CCU artist honors Waccamaw Tribe with oil painting gift

A Coastal Carolina University artist is honoring the Waccamaw Tribe through gifting their principal chief an oil portrait. 

 Joshua Knight, an adjunct professor of visual arts and alumni of CCU, said he attended the November Waccamaw official community meeting where he was introduced to the community and the principal chief, Chief Buster Hatcher. Knight said when he attended he was looking for inspiration for his next project and found it in Chief Hatcher. 

 “When I got there, I got to meet him and get to see all that he does or what he has done for Native Americans,” Knight said. 

 Knight said his work centers around portraiture and themes of identity and relationships. He said experiencing the powwow inspired him artistically because of his own identity as a Cherokee Native American who was adopted and lacked those experiences. Knight said he selected oil as the medium because of its expressive quality. 

 “There’s multiple different layers to this individual other than just what meets the eye and I really thought of doing the oil paint, I could actually achieve that in a way,” said Knight. 

 He said the painting is meant to commemorate the achievements of Chief Hatcher and bring awareness to the Waccamaw Tribe.  

 Chief Buster Hatcher said he was amazed someone wanted to paint him because he viewed himself as a nobody. He said the painting inspires him.  

 “It makes me feel like maybe we have made a mark and it made that more more easily spread and make a bigger mark,” Chief Hatcher said. 

 Chief Hatcher said he and his community pushed for the recognition of the Waccamaw Tribe, as there used to be no recognized tribes in South Carolina. Hatcher said his journey for recognition began when trying to register a business in Conway as minority-owned with the state, but was denied because his tribe was not recognized.  

He said the problem was a lack of a recognition process with the state. Hatcher said he sued the state and won. He said along with the efforts of his community, the Waccamaw Tribe became the first recognized tribe in South Carolina. He said that there are nine recognized tribes today. 

 Hatcher said their cultural arts are impacted by the government. He said his sister was not able to sell her traditional art as Native American art for a long time because of a lack of recognition by South Carolina. He said that as many as 600 of Waccamaw citizens’ remains and artifacts are not properly buried or stored because they have been taken to museums. 

 “People just don’t realize what indignant actions our government takes against Native people,” Hatcher said. 

 To learn more about the Waccamaw Tribe, visit the official website at or contact Chief Hatcher directly at [email protected]. 

 Knight said plans for gifting the oil painting are not set, but hopes to attend another meeting to meet more community members and expand the portrait into a series. For more of Knight’s art, visit his instagram @joshknight_art.