CATAWBA INDIAN RESERVATION -- Samantha Humphries is learning to make a bowl the way her Catawba Indian ancestors did thousands of years ago.
The damp, gray clay she shapes with her fingers is dug from deep below the Catawba River shore. Beulah Harris, 79, teaches 11-year-old Samantha to rub the bowl with a wet stone to give it a smooth, shiny finish. Next, they put it in an oven to harden.
Samantha is one of 49 kids who make up this summer's Camp Kic-A-Wah. The Catawba Cultural Center launched the camp four years ago for kids who live on the Catawba Indian Reservation, about 5 miles east of Rock Hill. Campers, ages 6 to 18, attend from 7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. weekdays. They spend nearly three summer months learning Catawba culture, customs and heritage.
Elders Harris and Elizabeth Plyler teach pottery. Others teach campers to make utensils and jewelry. Instructor Corey Totherow teaches a survival class where kids learn to identify wild plants and forage for food in the woods. Totherow teaches them to carve tools from stone, build fires and fashion hunting weapons.
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They learn ceremonial dances and the Catawba language, parts of which have been lost to history.
"A long time ago, you were shunned for being a Native American," said cultural center staff member Donnie Boyd. "Here, we teach ... pride in the heritage."
The idea for the camp came from a medicine man who lives on the reservation, says Kathy Brown, the center's assistant administrator. The goal, staffers say, is to fill a gap in children's lives.
American Indian communities have seen a surge in recent years in the number of children with learning difficulties, such as attention deficit disorder, Brown says.
"We think it's because they're missing a part of their cultural identity," she said. "Our theory is that by filling this component we'll help complete ... and therefore heal them.
"Of course, we won't know the fruits of our labor for many years."
Admission is free. The cultural center funds the camp with grant money, donations and profits from its gift shop.
There's no money to advertise, but enrollment hasn't suffered.
"Our camp filled up in 11 minutes," cultural center staffer Leslie Campbell said.
The most popular class, children say, is archery.
"It's fun," says 7-year-old Noah Sprott as he grabs an arrow.
Noah's competing with other campers. The one who hits the most tough targets -- bull's-eye circles and a model turkey, bear and wolf -- wins a medal.
Noah pulls back his bow string, then fires an arrow into a Styrofoam wolf standing several yards away.
"Yeah," he shouts.
Meanwhile, in pottery class, Mary Wurdemann, 13, puts the finishing touches on a clay duck.
"I can give it to somebody for their birthday," she says.
"I'm not giving my pottery away," 6-year-old Dakota Fields shouts across the table. "I'm selling mine for nine bucks."