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Indigenous Peoples of North Carolina: Tuscarora


The Tuscarora are one of the original Six Nations of the Iroquois. Tuscarora comes from their own tribal name, Skarureh, which means “hemp people.” This hemp is what is called milkweed. The Tuscarora primarily lived on the Roanoke, Tar, Pamlico, and Neuse Rivers in what is present-day North Carolina.

Archival Materials

Please note: some of the papers listed here were created and collected by white colonizers and enslavers.

Lewis Thompson Papers, 1723-1895

Lewis Thompson was an enslaver and a politician. He owned plantations near Woodville (also called Hotel), Bertie County, N.C., and at Bayou Boeuf, near Alexandria, Rapides Parish, La. Thompson was also a political leader in North Carolina, serving in the House of Commons and State Senate, 1831-1852, and as a member of the General Convention of 1865. He was a University of North Carolina trustee from 1848 until his death.

Some material in this collection relates to land in Bertie County belonging to the Tuscarora Nation. Subseries 1.1. 1723-1833 folders 1-5 include a number of indentures and documents related to land controlled by the Tuscarora.

William Laurence Saunders Collection, 1712-1907

These papers include a collection of colonial and early state records of North Carolina. In Folder 2 there is a petition from 1766 concerning a dispute over and sale of land between the Tuscarora people and the Lord Proprietors Deputies of North Carolina. The petition provides a history of the terms and violations of the 1714 treaty and 1748 act, seeks a partial nullification of the 1748 act, and requests compensation through the sale of Tuscarora land to assist with their relocation due to impoverished conditions to a northern area of land (near Mohawk land), which had been held and occupied by Tuscarora for fifty years.

Robert Jones the Attorney General, William Williams of Halifax, and Thomas Pugh of Bertie County were identified as trustees in the sale of the land, and in compensation would each receive a parcel of land from the Tuscarora.

The petition is signed by Billy Taylor, John Wiggins, Billy Howard, Captain Blunt, Jonathan Cain, Billy Sockey, Billy [Netos?], Captain Jo., Billy Hinks, Billy George, Billy Dennis, John Jack, Billy Pugh, John Roggers, Isaac Miller, Tom Whitmell, Captain Basket, Captain Lightwood.

Arwin D. Smallwood Collection of Indian Woods (N.C.) Photographs, circa 1990s-2005

The collection of African American historian Arwin D. Smallwood (1965-) contains images depicting an area in Bertie County, N.C., known as "Indian Woods," which was the site of the first reservation for indigenous people in North America. Smallwood, who grew up in Bertie County, took the images while conducting site visits in the 1990s and 2000s for his research on the northern Tuscarora people, who were relocated by whites to the area during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Websites and Other Resources