Carolina - The Native Americans

The Tuscarora Indians

The name Tuscarora comes from their own name Ska(-ru'-re(n, signifying according to Hewitt, "hemp gatherers," and applied on account of the great use they made of apocynum cannabinum. Also called:

A(-ko-t'a(s'-ka(-to'-re(n Mohawk name.
Ani'-Ska(la('li(, Cherokee name.
A(-t'a(s-ka(-lo'-le(n, Oneida name.
Tewohomomy (or Keew-ahomomy), Saponi name.

The Tuscarora belonged to the Iroquoian linguistic family.

The Tuscarora primarily lived on the Roanoke, Tar, Pamlico, and Neuse Rivers in what is present-day North Carolina.

The Tuscarora should be considered a confederacy with three tribes or a tribe with three subtribes as follows: Ka('te('nu'a-'ka-', "People of the submerged pine tree"; Akawa(ntca'ka-', meaning doubtful; and Skaru-'re(n, "hemp gatherers," i. e., the Tuscarora proper.

The following Tuscarora villages were in North Carolina, a more precise location not being possible except in the cases specified:
Contahnah, near the mouth of Neuse River.
Cotechney, on the opposite side of Neuse River from Fort Barnwell, about the mouth of Contentnea Creek.
Neoheroka, in Greene County.
Tasqui, a day's journey from Cotechney on the way to Nottaway village.
Tonarooka, on a branch of Neuse River between "Fort Narhantes" and Cotechney.
Torhunte, on a northern affluent of Neuse River.
Ucouhnerunt, on Pamlico River, probably in the vicinity of Greenville, in Pitt County.

Later settlements in New York were:

Canasaraga, on Canaseraga Creek on the site of the present Sullivan.
Nyuchirhaan, near Lewiston, Niagara County.
Ohagi, on the west side of Genesee River a short distance below Cuylersviile, Livingston County.
Oquaga, on the east branch of the Susquehanna on both sides, in the town of Colesville, Broome County.
Oyonwayea, also called Johnson's Landing, in Niagara County, about 4 miles east of the outlet of Niagara River at the mouth of Four Mile Creek.
Shawiangto, on the west side of the Susquehanna not far from Windsor, Broome County.
Tiochrungwe, on the "main road" from Oneida to Onondaga.
Tuscarora, the name of three villages: one a short distance east of "Anatsagane," probably the present Stockbridge, in Madison County; the second about 3 miles below Oquaga, in Broome County, approximately on the site of Windsor; and the third 12 miles by land and 20 by water below Oquaga, in the vicinity of Great Bend, in Susquehanna County.
The location of Ganatisgowa is uncertain.

The place or manner of separation of the Tuscarora from the Iroquois tribes of New York is not known, and they were found in the tract indicated above when the country was first entered by white colonists.

John Lawson, Surveyor General of North Carolina, lived in close contact with these Indians for many years and his "History of Carolina" gives us our earliest satisfactory picture of them. It was his capture and execution by the tribe in September 1711, however, which brought on the first Tuscarora War, though behind it lay a series of encroachments by the whites on Tuscarora territory, and the kidnapping and enslavement of numbers of Indians.

Immediately after Lawson's death, part of the Tuscarora, headed by Chief Hencock, and the Coree, Pamlico, Machapunga, and Bear River Indians conspired to cut off the white settlers and, in consequence, on September 22, 1711, they rose and massacred about 130 of the colonists on the Trent and Pamlico Rivers.

Colonel John Barnwell, with 33 white men and about 500 Indians, marched against the hostiles, by direction of the governor of South Carolina, drove them from one of their towns with great loss, and invested Hencock's own town, Cotechney. But having suffered severely in two assaults upon the place and fearing lest the white captives in the hands of the Indians would be killed, he made peace and returned home.

Dissatisfied with the treatment accorded him by the North Carolina authorities, however, he violated the treaty during his retreat by seizing some Indians and sending them away as slaves. This brought on the second Tuscarora War, 1712-13.

South Carolina was again appealed to for assistance, and Colonel James Moore set out for the north with about 900 Indians and 33 white men, a number which was considerably swelled before he reached the seat of trouble. March 20 to 23 he stormed the palisaded Tuscarora town of Neoheroka, inflicting a loss upon the enemy of about 950.

The Tuscarora became so terrified at this that part of them abandoned Fort Cohunche, situated at Hencock's town and started north to join their relatives, the Iroquois. This was only the beginning of the movement, bands of Tuscarora being noted at intervals as moving north or as having arrived among the Five Nations. They were adopted by the Oneida but, contrary to the general impression, were not granted coordinate rights in the League before September 1722.

A part of the Tuscarora under a chief named Tom Blunt (or Blount), had, however, remained neutral. They received recognition by the government of North Carolina, and continued in their former homes under their own chiefs. In 1766, 155 removed to New York, and the 105 remaining were brought north in 1802 while a deputation of northern Tuscarora were in Carolina to obtain payment for the lands they had formerly occupied.

When the Tuscarora first moved north they were settled at various places along the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania and in New York, some in the Oneida country itself.

In 1775, by the treaty of Fort Herkimer, the Oneida sold to the state of New York, the lands on which their adopted children, the Tuscarora, had settled, and for a time the Tuscarora were dispersed in various settlements in New York state, and even in Pennsylvania.

At the outbreak of the American Revolution, the majority of Tuscarora and Oneida espoused the cause of the colonists and in consequence they were attacked by Indians in the British interest, including even some of their Iroquois brethren, their houses were burned, their crops and other property destroyed, and they themselves scattered. A large band of them settled, however, at a place called Oyonwayea or Johnson's Landing, on Lake Ontario.

Later a party from this settlement discovered a place in the northeastern part of the present Tuscarora Reservation which pleased them so much that they decided to winter there and they were presently joined by the rest of the inhabitants of Oyonwayea. At the treaty held at Genesee, September 15, 1797, between Robert Morris and the Seneca tribe, Morris reserved to the tribe, by grant, two square miles, covering their new settlements, and the Seneca there upon granted them an additional square mile.

As a result of their appeal to the legislature of North Carolina above mentioned, they were able to lease lands in the south, and they devoted the proceeds to the purchase of 4,329 acres adjoining their New York reserve. The Tuscarora who had sided with Great Britain were granted lands in severalty on Grand River, Ontario.

There were 5,000 Tuscarora in 1600 according to an estimate by Mooney (1928).

In 1708, Lawson gives 15 towns and 1,200 warriors.

Colonel John Barnwell in 1712 estimates 1,200 to 1,400 fighting men.

Chauvignerie in 1736, 250 warriors, not including those in North Carolina, and on the Susquehanna and Juniata Rivers (Chauvignerie, in Schoolcraft, 1851-57, vol. 3, p. 555).

In 1752, the southern Tuscarora were said to number 300 men; in 1754 there were said to be 100 men and 200 women and children and these figures are repeated in 1761. In 1766 there were said to be 220 to 230 all told in the south; next year we read that 155 southern Tuscarora had removed and that 105 remained.

Other estimates place the total Tuscarora population at 1,000 in 1765, 2,000 in 1778, 1,000 in 1783, and 400 in 1796. In 1885 there were 828 (evenly divided between New York and Canada). In 1909 there were 364 in New York and a year later 416 in Canada, a total of 780. In 1910, 400 were reported in the United States and in 1923, 376 in New York alone. The number in Canada is not separately given.

This tribe is noted historically for its prominence among the peoples of eastern North Carolina, for the two wars which it waged with the colonists, and for the rather spectacular migration of the greater part to the north and its union with the Five Iroquois Nations.

The name Tuscarora occurs applied to settlements in Frederick County, MD; Craven County, NC; Schuylkill County, PA; Livingston County, NY; Elko County, NV; and Ontario; and to a creek and mountain in Pennsylvania.


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