North Carolina Indians

North Carolina had always been home to a large variety of Indian tribes, with the Secotan and the Chowan in the east, the Tuscarora and Keyauwee in the center, the Cherokee dominating the west, and dozens of other ones spread out along the state.  As such, the Indians had a great influence throughout all of North Carolina’s history

Placement of Indian Tribes at the time of European Settlement

During the American Revolution, Indians in North Carolina, specifically the Cherokee, sided with the British, believing that grouping up with them was the best way to get back the land that had been lost to the white settlers.  A joint attack was planned by the Cherokee during the Revolution, teaming up with other Indians to attack North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia.  The Indian attacks had little success and were met with heavy retribution.  In North Carolina, troops led by General Griffith Rutherford devastated multiple Cherokee settlements in an offensive known as the Cherokee Campaign.  At the end of the attacks, over fifty Cherokee towns were obliterated, with the survivors being left with no food and no shelter.  The  end of these attacks brought along a treaty which marked the first ever forced cession of land by the Cherokee Indians.

Route taken by General Rutherford during the Revolution

The North Carolinians at this time had a rich pastime of telling the Indians that they wouldn’t take their land, and then proceeding to take all of their land.  This tradition kept strong in North Carolina during this time, in 1777 the Treaty of Long Island of Holston had the Cherokee Indians seceding all of their land east of the Blue Ridge Mountains and many of the lands among the Watauga and New Rivers, in an attempt to make peace with the ever-growing American government.  This treaty was going strong for about six years until the assembly declared that all lands as far west as the Pigeon River (located in far western North Carolina) were open for settlement.  The new wave of settlers encroaching on what little land the Cherokee had left opened up even more hostilities between the Cherokee and the North Carolinians.

Mountain ranges of the east, Treaty of 1777 seceded all lands east of Blue Ridge Mountains

The most prominent move by the Indians in North Carolina took place throughout the entirety of the 1780s, in a series of Indian raids and attacks known as the Chickamauga wars.  These attacks by the Indians were spread across the entire south, with South Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, and of course North Carolina getting involved in them.  The attacks by the Indians encompassed everything from small handfuls of Indians attacking settlements, to large-scale battles, often numbering in the hundreds.  These attacks continued all across the south up until 1794, when the Treaty of Tellico Blockhouse formally ended the conflicts.

Tellico Blockhouse, as it stood during the signing of the treaty

Overall, the quality of life for the Native Americans in North Carolina was probably worsened by the arrival of the settlers to their territory, and following the 1780s it would only get worse with the introduction of the Trail of Tears and further encroachment on their lands by the white settlers.  However, despite the fact that they lost in the end, the Native Americans certainly had a large impact on the development and expansion of North Carolina.



The Gale Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes



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