Red Thunder Cloud

Red Thunder Cloud
Red Thunder Cloud 2.jpg
Red Thunder Cloud.
Born May 30, 1919
Newport, Rhode Island
Died January 8, 1996
Worcester, Massachusetts
Occupation Singer, dancer, storyteller, and field researcher
Parent(s) Cromwell Payne West and Roberta Hawkins West

Red Thunder Cloud also known as Carlos Westez and Namo S. Hatiririe, a singer, dancer, storyteller, and field researcher is best known for his claim to be the last native speaker of the Catawba language. There have been various claims that Red Thunder Cloud was an impostor as he was not really a native speaker of Catawban. Anthropologist Frank Speck believed Red Thunder Cloud to be a genuine Catawba Indian and proceeded to provide him with training in field methods of recording notes for ethnological studies. Red Thunder Cloud later worked for Speck on small projects, collecting ethnographic data and folklore from Native American groups. His obituary was published in the New York Times in 1996 which brought his identity into further question.

Early Life

Born as Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West in Newport, Rhode Island, to druggist, Cromwell Payne West of Pennsylvania and homemaker, Roberta Hawkins West of Lynchburg, Virginia. Both were of African American descent. His maternal grandfather was William Ashbie Hawkins, a respected civic leader and one of the first African-American lawyers of Baltimore. From 1935 to 1937 West was employed by the Newport City wharf as a watchman and later as a chauffeur. In 1938 West began correspondence with Frank G. Speck, a professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He stated that he was a sixteen-year-old Catawba Indian and a junior at Southampton High School on Long Island, New York. He petitioned Speck for help in learning more about his people and indicated that his fascination for Native American culture began when he was in the fourth grade. West further stated that he was brought up by the Narraganset Indians of Rhode Island and had lived with the Shinnecock tribe since 1937. He also noted that he learned the Catawba language from his grandmother, Ada McMechen.

Born as Cromwell Ashbie Hawkins West in Newport, Rhode Island, to druggist, Cromwell Payne West of Pennsylvania and homemaker, Roberta Hawkins West of Lynchburg, Virginia. Both were of African American descent. His maternal grandfather was William Ashbie Hawkins, a respected civic leader and one of the first African-American lawyers of Baltimore. From 1935 to 1937 West was employed by the Newport City wharf as a watchman and later as a chauffeur. In 1938 West began correspondence with Frank G. Speck, a professor of anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. He stated that he was a sixteen-year-old Catawba Indian and a junior at Southampton High School on Long Island, New York. He petitioned Speck for help in learning more about his people and indicated that his fascination for Native American culture began when he was in the fourth grade. West further stated that he was brought up by the Narraganset Indians of Rhode Island and had lived with the Shinnecock tribe since 1937. He also noted that he learned the Catawba language from his grandmother, Ada McMechen.

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