These transactions, sales, petitions and letters tell a long a sordid history of the land transactions between the Tuscarora and their “good friends,” the white people across three centuries. Included are stories of betrayal, by the whites and their own people alike, tragedy, opportunity and some exploitation as well, befitting of any best-selling mystery plot. However, it is because of all of this turmoil that we have the records we do have. Without the records, we would have no names of any of the Tuscarora people and no ability to piece much together about their lives. This tragedy gave us the opportunity to hear the voices of their people.
A total of 407 mentions of individual Native people occurred in the records, most of which were names and related signatures on documents, and most of whom removed to New York between 1766 and 1777. A few more left in the early 1800s. Of course, many of these signatures are duplicates. There appear to be about 157 different individuals.
We know what they sold, where and why. We know that they drank too much and that they wanted blankets, shirts, boots, powder and shot in exchange for their land, enough for each family, which is how we know there were 80 Tuscarora families in 1775. We know they were twice betrayed by their own tribal members, both times by members of the Cain/Cane family.
We know that the Tuscarora were mistreated even while moving to New York from North Carolina. Of course, the reason they left North Carolina was due to chronic mistreatment there. We know they tried once again to purchase land, in the 1820s, and history tells us that chapter in their history was as brutally disappointing as the North Carolina chapter, relative to land acquisition and their relationship with both whites and the federal government.
Mostly what this gives us is a small window through which to peer back into time, to get a glimpse of the lives, and the people, from the details we can glean from the paper trail they left behind.
In Grateful Appreciation
- To Cathy Roberts for photographing the deeds in the Bertie Co., Courthouse.
- To Jennifer Sheppard for copying the deeds at the Bertie Co., Courthouse.
- To Elaine Jones for the 1911 letter, the 1972 court case, the timeline and other resources.
- To William L. Byrd III for writing his book “For So Long As The Sun And Moon Endure: Indian Records from the North Carolina General Assembly Sessions and Other Sources.”
- To William L. Byrd III for writing his book “Against the Peace and Dignity of the State, North Carolina Laws Regarding Slaves, Free Persons of Color and Indians.”