" T h e S w a m p I n d i a n s "
Children of the Sixth Nation
>> 1695 <<
We have endured the worst of humanity and still continue to exist.
My people, the Skarure Woccon, contemporarily known as Cape Fear Indians, like many other tribes from the Florida Coast to Canada, continue to live and exist. We are still here... living our culture, loving our heritage, honoring our ancestors, undeniable in our lineage and refusing to assimilate and disappear into nothingness.
WE ARE OUR ANCESTORS CHILDREN
AND EVIDENCE OF THEIR SACRIFICE AND RESILIENCE.
Skarure Woccon of the Cape Fear is a Precolonial Tribal Nation with a long, rich history concentrated in and around Brunswick, Bladen, Columbus and Pender Counties of the Cape Fear Region.
S k a r u r e, historically translated in English as Tuscarora, was and still is a confederation of three separate and distinct communities.
The three separate communities in the Skarure confederacy were identified as:
The Long Shirt Wearers
The People of The Sunken Pine/Cypress
The Hemp Gatherers
All three communities combined were known as Skarure people.
Today, throughout North Carolina, there are many other communities that identify themselves as Skarure. Although each community may exist separately from one another, we stand together, deeply rooted in the foundation that we are all Skarure.
Some communities follow the guidance of their clan mothers and chiefs, while others have set laws and regulations; some live in the traditional Long Houses, whereas others do not.
While some of these details may seem insignificant in distinguishing one group from the other, these are the cultural markers that set one community apart from the other.
We are the Skarure people – the Tuscaroras of North Carolina, separate only in community.
W o c c o n Indians originally inhabited Southeastern North Carolina and are related linguistically to the Catawba, hence of Siouan stock.
Around 1710, John Lawson, renowned Surveyor General, reported that the Woccon lived two leagues from the Tuscarora on the lower Neuse River in two villages - the Yupwauremau and the Tooptatmeer; having 120 warriors; also inhabiting the Lower Cape Fear region of Brunswick and New Hanover counties.
In Lawson's 1709 map, later reproduced by Francis L. Hawks, the Woccon are placed between the Neuse River and one of its affluents, perhaps about the present Goldsboro, Wayne county.
They joined the Tuscarora against the whites in the war of 1711-1713, as is learned from incidental references in colonial documents. After the war, the name Woccon was spoken less and less by the Euro-Carolinians and eventually became known as Waccamaw.
The majority of the Woccon fled south into the swampy areas of the Great Green Swamp around Lake Waccamaw. Some ended up in Beaufort S.C. while a few also absorbed into the Catawba.
"We are the survivors of those who stayed in North Carolina. We are living proof of our continued existence." chief eagle elk
Swamp Indians is another name that has been used to describe our people. This is not a name of endearment or even complimentary. It is a name that bears the scars, the hardships and struggles of our people in the state of North Carolina.
North Carolina in our language is O-na-we-yun-ka, which means Wooded Swampy Land. It is this translation that gives way to the history of the Swamp Indians.
We may have lost much of our culture in the swamps but we gained a whole new relationship with all of our people here. This is the reason many of us are related and share kinship still today.
The Swamps were unattractive to Europeans; the environment was harsh and downright scary to those unfamiliar with the land. The idea of snakes, alligators and mosquitoes being ever present in the swampy areas made it a perfect place to get away from the dangers of enslavement or death.
The swamps served as safe havens and refuge, and because of European encroachment, many of us from different villages and communities turned to one another as allies, merging and intermarrying in the swamps.
As a result, we find relations among many of the state’s tribes today.
The Skarure people occupied much of the land of North Carolina, from the Piedmont to the Atlantic Ocean – up and down Ocean Highway; HWY 17 from Greenville, New Newbern, Bertie County region, reaching all the way down to New Hanover, Brunswick, Columbus, Bladen, Robeson and Cumberland counties – not to exclude other neighboring counties such as Sampson, Scottland, Pender counties, etc…
This Indian trail became the infamous Trail of Tears route, from HWY 421 to HWY 74/76, and lead all the way to the mountains, Cherokee territory.
The Trail of Tears did not start in the mountains as some may think. It started on the coast and went all the way to the mountains of the Cherokees and continued out west.
Those of us who stayed are indeed descendants of the ancestors who refused to go Northward to New York or Westward to Oklahoma.
To find our way forward, we must first understand where we have been.
It has been documented that the Tuscarora War caused a massive split in our tribal Nation. Some went to New York. However, many refused to leave and stayed in North Carolina; completely opposing the agreement made between the Colonials and some of the Tuscaroras who decided to leave. This created a staggering disconnect between the Tuscaroras of New York and the Tuscaroras of North Carolina.
Many years ago, after he led only some of our people to New York, the Tuscarora Chief proclaimed "The Tuscaroras who do not leave North Carolina and decide to stay will relinquish their citizenship". In that singular statement, he acknowledged those who stayed behind in North Carolina as “Tuscarora”. He called us Tuscaroras; the ones who stayed in the swampy land – O-na-we-yun-ka, and the decision to stay here did not and never will change our bloodline or DNA. We are Skarure.
Today, those who did leave are recognized by the federal government as a “Federally Recognized Tribe”.
The remaining Tuscaroras of North Carolina are traditionalists; knowing and claiming who we are – without the permission or opinions of others. We give no card or letter the power to control or determine who we are.
Some of us stayed in our homeland.
We went on to live among other communities; blending in and retreating to the swamps to get away from persecution at the hands of greedy colonists. This resulted in many Tuscarora communities of North Carolina spreading out all over the state, mainly the Eastern seaboard.
It is our desire for all Skarure people to recognize each other, respect each other and not only preserve our culture, but protect it from extinction. For example, our language is in danger as more and more young people are losing interest, thus endangering a key part of who we are.
Our history, our elders, our oral stories, our customs, our farming and fishing practices all speak to our past as Skarure and identify us in the present as Skarure.
We only seek to serve our people, uphold our responsibilities to Earth Mother and be at peace with ourselves; with the Creator, the Great Mystery, and the Great Spirit by honoring our old ways.
We are the reflection of our ancestors. The descendants of our ancestors may wear any faces today but we are bound by blood. As we have always stated, we are still here…