Mar 052013
 

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By Margaret Fisher / Staff Writer

Published: Saturday, March 2, 2013 at 21:15 PM.

SNOW HILL — The plight of the local Native American families was hopeless.

Huddling in bunker pit houses within the palisade-style walls of Nooherooka Fort along the waterway that is now Fort Run near Contentnea Creek, untold hundreds of Tuscarora Indians were, no doubt, frightened over their eventuality as Europeans soldiers and other Carolina Indians made their attack.

Their warriors attempted to counter-attack from their palisade bastions, digging a trench and creating a sally port to fire back using muskets.

It was all to no avail.

On March 23, 1713, Col. James Moore’s men and allies successfully broke through the east wall, killing hundreds of men, women and children. They burned the fort and took away 392 captives to sell as slaves.

No one knows how many escaped. Some stayed to negotiate peace with the colonists. They were later betrayed and eventually exiled to a reservation.

But many did flee. Over time, they migrated to the area around Lewiston, N.Y., and the Iroquois Confederacy. Their descendents make up what is today the Tuscarora Nation.

“By defeating the forts,” Larry E. Tise, a historian at East Carolina University, said about the Tuscarora Wars concluding with the final battle, “the Tuscarora Nation was humbled. About 20 percent of the Tuscarora Nation was destroyed.”

The site of Fort Nooherooka, or Neoheroka, lies in Greene County, north of Snow Hill and adjacent to N.C. 58 North at Nooherooka Road. It is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and as a National Historic Landmark.

In memory of the suffering, death and loss of the Tuscarora homeland, East Carolina University and the Greene County Arts and Historical Society will be holding a series of events for the Nooherooka 300th Commemoration March 21-23.

A series of discussions, demonstrations of traditional crafts, exhibitions and a dinner will take place March 21-22 at ECU. Some of the events require registration.

Snow Hill will celebrate Tuscarora Heritage Day that Saturday. A dedication of a monument designed by artist Hanna Jubran will occur at 10 a.m. at the Nooherooka site with members of the Tuscarora Nation.

 

The beginning of a 1,000-mile migration by tribal members will start at 11:15 a.m. and head to the Greene County Recreation Park and Farmers Market where plate lunches will be sold.

Clan members plan to continue the trek back to New York, retracing the steps their ancestors took when they migrated north.

The Tuscarora Nation Men’s Lacrosse game will be held at 1:30 p.m., followed by a communal lacrosse game open to the public at 2:30 p.m.

There will be demonstrations and exhibits of Tuscarora arts and crafts all day, as well as a Tuscarora Indian artifact display at the Greene County Museum from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Sharon Ginn, president of the board of directors for the Greene County Museum, said it has always been the desire of the museum board to exhibit the artifacts from Fort Nooherooka.

“As the commemoration nears the 300th anniversary since the historic battle took place,” she said, “it is an honor for the Greene County Arts and Historical Society to partner with East Carolina University and the Tuscarora Nation in this observance. It is extremely important for Greene County to acknowledge and observe this greatly-significant historical event that occurred right where we live today.”

A one-hour, 11-minute documentary video, “The Forgotten Tragedy: The Tuscarora War” by Snow Hill resident, Gene Smith of Dogwood Studios, will be shown at 7 p.m. at the Greene County Library.

The move westward

The Battle at Fort Nooherooka forever changed North Carolina, as well as the U.S., Tise said.

“It was a turning point in colonial history for America,” he said.

The colonies lay along the coastal areas, but the colonists were eager to move westward to settle as their population grew.

The Indians of the area had lived in agrarian homesteads scattered throughout the region and farmed the land for about 1,000 years.

“The real heart of the homeland was the Contentnea-Neuse area,” said George Mewborn III of the Greene County Museum board and the owner of the Nooherooka property.

Drive along N.C. 58 from Snow Hill to Wilson and it will look pretty much like it did when the Indians lived here, except they lived in longhouses, Tise said.

“Indians were replaced by European farmers,” he said.

The fort is thought to have been built in 1712 as a protection from the Europeans as the Tuscarora Wars drew closer.

The Battle of Nooherooka opened up the land for the colonists.

“It completely transformed the development of North Carolina,” Tise said. “Up until that battle, North Carolina was occupied by Europeans along the coast.”

 

A unique history lesson

The actual site in Greene County is hidden beneath a field of soybeans or tobacco to protect the rich heritage and honor the mass burial place of those who lost their lives in the tragic battle.

It was registered as an American Indian site in the 1950s and identified as the Nooherooka Fort in 1971.

In 1990, ECU archeologists and student researchers began excavating the site and unearthed a variety of Indian artifacts now housed at the university. The excavation continued for 11 years and extensive research on the culture of the Tuscaroras continues.

Because the longhouses’ floors were dug out well below the surface of the ground and the area has basically been untouched for 300 years, the site has remained intact — making it an archeologist’s treasure trove.

“At most sites, artifacts are mixed and have to be sorted,” David Phelps, former ECU archeology professor, now deceased, said in a 1995 ECU press release. “But here, we’re dealing with a closed site. There were no occupations after that battle, so everything just stopped that Sunday morning and it’s still there.”

Another unique feature is the availability of documents that provide additional information about the people, their culture, the sieges and wars and the final battle.

“That’s one of the things that makes this site unique,” Mewborn said, “is to have a battlefield that actually has a map — this early in American history, so well-documented.”

As significant as Nooherooka is, it has remained virtually unknown and the period of inland colonization, and the relationship between the Europeans and the Indians is not well known, either, Mewborn, an English teacher at Spring Creek High School in Wayne County, said.

“This is a time in North Carolina history that very few have studied,” he said.

 

Commemorated through art

Hanna Jubran and his wife Jodi, ECU art professors living in Grimesland, are known throughout the area for their works at Pearson Park, a globe for Kinston’s 250th anniversary, a sculpture across from the CSS Neuse and a sports figure at Arendell Parrot Academy, among others.

Hanna has designed a commemorative monument in honor of the Tuscarora Nation, and both he and his wife are currently constructing it on the Nooherooka property.

“It’s a symbolism of the people and their history,” Jodi said, “because, really, they were forgotten.”

Hanna and Jodi provided details of what the finished sculpture will look like, as well as what the different aspects of the sculpture represent.

It is circular, 30 feet in diameter and made of concrete. It represents the 300th commemoration. The stainless steel arched entrance represents the Tuscarora’s longhouses.

To either side of the arch is a wedge-shaped piece of concrete with the word Tuscorora embedded on one side and Nooherooka on the other. A bronze plaque is at the top of the arch. To the left is a bronze plaque holding bronze corn and hemp.

“It’s like cast in bronze from actual corn,” Hanna said.

On the right side is a wampum belt.

Inside, a “river” of bricks represents the tributary where the fort is situated. On either side is the “land” with one side having an outline of the fort and the other having a spiral representing the native people’s dance.

“There are six concrete tree stumps on each side for the elders to sit on,” Jodi said. These are located around the inner circumference.

At the opposite end of the entrance is a mound, representing a bunker, and a 5-foot stainless steel reflective half-dome that represents the memories of the ancestors. In front of it is a tree, which the Tuscarora can revisit and see its growth.

“The tree will be planted by the leaders during the ceremony,” Hanna said. Around the tree will be the handprints of the leaders.

Much of the area is covered with crushed stone.

Hanna said the monument will be a holy and healing site representing the loss of Tuscarora ancestors and homeland. He hopes it will become a place of annual pilgrimage.

“I think that’s a powerful moment that we have to commemorate in the U.S. and especially in North Carolina,” he said about the March 23 battle. “I’m proud to take part in that.”

 

The clash of two cultures

Gene Smith’s documentary includes interviews with clan members, a naturopathic doctor and a historian.

It depicts local rural scenes, maps and drawings and gives an overview of what life might have been like for the Tuscaroras living in the area around Greene and Lenoir counties and beyond.

“It’s an introduction to the Tuscaroras,” Smith said, “the impact of European diseases and slavery, the movement of European settlements upon the Tusearoran lifestyle, the reprisal of battles by the Tuscarora and the final battle at Fort Nooherooka.

Smith created the music, a combination of African, European and Native American rhythms.

“I was surprised at the Battle of Fort Nooherooka,” he said was the reason he made the video, “and that it was not well known in America. It was larger in death count than the Battle of Wounded Knee.”

Smith said he was also surprised there were more Carolina Indians fighting the Tuscarora than Europeans.

He and his wife Nita designed and created ribbons to give to the Tuscarora Nation dignitaries.

The halves of the ribbon each represent a democracy, Smith said. One has Indian designs and depicts the democracy of the Tuscaroras who may have been members of the Iroquois Confederation before coming to North Carolina and with whom they rejoined in 1722. The other half is red, white and blue, representing the United States.

“The first democracy was overthrown by a monarchy, Great Britain,” Smith said. “The second democracy defeated Great Britain and became the United States of America.”

 

Nooherooka 300th Commemoration

 

March 23 – Tuscarora Heritage Day Commemorating the Tercentenary of Nooherooka Fort

 

N.C. 58 North at Nooherooka Road, Snow Hill

 

10 a.m.                       Nooherooka Monument Dedication

 

10:45 a.m.                  The Nooherooka Fort Site: A Moment for Reflection

 

11:15 a.m.                  Migration 2013, a walk from the site to the Greene County Farmers Market

 

Greene County Recreation Park/Greene CountyFarmersMarket

 

9 a.m. – 5 p.m.         Cultural Conclave: Arts and Crafts of the Tuscarora Nation

 

Nooherooka 300: An Exhibit, Greene County Museum

 

12:30 p.m.                 Lunch at the Park, Southern plates will be sold, Iroquois Indian Band

 

1:30 p.m.                   Tuscarora Nation Men’s Lacrosse Game

 

2:30 p.m.                   Communal Lacross Game for Peace and Goodwill, all guests invited to participate

 

The Great Rooms, EastCarolinaUniversity, Greenville

 

6:30 p.m.                   Tuscarora Dinner and Social, Mendenhall Student Center

 

For information about the dinner and other ECU events on March 21-22, call Larry E. Tise at 252-328-1026 or visit neyuheruke.org

 

 

 

Margaret Fisher can be reached at 252-559-1082 or Margaret.Fisher@Kinston.com. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretFishr.

via Events honoring Tuscarora Indians killed in 1713 battle to be held in Snow Hill, ECU – Local – Free Press & Jones Post.

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