We are Tuscaroras of The Cape Fear
Cape Fear to Lake Waccamaw
OUR FAMILY AND THE CORE FOUR
Tuscarora of the Cape Fear is a Precolonial Tribal Nation with a long, rich history concentrated in and around Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus and Pender Counties of the Cape Fear Region.
Our family names, which dominate the Cape Fear area, can be found among other tribes in North Carolina as well.
Our names are: Blanks, Bowen, Young, Graham, Campbell, Webb, Moore, Freeman, Lacewell, Mitchell, Patrick, Smith, Chavis, Jacobs, Spaulding, Shaw, George, Walker, Baldwin and others. Our core four are Freeman, Moore, Blanks and Graham.
Many of our names cross tribal boundaries. Although many of the North Carolina tribes are related by blood with shared common ancestry, not all of these tribes are Precolonial.
Some of North Carolina’s tribes were founded during the colonial period do to war, displacement, enslavement or relocation.
The Tuscarora, on the other hand, are a Precolonial people who still exist and are living today on our ancestral lands, thanks to our ancestors who refused to move out west or up north.
Much of our history was lost, but thanks to our ancestors sacrifice, we are still here overlooking the waters from Lake Waccamaw to SeaBreeze.
WAR-TORN AND REBORN
“YOU BURIED US NOT REALIZING WE WERE SEEDS BEING PLANTED TO BLOOM TODAY”
In the early hours on a cold morning in late March, 1713, the great and powerful Tuscarora Nation was broken into pieces when their final stronghold, Fort Neoheroka, was burned to the ground by orders of Colonel James Moore.
In the smoldering remains of the burned fort, Moore’s forces found the virgin territory of North Carolina’s interior was no longer able to resist their invasive advances.
With the success of the colonials against the Tuscarora at Neoheroka, there was no longer an entity with enough strength to prevent the encroachment of the white man, and the Indian nations beyond the boundaries of Tuscarora territory no longer had security or safety from enslavement and death.
This marked the end of what has been referred to throughout history as “The Tuscarora War”.
Some Tuscaroras escaped the fort during the first few days of Moore’s siege and began making their way north to join the Five Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy (Haudenosaunee).
The fall of Fort Neoheroka was a major blow to the Tuscarora, one from which the nation would never fully recover.
At battle’s end, the Tuscarora had lost more than 950 men, women and children who had either been killed or captured and taken to South Carolina to be sold into slavery.
Other Tuscaroras did not seek refuge at the fort, and made their way to the two separate reservations that had been set up to house Indians in the wake of the war.
The first reservation was Indian Woods in Bertie County, established 1717, and the second was Mattamuskeet in Hyde County in 1724.
Many Iroquois Tuscarora who fought in the war, but were not ready to join the upper town on Indian woods, stayed on the Algonquian Mattamuskeet reservation before it fell.
Considering the fact that Indian Woods was located in northeastern North Carolina – the territory of the “upper towns”, led by Tom Blount, who had remained neutral during the war (at least until the war’s end, when he chose the colonial side and handed over Tuscarora “war chief” – King Handcock of the southern Tuscarora towns, to be executed), it might be assumed that most of the Tuscaroras at Indian Woods were from Blount’s upper towns and were considered by colonials to be “friendly” Indians.
The reservation at Mattamuskeet, on the other hand, was very much in the territory of tribes that remained “hostile” to colonial encroachment, even up until 1718.
The Tuscaroras who made their way to live on the reservation established at Mattamuskeet would have been of the “southern towns” which were led by King Hancock.
The Tuscarora populations on these two reservations was not inclusive of the many Indians who rejected reservation life, and instead went to live out in the country sides and swamp lands of North Carolina’s less populated counties and frontiers.
WE REFUSED TO MOVE
Our ancestors left for the Great Green Swamp, Bogue Swamp and other neighboring swamps.
Chief William Mitchell, under Tom Blount, came to Lake Waccamaw around 1720 and settled near Mitchell Field, acquiring tons of land, over 20,000 acres.
Some of our people settled into the swampy areas before the war, around 1702, and then the rest came afterward the war.
The Jacobs, 2nd generation from New Hanover (Black River area) moved to Lake Waccamaw.
They settled Bogue Swamp and Buckhead (Green Swamp) area around 1750.
William Mitchell, and John Freeman; Ishmael Chavis and Emmanuel sChavis – brothers representing two different Tuscarora clans or tribes; Cheif James Lowery, and a bunch others, all came together to Lake Waccamaw from the Tuscarora reservation in Bertie County, Indian Woods.
Emmanuel Chavis relocated to the Pee Dee region where he was buried facing the North as a tradition of Tuscarora Chiefs.
By 1750s-1760s, Chief Blount pleaded with the king to remove the Europeans encroaching on the reservation.
A year later, Chiefs Blount, Pugh, Ivey, Chavis, and Jones received vast land grants from the king along drowning creek, later named the Lumber River, Locks Creek, and Cape Fear River in Cumberland County. See one of Chief Ivey’s land deeds here.
Chief Cain and Chief Smith received land grants on the south side of Black Mingo River, now known as South River between, Bladen and Sampson County; and Chiefs Mitchell and Jones received land grants around what is known today as the NC Waccamaw area.
Descendants bearing these surnames mentioned above can still be found living there today. Many of the names from Bertie County Indian Woods can also be found in Columbus County and Bladen County Waccamaw region.
Bath County records and land lease deals between whites and Tuscarora Chiefs show these agreements. (Whites consolidated the tribes and Chief Blount agreed).
Blount got around 190,000 areas in Western VA by selling the Tuscarora people out. As a result, our clans left Indian Woods and came to Lake Waccamaw. (Old Bath Records).
The Machapunga or Bear River people were also in the area of Columbus/Bladen/Brunswick County. They were absorbed into the Tuscarora just like the Meherrin and Chowan, but prior to that they were Tuscarora confederates.
For nearly a hundred years following the Tuscarora War, small groups of Tuscaroras made their way north from Indian Woods to join their brethren who had become the sixth nation of the Iroquois Confederacy.
Just a few hundred Tuscaroras never left North Carolina for the long journey north, and it’s uncertain how many of these stopped and settled in villages along the way, from Virginia, through Maryland and Pennsylvania, before finally reaching the Haudenosaunee territory.
The Tuscaroras who did reach their destination of Iroquois territory were the ones who ultimately received federal recognition as an Indian nation due to treaties that had been signed between the government and the Tuscarora nation in New York.
The Tuscaroras who remained in North Carolina became completely disenfranchised, scattering to different areas of the state, living quietly so that they might be able to survive in their homeland and not be harassed by colonials who feared them for the “warring” reputation behind their tribal name.
In the wake of the war, when so many Tuscaroras chose to go in different directions, our people could not have possibly known that within just a few generations, they would lose their traditional ways of life, much of their culture, and thanks to necessary attempts to hide or assimilate; their language would be lost, as well.
Without the shelter and protection of the Great White Pine of the Haudenosaunee, our (Skarure) Tuscarora people remaining in North Carolina were left to fend for themselves, albeit by making the choice of not leaving North Carolina.
Some of us chose to live labeled as blacks, as whites and others as mulattos. For safety we hid among the nations which caused us to lose much of our culture.
When our people’s fort fell at Neoheroka in 1713, North Carolina’s interior was opened to a colonial expansion that would continue pressing westward, displacing Indian people across the nation, all the way to the Pacific Ocean and beyond.
We are the survivors of those who stayed in North Carolina. We are living proof of our continued existence.
ONE ROOT MANY LIMBS
The Cape Fear is Ground Zero where the Europeans landed, invaded, occupied and settled. Southeastern and Eastern Woodland Natives have experienced over 400 years of occupation from the Colonial settlers.
Fast forward into the 21st century and we are still here. We are the descendants of our ancestors. We are the descendants of the ones who refused to relocate.
Though many of us may look differently we are our ancestors children.
We are the Red people, copper people, Aboriginals of Turtle Island. Some of us may look like and have European features, some of us may look black, some may look Asian and some of us may look Spanish. As a matter of fact, we look like everyone whose ever invaded the east coast and infiltrated our families.
Africans married into our families. European Scot-Irish married into our families, many of our Grandmothers were raped by colonial Europeans and as a result we wear many faces. This is a fact and reality for east coast natives. One root with many branches of the same tree. If one mixes with us, we don’t become them, they become one of us.
ONE DROP of what they call black blood can’t change the sum of a mass greater than itself. It can only change something of equal volume. This is common sense however correct mathmatics wasn’t the intention of the One Drop Rule.
It was just another tool created by Europeans to divide and conquer. Natives who find themselves practicing this ideology have become mentally colonized, assimilated and broken.
The Racial Integrity Act (RIA) made things even worst by legally changing all Indigenous peoples ethnicity to colored, Negro and Mulatto. Walter Ashby Plecker spearheaded this new law that spread throughout the south and then the country like wild fire.
We’ve endured the worst of humanity and still continue to exist.
My people, the Tuscarora of North Carolina like many other tribes on the east coast from Florida to Canada continue to live and exist; we are still here, living our culture, loving our heritage, honoring our ancestors, continuing our lineage and refusing to assimilate and disappear into nothingness.
WE ARE OUR ANCESTORS CHILDREN
AND EVIDENCE OF THEIR SACRIFICE AND RESILIENCE.