Tribal History

The Tuscarora ("hemp gatherers") are a Native American people of the Iroquoian-language. Before the arrival of Europeans in North America, the Tuscarora had migrated south and settled in the region now known as Eastern Carolina. This most numerous and powerful indigenous nation in North Carolina lived along the Roanoke, Neuse, Tar (Torhunta or Narhontes), Pamlico, and Cape Fear rivers in North Carolina.  Early Europeans noted the Tuscarora in North Carolina had three tribes: Kǎ'tě’nu'ā'kā' (People of the Submerged Pine-tree, also written Kautanohakau); Akawěñtc'ākā'  (doubtful, also Kauwetseka); and Skarū'ren' (hemp gatherers, also known as Tuscarora).

Chief Blunt occupied the area around what is present-day Bertie County, North Carolina, on the Roanoke River. Chief Hancock lived closer to present-day 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 more numerous colonists' encroaching. They raided the villages and kidnapped the people to be sold into slavery. The colonists also transported some Tuscarora to Pennsylvania to be sold into slavery. Both groups suffered substantial population losses after exposure to Eurasian infectious diseases epidemic to Europeans. Both also suffered territorial encroachment.

By 1711, the Tuscarora War started and Chief Hancock believed he had to attack the settlers to fight back. Chief Tom Blunt did not join him in the war. The southern Tuscarora collaborated and allied with the  Pamlico, the Cothechney, Coree, Woccon, Mattamuskeet and other tribes to attack the settlers in a wide range of locations within a short time period.  Their principal targets were against the planters on the Roanoke, Neuse and Trent rivers, as well as the city of Bath. They attacked 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 Narhontes, on the banks of the Neuse River. The Tuscarora were "defeated with great slaughter; more than three hundred were killed, and one hundred were made prisoners.  The governor offered Chief Blunt leadership of 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 Tuscarora were defeated at their Fort Neoheroka (formerly spelled Neherooka), with 900 killed or captured in the battle. After defeat in the battle of 1713, about 250 Tuscaroras fled to New York to join the Iroquois Confederacy, while as many as 3500 additional Tuscarora sought refuge in swamps in the colony of North Carolina. For survival, some Tuscaroras accepted tributary status, but the majority of the Tuscarora remained in North Carolina. In 1715, seventy of the southern Tuscarora went to South Carolina to assist against the Yamasee. Those 70 warriors later asked permission to have their wives and children join them, and settled near Port Royal, South Carolina. Under the leadership of Tom Blunt, the Tuscarora who remained in North Carolina signed a treaty with the colony in June 1718. It granted a 56,000 acres (230 km2) tract of land on the Roanoke River in what is now Bertie County. This was the area occupied by Chief Blunt and his people. The colonies of Virginia and North Carolina both recognized Tom Blunt, who had taken the last name Blount, as "King Tom Blount" of the Tuscarora. Both colonies agreed to consider as friendly only those Tuscarora who accepted Blount's leadership. The remaining Southern Tuscarora were forced to remove from their villages on the Pamlico River and relocate to the villages of Ooneroy and Resootskeh in Bertie County.  

In 1722, the Bertie County Reservation, which would officially become known as "Indian Woods," was chartered by the colony, but later was leased illegally. Due to continuous encroachment, abuse, and harassment after the Tuscarora War of 1711-1713, about 250 Tuscaroras began migrating north to join the Five Nations Confederacy in New York while others removed to swamps lands just south of the Cape Fear River settling near Drowning Creek. Over the next several decades the colonial government continually reduced the Tuscarora tract, forcing land cessions of the encroaching settlers. They sold off portions of the land in deals often designed to take advantage of the Tuscarora. The 1725 John Herbert Map confirms the location of the Tuscaroras who remained and the 1733 Edward Moseley Map of North Carolina also confirms the exact location of the Tuscarora ancestors of TNNC in Bertie County on Tuscarora Lands prior to migration to Bladen County, North Carolina.

A number of Tuscaroras decided to leave their traditional homelands because of the abuse of white settlers taking the land and enslaving Tuscarora children. Many of the Southern Tuscarora who remained acquired land patents from King George III and moved into their other known Tuscarora Territory hunting grounds surrounding the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, primarily in New Hanover and Bladen County, which in part later became Robeson County. Several Tuscarora Indians were able to regain their land back from the Royal British Crown through land patents before July 4, 1776, the Declaration Day of Independence and on June 21, 1788, when the U.S. Constitution became a law in the State of North Carolina.

In late 17th and early 18th-century North Carolina, European colonists reported two primary branches of the Tuscarora: a northern group led by Chief Tom Blunt (King Blount), and a southern group led by Chief Hancock. Varying accounts circa 1708-1710, estimated the number of Tuscarora warriors as from 1200 to 6000. Historians estimate their total population may have been three to four times that number.  The Tuscarora traditionally were said to occupy the "country lying between the sea shores and the mountains, which divide the Atlantic states," in which they had twenty four large towns, which contain the villages for over 6,000 warriors. Because of Tuscarora numbers and their reputation as fierce warriors, Tuscarora leaders were "courted" for their help even during the attempted French invasion. The letter below from George Washington shows they were sought after for military prowess.  


The Tuscaroras remaining in North Carolina are still centered primarily in Bladen County and Robeson County; but notable populations also reside in neighboring Cumberland, Sampson, Scotland, and Hoke Counties North Carolina, in Dillon County South Carolina, as well as in Sampson and Harnett Counties North Carolina. As decades have passed, the struggle for Indigenous rights has been never ending. As the new counties of North Carolina were being established in the 1700s from the parent county of Bertie Precinct, the Tuscarora people survived and remained in the traditional hunting and fishing hunting grounds of the Tuscarora Nation between the Neuse and Cape Rivers of the Tuscarora Nation and formed isolated settlements with land obtained under the protection of Royal Crown King George II and King George III.

In 1731, Thomas Kearsey, Tuscarora, died in Bertie County as he left his Will indicating his wife and all his children as he lived in the Tuscarora Boundries of the Tuscarora Lands on Cashie River. After the death of Thomas Kearsey, his sons John and Thomas migrated to Bladen County and secured land from King. In 1738, Robert Locklear, father of Major and John "Locka" Locklear, obtained land from Benjamin Rawlings on the North Side of Fishing Creek which adjoined the land of Tuscarora Chief Cain in the Bertie Precinct of Edgecombe County. Major and John Locklear were born on the Tuscarora Reservation and their land is confirmed on the 1733 Edward Mosley Map with the area called N. Fishing Creek which they lived in proximity oft the Tuscarora Chief Hancock which also contained 26 Tuscarora Villages. Subsequently, Major Locklear and his brother, John Locklear left Bertie Precinct of Edgecombe County and migrated to Bladen by 1764 and lived on Tuscarora Chief William Pugh's land who obtained this land by the King.

In 1751, Chief James Blount is listed in Bertie County and directly under his command was also John Braveboy. According to Colonial Records, John Braveboy and John Combo was listed in Chief James Blount's Tuscarora Village. John Braveboy was also listed with the ancestors of the New York Tuscarora. Even though it was Tuscarora Reservation the British taxed the land according to the King George Records. It was at this time that, many of the Tuscarora started to acquire under deeds to their land to escape the abuse and harassment of settlers.

In 1753, the Tuscarora Chief William Pugh and other Chiefs secured their Tuscarora lands by King George II in Drowning Creek and the Saddle Tree Swamps in Bladen County. With this land secured land of the Tuscarora Chiefs from Bertie County who migrated to Bladen County now part of Robeson County, North Carolina, these Chiefs created a traditional land base with over 10,000 acres for other Tuscarora Indians from Bertie, Craven, Edgecombe to live and survive in isolated settlements to the present day. These Tuscarora Chiefs were William Pugh, William Mitchell, John Rogers, William King who was also confirmed as being Tuscarora Chiefs on the Tuscarora Reservation Land Leases in Bertie County in 1766, 1777, and 1782. Many Tuscaroras remained on their Chief's land base in Bladen County but had family members in other counties prior to the creation of North Carolina counties which cut the original Tuscarora lands boundaries after the reservation was created in 1748.  In 1757, Chief James Blount petitioned the State of North Carolina for additional lands free from the ongoing abuse and for protection. At that point, Chief James Blount started the tribal migration and obtained various land patents from King George II in Bladen County on Drowning Creek, Back Swamp, and Flowers Swamp which adjoined lands to 1753 Chief William Pugh and the 1761 Braveboy lands.

After the French and Indian Wars ended, many Tuscaroras settled in the lower southeastern part of North Carolina as they obtained lands from the Royal Crown King George and maintained their blood kinship ties with other Tuscaroras in Bertie, Brunswick, Craven, Cumberland, Duplin, Bladen, Columbus, New Hanover and Robeson County, North Carolina, Sampson, and New Hanover Counties in North Carolina for decades. It was noted that Chief William Pugh's father, Thomas Pugh (non-Indian) and obtained land in 1749 in Duplin County at Six Run, now part Sampson County. The land grant by King George indicated that Abraham Jacobs and Thomas Jacobs was present in 1764 in Duplin County along with Thomas Pugh and his wife Mary Scott. Thomas Pugh was same the Tuscarora Indian Trader, Tuscarora Land Trustee Commissioner and Interpreter in Bertie County Tuscarora Reservation. Tribal Historians have noted that the Jacobs surname is highly recognized as Tuscarora in New York and it's obvious that Abraham Jacobs and Thomas Jacobs were part of the Tuscaroras who remained. Also in the same year of 1764, Thomas Green married Mary Hunt in Bertie County, proving that the New York Tuscaroras with the surname of Green descend from this matrimony. John Hunt and William Hunt were also in Bertie County and were Tuscaroras.  


The tribal migration continued for years, only finding many of the same Tuscarora families that were in Bertie and Edgecombe Counties, were identically listed in the years of 1763 through 1790 Bladen County Tax Lists. A number of Tuscaroras decided to leave their traditional homelands in Bertie County, North Carolina to Bladen County. Many of the Southern Tuscarora who remained in North Carolina acquired land patents from King George II and moved into their traditional hunting grounds surrounding the Cape Fear River in North Carolina, primarily in New Hanover and Bladen County, which later became part of Robeson County. Several Tuscarora Indians were able to regain their land back from the Royal British Crown through land patents before July 4, 1776, the Declaration Day of Independence and on June 21, 1788, when the U.S. Constitution became a law in the State of North Carolina.



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Tuscarora Tradition

Tuscarora Pow Wow

Gah-go-nah-nee-reh

Oo-neh