A Reflection on the Nooherooka 300 Commemoration
by Lyndsey Sweet, East Carolina University Public History major
The events of March 21-23, 1713 on a plowed Carolina field should still be remembered today, three hundred years later. The problem began when the colonists settled in the Americas. The colonists invaded the land the natives had lived on for many years. One of the main causes of the Tuscarora War was “colonists who would not allow them to hunt near their plantations, and under that pretence took away from their game, arms, and ammunition.” The colonists did not understand that the natives did not know they were not allowed to be on the colonists’ land, and as a result, hostile feelings rose between the two groups. The colonists continued to expand, depleting the land where the Tuscarora hunted and lived. This caused the beginning of the war in September 1711. There was conflict off and on for the next few years, but the Tuscarora were desperately trying to hold onto their homeland. It is important to note that there were also internal conflicts between the Tuscarora Indians. The northern Tuscarora did not feel the impacts of the invading colonists and wanted to keep up with their successful fur trade with Virginia. As a result, they did not want to fight. On March 23, 1713 West of present day Snow Hill, NC in Greene County, their struggle was brought to an end.
North Carolinians asked for help from both Virginia and South Carolina. Virginia did not have much interest in North Carolina’s problems, and it thus did not send any troops. They turned to South Carolina, who saw profit in helping North Carolina. If they captured the Indians, they could sell them as slaves. With help from South Carolina, the North Carolinians launched their last attack of the Tuscarora War. Colonel James Moore of South Carolina led 900 Indians and 33 white colonists into Fort Nooherooka. There the Indians killed, scalped, sold into slavery, or buried alive at least 900 Tuscarora Indians. By March 23, 1713 the battle and the war was over. The survivors migrated northward, to upstate New York. This battle was significant because it was Indians fighting Indians, and it was the last Tuscarora stronghold in North Carolina.
The events of March 21-23, 1713 should be remembered in North Carolina, and specifically in Eastern North Carolina in Pitt and Greene Counties because this battle took place on the land where we live. The Tuscarora people lived on the land where we work and go to school. Studying and commemorating the events of the Battle at Fort Nooherooka, and the related Tuscarora history can give insight on the way many Indians felt during the time period. All over North Carolina and the colonies, Indians were being confined to smaller pieces of land, but did not know what that meant, which caused the resulting wars. These Indian wars are often looked over by our society today, but had the Indians prevailed, we may not be going to school or living in this area.
In the three hundred year commemoration in March 2013, several events will be held to commemorate the battle, as well as teach to Americans about the Tuscarora Nation then and today. There will be an exhibition in both East Carolina University’s Joyner Library and in the Greene County Historical Museum. These museums will attempt to tell the story from the time the colonists settled in the New World, through the Indian Wars, specifically the Battle at Fort Nooherooka, and ending with the Tuscarora Nation in New York today. The exhibitions have the potential to give an audience a view of what the times were like both before and during the Indian Wars.
A website was created for general information about the Tuscarora tragedy and the commemoration. There are specific topics on the website such as artifacts found on the archeological dig, information about the exhibits, the Tuscarora story, and other specific topics. One key feature of this website is the videos that were created when four Tuscarora delegates came to North Carolina. They are asked a variety of questions about their lives, their traditions, struggles, and views that are related to the Tuscarora Nation today. These videos will give the audience a look into the lives of the Tuscarora Nation.
During the commemoration, there will be a series of lectures, dealing with different topics and aspects of the Tuscarora Nation. There are lectures on the tragedy, their current homeland in New York, their language, and the repatriation process, among many others. These lectures allow the general public to learn more about specific aspects of the Tuscarora Indians, both past and present.
On the last day of the commemoration, a monument will be dedicated near the Nooherooka Fort site. The monument will be in remembrance of the Tuscarora men, women, and children, who lost their lives, were held captive, or forced to move from their homeland, during the battle. It is important to have something on the site where the main battle took place because it is a reminder of the sacrifice those Indians made so we can live, work, and go to school on the land where they once hunted and lived.
The last part of the commemoration, which I believe speaks the most about the events of March 1713, is the migration walk. Members of the Tuscarora Nation will be walking from the fort site back to their reservation in New York. This migration represents the walk that the remaining Tuscarora survivors made after the battle at Fort Nooherooka.
The story of the Tuscarora Nations is largely unknown, even in the present areas where they lived three hundred years ago. It is important for the public to understand this specific tragedy, as well as many others like it across the colonies. I encourage the public to attend the lectures that commemorate these Indians and their story. The events that took place on March 21-23, 1713 are among some of the most important in Native American and North Carolina history.