Algonkian Ethnohistory of the Carolina Sound, Part 1


by Maurice A. Mook


Part 1


During the period of first white contacts the Indian tribes inhabiting the area of the a present State of North Carolina were a of three linguistic stocks � the Iroquoian, Siouan, and Algonkian. The first two groups have been made the objects of investigation by both historians and anthropologists, but the Algonkian have been neglected and are still commonly called, as for example by Kroeber, the "little known" inhabitants of the Carolina Sound. Even the names and identities of some of the tribes are still in doubt � a situation due partly to the lack of primary historical sources relating to the groups in question and partly to students' failure to exploit thoroughly such sources as are readily available. The sources are few enough, and they are not particularly rewarding ethnologically. It seems time, however, to attempt an ethnohistorical picture of the area such as we already have for the neighboring native areas of the state (1).

The Algonkian-speaking tribes of eastern North Carolina represent the southernmost extension of the groups of this linguistic relation which inhabited the Eastern States. All the tribes of New England were Algonkian in speech, those of the eastern portions of the Middle Atlantic states were of the same linguistic family, and the inhabitants of the tidewater area from the Potomac to the Neuse River were similarly affiliated (2). The classification is entirely linguistic, rather than racial or cultural, and is the only one available in the light of present information. The English were not so interested in native peoples as were the French or even the Spanish, and the historic ethnology of areas of English colonization is proportionately inferior. However, scattered native words in the relations of the Roanoke adventurers, modern place names of Indian derivation in the area, and the short Pamlico vocabulary given by Lawson in his History (3) are sufficient to justify the classification of the eastern native Carolinians as indisputably Algonkian.

The delimitation of the area of aboriginal Algonkian occupancy in Carolina is complicated by the fact that it was not coterminous with natural geographical lines of division, as was the case in Virginia. The Algonkian tribes of the Powhatan Confederacy in Virginia inhabited the tidewater area, with the fall line of the tidal rivers marking the western limit of Algonkian tribal distribution. In Carolina, however, tribes of Iroquoian and of Siouan speech also occupied the coastal plain. These latter groups were the western and southern neighbors of the Algonkian, with the latter inhabiting the region east of a line drawn from Bogue Inlet due north to the intersection of Meherrin River and the Virginia-Carolina line. Algonkian peoples thus occupied the greater portion of the area now contained in the 17 easternmost counties of the State, including most of the offshore islands. Algonkian occupancy covered some 6,000 square miles, approximately one-sixth of the land area of the modern State. The limits of distribution are tentative, however, for the western Algonkian boundary is merely suggested by contemporary accounts.

Our knowledge of the Carolina Algonkian of the late sixteenth century is derived entirely from the documents of Raleigh's Roanoke enterprise. Historical research has added little of ethnological significance to the relations published by Hakluyt in 1590. It is now possible, however, to interpret these with less ethnohistorical naiveté than was characteristic of the days of Hawks, Hale, and Tarbox (4). Also for the problem of reconstructing tribal geography at the time of contact students now have access to facsimiles of John White's original maps of the Carolina coast (5). Until the publication of these facsimiles it was generally assumed that the engravings published by De Bry were faithful reproductions of the John White drawings. The De Bry engravings however, are now shown to be embellishments of White's original maps and other ethnological pictures (6). It has been said that "De Bry's engravings were copied, plagiarized, redrawn and re-interpreted for generations after his time" and that "De Bry is the man who immortalized the pictures (and maps) of the Roanoke colony" (7). This is historically correct, but it is also true that De Bry himself "copied, redrew, and re-interpreted" and that his pictures "immortalized" elaborations of the John White originals, rather than the originals themselves. Students of history and ethnology will prefer the originals in accurate facsimile (8). These are particularly valuable, for they are the first pictorial record of Algonkian environment and culture in the New World. Other than by the use of archeological methods it is impossible to come nearer to the aboriginal situation of pre-contact times in this area than by study of White's drawings and the written records of 1585-1590.

The written materials of the Roanoke colony are exceedingly uneven as sources of aboriginal history. Hariot's Report (9) is usually considered the classic in this respect, but it is disappointing as a document for ethnological and historical reconstruction. Unfortunately, Hariot's "Chronicle, according to the course of times," which in his Briefe Report he stated he had written and was holding for a "convenient" time for publication, apparently never was printed, or, if it was, it is now among the missing documents of the history of Roanoke settlement. From the point of view of historical anthropology this is a particular misfortune, for Hariot tells us that the Chronicle was a "large discourse . . . of the naturall inhabitants" (10).

Whereas Hariot's Report is quite silent on matters of tribal identity, location, history, and intertribal relationships, its section on "the nature and maners of the people" is historical in the sense that it describes aspects of the native culture at the time of contact. It is a gross exaggeration, however, to speak of it as "a statistical survey on a large scale" (11). Both historically and ethnologically it is less informing than Barlow's The first voyage made to the coasts of America (12). The value of the Barlow relation, on the other hand, is somewhat reduced by the fact that the first voyage was one merely of preliminary exploration, by an expedition too small in size and too short in duration to make more than superficial surveys of a small portion of the coast. Relationships with the natives were friendly, and Barlow was successful in obtaining considerable information during the few weeks he was in the Algonkian area. His tract was a report to Raleigh that presented a more hopeful picture of colonizing prospects than the resources of the region deserved, but there is little to indicate that his descriptions of native life are characterized by mistakes other than those that were the natural result of misunderstanding due to hasty and untrained observation.

White's relations of the fourth and fifth voyages made to Roanoke in 1587 and 1590 (13) are journals of the voyages, rather than accounts of experiences in the Carolina area. As such they are of little value as sources for the study of native history. Their almost complete lack of ethnological consciousness is sufficient, in fact, to suggest that John White the governor and the author of the relations may have been a different person than John White the artist of Lane's colony and the author of the map of 1585 (14). The map, with its long list of native locations, and the drawings of Indian scenes and subjects reveal an awareness of the native inhabitants that seems entirely foreign to the relations of the last two voyages.

The prime documentary sources for the ethnogeography and ethnohistory of the Roanoke experiment are White's map (15) and Ralph Lane's Account of the particularities of the imployments of the English men left in Virginia by Sir Richard Greenevill (16). In spite of the development of unfriendly relations between the natives and colonists under Lane's governorship, Lane's account shows him to have been an individual of ethnological discernment. His narrative is the only Roanoke relation of more than perfunctory value for the student interested in the location, distribution, and relationships of the Carolina Algonkians and their neighbors in 1585. De Bry seems to have sensed its importance in this respect as early as 1590, for although this publisher chose Hariot's Report in preference to Lane's Account for the first volume of his Voyages (17), his map is based upon White's with additions of some of the locations mentioned in Lane's account (18). Both maps are therefore useful for the study of the tribal geography and the native history of the period. New maps of Carolina did not appear until the latter part of the next century (19), by which time the Algonkian tribes were so reduced in both population and culture as to be deemed unworthy of recognition by contemporary cartographers. Lawson was the only writer of the period of permanent settlement who took generous cognizance of the existence of the native tribes of Carolina; his map, however, shows but three names of Indian derivation in the Algonkian area, and these were used as place names rather than as designations of tribal locations (20).

References to locations in the Roanoke relations show that the explorations made by Lane and his colonists apparently took them to most of the important tribal towns inhabited by the Algonkian groups of the Sound area at the time. Their discoveries were confined largely to the shores and islands of Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds, and to the coastal area bordering the bays and rivers adjacent to the larger bodies of water. A trip was made to the Chesapeake tribe situated at the southern end of Chesapeake Bay, and two voyages were made into the interior in explorations of the Chowan and Roanoke Rivers. One exploration was made southwestward from Roanoke, probably as far as the Neuse River, but contemporary knowledge of the region south of the lower Pamlico River seems uncertain and ill-defined. In a concluding passage of Hariot's Report it is stated that "al which I have before spoken of have bene discovered and experimented not farre from the Sea coast, where was our abode and most of our traveling; yet sometimes . . . we made our journeys further into the maine and Countrey" (21). Hariot elsewhere referred to discoveries 80, 120, and 150 miles from Roanoke (22). Lane was still more specific with respect to the distances and directions involved in the exploratory expeditions under his direction. In the ethnogeographically most explicit passage of the relations he described the explorations of the colonists as follows:

Lane proceeds to describe his exploration of the Roanoke River to a point that took the party more than 160 miles from Roanoke Island. The exploration led them into the territory of the Mangoak, or Mandoag (24), the Carolina Algonkian term for their western Iroquoian neighbors (25). The foregoing passage is of special interest in its references to the locations and towns of the Weapemeoc, Secotan, and Moratoc tribes. These positions can be determined with greater exactness by reference to the data of contemporary cartography. For collateral textual evidence, however, it is necessary to consider passages from two other relations.

The voiage made by Sir Richard Greenvile for Sir Walter Ralegh, to Virginia, in the yeare 1585 (26) is in the form of a brief journal of the daily experiences of the English during the two months that Grenville was in the colony. Its references to native locations are as follows:

The above locations occur on the maps of White and De Bry and can be transferred to modern maps with the aid of such supporting geographical information as can be found in the narratives of the colony. A passage from Barlow completes the roster of native place names as they occur on the early charts. Barlow's information is a supplement to that of the other relations, for it mentions two tribes, the Pomouik and Neusiok, that are not referred to by Hariot, Lane, or White. His facts, however, are from native informants rather than based upon his own discovery or exploration. His references are as follows:

Barlow's narrative is one of the most valuable minor histories of English colonization in the New World. Although its geography is largely based upon the reports of his native informants, supplemented by such explorations as could have been made in a few weeks by a small party in two barks, it is none the less valuable on that account. It offers the most direct and detailed information concerning the political organization and intertribal relationships of the coastal Algonkian groups that is available for this region. It is the first record of white contact with the natives of the Sound area, and it is, therefore, impossible to come nearer to the local precontact aboriginal culture by historical methods of investigation than by a study of its descriptions of the native way of life (35). Barlow's relation, though shorter than Hariot's Report, is more genuinely ethnological and is more valuable for its general cultural description than for its allusions to tribal geography. It is characterized by numerous naivetes and contains some items of misinformation (36), but when it is remembered that the first voyage was made to a strange environment and that Barlow was at first without command of the Algonkian language, the information embodied in his account seems all the more remarkable. Lane's and Hariot's works are longer and for some aspects of ethnology more explicit; both of these writers, however, were in the Algonkian area approximately a year, and they had in Manteo a native informant who had been in England five to six months and must have acquired in that time a working knowledge of the English language.


(1) E.g., J. Mooney, The Siouan tribes of the East, Washington, 1894; J. N. B. Hewitt. "Tuscarora," Handbook of American Indians 2: 842-853, Washington, 1910; J. R. Swanton, "Early History of the Eastern Siouan Tribes," Essays in anthropology in honor of Alfred Louis Kroeber: 371-381. Berkeley, 1936; F. G. Speck, "The Catawba Nation and Its Neighbors," North Carolina Hist. Rev. 16(4): 404-417, 1939. C. W. Milling's otherwise adequate Red Carolinians (Chapel Hill, 1940) omits discussion of the Algonkian tribes � another example of their neglect in the history of historical scholarship.

(2) T. Michelson, "Preliminary Report on the Linguistic Classification of Algonquian Tribes," 28th Ann. Rep. Bur. Amer. Ethnol.: 221-290, Washington, 1912.

(3) Lawson's History of North Carolina, 1714. edited by F. L. Harriss: 242, 243, Richmond, 1937. All references in this paper will be to this edition of Lawson's History.

(4) F. L. Hawks, History of North Carolina 1 (1584-1591), Fayetteville, 1857; E. E. Hale, "Original Documents... Illustrating the History of Sir Walter Raleigh's First American Colony," Trans. and Coll. Amer. Antiquarian Soc. 4: 3-33, 317-344, Boston, 1860; I. N. Tarbox, Sir Walter Raleigh and his colony in America, Prince Society, Boston, 1884. Hawks and Tarbox reprinted Hakluyt's Voyages relating to the Roanoke colony.

(5) The definitive edition of Hakluyt is that of the Hakluyt Society: The principal navigations, voyages, traffiques and discoveries of the English Nation, 12 vols., Glasgow, 1903-1905. The Roanoke relations are in vol. 8, pp. 297-422. This edition first included a facsimile of White's original map of the Roanoke region (vol. 8, opp. p. 320). The map is also accurately reproduced in H. S. Burrage, ed., Early English and French voyages, 1534-1608, opp. p. 248, New York, l906.

(6) For De Bry's care-free handling or historical materials, see Chester M. Cate, "De Bry and the Index Expurgatorius," Papers Bibliogr. Soc. Amer. 11(3-4): 136-140, 1917.

(7) R. G. A(dams), "A Brief Account of Ralegh's Roanoke Colony of 1585," William L. Clements Libr. Bull. 22: 14, 16, Ann Arbor, 1935.

(8) White's drawings of Indian subjects afford the student a number of ethnographic details not to be found in the written relations of the Roanoke colony. Bushnell published photographic reproductions of White's original drawings ("John White � The First English Artist to Visit America, 1585," Virginia Mag. Hist. and Biogr. 35(4), 1928, 419-430, 9 pIs., 1927; 36(1): 17-26, 5 pls., 1928; 36(2) : 124-134, 5 pls., 1928). Bushnell reproduced the entire series of native subjects from White's originals in the British Museum, but he did not reproduce the maps.

(9) The most recent reprint of Hariot's A briefe and true report is a facsimile reproduction of the 1588 quarto, with an introductory bibliographical essay by Randolph G. Adams (Ann Arbor Facsimile Series, No.1, 1931). Throughout this paper references to the Roanoke relations, including Hariot's Report, will be to the Everyman's Library edition of Hakluyt's Voyages (London and New York, vol. 6, 1926). This edition is textually accurate and is the most easily available; moreover, it is unencumbered with inaccurate and misleading interpretive notes such as accompany the reprints by Hawks and by Tarbox (see Note 4).

(10) Hariot's Briefe report: 186, 196.

(11) L. S. Livingston, "Introductory Note" to Hariot's Report, p. v, New York, 1903 (Dodd, Mead & Co.'s Facsimile Reprints of Rare Books, Historical Series, No.1).

(12) Hakluyt 6: 121-132; also in Burrage, op. cit.: 225-241.

(13) Hakluyt 6: 196-227; also Burrage, op. cit.: 281-323.

(14) P. L. Phillips suggested a number of other reasons for distinguishing the governor and the artist as separate individuals ("Virginia Cartography," Smithsonian Misc. Coll. 14(1039): 1-18, 1896). More recently the tendency has been to regard the governor and the artist as the same person (R. G. Adams, "An Effort to Identify John White," Amer. Hist. Rev. 41(1): 87-91, 1 1935; W. P. Cummings, "The Identity of John White Governor of Roanoke and John White the Artist," North Carolina Hist. Rev. 15(3): 197- 203, 1938).

(15) White's map of Virginia (see Note 5) is not to be confused with the map of Virginia and Florida also ascribed to him. (Principal navigations, vol. 8: opp. p. 400, Glasgow; also reproduced in E. G. R. Taylor, ed., The original writings and correspondence of the two Richard Hakluyts 2: opp. p. 414, London, 1935). The Virginia-Florida map occurs among White's original drawings and maps in the Grenville Library of the British Museum. It may have been drawn by him, but the Florida portion is a copy of Le Moyne's map and could not have been based upon White's personal experiences of exploration so far as can be judged from the few known facts of his life. The Carolina portion of the second map is a smaller-scale copy of White's map of Virginia, except that it omits several of the native place names of the larger chart.

(16) Hakluyt 6: 141-162; Burrage, op. cit.: ( 245-271.

(17) De Bry's choice of Hariot's Report was recommended by Hakluyt, who was also instrumental in arranging for De Bry's use of White's pictures and maps. For Hakluyt as mediator between White and De Bry, see G. B. Parks, Richard Hakluyt and the English voyages, New York, 1928. For the place of Hariot and White in the work and historical record of the Roanoke settlement, see Henry Stevens, Thomas Hariot, the mathematician, the philosopher, and the scholar. London, 1900. This biography is inadequate by standards of historical scholarship, but it is the only one available. See also Dictionary of National Biography 24: 437-439, 1890.

(18) The De Bry-White map, "Americae Pars, Nunc Virginia Dicta," has been frequently reproduced, most recently by Adams and by Humphreys. A. L. Humphreys, Old decorative maps and charts: pl. 27, London, 1926; R. G. A(dams), A brief account of Ralegh's Roanoke colony: opp. p. 18, Ann Arbor, 1935. With undue modesty De Bry represented White as "authore," himself as merely "sculptore." The White map via De Bry became a "mother map" of Carolina and was copied by atlas compilers and professional mapmakers for a century. For its influence on maps of coastal North America compare Humphrey's pls. 42 and 56 with pl. 27, and the latter with pls. 20A, 20B, and 21 in C. O. Paullin, Atlas of the historical geography of the United States, Washington, 1932. Cf. also pls. 26 and 30 in E. D. Fite and A. Freeman, A book of old maps, Cambridge, 1926.

(19) W. L. Ford has discussed late seventeenth-century maps of Carolina in "Early Maps of Carolina," Geogr. Rev. 16: 264-273, 1926.

(20) Lawson's map was published as a frontispiece of the 1903 (Charlotte) and the 1937 (Richmond) reprints of his History. The 1937 edition is superior textually, but the map of the 1903 edition is on a larger scale. Both are poorly reproduced.

(21) Hariot, p. 193.

(22) Ibid.: 171, 186.

(23) Lane, "Imployments," in Hakluyt 6: 141-142, 145, 146. Throughout this paper the original spelling has been retained in all quotations from the sources, but punctuation and paragraphing have been modernized in the interest of preserving the originally intended meaning. All comments in brackets are interpolations by the present writer.

(24) Ibid.: 142, 147, 155, 158.

(25) See articles "Nadowa" and "Nottoway" in Handbook of American Indians (hereafter referred to as HAI), Bur. Amer. Ethnol. Bull. 30, 2: S-9, 87, 1910. The eponym was an opprobrious epithet meaning "rattlesnake." Carolina maps from 1590 (De Bry-White) to c. 1660 locate Mangoak territory west of the area of Algonkian occupation. This location is based upon Lane's account, as Mangoak is absent from White's map.

(26) Hakluyt 6: 132-139. This Voyage is sometimes ascribed to Lane but may have been written by Grenville (Tarbox, p. 130n).

(27) This episode marks the beginning of the hostility between the natives and the English which culminated in the "Conspiracy of Pemisapan." Until the sack of Aquascogoc the natives had been friendly. Thereafter Algonkian hostility was a factor in the failure of the Roanoke settlement (see Lane, "The Conspiracie of Pemisapan, the Discovery of the Same, and at the Last, ... our Request to Depart with Sir Francis Drake for England," Hakluyt 6: 152-162).

(28) Ibid.: 137-139. .

(29) Occam was the native word for the body of water including the northern portion of Pamlico Sound and Albemarle. Sound. Barlow was mistaken in thinking of it as a "river."

(30) White's drawing of Pomeiock shows a similarly stockaded village. White's original has been reproduced by Bushnell and by Binyon. (Bushnell, "John White the First English Artist to Visit America, 1585," Virginia Mag. Hist. and Biogr. 35(4): pl. 7, opp. p. 428; and "Virginia � from Early Records," Amer. Anthrop. 9: opp. p. 32, 1907; L. W. Binyon, "The Drawings of John White," Walpole Soc. Publ. 13: pi. 27, New York, 1925.)

(31) In this context Occam refers to Albemarle Sound.

(32) "Wingandacoa" was understood by Barlow to refer to Roanoke Island and the adjacent mainland. Gerard has pointed out that as a locative the term is an "impossible corruption, due to mishearing" a native word supposed to have been Wingatakw, meaning "good clothes." (Gerard, HAI 2: 957-958.) Raleigh detected Barlow's error, although one wonders how he did so, for in his History of the world he wrote: "When some of my people asked the name of the country, one of the savages answered Wingan-da-coa, which is as much as to say 'You wear good clothes' or 'gay clothes." (Cited by Gerard, HAI 2: 957, and by Hawks, History of North Carolina 1: 78-79, 1859.)

(33) Amadas and Barlow returned to England in September, 1584, taking with them Manteo and Wanchese, "Two of the Savages, being lustie men." These natives remained in England until April of the next year, when they were brought back to Carolina by Grenville and Lane. Manteo "remained a faithful friend of the English colonists, while Wanchese turned against them and became a principal factor in the "conspirary of Pemisapan." Barlow's reference to these men as being in England would seem to date his relation as having been written late in 1584 or early in 1585.

(34) Barlow, "The First Voyage," in Hakluyt (6: 127-131.

(35) The only other approach toward aboriginal history would be by archeology, but there has been no scientific archeological excavation in coastal Carolina to date.

(36) E.g., "Wingandacoa"; see above, Note 32.

Courtesy of Washington Academy of Sciences

"Algonquian Ethnohistory of the Carolina Sound" by Maurice A. Mook, American University. Journal of the Washington Academy of Sciences, Vol. 34, No. 6 (June 15, 1944), pp. 181-196, pp. 213-228.

Copyright 2001
Carolina Algonkian Project

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