At and before the time of contact with European colonists, Meherrins lived in several towns, along the present-day North Carolina/ Virginia border. Below, as Meherrins are listed in various geographic locations, keep in mind that this does not confine us to one place. We had multiple towns and villages and even multiple reservations, inhabited at the same time throughout this timeline. Meherrins were living simultaneously in different towns across different counties, and even different states- what is now North Carolina and Virgina at once.
Meherrins occupied these territories, reservations, and towns during overlapping periods. The sequence does not show a general migration, but the diaspora of the Meherrin people. Today, the Meherrin Nation remains at and around Meherrin Town identified in 1795. It is likely that the group of Meherrin who resided with the Tuscarora in 1781, were the one's who moved north with them to New York and Ontario. Each of the dates on this map are explained in detail throughout the timeline.
Meherrins are an Iroquois nation. We share allegiances, culture, traditions, and language with the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois Confederacy) and were even taken under the protection of the Confederacy in the nineteenth century. The Meherrins shared the same spoken language with the Tuscaora. This language, Skaru:re, is very closely related to Mohawk and other Iroqouis languages. There is no major archaeological distinction between Meherrin artifacts and those of the Tuscarora and other Haudenosaunee. Iroquois people had uniquely Iroquois longhouses, pottery styles and burials. Our oral history and archelogical evidence places our ancestors in what is now North Carolina and Virgina at least 1,200 years ago. This was about the time that the ancestors of the Meherrin, Tuscarora, and Nottoway diverged from the core Proto-Iroquois group, also the common ancestors of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca, and Conestoga.
The history of the Kauwets'a:ka - the Meherrin People, is unique- from our migration to what is now North Carolina/ Virginia, in ancient times to the ongoing struggle for soverignty and tribal identity. We are a proud people and have endured much to be in existence today. We owe this to our ancestors and are thankful for all they've done- Yekwarihuwatathe Ekwehewe disne Kauwets'a:ka! This is our story:
While viewing this timeline keep in mind that throughout history, the Meherrin Nation has been referred to by many names, such as the name we call ourselves, what our neighbors called us, and disambiguations. Some examples include: Kauwets'a:ka, Kauwetsaka, Kauwetseka, Akawěñtc'ākā', Akawenchaka, Akawetsaka, Mangoak, Mangaog, Maharim, Maherin, Maherine, Mahering, Maherrin, Maherring, Maherron, Meherine, Meherins, Meheron, Meherries, Meherrin, Meherring, Meherrins, Meherron, Menchserink, Menderink, Mendoerink, Mendwrink, Menherring, Menheyricks, Meterries (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . University of Michigan . 1910. p 33)
Our Ancient Migrations Across Turtle Island (North America): When Europeans arrived on Turtle Island (North America) they were unaware of the long history and socio-political relationships among indigenous nations. We have a rich historical account of our anciant migrations, which has been passed down orally in each of the Iroquois nations. When clans and nations grew too large, they would split and move to new hunting grounds, or farm lands. This explains how the Iroquois nations divided from a single Proto-Iroquoian ancestral group. The following series of events have been passed down through Iroquois oral history and shared by the late Ray Fadden (Mohawk).
o Iroquois oral history tells of “a great mountain range that was toward the setting sun and a great body of water on the other side of the mountains (the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Ocean).” The stories talk about open, “grassy plains” countless buffalo that migrated across them and left the ground “like a desert because they ate the grass to the earth.”
o The people made it to a “great river that leads to two other rivers that went east and west.” This was likely the confluence of the Missouri, Mississippi and Ohio rivers. The main body of Iroquois travelled east, up the Ohio River.
o We encountered a “people who made friends with wild dogs and made them work for them.” Likely the Pawnee people who had domesticated wolves. The Pawnee also claim they were friends and allies with the Iroquois and at one time lived in the south near what is today Mexico.
o “After a long stay in what is now the Ohio valley, they decided to split up, as was their custom to do whenever a hunting ground became too thickly populated to feed all the people.” It was here that a large separation occurred; possibly the Cherokees moved to the south at this point. Linguistic and archeological evidence supports the Cherokee breaking off much sooner than the other Iroquois nations separated from each other. The larger group of Iroquois (ancestors of the Five Nations and the Tuscarora, Meherrin and Nottoway) continued to migrate up the Ohio River toward the Great Lakes. They eventually settled and spread throughout the region. As bands grew larger they would divide and separate to make use of resources.
The Split from the Proto-Iroquoian Group, and the Migration to the Southeast
Linguistics experts and archaeologists independently support Tuscarora oral history, which places the ancestors of the Meherrin in what is now North Carolina/ Virginia between 2,000- 1,000 years ago.
The ancestors of all Iroquois-speaking people- the Proto-Iroquoians, broke into two groups- the Proto-Northern Iroquois and the Cherokee ancestral group, about 4,000 years ago. The Proto-Northern Iroquoian group split again about 2,000 years ago, based upon linguistic/ lexical exidence. "This group, the ancestors of the Tuscaroras, Nottoways, and Meherrins, eventually settled in eastern North Carolina and Virginia." Mithun, Marianne. The Proto-Iroquoians: Cultural Reconstruction from Lexical Materials. StateUniversity of New York Press, Albany. 1984
In “Sketches of Ancient History of Six Nations (1828)” David Cusick (Tuscarora), who was born on the Oneida Reservation, but lived among the Tuscarora at Lewiston, recounts the oral traditions of Iroquois Ancient History. After the Iroquois became divided into Six “Families” (Nations), the sixth family migrated to what is now North Carolina, leaving the others in New York and the surrounding area.
“The sixth family went towards the sunrise and touched the bank of the great water (the Atlantic). The family was directed to make their residence near Cau-tanoh, i.e. Pine in water, situated near the mouth of Neuse River, now in North Carolina, and the family was named Kau-ta-noh, now Tuscarora and their language was also altered; but the six families did not go so far as to lose the understanding of each other’s language.”
Once in North Carolina the sixth “family” split into three nations, which formed a North Carolina/ Virginia Iroquois League: “The six family made resident near the mouth of Neuse river, in North Carolina, and became three tribes, the KautanohakauKauwetseka, and Tuscarora, and united into a league and were at war with the Nanticokes, and totally on the sea shores.” (Cusick, David. Sketches of the Ancient History of the Six Nations. 1828. page 43) Kauwetseka was used interchangibly with Kauwetsaka and Akawenchaka, etc. (Hodge, p. 33). Akawenc'aì:ka' was the Tuscarora word for the Meherrin Tribe (Rudes, Blair A. Tuscarora-English, English-Tuscarora. 1999. pages 36, and 682).
The Tuscarora, Meherrin, & Nottoway "North Carolina Iroquois League"
Tuscarora language expert Blair Rudes documented that the Tuscarora, Meherrin, and Nottoway comprised a North Carolina Iroquois League. (Rudes, Blair A. Cowinchahawkon/ Akawęč?á:ka:?: The Meherrin in the Nineteenth Century. Algonquin and Iroquoian Linguistics. 6 (3) PAGES 32-34. London, Ontario).
Further evidence of this alliance can be found below in 1650 (Tuscarora man recorded in Meherrin Village), 1711 (a Meherrin was recorded as a judge in John Lawson's trial with the Tuscarora, as well as aiding the Tuscarora in the war), 1757 (Tuscaroras protecting Meherrins) and 1802 (Meherrins travelled north with the Tuscarora to join the Iroquois Confederacy).
“The evidence drawn from the testimony of writers contemporary with them, confirmed in part by tradition, makes it appear that while occupying this primitive habitat the Tuscarora league was composed of at least three tribal constituent members, each bearing an independent and exclusive appellation. The names of these component members still survive in the traditions of the Tuscarora now dwelling in west New York and south Ontario, Canada. The first of these tribal names is Kǎ'tě’nu'ā'kā', i. e. 'People of the Submerged Pine-tree'; the second Akawěñtc'ākā' (meaning doubtful) ; and the third, Skarū'ren', 'Hemp Gatherers.' Cusick (Hist. Six Nations, 34, 1828) wrote these tribal appellations "Kautanohakau," "Kauwetseka, " and "Tuscarora" respectively, and (p. 31) refers also to the "Esaurora, or Tuscarora," from which it may be inferred that Esaurora is a synonym of Skarū'rěn’. (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. University of Michigan . 1910. p 33) Akawenc'aì:ka' is the Tuscarora word for the Meherrin Tribe (Rudes, Blair A. Tuscarora-English, English-Tuscarora. 1999. pages 36, and 682).
The map above shows Meherrin, Nottoway and Tuscarora territories, and the later movement due to colonial encroachment. (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . University of Michigan. 1910. p 282).
C. 1AD - 1,000AD Archaeologists confirm that the ancestors of the Meherrin were living in the NC/ VA region. The pottery style shared by them and other NC Iroquois people is labeled as Cashie, and gives an umbrella name for their culture and way of life. (Mathis, Mark A. and Jeffrey J. Crow. The Prehistory of North Carolina: An Archaeological Symposium. N.C. Division of Archives & History, 2000).
o Archaeological evidence indicates what we already know, that Cashie people/ Meherrin grew corn and beans. They also ate hickory nuts, turkey, deer, raccoon, bear, possum, rabbit as well as fish, turtle, and mussels.
o Some Meherrin villages were surrounded by stockades, others had no walls.
o Cashie/ Meherrin people buried their dead in ossuaries (shared graves) made up of 2-5 family/ clan members. The Cashie buried jewelry and tools such as awls and jewelry in the graves.
(Lewis R. Binford, Archaeological and Ethnohistorical Investigation of Cultural Diversity and Progressive Development Among Aboriginal Cultures of Coastal Virginia and North Carolina (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Michigan, 1964)
(Mathis, Mark A., and Jeffrey J. Crow, eds. 1983. The Prehistory of North Carolina: An Archaeological Symposium. Raleigh: North Carolina Division of Archives and History.)
· 1550’s Meherrin Nation is shown on an early Spanish map of Eastern North America
· 1584-1650 Meherrin were referred to (collectively with other Iroquois-Tuscarora and Nottoway) as Mangoag and Mangoak. The Mohawks, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga and Seneca (Iroquois Confederacy) were also referred to as Mangoak and Mingoes, by their coastal Algonquin neighbors from Carolina to Canada.
"The Mangoags also known as the Mangoaks, were an Iroquoian- speaking community, probably Meherrin and perhaps Nottoway with powerful trading connections...." (Michael Leroy Oberg, The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand: Roanoke's Forgotten Indians. Philadelphia, Penn. 2007).
The term “Mangoak” translates to “rattlesnakes,” “adders,” “real snakes,” “treacherous,” or “stealthy” depending on the source. (Quinn, David B. “Set fair for Roanoke: voyages and colonies, 1584-1606” North Carolina, America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee). In other words it means “enemy.”
· 1585 English colonist, Ralph Lane wrote “Very neere [to the mouth of Chowan River] ... directly from the West runneth a most notable River, and in all those parts most famous, called the River of Moratoc [Roanoke]. This River openeth into the broad Sound of Weapomeiok [Albemarle] . . . Moratoc it selfe . . . is a principall Towne upon that River . . . The Mangoaks . . . is another kinde of Savages dwelling more to the westward of said River” "Mangoak" was a term for Meherrin (and other Iroquois collectively) (Quinn, David B. “Set fair for Roanoke: voyages and colonies, 1584-1606” North Carolina, America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee)
Ralph Lane described how the Meherrins traded “wassador,” a “pale metal” which was referred to by colonials as copper. This was very valuable and sought after by all Natives along the east coast. Although there is debate over whether the copper was collected from local rivers, or traded from other regions, it was definitely refined and fashioned by Meherrin and others in the region. Copper was melted down several times and collected in “great fires” until a pure form of ore was collected and hammered. It was then sent to artisans who fashioned it into plates. It was said that the Mangoaks (Iroquois) decorated their longhouses with “fine parts” and “great plates” of wassador. (Lane, Ralph. “The Colony At Roanoke.” 1586)
· 1590 Meherrins are identified on an early map as "Mangoack" in 1590. This map, by John White, was the first to use the name Chesepeak "Chesepiooc Sinus." John White was the artist who painted the early watercolors of Coastal Algonquin People, their towns, ceremonies, farming and fishing. White was deeply involved with the Lost Colony.
· 1612 John Smith puts “Mangoags” on the southwest section of his 1612 map of Virginia, indicating Meherrin territory. (Quinn, David B. “Set fair for Roanoke: voyages and colonies, 1584-1606” North Carolina, America's Four Hundredth Anniversary Committee).
· 1650 Edward Bland led an expedition into a Meherrin village called Cowonchahawkon located about two miles west of present-day Emporia, Virginia, within thirty miles of where the Meherrin presently reside. He noted speaking with a “Tuscarood” (Tuscarora) man who was present in the village. The correct spelling/pronounciation for Cowonchahawkon was actually pronounced Kauwets'a:ka or could be spelled as Akawenchaka/ Akawęč?á:ka:?. (Rudes, Blair A.Cowinchahawkon/ Akawęč?á:ka:?: The Meherrin in the Nineteenth Century. Algonquin and Iroquoian Linguistics. 6 (3) PAGES 32-34. London, Ontario).
In regard to Meherrin customs and hospitality Bland said: “It was night when we entred into Maharineck, where we found a House ready made for us of Matts; and Corne stalkes layd in severall places for our Horses, the Inhabitants standing, according to their custome, to greet us: and after some discourse with their Werrowance [a head chief, possibly the war chief], a Youth, to whom wee presented severall gifts, we certified them the cause of our comming was to Trade in way of friendship, and desired the great men that what Wares or Skins the Town did afford, might be brought to our Quarters next morning; and also a measure for Roanoak, which they promised should be done, and so left us to our selves a while, untill wee had refreshed our selves with such provisions as they had set before us, in most plentifull maner; and afterwards the great men and Inhabitants came, and performed divers Ceremonies, and Dancings before us, as they used to doe to their great Emperour Apachancano, when they entertain him in most solemne maner and friendship.”
o “This day in the morning the Maharineck great men spake to heare some of our guns go off: Whereupon we shot two guns at a small marke, both hitting it, and at so great a distance of a hundred paces, or more, that the Indians admired at it: And a little before night the old King Maharineck came to us, and told us, that the people in the Towne were afraid when the guns went off, and ran all away into the Woods. This night also we had much Dancing.
o A Tuscarora man was documented at Cowonchahawkon, an example of Meherrin-Tuscarora relationships
o He also described “old Indian fields of exceeding rich Land, that beare two Crops of Indian Corne a yeare.” (Salley, Alexander S. Narratives of Early Carolina, 1650-1708. C. Scribner's Sons. New York, 1911).
· John Lawson, an early European surveyor, wrote that he observed young Iroquois men working in fields of corn as well as hunting. (http://www.rla.unc.edu) · Iroquois (Meherrin, Tuscarora, Nottoway) towns in North Carolina were autonomous. Although they belonged to a confederacy/ league, each town was self-governed and politically independent, much like the Haudensaunee/ Five Nations. (http://www.rla.unc.edu)
· 1669 Virginia census, the Meherrins are listed as the "Menheyricks.” (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . University of Michigan . 1910. p 33)
· 1675 Meherrins provided a safe haven for the Conestoga/ Susquehanna who were fleeing Nathaniel Bacon and his militia. (Frantz, John B. Bacon's Rebellion: Prologue to the Revolution? 1969)\
· 1677 The Meherrins and Virginia colony had signed a treaty which outlined the boundaries of Meherrin territory and brought the Meherrins under their jurisdiction. At this time North Carolina was also claiming Meherrin territory. The two chiefs that signed the "Treaty of Middle Plantation" were named Ununtequero, "Chiefman" and Harehannah, "Head Chiefman. Their signature symbols are shown above, in a section of the original treaty document. The Harehannah's resembles a snipe.
· 1680 Meherrins abandoned Cowonchahawkon near Emporia, Virginia after as a result of the Treaty of Middle Plantation" which was really an effort to subjegate the Meherrin (and other Indian) people under the Crown of England. Abandoning Cowonchahawkon was a strategic move on the part of Meherrins to avoid conflict with Colonists.
· 1680-1690 The Village at Tartara Creek was founded by Meherrins, at present-day Boykins, Virginia. This area was settled by the Meherrin to isolate themselves from the Colonials. This area was not inhabited by Whites at the time.
· 1696 Meherrins began moving down the Meherrin River into the area of present-day Murfreesburough, in Hertford County, North Carolina near “Meherrin Neck” (today known as Manley’s Neck). (This area was part of Virginia colony until 1728 when it became North Carolina territory) Meherrins are noted at "Meherrin Indian Town" on this section of a 1711 map.
· 1699 Virginia ordered its official interpreters to interfere with peace treaties between the Indians residing in the Virginia Colony (including Meherrin) and with other Indian nations seeking peace with Virginia Nations. They ordered Indian "Great Men" to turn their peace treaty belts (Wampum belts) over to the colony, rather than to present them to one another, directly interfering in peace agreements and soverign affairs. The colony was fearful that the First Nations would form a powerful alliance that could threaten the colony's land-grabbing and expansion.
"Whereas in Obedience to an Order of ye second of November last, the Great Men of ye Nottoway, Meheren, Nansemund, Pamunkey, Chickahomini, Rappahanock, and Nantiatico Indians appeared before His Excellency and The Council and being examined concerning a Peace they intended to make with some Foreign Indians without ye knowledge or consent of His Majesty’s Government of this Dominion they Confessed that they had Designed a Treaty of Peace with ye Tawittawayes and other Foreign Indians and according [ly] every respective nation of them had prepared a Peake Belt (being a token that usually passed between them when they desired a Treaty of Peace ) and put them into the hands of ye Nantiaticoes to be sent to ye said Foreign Indians but since His Excellency and ye Council were not pleased to allow of such a Treaty they would not proceed any further therein and also they promised that ye Peace Belts should be brought to James City and delivered to His Excellency which being accordingly done and this day laid before ye said Council it is thought necessary they be restored to ye severall Nations to whom they belong respectively therefore, His Excellency by and with ye advice of His Majesties Honorable Council is pleased to direct that ye interpreters to ye severall Nations of Indians aforementioned to whom ye said belts belong do cause them to send two Great Men of every Nation to James City the next time they pay their Tribute to receive their belts back again. "Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia , Aug. 3, 1699- April 27,1705- Vol. II ,p.2 & p.41 ( Library of Virginia 1928)
· 1704 The Virginia Colony again interfered in the soverign affairs of Indian nations by preventing peace treaties among them:
"Application being made to His Excellency by the Nattoway, Meherine, Nansemond, Pamunkie, Chicahominy and Nansiatico Indians that two men of each of said Nations may have leave to go to the Northward to conclude a Peace with the Senequas, and that likewise two men of the Tuscoruro Indians may be included in the pass to be granted for that purpose, and also that they may endeavour the ransoming of the Nattoway King taken last summer as they suppose by the said Senequa Indians or some others living to the northward; It is the opinion of his Excellency and the Council that it is not convenient to suffer the said Indians to go further Northward than the Northern limits of this government but if they can accomplish their intentions without proceeding further than this Government extends that they then be permitted to go so far, they taking with them as Interpreters Capt Joshua Wynne, Captain Thomas Wynn or Mr. James Adams or any one or two of them, which interpreter or interpreters they are to permit, & he & they are hereby also directed to be present at all the consultations that shall be had by the same Indians with any strange Indians, and without whose consent and approbation they are to conclude nothing.
And the said Indians and Interpreter or Interpreters are strictly required to take care at the said meeting with any strange Indians nothing be treated or concluded that may tend to the Prejudice of this Her Majestys Colony or Inhabitants thereof as they will answer the contrary.
And in case the said Interpreters shall perceive that said Indians intend to conclude anything contrary to the true intent and meaning hereof, they are required to use their upmost endeavors to prevent the same, and to acquaint His Excellency of all their proceedings. Upon Wch Restrictions & Limitations it is ordered that a pass be prepared under the Seal of the Colony for two of each Nation of the said Indians to go to the Northern bounds of this Government with their Interpreter without any molestations.
And ordered that a copy of this order be sent to the interpreter who shall be chosen to go with the said Indians for his and their better direction in the premises." "(Executive Journals of the Council of Colonial Virginia, Aug 3, 1699- April 27, 1705, Vol. II, P. 381 ( The Virginia State Library 1927 )"
· 1705 Virginia established the first reservation in what is now North Carolina, for Meherrins who were living at Meherrin Neck (Manley's Neck).
· 1705 Virginia established laws that deprived all nonwhite persons, including Indians, of legal rights including the right to testify in court. Meherrins were unable to use the courts to settle land disputes or collect debts agaisnt Colonists who were stealing our land and food.
· 1703 Carolina colonists, complained to the Virginia Government, accusing Meherrins of “destroying their stocks and burning their timber and houses, refusing to pay tribute or render obedience to that Government.” These reports were never substantiated, and Virginia said that they would handle any further complaints against the Meherrin. The Meherrin denied ever harming colonials' homes or property. (Lefler and Powel, “Colonial North Carolina”)
· 1705 The first reservation in what is now North Carolina was established by the Virginia Colony for the Meherrins at Maherrinneck (later called Manleysneck). This region was claimed by both coloines at the time and was ultimately taken my Carolina. The reservation was reduced in by Carolina in 1726. It was again reshaped in 1729.
· 1706 Meherrin Town residents were ordered to “remove all their effects to the other side of the Moherrin River.” 1706 The Meherrin, who were already paying tribute to Virginia, were ordered to pay tribute to the Colony of Carolina. Carolina threatened the Meherrin with violence, warning of “the danger they would bring upon themselves if they did not hasten.” (McIlvenna, Noeleen. “A Very Mutinous People: the Struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713” Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.)
The Meherrin asked for more time, as an immediate effort towards relocating their town would “ruin them” as it was the “time a year to get skins” and would have led to lack of trade commodities resulting in hardships and possibly starvation. Meherrins also claimed that they no longer had any land left to go to, as colonists took it all. The Meherrin people also stated concerns that they were being lied to again, as they were before. They were given permission to stay until the following spring. (Dawdy, Shannon Lee. "The Meherrin's Secret History of the Dividing Line" North Carolina Historical Review. 1995 72 (4): 385- 415)
· 1707 The Meherrin were told to relocate their town immediately. However, the Meherrin asked for compensation for their fertile, cleared fields. They contacted Virginia for assistance in this matter against Carolina, and reminded Virginia that they were to be treated as a sovereign nation, and had always in-turn recognized Virginia’s sovereignty. This was during the border dispute between the colonies, which the Meherrin used to their advantage. (Dawdy, Shannon Lee. "The Meherrin's Secret History of the Dividing Line" North Carolina Historical Review. 1995 72 (4): 385- 415)
Virginia stepped in, informing Carolina that the Meherrin were “entitled to her Majestys protection.” And that if any hardship were to come to the Meherrin, that Virginia “must be oblieged to take other measures to assert her Majestys right, and do justice to the Said Indians.”
· 1707 Meherrin Town was attacked and destroyed: Thomas Pollock and a troop of 60 men, attacked Meherrin Town, captured 36 men, and held them there for 2 hot August days. The Meherrin claimed that they were almost killed as they were deprived of water. He and his men destroyed the Meherrin’s homes, crops, and all belongings.
In September, the Virginia militia met with the “Great Men” (Chiefs) of the Meherrin and pleaded with them not to retaliate against Carolina, promising that Virginia will “protect them.”
The Virginia Council President, Col Edmond Jenings later sent a chastising letter to Carolina’s leading official, listing each infringement made upon Meherrin sovereignty, and two depositions from Meherrins- “our ancient inhabitants” who were there well before “Carolina had being.” He scoffed at Carolina for seeking illegal title to Meherrin lands, and told Carolina that they “have been the Agressors.” The Meherrin were “not to be considered as a nation of Savages” Jennings warned Carolina that the Meherrin might bring in their Native allies to “Revenge their wrongs.” (McIlvenna, Noeleen. “A Very Mutinous People: the Struggle for North Carolina, 1660-1713” Chapel Hill, N.C.: University of North Carolina Press, 2009.)
1711 The Surveyor John Lawson was put on trial and executed by the Tuscarora in the events that led up to the Tuscarora war. Barron de Graffen Reed, who witnessed this, said that a Meherrin man named Nick Major was a participating member of the Tuscarora Council. (The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series - Volume VII - Records of the Executive Council - 1674-1734. pp 167-169)
o “The council of "King" Hencock, which consisted of 40 elders, was called by the Tuscarora, according to De Graffenried, the "Assembly of the Great," a translation of the Tuscarora terms for the council of chiefs, the general word for chief signifying 'one is great, either in size or position. At the council before which Lawson and De Graffenried were tried the "forty elders" were seated around a great fire kindled in a large open space devoted to important festivals and public executions. On this occasion these chiefs and the accused were seated on rush mats, which were customarily provided for the comfort of guests as a mark of deference and honor.” “[They] had many dances suitable to various occasions; these as a rule were accompanied with public feasts prepared under the direction of the women chiefs. Every dance had its…. Song….” (Hodge, Frederick W. Handbook of American Indians, 1906.)
· 1711 Henry Briggs, who was the official interpreter to the Meherrin, Nottoway and testified that two Meherrin village names were “Cowinchehoccauk” and later, “Tawarra” at the mouth of the Meherrin River.
· 1711 The Virginia Colony prohibited the Meherrin from communicating with the Tuscarora during the Tuscarora War. However, the Meherrin still aided the Tuscarora. (Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas's people: the Powhatan Indians of Virginia through four centuries. University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.)
· 1711-1715 The Meherrins aided the Tuscarora during the Tuscarora War.
· 1712 Two Meherrin Indians visited Tuscarora Chief, Thomas Blount to get ammunition. Their names were; Tut-sech and Basqueat. (North Carolina Colonial Records: December 23, 1712). These names were likely misrepresented by the English, as they are not typical Iroquois words.
· 1712 The Meherrin were noted as being tributary Indians to Colony Virginia. Several of the colonists transported the Meherrins to pay tribute, and petitioned to be reimbursed for their expenses (Virginia Colonial Records).
· 1714 Fort Christanna- A six square mile (23,040 acres) tract of land was laid out on both sides of Meherrin River, in present-day Brunswick County, Virginia, as a Reservation for “friendly Indians.” The Siouan nations: the Sapony, Occoneechee, Stuckanox, and Tutelo were assigned the south side of the river. The Iroqouis Nations: the Nottoways and Meherrins were told to settle on the north. As the Iroquois and Siouan Indians were age-old enemies, conflict would only ensue. The Meherrin refused to move there and remained in their villages.
· 1716 The Indian school at Fort Christanna operated under Charles Griffin. There were 78 Indian children held there. Sons of leaders of Virginia and North Carolina tribes, including Meherrin, were held at Fort Christanna as hostages, to ensure that Native nations would not attack the colonies.
Two of the children of the Meherrin Principal Chief- Ununtequero were taken and held by the Virginia Colony at William and Mary in Williamsburg. The children were held as leverage to prevent the Meherrin from attacking colonists. This also happened at the same time with the Pamunkey queen’s children, as well as children from the Nottoway and Nansemond Nations.At Williamsburg, the children were forcibly kept in poor conditions and suffered from disease and improper care. Many Indian children died under these conditions. It was noted that the Indian children had exceptional abilities and "genius" in drawing. They learned to read and write in English and were Christianized, however the Church would not baptize them because they were not European. Their classroom had a partition to separate the Indian children from the Whites. It was reported that after completing school and freed, most Indian children returned to their own people and their traditional way of life where they enjoyed more "pleasures and plenty as Indians." In the 1720's the authorities began sending Indian children to work at sea or as apprentices upon completion of their studies, rather than allow them to return to their own people. (Rountree, Helen C. Pocahontas's people: the Powhatan Indians of Virginia through four centuries. University of Oklahoma Press, 1996.)
· 1717 Meherrins were “given a reservation in what is now Colerain” [in Bertie County, NC.] “At the time, Governor Charles Eden thought that the reservation only contained 10,000 acres. Surveyor Colonel Edward Moseley later discovered that the reservation contained over 40,000 acres.” (Smallwood, Arwin. Bertie county: An Eastern Carolina History. Arcadia. 2002. p 49.)
· 1723 The Meherrin sent a letter (petition), pleading to the royal governor of Virginia for protection from the English colonists who illegally took our land and threatened to take the corn we had grown. The transcription shows the great despair that our ancestors must had felt. Notice the desperate pleading and use of the word "subgete" in order to win the Governor's aid.
"to the most onrable Govner of vergeny a petshen from the merhen Engnes to your most onrable hiness and Excelency wee pore Engns have kneed for to Complan to your most onrable hiness for our Land is all taken from us and the English do say that they will Come and take our Corn from us that wee have made in our Corn felds and wee Cannot Live at rest Except your most onrable hiness do order sum thing to the Contray for Wee ar your most oblein Subgetes and Will bee to his Most Raill Magasty and under your most onrable Comand in hope of sum Relef by your most onrable hiness September the 9 day 1723" -"Petition of Meherin Indians to the governor, 9 September 1723." (Colonial Papers, folder 31, no. 19, Record Group 1, Library of Virginia.)
· 1723 On October 3, 1723, the Virginia Colony spoke out on behalf of the Meherrins, that the Colony of North Carolina had been illegally taking Meherrin land: “Whereas, the Maherin and Nansemond Indians have this day complained that notwithstanding the repeated orders of this government for security to them the possession of their lands, whereon they have many years past been seated, between the Nottoway and Maherine Rivers, divers persons under pretense of grants from the Government of North Carolina surveyed the lands of the said Indians and begun to make settlements within their cleared grounds.”
· 1726 Two petitions were submitted to North Carolina- one from the Meherrins, and one from colonials who settled in Meherrin territory. The Meherrin claimed that they had lived in the area for many years; “long before there were any English settlements near that place.” The Colonials falsely claimed that the Meherrins were actually Susquehanna/ Conestoga who had immigrated to the area, from Pennsylvania, via Fort Christanna. (The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series - Volume VII - Records of the Executive Council - 1674-1734).
o This claim by the colonists is refutable on several counts:
~The Meherrin were well documented as moving to, and residing in this location (see history timeline above).
~Meherrin were noted to have accepted a group of fleeing Susquehanna/ Conestoga at about 1675, but they were fleeing the genocide committed by Bacon’s Militia in Virginia, not the Iroquois in Pennsylvania. (Frantz, John B. Bacon's Rebellion: Prologue to the Revolution? 1969)
· 1726 The Meherrins were assigned to a new reservation tract by the North Carolina General Assembly. This reservation greatly reduced the size of the reservation established by the Virginia Colony in 1705. The tract of land was located at the abandoned Chowanoke fields, at what is today called "Parker's Ferry."
-the Surveyor do lay out a Tract of 150 acres the most Convenient to his Dwelling. Which Lands when Surveyed, the Surveyor is to make return thereof into the Secretary's Office that Grants may pass for the same to the said Indians. It is further Ordered by this Board that the said Indians shall Quietly hold the said Lands without any molestation or disturbance of any Persons claiming the same so as the same Persons Right or pretentions to the said Lands be Reserved unto them Whereby they or those claiming under them shall have the preferrence of taking up the same when the said Indians shall desart or remove therefrom. (The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series - Volume VII - Records of the Executive Council - 1674-1734.)
· 1727 Meherrins were attacked by a group of Saponi Indians. The Tuscarora (our confederated allies) had also attacked a group of Saponi, and several reports of murders were made between the Nottoway (also our confederated allies) and the Saponis. It was also reported that a group of Catawba (allies of the Saponis) attacked Meherrin Town. (Fogelson, Raymond. “Handbook of North American Indians: Southeast.” 2004)
A report was filed by colonists, alleging that the Meherrin had attacked the Nottoway (our allies and brother-nation). This false claim was denied by the Meherrins. “The old Occaneechy King and the Saponi Indians" were named as the aggressors who had in fact attacked the Nottoway. (Virginia state papers)
· 1728 The North Carolina Colony was separated from the Virginia Colony.
· 1728 A small group of Meherrin were documented as living among the Nottoway, seeking refuge from the Catawbas who had attacked. (William Byrd II. The History of the Dividing Line Betwixt Virginia and North Carolina).
· 1729 In "An Act for the More Quiet Settling the Bounds of the Meherrin Indian Lands" a new reservation was established at the confluence of the Chowan and Meherrin rivers. This was an expansion of the reservation at Parker's Fairy.
- "all English people, or any other, living in the said bounds, shall move off, and that no persons but the said Indians shall inhabit or cultivate any lands within the limits aforesaid, while the said Indians remain a nation, and live thereon."
-North Carolina. General Assembly November 27, 1729 Volume 25, Pages 211-213
· 1731 20 Meherrin families are documented east of the Chowan River in NC, near Bennett’s Creek. This could equate to over 100 individuals. (The Colonial Records of North Carolina, Second Series - Volume VII - Records of the Executive Council - 1674-1734).
· 1733 Meherrin are again documented east of the Chowan River on Edward Moseley's map of North Carolina. Notice the Meherrin Indians on both sides of the Chowan River, and the Tuscarora on the Roanoke. Meherrins also resided there in the late 18th century (see 1781).
· 1757 “King Blunt and the thirty three Tuscaroras, seven Meherrins, two Saponies and thirteen Notoways” enlisted at Williamsburg with George Washington’s regiment to aid in the French and Indian War. The Tuscarora and Meherrin contingent said that they had “buried their weapons” and would only use them to fight a true enemy. As the Colonists were their friends, they would fight for them until the enemy was defeated at which time they would rebury their weapons.
· In 1757, Edmund Atkins, who was the Superintendant of Indian Affairs, cited an example of brotherhood between the Meherrin and Tuscarora. He said there was a party of Cherokees who wanted to take the scalp of a Meherrin, and that if this were to happen it would cause ”another National Quarrel with the Tuskeroras” and that this would threaten alliances with the Crown. Pennsylvania Archives- 199-200.
· 1761 20 Meherrin- fighting men are documented in Northampton/ Granville County, NC living on a reservation of “10,000 acres of land allotted to them” near the Roanoke River. They are noted as living in “perfect friendship with the Inhabitants.” (Report by Arthur Dobbs-The Colonial Records of North Carolina Volume 6 [B. P. R. O. North Carolina B. T. Vol. 14. E. 53.])
· 1763 A group of Meherrin were noted as still residing in Virginia: “they live in peace in the midst of us, lead in great measure the lives of wild Indians" (The official papers of Lt. Governor Francis Fauquier of Virginia).
· 1776 Approximately 15 Meherrins fought in the Revolutionary War.
· 1781 “Meherrin Indians were living on the Roanoke River in 1781 with the southern bands of Tuscarora and Saponi, and the Machupunga.” -John R. Swanton
1782 "Meherrin Ville Indienne" (Meherrin Indian Village) is indicated on this 1782 French map of North Carolina and Virgina, ans several other maps produced during this period. The Tuscarora are directly south at Indian Woods. Some Meherrin resided there as well in 1781.
· 1795 Samuel Lewis' map of North Carolina identifies Meherrin Town just south of the Potecasi Creek.
· 1802 The Meherrin were taken under the protection of the Haudenosaunee (Six Nations/ Iroquois Confederacy). (see below)
1. This was noted by President Thomas Jefferson and other US officials. Also, a number of Meherrins migrated to New York with the Tuscarora: “…the Five Nations received the Tuscaroras into their confederacy, and made them the Sixth Nation. They received the Meherrins and Tuteloes also into their protection….” (Jefferson, Thomas. Notes on the State of Virginia: 1781).
2. John Collier, head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, met with the Mohawk Council of Chiefs. At this time he was informed that the Meherrin were taken under the protection of the Six Nations Confederacy, Haudenosaunee.
3. “Akawenchaka (Onondaga: A-ka-winch-ha-ka). -A small band that formerly lived in North Carolina, now numbering about 20 individuals, incorporated with the Tuscarora in New York. They are not regarded as true Tuscarora- Hewitt, Onondaga MS. B.A.E. 1888. (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. University of Michigan. 1910. p 33)
4. Meherrin migrated to Canada and Joined the Six Nations on the Grand River Reserve. (Johnson's Universal Cyclopedia: A.J. Johnson Company D. Appleton, A.J. Johnson, 1895)
· 1822 A number of Meherrin in Hertford County signed their names (demonstrating literacy) on a petition to the North Carolina government complaining that slaves were now able to testify against Free Persons of Color (Indians, Mulattos, and free Africans).
· 1822 The Virginia Racial Code was passed and later the Indian Removal Act virtually eliminated Indians from the official records. “Unlike the extensive records to be found in the Five Civilized Tribes, there was a deliberate effort of the United States to eliminate other tribes by officially eliminating them from the federal census.” (DeMarce, Virginia Easley The National Genealogical Society Quarterly. March 1992).
1838 Sally M. Lewis is born. Many Meherrin are descended from her. She sold several tracts of reservation land before her death in 1904. According to Meherrin oral history, as a child, Sallie M. Lewis escaped from an attack on the Meherrin Indian Tribe’s reservation. This essentially saved the tribe. In 1838, Meherrin elders "took her in," leaving her miles away from the reservation to protect her from harm as an assault against the Meherrins ensued. With Lewis’s survival, a large extended family along with other Meherrin survivors continued to thrive in their North Carolina community.
· 1851 Pleasant Plains Church was founded by members of the Bizzell, Boon, Brown, Collins, Flood, Hall, Hunter, Lewis, Manley, Reid, Reynolds, and Weaver, (etc.) families. Many of their descendants attend the church today and are enrolled Meherrins.
· 1885 North Carolina passed a constitutional amendment prohibiting Indians (and Blacks) from "voting, serving on juries, testifying against whites, bearing arms, and learning to read and write". For these reasons, among others the Indian tried everything possible to hide their true identity, and pass as another race, including black, white, or mulatto. (Theda Perdue. Native Carolinian's: The Indians of North Carolina. Division of Archives and History- Raleigh. 1985)
For most of the 19th century, as colonials continued to trespass on Meherrin land, the Meherrins retreated into the neighboring swamps and less desirable areas of Gates and Hertford County. Others spread to Bertie and Northampton Counties. In order to protect the remaining territory, the Meherrins parceled out tribal property into individually-owned land. Meherrin continued to operate our own "Native American" churches, some very similar to Longhouses. We also had our own Indian schools through the period of segregation.
· 1949 Pleasant Plains School closed down. The school was operated by the ancestors of present-day Meherrin Nation members. No slaves or descendants of slaves were permitted to attend for fear that they would learn to read and write. According to oral history, there was a "comb test" to determine eligibility, and there were a few white students, who were from Indian families, and were "Indian" or "Mulatto" on paper. This was an effort at self-determination- Indian families having a say in the education of their own children. The Pleasant Plains School is not to be confused with the C.S. Brown School.
In attendance were members of the Bizzell, Boon, Brown, Collins, Flood, Hall, Hunter, Lewis, Manley, Reid, Reynolds, and Weaver families, etc; ancestors of enrolled Meherrins. The Pleasant Plains School operated for a number of years across the street from the Pleasant Plains Church.
· 1969 Over 600 Meherrin descendants were recorded as residing on the Six Nations Grand River reservation. They had relocated along with the Tuscarora and other Indigenous nations.
1975 Chief Wayne Brown was the first chief to work toward reorganizing the Meherrin tribal government, with the assistance of Fred Hedgepeth. The People had continually maintained a degree of self-governance through Indian churches, schools, etc, but this was evidence that the harsh racial climate of the area had cooled for Meherrin people. Soon the Meherrins turned their energy toward electing tribal officials and planning for the future.
· 1986 Meherrins gained state-recognition from North Carolina.
· 21st Century Since gaining state-recognition the Meherrins have worked to revive aspects of traditional Iroquois culture within the Tribe including language, ceremony and dances.
· 2003 The following was enacted into law in North Carolina in regards to the Meherrin Nation: The Indians now residing in small communities in Hertford, Bertie, Gates, and Northampton Counties, who in 1726 were granted reservational lands at the mouth of the Meherrin River in the vicinity of present-day Parker's Ferry near Winton in Hertford County, and who are of the same linguistic stock as the Cherokee, Tuscarora, and other tribes of the Iroquois Confederacy of New York and Canada, shall, from and after July 20, 1971, be designated and officially recognized as the Meherrin Tribe of North Carolina, and shall continue to enjoy all their rights, privileges, and immunities as citizens of the State as now or hereafter provided by law, and shall continue to be subject to all the obligations and duties of citizens under the law. (2003-54, s. 2.) 71A-7.1. Meherrin Tribe of North Carolina; rights, privileges, immunities, obligations and duties.
· 2008 A Traditional Meherrin Strawberry Ceremony, (with representatives of the Mohawk and Oneida Nations) was held in May of 2008 (Indian Country Today, June 30, 2008). This was the first traditional Iroquois ceremony to be held in Meherrin territory in over 200 years.
· 2009 A Gayanashagowa Review (Great Law of Peace Review) was conducted by Onondaga Wolf Clan Chief Billy Lazore and Mike Jock of the Mohawk Nation. Many Meherrin attended this ceremony and renewed the Meherrin pledge to uphold the Gayanashagowa and Iroquois traditions.
· 2009 Meherrin Nation received an honorary medal and plaque from Col. West of the United States Army at Fort Bragg Army Base for participating in a Native American heritage celebration
· 2009, 2010, 2011 Meherrin Nation members were named the Grand Marshalls at the Emporia Peanut Festival, where they demonstrated traditional Iroquois Social Dances.
2012 After a five year court battle within the Meherrin Nation, tribal members re-elected Wayne Brown as Chief, along with a new council, determining the rightful leadership for the one and only Meherrin Nation (Tribe). Chief Brown is welcomed by the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs as chief.
2013 As a distinguished guest, Chief Wayne Brown attended the Inaugural Ceremonies for North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory on January 12, 2013 at the North Carolina State Capitol. Chief Brown said, "I'm very elated to hear Governor McCrory say that all the people of North Carolina need to come together as one in order for the state to be successful."