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What is the Tuscarora Tribe?

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  • Written By: JP Moor
  • Edited By: A. Joseph
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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The Tuscarora Tribe is a group of American Indians who were first recorded in history when they were living in what is now North Carolina. The name "Tuscarora" means "hemp gatherers." The Tuscarora had fixed settlements on the Pamlico, Neuse, Tar and Roanoke rivers. They were divided into three major sub-tribes, the Tuscarora; the Katenuaka, which means "people of the submerged pine tree," and the Akawencaka.

History first mentions the Tuscarora Tribe just one year before the first war the tribe fought with the colony of North Carolina. In 1710, a tribal delegation visited the government of Pennsylvania to request permission to live there in order to escape the serious harassment the Tuscarora were enduring in their home territory, including being captured and sold into slavery. Often, any Tuscarora who attempted to protect others from capture were killed. As with many other Native American tribes, they were not considered by the white settlers to own the land they claimed. They were, therefore, sometimes shot for "trespassing" on their own traditional tribal lands.

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The Tuscarora Tribe went to war over these issues in 1711. At what should have been the end of the war, a British official named John Barnwell, having made little profit from his victories over the Indian tribes, violated his own treaty and seized many of the Indians to be sold as slaves. This prompted a second war in 1713. The weapons and resources of the British colonial governments made short work of these wars against the Tuscarora Tribe.

After fighting and losing two wars over their territory and their rights in North Carolina, the Tuscarora began moving north to shelter with the Five Nations, with whom they shared the Iroquois language and customs. They were considered to be related to the Iroquois, though they had moved south many years before. The minority of the tribe that remained in North Carolina eventually was not recognized as part of the tribe. The northward migration continued for about 80 years, but as early as 1722, the Oneida tribe sponsored the Tuscarora for membership in what now is the Six Nations.

During the American Revolutionary War, the majority of people in the Tuscarora and Oneida tribes sided with the colonists against Great Britain. The Tuscarora, being from the smallest tribe among the Six Nations, were attacked by other tribes and again scattered and dispersed. They eventually gathered on Seneca property at what has since become the current Tuscarora Reservation in the state of New York. Those members of the Tuscarora and the Oneida tribes who sided with the British during the war were granted lands in the Grand River Reservation in Ontario, Canada. Though few in numbers at that time, they joined with many other members of the Six Nations of the Iroquois that supported the Crown during the Revolution.

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