15. Tuscarora

The Tuscarora of North Carolina are part of the Iroquoian family that once inhabited the entire piedmont from Virginia into northern South Carolina. It is possible that the Tuscarora knew the residents of the lost Roanoke Colony established in 1585 by the English on the North Carolina coast. The Roanoke residents disappeared without a trace.

Known contact with the English didn’t take place again until 1701. John Lawson, an explorer hired by the English king sought the Tuscarora’s help in exploring the region of what is now North and South Carolina.

Like all the other tribes, the Tuscarora were decimated by European diseases, especially smallpox. By 1711 colonists encroached on Tuscarora land and as expected war ensued. The English and their Cherokee allies slaughtered all the inhabitants of the Tuscarora’s main village, consisting only of women, children, and elders. Throughout this holocaust many Tuscarora were captured and sold into slavery. Those that weren’t, were driven north by the English where the Tuscarora were finally able to rejoin the Iroquois.
The Tuscarora, like all Indigenous Americans, do not draw a distinction between daily life and religious life. They have no word for religion and hold that all of life, both ritual and everyday, is spiritual expression. Ritual practices of the Tuscarora are much like those of the Delaware and Iroquois, and include the Longhouse, Green Corn, Midwinter, and Strawberry Ceremonies continued into present day. Because of their inter-tribal similarity I will describe those ceremonies in the Cherokee and Iroquois essays.


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