Tuscarora (tribe): Wikis


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Tuscarora Portraits
Total population
Regions with significant populations
Originally from New York, North Carolina
New York (New York)
North Carolina (North Carolina)
Ontario (Ontario)

English, Skarure


Kai'hwi'io, Kanoh'hon'io, Kahni'kwi'io, Christianity, Longhouse, Handsome Lake, Other Indigenous religions

Related ethnic groups

Seneca Nation, Onondaga Nation, Cayuga Nation, Oneida Nation, Mohawk Nation, other Iroquoian peoples, Meherrin Nation, Nottaway (Cheroenhaka Nation), Coree Indians

The Tuscarora ("hemp gatherers"[1]) are a Native American people of the Iroquoian-language family, with members in New York, Canada, and North Carolina. They originated in western New York, in the traditional area of some of the Iroquois tribes.

Well before the arrival of Europeans in North America, the Tuscarora had migrated and settled in the region now known as Eastern Carolina. The most numerous indigenous people in the area, they lived along the Roanoke River, Neuse River, Tar River (Torhunta or Narhontes), and Pamlico rivers in North Carolina.[2] They first encountered Europeans in North Carolina and Virginia.[3][4][5]

After the 18th century wars of 1711-1713, most of the Tuscarora left North Carolina and migrated north to New York and Pennsylvania, over a period of 90 years. They aligned with the Iroquois in New York, because of their ancestral connection. They were sponsored by the Oneida and made one of the Six Nations in 1722. After the American Revolution, in which they and the Oneida allied with the colonists, they shared reservation land with the Oneida before gaining their own.

A significant minority remained in North Carolina without a formal government or reservation land. After the early 1800s, however, the Tuscarora in New York no longer considered those in North Carolina as members of the tribal nation. Only the tribes in New York and Ontario have been recognized officially by the respective national governments.



In late 17th and early 18th-century North Carolina, there were two primary branches of the Tuscarora: a northern group led by Chief Tom Blunt, and a southern group led by Chief Hancock. Varying accounts circa 1708-1710 estimated the number of Tuscarora warriors as from 1200-2000.[6]

Chief Blunt occupied the area around what is present-day Bertie County, North Carolina, on the Roanoke River. Chief Hancock lived closer to New Bern, occupying the area south of the Pamlico River. Chief Blunt became close friends with the Blount family of the Bertie region and lived peacefully.

By contrast, Chief Hancock had to deal with colonists' raiding his villages and kidnapping his people to be sold into slavery. Some Tuscarora were transported to Pennsylvania to be sold into slavery. Both groups suffered substantial population losses from the introduction of Eurasian infectious diseases carried by the Europeans. Both also suffered encroachment on their lands by colonists. By 1711 Chief Hancock felt there was no alternative but to attack the settlers. Chief Tom Blunt did not join him in the war.

The southern Tuscarora collaborated with the Pamlico, the Cothechney, the Coree, the Mattamuskeet and the Matchepungoe nations to attack the settlers in a wide range of locations in a short time period. Their principal targets were against the planters on the Roanoke River, the planters on the Neuse and Trent Rivers, and the city of Bath. The first attacks took place on September 22, 1711, beginning the Tuscarora War. The allied Indian tribes killed hundreds of settlers, including several key political figures among the colonists.

Governor Edward Hyde called out the North Carolina militia and secured the assistance of South Carolina, which provided 600 militia and 360 allied Native Americans under Col. Barnwell. In 1712, this force attacked the southern Tuscarora and other nations in Craven County at Fort Narhantes on the banks of the Neuse River. The Tuscarora were "defeated with great slaughter; more than three hundred were killed, and one hundred made prisoners."[citation needed]

Chief Blunt was then offered the leadership the entire Tuscarora Nation if he would assist in defeating Chief Hancock. Blunt succeeded in capturing Hancock, who was tried and executed by North Carolina. In 1713 the Southern Tuscaroras lost their Fort Neoheroka, with 900 killed or captured in the battle.

Fort Neoheroka Historical Marker.jpg

At this point, the majority of the Southern Tuscarora began migrating to New York to join the Iroquois Confederacy. The migration extended over about 90 years. Nevertheless, significant numbers of Tuscarora remained in North Carolina, some openly, others in hiding.

The southern Tuscarora who moved north settled near the Oneidas. As they were originally part of a group of ancient Iroquoian-speaking nations originating in the Lake Ontario and Lake Erie regions, they were in effect returning to their ancestral homes.

The Tuscarora who stayed behind signed a treaty with North Carolina in June 1718, which granted them a tract of land on the Roanoke River in what is now Bertie County. This was the area occupied by Chief Blunt and his people. It was specified as 56,000 acres (227 km²); Tom Blunt, who had now taken the last name Blount, was recognized by the North Carolina Legislature as King Tom Blount. The remaining Southern Tuscarora were removed from their villages on the Pamlico River and relocated to Bertie County. In 1722, the Bertie County reservation was chartered. Over the next several decades, however, the colonial government continually reduced the Tuscarora tract, forcing cessions of land to settlers. Portions were sold off in deals often designed to take advantage of the Tuscarora.

During the American Revolutionary War, part of the Tuscarora and Oneida nation in New York allied with the colonists in the newly established American government. Most of the Iroquois nations supported Great Britain, and participated in battles throughout New York, especially in the Mohawk Valley and Cherry Valley. Late in the war, they followed Chief Joseph Brant and the Loyalists into Ontario. They were part of establishing the reservation of the Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada. In 1803 a final contingent of southern Tuscarora migrated to New York to join the reservation of their tribe in Niagara County.

The Tuscarora in North Carolina negotiated a treaty in 1802 with the United States, by which land would be held for them which they could lease. The government never ratified the treaty, however. The North Carolina Tuscarora viewed the treaty as null and void.

In 1831 the Tuscarora in North Carolina sold the remaining rights to their lands. By this point the 56,000 acres (227 km²) had been reduced to only 2,000 acres (8 km²). Despite no longer having a reservation, some Tuscarora remain in the state. In 1971 the Tuscarora sought to get an accounting of their lands and rents due them under the unratified treaty in North Carolina.[7]

In the mid-20th century, New York City commissioner Robert Moses controversially expropriated 550 acres (2.2 km2) of Tuscarora reservation land for a hydroelectric project in the vicinity of Niagara Falls, New York.[8]


Skarure, the Tuscarora language, is a member of the northern branch of the Iroquoian languages.

National government-recognized Tuscarora bands

Tuscarora bands in North Carolina

Several bands, groups, and organizations are in North Carolina without state or federal recognition:

Historians and Tuscarora officials dispute recent claims by the Lumbee, a state-recognized tribe in Robeson County, North Carolina, that they are descended from the Tuscarora.[9] The Tuscarora Nation of Lewiston, New York, says that the great majority of the tribe moved north to New York and does not recognize the Lumbee claim of connection. New York leaders consider any individuals remaining in North Carolina as no longer having tribal status.

The Tuscarora in Lewiston are recognized by both the state of New York and the federal government. No Tuscarora band in North Carolina is officially recognized by the state. This often causes confusion, since both the New York Tuscarora and the North Carolina Tuscarora claim the name of the tribe. Members of both groups insist they are descended from the ancient Skarure, as they called themselves.

North Carolina does recognize the Lumbee as an Indian tribe. However, the Lumbee generally accept as members only Indians residing in Robeson County (and their descendants), not Indians from other parts of North Carolina.

An additional historical question is whether the Iroquoian-speaking Meherrin and Nottaway originated as bands of the Tuscarora, but acquired different names by the English. Scholars believe this is possible, but the theory has not been proven.

Some Tuscarora live in Oklahoma. They are primarily descendants of Tuscarora groups absorbed by relocated Iroquois Seneca and Cayuga bands brought into the northeast corner of the former Indian Territory in the mid-19th century official Federal Indian Removals.

Various bands of the Tuscarora have worked for state and federal recognition. A petition by the Hatteras Tuscarora in the 1970s was unsuccessful. In 2006 the Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation, "AKA: Tuscarora Nation of Indians of North Carolina", filed a federal lawsuit for recognition.[10] They are based in Robeson County, North Carolina.

See also


  1. ^ Catholic Encyclopedia: Iroquois
  2. ^ F.W. Hodge, "Tuscarora", Handbook of American Indians, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1906, at AccessGeneaology, accessed 28 Oct 2009
  3. ^ American Anthropologist, American Anthropological Association, Anthropological Society of Washington (Washington, D.C.), American Ethnological Society.
  4. ^ Ancient History of the Six Nations, by Davi Cusick (pub. 1828)
  5. ^ knowledge by oral tradition
  6. ^ F.W. Hodge, "Tuscarora", Handbook of American Indians, Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution, 1906, at AccessGeneaology, accessed 28 Oct 2009
  7. ^ Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation, (North Carolina) Official Website
  8. ^ Niagara Falls History of Power
  9. ^ Gerald M. Sider, Living Indian histories: Lumbee and Tuscarora people in North Carolina, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2003
  10. ^ Case Number 1:06-cv-00612-RWR: Martha Maynor, Lester Locklear, Alford Maynor, Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation, a/ka Tuscarora Nation of Indians of North Carolina, v. Secretary of the United States Department of Interior

External links

Further reading

  • John R. Swanton, "The Indians of the Southeastern United States", Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 137 (Washington, D.C., 1946)
  • Bruce G. Trigger, ed., Northeast, vol. 15 of Handbook of North American Indians, ed. William C. Sturtevant (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 1978)
  • Anthony F. C. Wallace, "The Modal Personality Structure of the Tuscarora Indians", Smithsonian Institution, Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 150 (Washington, D.C., 1952)


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