Sunday, March 24, 2013
Our recent cold nights might conjure images of pitch skies and flickering campfires and civilizations stretching back hundreds of years beyond our pale colonial history on this countryside. They also can quietly suggest lives lived and lost — but happily, not forgotten.
This past week East Carolina University marked what became the climactic moment of a war not top of mind for most of us — the 300th anniversary of the Battle of Fort Nooherooka.
For many, including myself, this piece of our past had long been hidden in the shadows of other history — of colonization, revolution, civil war. Until recently, I had little understanding of the life this region had supported for century upon century until that civilization was uprooted here 300 years ago.
The battle on what is now a barren field in Greene County essentially ended the thousand-year history of the Tuscarora in this region. It was the end of a war that had begun two years earlier when the Native Americans made a last ditch effort to save their centuries-old life along eastern Carolina’s creek sides.
This past week, ECU’s historians presented a series of lectures, demonstrations and seminars dedicated to explaining and preserving this history crucial to understanding how this region came to be what we find here today.
Called Nooherooka 300, the week’s events included discussions of the Tuscarora Nation, its language, culture and crafts; lectures about the Tuscarora War of 1711-1713 and seminars on the archaeology of Fort Nooherooka itself and on the battle map of the South Carolina commander, Colonel James Moore, who led the assault against it.
On Saturday, a monument designed by ECU sculpture professor Hanna Jubran was dedicated near the site of the fort and attended by members of a Tuscarora delegation who planned to later begin a 600-mile walk back to the Tuscarora Reservation in New York state.
Their trek recalls and pays tribute to the migration of their ancestors, who left North Carolina after the war to join the other tribes of the Iroquois in the Niagara region. Though some of their brethren remained here after the fighting stopped, this departure essentially marked the end of thousands of years of Native American life in the coastal plain.
In recent years, others have begun efforts to revitalize awareness of the remarkable culture that had thrived here. The town of Grifton has now sponsored two “John Lawson Legacy Days” observances, during which the explorer and naturalist and the Native American culture are remembered and celebrated.
In 1709, Lawson published “A New Voyage to Carolina” in which he wrote this about the Tuscarora he encountered here:
“They are really better to us, than we are to them; they always give us Victuals at their Quarters, and take care we are arm’d against Hunger and Thirst: We do not so by them (generally speaking) but let them walk by our Doors Hungry….”
Ironically, Lawson’s death in the Tuscarora settlement Catechna near Grifton was among the first of the war that would follow.
There is a distinct sadness that accompanies any ending, especially those where innocence and good will are among those things lost. So it is heartening to see Grifton’s volunteers and the educators at ECU saving and giving new voice to the history of a remarkable civilization whose traces continue to define our region.
Al Clark is executive editor of The Daily Reflector. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 252-329-9560.
via The Daily Reflector.