The American Indian in North Carolina
By Rev. Douglas L. Rights
DECLINE OF THE COSTAL TRIBES
The ALGONQUIAN STOCK
The indians met by the Englishmen of Sir Walter Raleigh's expeditions belonged to the great linguistic stock known as Algonquian. Their tribes were scattered throughout a vast triangular-shaped territory extending from the North Carolina sandbanks to the St. Lawrence River [Canada], and from the Atlantic Ocean to the Rocky Mountains. The coastal tribes occupied the southern point of the triangle. They were mainly sedentary and agricultural. "The eastern Algonquian probably equaled the Iroquois in bravery, intelligence, and physical powers, but lacked their constancy, solidity of character, and capability of organization, and do not appear to have appreciated the power and influence they might have wielded by combination…There seems, indeed, to have been some element in their character which rendered them incapable of combining in large bodies, even against a common enemy" 1
For a half century or more after Raleigh's expeditions the Indians of the North Carolina seaboard were left to themselves. No further efforts were made to renew the settlement at Roanoke, and the colony at Jamestown was too far distant to involve relationships with the Carolina natives. About 1650, however, Virginians began to push south into the Albemarle region.
A VIRGINIA EXPEDITION
In September, 1654, a young fur trader of Virginia, with three companions, visited Roanoke Island, arriving by boat. The Indian chief of that region received them cordially and showed them the ruins of the fort erected by Sir Walter Raleigh's colonists. The Indians of Roanoke and others of neighboring tribes entered into a treaty of peace with the English.
As proof of their good intentions, a delegation of the Indians visited Francis Yardley at his Virginia home. The leader of the band, upon seeing and hearing the children of the settlement read and write, asked that his son might be taught "to speak out of the book, and to make a writing." He was invited to bring the boy to school, and at his departure he expressed himself as being desirous to serve the God the Englishmen served and to have his child brought up as a Christian. He promised to return with him in "four moons". The chief, arriving in Yardley's absence, was mistreated by the settlers, but was saved from personal injury through the kindness of his host's wife. Upon his return Yardley arranged with the chief to purchase lands along three great rivers in Carolina territory and sent men to select the tracts, to build a comfortable house for the chief, and to pay him two hundred pounds English money. It was agreed that the lands thus acquired should become a possession of England, and the chief solemnly carried out the transaction with the neighboring Indians by delivering to them "a turf of earth with an arrow shot into it." The Indians at once vacated these lands.
While Yardley's men were building the new house, the chief invited some of them to visit the Tuscarora. Two of the men went along with a party of the Indians, and after two days' travel they came to the hunting quarters of a Tuscarora chief, who, with 250 men, received them kindly. He invited the visitors to journey to his town, where he told them there resided a rich Spaniard who had been with the Tuscarora for seven years. Yardley's men were also invited to go farther inland where, it was said, copper was to be found in great abundance. The white men saw much copper among the Tuscarora, including plates which they claimed were a foot square. 2 They also stated that one of the Indians had two gold beads in his ears, as big as "rounceval peas" 3 The travelers were desirous of further exploration, but as their interpreter became ill, and as there was strife between the Tuscarora and a great nation called Cacores, the journey was considered too hazardous.
The Cacores were described as "a very little people in stature, not exceeding youths of thirteen or fourteen years, but extremely valiant and fierce in fight, and above belief swift in retirement and flight, whereby they resist the puissance of this potent, rich, and numerous people". This tribe of valiant little men may have been the Shoccoree, or Shakori, living westward, probably in the region of Haw River. Saxapahaw is another rendering of their name. It is interesting to note that in lower Randolph County on Cedar Creek, within Shoccoree territory, several graves were disturbed by waters of a freshet in 1929, revealing skeletal remains of Indians of small stature whose teeth indicated that they were past middle age.
The travelers learned also that "there is another great nation by these called Haynokes, who valiantly resist the Spaniard's northern attempts." These are thought to have been the Eno Indians, neighbors of the Shoccoree. Further reference will be made later to these two tribes. It is probable that they were formerly located farther south on the line of march of the Spanish explorers.
A party of forty-five Indians accompanied their friendly white companions to Virginia. The chief brought along his wife and son, whom he wanted baptized. The only present they delivered was the "turf of earth with an arrow shot into it." The boy was accordingly baptized, and as Yardley devoutly stated, was "left with me to be bred up a Christian, which God grant him grace to become!"
GEORGE FOX PREACHES TO THE INDIANS
George Fox visited Carolina in 1672. The Governor and his wife received the minister charitably, but a doctor of the province began a dispute. In the words of Fox:
And truly his opposing us was of good service, giving occasion to the opening of many things to the people concerning the Light and Spirit of God, which he denied to be in every one; and affirmed it was not in the Indians. Whereupon I called an Indian to us, and asked him, "Whether or no, when he did lie, or do any wrong to any one, there was not something in him that did so reprove him for it? " He said "There was such a thing in him that did so reprove him; and he was ashamed when he had done wrong, or spoken wrong." So we shamed the doctor before the governor and people....
I went from this place among the Indians, and spoke to them by an interpreter, shewing them, "That God made all things in six days, and made but one woman and one man; and that God did drown the old world because of their wickedness. Afterwards I spoke to them concerning Christ, shewing them, that he died for all men, for their sins, as well as for others; and had enlightened them as well as others; and that if they did that which was evil he would burn them; but if they did well they should not be burned. There was among them their young king and others of their chief men, who seemed to receive kindly what I said to them....
[Another service] There was at this meeting an Indian captain, who was very loving; and acknowledged it to be truth that was spoken. There was also one of the Indian priests, whom they called Pauwaw [origin of "pow-wow"?], who sat soberly among the people.
The early settlers in the Albemarle region were well received, but the first friendly dealings were followed by occasional hostility which retarded the growth of the settlement. The Indians could not offer resistance sufficient to drive back the newcomers, and the settlers prevailed. Soon the coastal tribes became subject to their white neighbors. Decline of these tribes was rapid, largely because of the evil effects incurred by contact with the white man's civilization. Their annals are short and simple.
These Indians occupied the sandbanks in the neighborhood of Cape Lookout. They have been long considered no other than Manteo's people, the friendly Croatoan, and there is good evidence that they afforded a refuge for the Lost Colony and that survivors of the colony were incorporated into their tribe. Smith and Strachey of Virginia heard about 1607 that the colonists of 1587 were still alive. John Lawson's history, published in 1709, says of the Hatteras Indians:
These tell us that several of their ancestors were white People, and could talk in a Book, as we do; the truth of which is confirmed by grey Eyes being found frequently amongst these Indians, and no others. They themselves extremely for their Affinity with the English, and are ready to do them all friendly offices.
When this was written, shortly after 1700 the Hatteras had only one town, Sand Banks, and numbered but sixteen fighting men, indicating a population of about eighty.
True to their affinity, they were allied with the English during the Tuscarora War. The journal of the provincial council of May 29, 1714, carried the report that the Hatteras Indians had lately escaped from the enemy Indians and were at Colonel Boyd's house, Colonel Boyd was ordered to supply the Indians with corn until they could return to their own habitation. Later the Indians appealed for "Some Small reliefe from ye County for their services being reduced to great poverty." They were allowed sixteen bushels of corn for their needs to be supplied out of the public store.
In 1731 Governor Burrington listed them among the six nations at that time in the province, none of which, except the Tuscarora, contained more than twenty families.
In May, 1761, the Rev. Alexander Stewart, a missionary of the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel, wrote of his visit to Hyde County, including this mention:
I likewise with pleasure inform the Society, that the few remains of the Altamuskeet [Mattamuskeet], Hatteras & Roanoke Indians (whom I likewise mentioned in a former letter) appeared mostly at the chapel & seemed fond of hearing the Word of the true God & of being admitted into the church of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 men and 3 women & 2 children were baptized by me. I could have wished the adults were better instructed, but their sureties & a northern Indian among them, who had been bred as a christian, promised to take that care.
Two years later the same clergyman made another voyage to Hyde County and reported:
The remains of the Attamuskeet, Roanoke and Hatteras Indians, live mostly along the coast, mixed with the white inhabitants, many of these attended at the Places of Public Worship, while I was there & behaved with decency seemed desirous of instruction & offered themselves & their children to me for baptism. & after examining some of the adults I accordingly baptized, 6 adult Indians, 6 Boys, 4 Girls & 5 Infants & for their further instruction (at the expence of a society called Dr. Bray's associates, who have done me the honor of making me Superintendent of their schools in this Province, have fixed a school mistress among them, to teach 4 Indian & 2 negro boys & 4 Indian girls to read & to work & have supplied them with Books for that purpose & hope that God will open the eyes of the whites everywhere that they may no longer keep the ignorant in distress but assist the charitable design of this Pious Society & do their best endeavours to increase the kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The possibility that members of the tribe migrated to Robeson County, where several thousand so-called Croatan Indians now reside, seems very remote.
The Chowan Indians, whose name signifies "Southerners," were still a strong tribe when the settlers began to move into the Albemarle region about 1650. Their name was well known, as the following references from early records of Virginia indicate.
On August 27, 1650, a Virginia exploring party set out from Fort Henry to reach the Tuscarora settlements. The company included Edward Bland, Abraham Wood, Sackford Brewster, Elias Pennant, two white servants, and an Appromattox Indian guide. On the way they secured a Nottoway Indian guide named Oyeocker. Some distance west of Meherrin River they came to an Indian trail. Their narrative states:
At this path our Appamattuck Guide made a stop, and cleared the Westerly end of the path with his foote, being demanded the meaning of it, he shewed an unwillingness to relate it, sighing very much. Whereupon we made a stop untill Oyeocker out Other Guide came up, and then our Appamattuck journied on; but Oyeocker at his coming up cleared the other end of the path, and prepared himselfe in a most serious manner to require our attentions, and told us that many years since their late great Emperour Appachancano came thither to make War upon the Tuscarood, in revenge of three of his men killed, and one wounded, and brought word of the other three men murdered by the Hocomawananck Indians for lucre of the Roanoke they brought with them to trade for Otter skins. There accompanied Appachancano severall petty Kings that were under him, amongst which there was one King of a Towne called powhatan, which had long time harboured a grudge against the King of Chawan, about a young woman that the King of Chawan had detayned of the King of Powhatan: Now it happened that the King of Chawan was invited by the King of Powhatan to this place under pretence to present him with a guift of some great vallew, and they met accordingly, and the King of Powhatan went to salute and embrace the King of Chawan, and stroaking of him after their usual manner, he whipt a bowstring about the King of Chawans neck, strangled him; and how that in memoriall of this, the path is continued unto this day, and the friends of the Powhatans when they passe that way , cleanse the Westerly end of the path, and the friends of the Chawan the other. And some two miles from the path we come unto an Indian Grave upon the east side of the path: Upon which Grave there lay a great heape of stickscovered with greene boughs, we demanded the reason for it, Oyeocker told us, that there lay a great man of Chawan that dyed in the same quarrell, and in honor of his memory they continue greene boughs over his Grave to this day, and ever when they goe forth to Warre they relate this, and other valorous, loyall Acts, to their young men, to animate them to doe the like whan occasion requires.
In 1663 the Chowan entered into a treaty with the English and "submitted themselves to the Crown of England under the Dominion of the Lord Proprietors." This treaty was faithfully observed for a decade, but in 1675 the Susquehanna War broke out in Virginia. Through incitement of the Indians of Virginia the Chowan violated their treaty. A year of waefare followed with serious loss to the settlers. Later the Chowan were forced to surrender all of their land on the south side of Meherrin River and were assigned a reservation on Bennett’s Creek. Here they struggled along for a hundred years. Many petitons were made to the council for a survey, but nearly fifty years passed before the request was granted. Their lands gradually dwindled from twelve square miles, as first assigned, to six square miles about 1707. At this time they had only one town with about fifteen fighting men.
They were allied with the colonists during the Tuscarora War. Chief John Hoyter petitioned the council in 1714 for a survey of the six-mile reservation, stating that the Indians had been fighting on Eight Expeditions agt the Indyan Enemy of this province and during the time they were in ye Countys Service they Suffered Considerable loss in their plantatios & Stocks loosing Seaventy five head of hogs a Mare & Colt their Corne destroyed by wch ye wearing out of their clothes they are reduced to great poverty, and asked that some allowance be made for their services and losses.
In 1712 Missionary Giles Rainsford of the English Church wrote:
I had conference with one Thomas Hoyle King of the Chowan Indians who seem very inclinable to embrace Christianity and proposes to send his son to school . . . I readily offered him my service to instruct him myself . . . where I lodge being but three miles distant from his Town. But he modestly declined it for the present till a general peace was concluded between the Indians and the Christians. I found he had some notions of Noahs flood which he came to the knowledge of and exprest himselfe after this manner – My father told me I tell my Son.
Three years Rainsford reported: "I have been five months together in Chowan Indian Town & make myself almost a Master of their language." In this same letter he offered to serve as missionary among them.
In 1718 and 1720 petitions were filed by Chief Hoyter complaining that the settlers were continually intruding upon the lands of the Indians and that the limits of the territory had never been determined. In the former petition he also asked for payment due one of his tribesmen by a settler for an Indian slave of the Core Sound region. In 1723 a reservation of 53,000 acres was laid out for the Tuscarora and the Chowan.
By the year 1731 the tribe had dwindled to less than twenty families. Two years later the council gave them permission to be incorporated with the Tuscarora. In 1752 Bishop Spangenberg wrote from Edenton, "The Chowan Indians are reduced to a few families, and their land has been taken away from them." A report of Governor Dobbs in 1755 stated that the tribe consisted of two men and five women and childres who were "ill used by their neighbors."
Dr. Richard Dillard has described a shell mound in the former Chowan region:
One of the largest and most remarkable Indian mounds in Eastern North Carolina is located at Bandon on the Chowan, evidently the site of the ancient town of Chowanokes which Grenville’s party visited in 1585, and was called Mavaton. The map of James Winble, made in 1729, also locates it about this point. The mound extends along the river bank five or six hundred yards, is sixty yards wide and five feet deep, covered with about one foot of sand and soil. It is composed almost exclusively of mussel shells taken from the river, pieces of pottery, ashes, arrowheads and human bones . . . Potery and arrowheads are found in many places throughout this county, especially on hillsides, near streams, etc.
North of Albemarle Sound were the Weapomeiok, whose chief town was located within the present Pasquotank County. Their towns mentioned by the explorers were Weapomeiok, Pasquenoke or Women's Town, Chepanoc, Mascoming, and Metachkwem, all ruled by Okisco. Shortly after 1700 the Indians of this region were listed as Yeopim with six people, Pasquotank with one town on Pasquotank River and ten fighting men, Poteskeet with one town on North River and thirty fighting men, and Perquiman, a total of about two hundred inhabitants. (Most of the estimates of tribes in decline are listed in John Lawson's History of North Carolina.)
The first deed on record in North Carolina, which bears the date 1662, reads:
Know all men by these presents that I, Kilcacenen, King of Yeopim have for a valeiable consideration of satisfaction received with the consent of my people sold, and made over to George Durant a Parcell of land lying and being on Roneoke Sound and on a river called by the name Perquimans....
The document is signed with the mark of Kilcocanen or Kistotanen, the chief.
MACHAPUNGA, BAY RIVER, PAMLICO, AND CORANINE
The Machapunga, or Mattamuskeet, dwelt in Hyde County. Their name signifies "bad dust," or "much dust," probably an allusion to the sandy region they inhabited In the neighborhood of Lake Mattamuskeet. Ralph Lane’s party visited their settlements. In 1701 they had one town and thirty fighting men. They joined the Tuscarora against the colonists. Governor Pollock reported in 1713 that the Mattamuskeet and Coranine:
of late have done us great mischief, having killed and taken our people since my last to you, about 45 at Croatan Roanoke Island, and Alligator River, these being about 50 or 60 men of them got together between Matchepungo River and Roanoke Island which is about 100 miles in length and of considerable breadth, all in a manner lakes, quagmires, and cane swamps, and is, I believe, one of the greatest deserts in the world, where it is almost impossible for white men to follow them. They have got likewise boats and canoes, being expert watermen, wherein they can transport themselves where they please.
In 1761 they were listed as having seven or eight fighting men.
Near by were the Bear River, or Bay River, Indians, listed in 1701 as having one town called Raudaugua-quank with fifty fighting men, and the Pampticough (Pamlico) with one town called Island and fifteen fighting men. These tribes were likewise allies of the Tuscarora.
The Coranine, or Coree, lived in the region of Core Sound, which preserves their name. Governor Archdale described them as a bloody and barbarous people. Lawson listed them in 1701 as Connamox with two towns, Coranine and Raruta, having twenty-five fighting men. They had a prominent part in the Tuscarora War, fighting against the colonists. In 1715, with other enemy Indians, they were allowed to settle at Mattamuskeet and the council requested the governor "to Commission & Impower Some person and to remit accounts thereof," for which service he was to be allowed 2 shillings 6 pence per day.
John Lawson gave the following story of early warfare between these Indians and the Machapunga:
The Machapungas were invited to a Feast by the Coranines; (which two Nations had been a long time at War together, but bad lately concluded a Peace). Thereupon, the Machapunga Indians took advantage of coming to the Coranine's Feast, which was to avoid all suspicion, and their King, who, of a Savage, is a great Politician and very stout, ordered all the Men to carry their Tomahauks along with them, hidden under their Match Coats. which they did, and being acquainted when to fall on, by the Word given, they all (upon this design) set forward for the Feast, and came to the Coranine town, where they had gotten Victuals, Fruit and such things as make an Indian Entertainment, all ready to make these new Friends welcome, which they did, and after Dinner, towards Evening, (as it is customary amongst them) they went to dancing, altogether; so when the Machapunga King saw the best opportunity to offer, he gave the Word and their Men pulled their Tomahauks from under the Match Coats and killed several and took the rest Prisoners, except some few that were not present and four or five that escaped. The Prisoners they sold as Slaves to the English. At the time this was done, those Indians had nothing but bows and Arrows, neither side having Guns.
On Harkers Island, in Core Sound, there is a shell mound that marks the feasting place of Indians in former days. This was in Coranine territory, and may have been the scene of the fateful feast described by Lawson. The mound is roughly circular in outline, one hundred yards or more in diameter. Its height rises to ten feet or more near the center. Considerable excavation has been made. Five miles of road on the island have been paved with shells from the mound and many loads have been transported in barges to Hyde County for fertilizer. Clam and oyster shells predominate, with frequent occurrence of conch shells. The greater portion of the shells have been opened, and such shells as the conch have been broken, apparently for extraction of food. In addition to shells there are bones of fish, carapaces of turtles, etc. The layers are well defined, often marked by fire pits showing charcoal and ashes. On these levels are found broken pieces of clay pots, pebbles, and animal bones. Intermingled with the shells have been found also stone tools, arrowheads, and other artifacts of the Indians. Several skeletons of Indians have been found in the mound. With one was a necklace of animal teeth strung together. There are other mounds of shells in the vicinity, but the Harkers Island mound is probably the largest on the Carolina coast. 4
1. Hodge, Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Part I. See Algonquian. For a careful study of the Algonquian-speaking tribes of North Carolina, see Mook, "Algonkian Ethnohistory of the Carolina Sound," loc. cit.
2. Use of copper among the natives has been noted in all areas of North Carolina. (See below, Chapter XX.)
3. No objects of gold used by Indians have been found in this state, except for this reference.
4. This mound was visited by the author in 1931. One of the islanders produced a skull taken from the mound.
Permission to reprint courtesy of John
F. Blair, Publisher, 1406 Plaza Dr., Winston-Salem, NC 27103.
"The American Indian in North Carolina" by Rev. Douglas L. Rights. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1947. Reprinted: Winston-Salem, NC: John F. Blair, 1957. (Republished 1988).
Carolina Algonkian Project