The Tuscarora Nation of New York is an Iroquoian tribe with members in North Carolina and New York in the US. There is also a Tuscarora First Nation band in Canada.
Official Tribal Name: Tuscarora Nation of New York
Address: 5616 Walmore Road, Lewiston, NY 14092
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
Skarureh , meaning “long shirt people,” which refers to the long shirt worn by Tuscarora men.
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:
Tuscarora meaning “hemp gatherers,”referring to the Indian hemp or milkweed which they used in many aspects of their society.
Alternate names / Alternate spellings:
Formerly known as the Tuscarora Nation of New York.
Name in other languages:
Algonquian Languages – Mangoag
Region: Northeast => Tuscarora Nation
State(s) Today: New York, North Carolina in the US, and Ontario, Canada
The Tuscarora lived around the Great Lakes, likely about the same time as the rise of the Five Nations of the historic Iroquois Confederacy. Well before the arrival of Europeans in North America, the Tuscarora had migrated south and settled in the region now known as Eastern Carolina.
The most numerous indigenous people in the area, they lived along the Roanoke, Neuse, Tar, and Pamlico rivers. The historic homeland of the Tuscarora in eastern North Carolina was in and around the Goldsboro, Kinston, and Smithfield areas. Some Tuscarora descendants, though few, still live in this region.
They first encountered European explorers and settlers in the colonies of North Carolina and Virginia.
After the Tuscarora War of 1711–1713 against English colonists and their Indian allies, most of the surviving Tuscarora left North Carolina and migrated north to Pennsylvania and New York, over a period of 90 years. They aligned with the Iroquois in New York, because of their ancestral linguistic and cultural connections.
Confederacy: Iroquois Confederacy
- 1784 Treaty with Six Nations
- 1789 Deed From The Six Nations of Indians to the State of Pennsylvania
- 1789 Articles of Agreement Between Six Nations and Pennsylvania
- 1789 Treaty with Six Nations
- 1792 Articles of Agreement (Five Nations)
- 1794 Treaty of Canandaigua
- 1794 Treaty With The Tuscarora, Oneida and Stockbridge Indians
- 1796 Jay Treaty of Amity Commerce and Navigation
- 1796 Treaty with the Seven Nations of Canada
- 1797 Treaty with the Mohawk
- 1797 Treaty with the Senecas
- 1797 Treaty Of Big Tree
- 1803 Treaty with the Tuscarora Nation
- 1838 Treaty at Buffalo Creek
Reservation: Tuscarora Nation Reservation
Land Area: 9.3 mi² (24.0 km²)
Tribal Headquarters: Lewiston, NY
Time Zone: Eastern
Population at Contact:
Estimated population precontact is about 25,000. In late 1600s and early 1700s North Carolina, European colonists reported two primary branches of the Tuscarora: a northern group led by Chief Tom Blunt, and a southern group led by Chief Hancock. Varying accounts c. 1708 – 1710 estimated the number of Tuscarora warriors at 1200 to 2000 men.
An early 1800s historian wrote that the Tuscarora in North Carolina traditionally were said to occupy the “country lying between the sea shores and the mountains, which divide the Atlantic states,” in which they had 24 large towns and could muster 6,000 warriors.
Historians estimate their total population may have been three to four times the number of warriors, adding in the elderly, women, and children.
Registered Population Today:
The Tuscararoa Nation emollment in 1995 was 1,200. Approximately 20,000 Tuscarora live in Canada.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Name of Governing Body:
Number of Council members:
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Number of Executive Officers:
Language Classification: Iroquoian => Northern => Lake Iroquoian => Tuscarora–Nottoway => Tuscarora (Skarure)
Number of fluent Speakers:
Tuscarora is a severely endangered language. As of the mid-1970s, only about 52 people spoke the language on the Tuscarora Reservation (Lewiston, New York) and the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation (near Brantford, Ontario).
The Tuscarora School in Lewiston has strived to keep the language alive, teaching children from pre-kindergarten to sixth grade. However, the only fluent native speakers are older adults.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
- Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario, Canada
- Seneca-Cayuga Nation (formerly known as Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma)
- Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina (descendants of the Tuscarora)
About 1700, the Chowanoc and Weapemeoc people gradually abandoned their lands. Some became slaves, indentured servants, and others migrate south to join the Tuscarora.
Several bands, groups, and organizations with members claiming Tuscarora descent reside in North Carolina. Since the late 20th century, they have organized and reformed in various configurations. None has state or federal recognition.
They have included the following:
- Tuscarora Indian Nation of North Carolina, org. date: per Sec. of State, NC 05/08/1972, Robeson Co.
- Southern Band Tuscarora Indian Tribe, Windsor;
- Tuscarora Tribe of Indians Maxton (1979) effective date per Sec. of State NC, 08/20/1990,
- Tuscarora Nation One Fire Council at Robeson County, North Carolina (formed in 2010 from several bands in Robeson County)
- Tosneoc Tuscarora Community, Wilson County, original Homeland, Stantonsburg/Contentnea Creek area, North Carolina
- Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation
Tuscarora tribal officials in New York dispute claims that anyone in North Carolina has continuity as a tribe with the Tuscarora. The Tuscarora Nation of New York, says that the great majority of the tribe moved north to New York. New York leaders consider any individuals remaining in North Carolina as no longer having tribal status, although they have Tuscarora genetic ancestry.
Both the New York Tuscarora and the North Carolina Tuscarora bands claim the historical name of the tribe. As the New York tribe is federally recognized and is the longest organized as a tribal government, it is considered the legal successor to the historic tribe.
Members of North Carolina bands claim descent and continuity with the ancient Skarure. Some North Carolina Tuscarora feel that the Tuscarora that left North Carolina abandoned the home lands, and that both groups should be allowed to have a relationship with the federal government.
In the 1930s, the Department of Interior conducted physical examinations of 209 individuals residing in Robeson County and determined that 22 possessed at least 1/2 or more degree of Indian blood, and that 18 more were borderline or near-borderline cases.
Scholars and scientists no longer consider such physical exams to be a valid method of determining biological ancestry. Each federally recognized tribe has the authority to determine membership criteria and establish its own rules. These are generally based on documented descent from a historical list of agreed-upon members or descent from known living members.
In the 1960s, the surviving eight of these 22 people, with many of their descendants and approximately 2,000 other individuals in their communities organized an official Tuscarora political infrastructure in Robeson County. On November 12, 1979 the “Tuscarora Tribe of Indians Maxton” were accepted into the National Congress of American Indians.
Various factions of the Robeson County-based Tuscarora, who have split since their initial organization in the 1960s, have worked for state and federal recognition. A petition by the Hatteras Tuscarora, submitted to the federal government in 1978, was placed on hold.
In 1989, the Solicitor of the Department of Interior ruled that the Lumbee Act of 1956, which acknowledged the Lumbee as Native American, at the same time barred all Indians within Robeson and adjoining counties from consideration as a federally recognized tribe within the “Branch of Acknowledgement and Research” petitioning process.
Leaders of the Lumbee had agreed to this provision at the time the legislation was passed. This provision was applied to the Lumbee petition of 1986 seeking federal recognition as a tribe. Gerald M. Sider states that rather than challenging this ruling, “The Lumbee subsequently removed their petition from active consideration by the BIA in a way that also prevented the Tuscarora petitions from being considered.”
In 2006 the Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation, “AKA: Tuscarora Nation of Indians of North Carolina”, filed a federal lawsuit for recognition. Skaroreh Katenuaka Nation, the Hatteras Tuscarora, and the Tuscarora Nation of the Carolinas are all based in Robeson County. Members are closely related to one another.
In May 2010 leaders and individuals from the various Tuscarora factions in the Robeson County area came together to form the Tuscarora Nation One Fire Council (TNOFC). The TNOFC is an interim, un-incorporated government; they have based it on provisions outlined in wampum 96 of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois League) Great Law of Peace.
The TNOFC assembles weekly. Its members are working toward developing and implementing solutions to problems that have created division among them in the past. The TNOFC maintains separate membership enrollment from, and their members are not part of, the state-recognized Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina.
The Lumbee are the largest state-recognized tribe in North Carolina and are also located in Robeson County.
Some Tuscarora descendants live in Oklahoma. They are primarily descendants of Tuscarora groups absorbed in the early decades of the nineteenth century in Ohio by relocated Iroquois Seneca and Cayuga bands from New York. They became known as Mingo while in the Midwest, coalescing as a group in Ohio.
The Mingo were later forced in Indian Removals to Indian Territory in present-day Kansas, and lastly, in Oklahoma. In 1937 descendants reorganized and was federally recognized as the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma. The nation occupies territory in the northeast corner of the former Indian Territory.
Following the Tuscarora War, many Meherrin moved to the Tuscarora reservation in Bertie County. When the reservation closed in 1802, some moved to N.Y. Descendants of those who remained live in Northampton County and surrounding counties. Present day Meherrin claim Iroquois, both Tuscarora and Algonquin ancestry.
The Nottaway or Notowega were found in western North Carolina. Some may have merged with the Meherrin or Tuscarora.
The Waccamaw lived on the Waccamaw River in NC and the Lower Pee Dee River in SC. Some may have moved to Lumber River and Green Swamp areas of N.C., with descendants among the Tuscarora, Lumbee and Waccamaw-Siouan.
Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca, Coree and Machapunga Indians
Ceremonies / Dances:
Fall Harvest Celebration
The Tuscarora Nation Picnic and Field Days takes place each July.
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Religions Today: Christianity, Longhouse, Handsome Lake, other Indigenous religions.
Students who reside on the Tuscarora Nation enter Tuscarora Indian School for Pre-Kindergarten to 6thGrade. Students transition to Edward Town Middle School for 7th Grade and complete high school from Niagara Wheatfield Central School District.
Tuscarora Chiefs & Famous People
1738–1739 – A smallpox epidemic decimates the Indian population in NC.
Sponsored by the Oneida, they were accepted in 1722 as the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy.. After the American Revolution, in which they and the Oneida allied with the colonists, the Tuscarora shared reservation land with the Oneida before gaining their own.
Those Tuscarora who allied with the British in the American Revolution resettled with other Iroquois tribes in present-day Ontario, where they are part of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation. Only the tribes in New York and Ontario have been recognized officially by the respective national governments.
After the migration was completed in the early 1700s, the Tuscarora in New York no longer considered those remaining in North Carolina as members of the tribal nation. Since the late 20th century, some North Carolina remnants have formed bands in which they identify as Tuscarora. As of 2010, several bands in Robeson County have united on an interim basis as the Tuscarora Nation One Fire Council.
The historic nation encountered by Europeans in North Carolina had three tribes:
- Kǎ’tě’nu’ā’kā’ (People of the Submerged Pine-tree), also written Kautanohakau;
- Akawěñtc’ākā’ (meaning unknown), also Kauwetseka ; and
- Skarū’ren’ (long shirt wearers), also Tuscarora (hemp gatherers).
These affiliations continued to be active as independent groups after the tribe migrated to New York and, later, Ontario.
Chief Blunt occupied the area around what is present-day Bertie County, North Carolina, on the Roanoke River. Chief Hancock lived closer to present-day New Bern, occupying the area south of the Pamlico River. Chief Blunt became close friends with the colonial English Blount family of the Bertie region and lived peacefully.
By contrast, Chief Hancock had to deal with more numerous colonists’ encroaching on his community. They raided his villages and kidnapped people to sell into slavery. The colonists transported some Tuscarora to Pennsylvania to sell into slavery. Both groups of Tuscarora suffered substantial population losses after exposure to Eurasian infectious diseases. Both also suffered territorial encroachment. By 1711 Chief Hancock believed he had to attack the settlers to fight back. Chief Tom Blunt did not join him in the war.
The southern Tuscarora collaborated with the Pamlico, the Cothechney, the Coree, the Mattamuskeet and the Matchepungoe nations to attack the settlers in a wide range of locations within a short time period. Their principal targets were against the planters on the Roanoke, Neuse and Trent rivers, as well as the city of Bath. They attacked on September 22, 1711, beginning the Tuscarora War. The allied Indian tribes killed hundreds of settlers, including several key political figures among the colonists.
Governor Edward Hyde called out the North Carolina militia and secured the assistance of South Carolina, which provided 600 militia and 360 allied Native Americans under Col. John Barnwell. In 1712, this force attacked the southern Tuscarora and other nations in Craven County at Fort Narhontes, on the banks of the Neuse River. The Tuscarora were “defeated with great slaughter; more than three hundred were killed, and one hundred made prisoners.”
The governor offered Chief Blunt leadership of the entire Tuscarora Nation if he would assist in defeating Chief Hancock. Blunt succeeded in capturing Hancock, who was tried and executed by North Carolina officials. In 1713 the Southern Tuscarora were defeated at their Fort Neoheroka (formerly spelled Neherooka), with 900 killed or captured in the battle.
Under the leadership of Tom Blunt, the Tuscarora who remained in North Carolina signed a treaty with the colony in June 1718. It granted them a 56,000 acres (230 km2) tract of land on the Roanoke River in what is now Bertie County. This was the area occupied by Chief Blunt and his people. The colonies of Virginia and North Carolina both recognized Tom Blunt, who had taken the last name Blount, as “King Tom Blount” of the Tuscarora.
Both colonies agreed to consider as friendly only those Tuscarora who accepted Blount’s leadership. The remaining Southern Tuscarora were forced to remove from their villages on the Pamlico River and relocate to the villages of Ooneroy and Resootskeh in Bertie County. In 1722, the Bertie County Reservation, which would officially become known as “Indian Woods,” was chartered by the colony.
As colonial settlement surrounded Indian Woods, the Tuscarora suffered discrimination and other acts: they were overcharged or denied use of ferries, restricted in hunting, and cheated in trade; their timber was illegally logged, and their lands were continuously encroached upon by herders and squatters. Over the next several decades, the colonial government continually reduced the Tuscarora tract, forcing cessions of land to the encroaching settlers. They sold off portions of the land in deals often designed to take advantage of the Tuscarora.
Many Tuscarora were not satisfied with the leadership of Tom Blount, and decided to leave the reservation. In 1722, 300 fighting men; along with their wives, children, and the elderly, resided at Indian Woods. By 1731 there were 200 warriors, in 1755 there were 100, with a total population at Indian Woods of 301. When in 1752 Moravian missionaries visited the reservation, they had noted “many had gone north to live on the Susquehanna” and that “others are scattered as the wind scatters smoke.”
In 1763 and 1766 additional Tuscarora migrated north to settle with other Iroquoian peoples in Pennsylvania (where the Susquehannock and Erie people both had territory) and to New York. By 1767 only 104 persons were residing on the reservation in Bertie County. In 1804 the last band to leave North Carolina went to New York. By then, only “ten to twenty Old families” remained at Indian Woods.
In 1802 the last Indian Woods Tuscarora negotiated a treaty with the United States, by which land would be held for them that they could lease. As the government never ratified the treaty, the North Carolina Tuscarora viewed the treaty as null and void. In 1831 the Indian Woods Tuscarora sold the remaining rights to their lands. By this point their 56,000 acres (230 km2) had been reduced to 2,000 acres (8.1 km2).
Although without a reservation, some Tuscarora descendants remained in the southern regions of the state. They intermarried with other residents. In 1971 the Tuscarora in Robeson County sought to get an accounting of their lands and rents due them under the unratified treaty of 1803. At least three bands have organized in Robeson County. In 2010 they united as one group.
The Iroquois Five Nations of New York had penetrated as far as the Tuscarora homeland in North Carolina by 1701, and nominally controlled the entire frontier territory lying in between. Following their discovery of a linguistically related tribe living beyond Virginia, they were more than happy to accommodate their distant cousins within the Iroquois Constitution as the “Sixth Nation”, and to resettle them in safer grounds to the north. (The Iroquois had driven tribes of rival Indians out of Western New York to South Carolina during the Beaver Wars several decades earlier, not far from where the Tuscarora resided.)
Beginning about 1713 after the war, contingents of Tuscarora began leaving North Carolina for the north. They established a main village at present-day Martinsburg, West Virginia, on what is still known as Tuscarora Creek. Another group stopped in 1719–1721 in present-day Maryland along the Monocacy River, on the way to join the Oneida nation in western New York. After white settlers began to pour into what is now the Martinsburg area from around 1730, the Tuscarora continued northward to join those in western New York. Other Tuscarora bands sojourned in the Juniata River valley of Pennsylvania, before reaching New York.
During the American Revolutionary War, part of the Tuscarora and Oneida nations in New York allied with the rebel colonists. Most of the warriors of the other four Iroquois nations supported Great Britain, and many participated in battles throughout New York. They were the main forces that attacked frontier settlements of the central Mohawk and Cherry valleys. Late in the war, the pro-British Tuscarora followed Chief Joseph Brant of the Mohawk, other British-allied tribes, and Loyalists north to Ontario, then called Upper Canada by the British. They were part of establishing the reserve of the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation in what became Ontario, Canada.
In 1803 a final contingent of southern Tuscarora migrated to New York to join the reservation of their tribe in Niagara County. After that, the Tuscarora in New York no longer considered southern remnants as part of their nation. Some descendants of the southern remnants have continued to identify as Tuscarora and have organized some bands. Through the generations they had intermarried with neighbors but identify culturally as Tuscarora.
During the War of 1812 in the British attack on Lewiston, New York on December 19, 1813, a band of Tuscarora living in a village on an escarpment just above the town fought to save Americans fleeing the invasion force. The British were accompanied by allied Mohawk and some American Tories disguised as Mohawk. The American militia fled, leaving only the Tuscarora—outnumbered 30 to one—to fight a delaying action that allowed some townspeople to escape. The Tuscarora sent a party of braves to blow horns along the escarpment and suggest a larger force, while another party attacked downhill with war whoops, to give an exaggerated impression of their numbers. The British force burned Lewiston, as well as the Tuscarora village, then undefended.
The Tuscarora have continued to struggle to protect their land in New York. In the mid-20th century, New York City commissioner Robert Moses generated controversy by negotiating with the Tuscarora Sachem council and purchasing 550 acres of the Tuscarora reservation for the reservoir of the new hydroelectric project along the Niagara River, downriver from Niagara Falls. (At the time of first power generation in February 1962, it was the largest project in the world.) The plant continues to generate cheap electricity for households located from the Niagara area to as far away as New York City.
In the News: