The Catawba Nation has lived along the banks of the Catawba River in South Carolina for at least 6,000 years. The Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto encountered them in 1540 as he marched his troops across the Piedmont region in search of gold. Later, the Catawba welcomed European settlers to their ancestral land, but these latecomers—or invaders— brought diseases like smallpox to the Catawba, reducing the population to less than 1,000 by 1760.

Today, the Catawba people stand tall and proud, describing themselves as “the tribe of tomorrow, today.” And now more members of the Catawba Nation will have the chance to build their own tomorrow through higher education, thanks to a new agreement reached with Sullivan Foundation partner school Catawba College, located in Salisbury, N.C.

Back in 2007, the Catawba Nation and Catawba College came together to discuss the name of the college’s athletic teams’ nickname, the Indians. They reached an agreement to allow the use of the name in exchange for a scholarship for a Catawba student. The initial agreement allowed one student to receive a four-year scholarship every four years. In April of this year, that agreement was updated to offer a four-year scholarship to a new Catawba Nation student every year.

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The change reflects ongoing collaborations to further strengthen the relationship between Catawba College and the Catawba Nation. The goal is to offer more educational resources and opportunities for tribal students while teaching Catawba College students about the rich history and culture of the Catawba Nation.

“Catawba College and the Catawba Nation have been intrinsically linked since the college’s founding over 170 years ago,” said Dr. Jared R. Tice, senior vice president for the college experience and dean of students at Catawba College. “This new annual scholarship offering further demonstrates the strengthened partnership of our two communities working together to advance the educational opportunities for Catawba citizens. We look forward to creating additional pathways and opportunities with the Nation in the very near future.”

“We are excited to see the partnership between the Catawba Nation and Catawba College grow, and in turn, to see the educational opportunities for young Catawba citizens multiply,” Catawba Nation Chief Bill Harris said.

To be eligible for the Catawba College Scholarship, Catawba students must provide a copy of their Tribal ID and meet other eligibility requirements for admission.

As a general rule, there will be one full-tuition Catawba Indian Nation Scholarship available each academic year, inclusive of all merit scholarships already awarded. The scholarship does not cover on-campus room and board or book costs. However, each student receiving the scholarship can still receive additional scholarships to cover those costs. Like any other scholarship recipient, the recipient must remain in good academic standing with Catawba College while carrying a full-time class load except in their final semester or due to extenuating personal circumstances.

Last October, Catawba College received a $200 million gift to its endowment, the largest in its history, putting the school in line with nearby colleges and universities like the University of North Carolina-Charlotte, according to the Salisbury Post. That gift means Catawba College now has one of the highest endowment-per-student ratios in the region.

This article has been edited and expanded from the original version appearing on the Catawba College website.

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