A Refection of the Nooherooka 300th Anniversary Commemoration

Written by Christina Lugo, East Carolina University History Major

 The battle of Nooherooka will forever be a tragic event in the history of the Tuscarora people. In March 1713, on a now small farm field in Snow Hill, N.C, close to nine hundred Native Americans died during the siege of Fort Nooherooka. Today, it is important to commemorate the Tuscarora and all who died at Nooherooka.

Fort Nooherooka was the final stronghold destroyed by colonial forces during the Tuscarora War of 1711-1713. As the battle ended, more than 400 Tuscarora men, women and children burned to death in a fire that destroyed the fort; around 170 were either killed outside the fort or captured with an estimated 400 and taken to South Carolina to be sold into slavery. Of the Tuscarora who had originally taken refuge within the confines of the fort, a number managed to escape prior to the final siege. The remaining Tuscarora fled deep into the interior toward the Virginia border, most of them eventually going to New York where they joined the Five Nations.

Fort Nooherooka is located on what is today a privately owned farm. East Carolina University undertook the excavation of the fort for Historical and Cultural Research in conjunction with ECU’s summer field school for archaeology students. After years of digging at Nooherooka, the project yielded boxes and boxes of Tuscarora skeletal remains, as well as personal effects.

The consensus among the Tuscarora people is that Nooherooka is one of the most sacred sites to their people. The site is one the largest mass graves of Natives in the country. It serves as a reminder to all of the descendants of what took place, and that from that point on, Tuscarora people would no longer be the same. This is why it is extremely important to commemorate this event and the Tuscarora history. The battle at Nooherooka broke the Tuscarora Nation in two. The Tuscarora lost their own men, women and children in that battle to slaughter or slavery. After Nooherooka, everything changed. Educating others about the history is crucial, if people understand what happened here, they will understand the significance. There will not be any question as to whether or not it should be protected.

The tragic death of those Tuscarora who died in the battle of Nooherooka will be commemorated in March 2013 at the Nooherooka 300th Anniversary commemoration hosted by East Carolina University. This conference is one of the many different ways East Carolina University will be recognizing the Tuscarora presence in North Carolina history. The conference will host many different speakers over a three-day period, in which the public is encouraged to come learn about the history of the Tuscarora. The conference will include, an arts and crafts exposition, the Tuscarora War in North Carolina in Perspective lecture, Tour of the Phelps Archaeological Laboratory, conserving the cultural treasures of the Tuscarora heritage lecture and much more.

Another way East Carolina University has decided to honor the Tuscarora is with an exhibition located in Joyner Library. This exhibit will show a timeline of the Tuscarora Nation, early maps that show where the Native American nations were located, the first maps where the Tuscarora lived, the Indian Wars as well as a map of the battle site of Fort Nooherooka, and the photographs of artifacts found during an archeological dig of the site. In addition, East Carolina students have created a website dedicated to the 300th Anniversary of the battle of Nooherooka. The website includes all the different topics researched by Public History students in the fall semester of 2012: including the exhibit in Joyner Library, repatriation, photos of different artifacts, maps, matrilineal information, a schedule of the anniversary conference, the design of the monument for today’s site, and videos of the interviews conducted with members of the Tuscarora nation.

The marker and monument on the battle site are also another way the event has been commemorated. For students the marker and monument may spark a curiosity that leads to further study of and appreciation for the historical event and history of the Tuscarora. For visitors the signs may be their only exposure to the history of the Tuscarora War. In addition, for North Carolinians the presence of a state marker in their community can be a source of pride, a signal that an event of historical significance took place close to home.

The battle of fort Nooherooka is a dark time in North Carolinas past. The past is an important part of our present and helps to shape our future. The commemoration of this event will help educate people, help the past become more accessible, more meaningful, and can be utilized to address a variety of contemporary issues. In addition, a historical consciousness can help us to think critically about what happened on the site and never forget those died there.