsonville’s “Citizen of the Year” Award. This program has served between seventy (first year) to over five hundred individuals each year and continues to this day. He served as a member of the Laurens County Community Relations’ Council and served as a Board member on several non-profit organizations serving the Native American Indians of South Carolina. Chief Norris set up the first PAIALECNSC Pow Wow in 2007. He established “Kids Days with the Cherokees” at the tribal grounds in 2009 to teach public school children about Native American Indian and Cherokee culture, serving thousands of school children each year. Chief Norris Chief Norris worked tirelessly on attaining State Recognition as a Tribe which was acquired in 2015.    


Whereas, Chief Norris placed his faith in the Lord and passionately served his church, Our Lady of the Rosary Catholic Church. He assisted his wife Victoria with Sunday school classes, volunteered with Vacation Bible School and served the poor through the St. Vincent DePaul Society, built sets for plays, and even volunteered to clean the church. Chief Norris was a Cub Scout and Boy Scout Leader. He was a humble servant of the Lord and was devoted to his beliefs, including “Pro-life” advocacy.


Whereas, Chief Norris was a passionate and outspoken tribal leader for over 30 years. Chief Norris was one of the founding members of the Piedmont American Indian Association (PAIA) in 1984, serving on the Governor’s Palmetto Indian Affairs Commission in 1986 and establishing the PAIA/ Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of SC in 1995 as a Cherokee tribal community. Chief Norris served on the SC Commission for Minority Affairs Native American Affairs Ad Hoc Committee in 1999 as a founding member working to establish legislation and policy for State Recognition for Native American Tribal Communities. In 2003, Chief Norris and other Tribal Community leaders saw the establishment of State Recognition in South Carolina. He continued to serve on the Native American Advisory Committee and served as Chairman. Chief Norris was instrumental in the passing of the Native American Indian Marriage Bill.


Whereas, Whenever the welfare of Indians in South Carolina was affected, Chief Norris endeavored to ensure that his people were standing on a level playing field. He and his wife devoted their life, their income, their dedication, and their personal assets to improving the plight of Indian people in this state. Together, they were a force not be defeated, never to be ignored and who would light the path for hundreds, who would follow into the leadership of a people determined to take their rightful place in the history, the culture, and the rights afforded citizens of South Carolina but often denied Indians.


Whereas, he is survived by his wife Victoria, his children: Dwight (Elizabeth); Denise; and James (Stephanie) Norris; 3 grandsons; 2 great grandsons; and dedicated Tribal members and friends.


Whereas, it would be fitting and proper to pay tribute to the life and legacy of this dedicated South Carolinian by recognizing and honoring the memory of Howard Eugene (Gene) “White Bull” Norris, First Chief of the State Recognized Piedmont American Indian Association /Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of South Carolina.

State of South Carolina

In the House of Representatives

Columbia, South Carolina

June 6. 2017

On January 18, 2019—Chief Buster Hatcher, of the Waccamaw Indian People performed a Ceremony to make Mark Two Blades Williams a Traditional Fire Keeper. 

Chief Mary Louise Wolfwoman Worthy and Vice Chief Dexter Yellow Hawk passed the Feather to sanction Two Blades for Cherokee Ceremonies. It was a privilege and an honor for them to participate in this Sunrise Ceremony. The Waccamaw united our fires as an official alliance between the two tribes.

Historical Note: A few years ago First Chief Howard White Bull Norris asked Two Blades to consider becoming the PAIALECNSC Fire Keeper. Two Blades consented. First Chief Norris instructed Two Blades on the meaning and ritual of the Fire Keeper and referred him to the Eastern Fire Keeper, Earl Many Skins Carter, for further instruction.

Congratulations to Two Blades!

5th Annual Trail of Tears Memorial Walk

                           Ninety Six National Historic Site

Saturday, November 10, 2018

We walked along the Cherokee Path at Ninety Six National Historic Site to remember our Ancestors who were forced from their homes. Thirty-nine people joined in the Walk. 

Fresh waters will finally flow

for Lower Eastern Cherokee


The Laurens County Advertiser

By Judith Brown | June 17, 2022

Fresh waters will finally flow

for Lower Eastern Cherokee


The Laurens County Advertiser

By Judith Brown | June 17, 2022


WATER WORKS — After years of working to get a new well for the Tribal Grounds, Vice Chief Dexter Yellow Hawk Sharp, right, gets help installing a cover from David White, a technical assistance provider with Southeast Rural Community Assistance Projects Inc. Photos by Judith Brown

Gray Court, S.C. – On Thursday morning last week, Dexter “Yellow Hawk” Sharp got the final approval from a visiting DHEC engineer on a well which will finally provide quality drinking water for the PAIA Tribal Grounds of the Piedmont American Indian Association (PAIA) Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation S.C. in Gray Court.

It’s a process that has taken more than the five years since Sharp took over the task following the death in May 2017 of the tribe’s founding chief, Howard White Bull Norris.

The previous well, which was dug by hand in 1972, had been condemned for some time, and the leadership of the tribal grounds had struggled to remedy the situation.

Now the new well sits on the Tribal Grounds, located on Warrior Creek Church Road not far from the northern end of Metric Road. What started as about a 3.5 acre parcel now is about 7 acres, thanks to the continued generosity of their neighbor, who has given them additional land over the years. They have still had access to the old well for plumbing purposes, but all drinking water has had to be brought in since before 2017.

“We had well drillers here and Chief Norris died thinking we had a new well,” Sharp said.

Funds were tight, and when drillers went down 600 feet and still had not hit water, leaders told them to stop.

Sharp spent time almost every weekday trying to find grant funds or organizations which could assist. He contacted all the regular agencies, such as local utilities, the Committee of Minority Affairs and others, and each had various requirements that were impossible to meet. Federal agencies, for instance, require that a tribe be federally recognized, but PAIA only received state recognition in 2013.

Finally, a circuitous route of contacts this past winter lead Sharp to someone who knew of a well-drilling philanthropy which was willing to assist the tribe, even though it didn’t meet the typical parameters.

“I don’t even know who the donor is,” Sharp said. “But I got a call from a woman who had already told me her agency couldn’t help me but she was going to look for options.”

She told Sharp that she had found another organization that agreed to give the tribe $40,000 for a new well as long as they hired a hydrologist first. The hydrologist determined the best spot and he made a call to Rodgers Well Drilling in Greenwood.

“They went down 200 feet and didn’t hit water, and I said go another 100, and they hit water,” Sharp said.

DHEC engineer Joseph Clinton came by last Thursday to give final approval on the well, and David White, a technical assistance provider with the non-profit Southeast Rural Community Assistance Project, helped attach the well cover.

The task is still not quite complete for the water to flow. Sharp has access to the pipes they need, but the contractors who will do the trenching and wiring of the system to the buildings have other job site commitments for the next several weeks. But the option to have drinkable water is important.

About 27 of the tribal elders met Saturday night, and Sharp said the elders are hoping to see more Cherokee descendants join the tribe. Rather than DNA proof, the state-recognized tribes need only show lineage through ancestry.

“We know they are here because the 2020 census showed more than 100 Native American descen- dants in Laurens County,” Sharp said.

The annual Pow Wow will be Saturday, Sept. 24, and those with Cherokee and other Native American lines gather from across the state and beyond. Boy Scout groups often camp or spend days learning about Native American life as well, such as the dug-out canoe, and the models of the summer and winter homes.

Anyone interested in more information about the PAIA Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation SC can contact Sharp at 864-906-5111 or email dsharplsc@gmail.com.

Finally after many years of on again/off again deliberations for a Cherokee state, the Greenville Water commissioned a sculptor, Doug Young, who contacted Chief Norris, and the dream was in the works! On May 6, 2017 the Cherokee statue was unveiled on the corner of Broad and Washington Streets; it was named “Water Blessing” by Chief Norris.  There was a huge celebration with our tribe providing drum and flute playing, and dancing; Chief Norris provided opening remarks. The statue was exquisite and the signage explained the importance of water to the Cherokee People; only one important point missing- Chief Norris’ hand in the authenticity of the Cherokee warrior. 

After 3 years of working with the CEO of the Greenville Water along with Mayor White and Arlene Marcley, updated signage was installed

9th Native American Tribe Recognized by State of South Carolina

COLUMBIA, SC – The South Carolina Commission for Minority Affairs Board of Commissioners officially granted State Recognition to the PAIA-Lower Eastern Cherokee Nation of SC making them South Carolina’s 9th State Recognized Tribe on Friday, June 23, 2015.