Background: The tribes grew crops of maize

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Native American Tribes of North Carolina


The tribes grew crops of maize, tobacco, beans, and squash, spent considerable time hunting and fishing, and lived in small villages. In 1550, before the arrival of the first permanent European settlers, more than one hundred thousand Native Americans were living in present-day North Carolina. By 1800 that number had fallen to about twenty thousand.

What happened to the Native Americans? Unlike Europeans, Native Americans had no resistance, or immunity, to diseases that the Europeans brought with them. These diseases, such as smallpox, measles, and influenza, killed thousands of natives throughout the state.

The fates of the three largest Native American tribes—the Tuscarora, the Catawba, and the Cherokee—are examples of the fates of the other tribes in North Carolina.


  • The Tuscarora were led by Chief Hancock and were considered the most powerful and highly developed tribe in what is now eastern North Carolina and were thought to possess mines of precious metal.

  • Tensions between White settlers and the Tuscarora increased as more European settlements in the Inner/Outer Coastal Plain grew.

  • European settlers (mostly British and German) would not let the Tuscarora hunt near their farms, which reduced the Tuscarora’s hunting lands.

the tuscarora war

  • Englishman, John Lawson, was selling Tuscaroran lands to German/Swiss immigrants.

  • The settlement of New Bern (named after the Swiss capital) took up even more of the Tuscarora land and would lead to Lawson being captured and killed by the tribe in 1711.

  • Led by Chief Hancock, the Tuscarora attacked settlements along the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers in what became known as the Tuscarora War.

  • English Colonel John Barnwell of South Carolina led a group more than 300 miles to meet the Tuscarora at Fort Narhantes, about 20 miles from New Bern in January of 1712.

  • The Tuscarora were eventually defeated and agreed to leave the area between the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers…


  • In the Piedmont Region, the Catawba Indians were friendly to the settlers.

  • But disease, especially smallpox, killed many. War with neighboring tribes also reduced their number.

  • Of the five thousand Catawba estimated to have been living in the Carolinas in the early 1600s, fewer than three hundred remained in 1784.


  • Cherokee Indians once occupied an area encompassing approximately 140,000 square miles that became parts of North Carolina, Tennessee, South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama.
  • At the start of the French and Indian War (1754–1763), they joined the British and the colonists in fighting the French.

  • But when some Cherokee were killed by Virginia settlers, the Cherokee began attacking White settlements along the Yadkin and Catawba Rivers. They were defeated and made peace in 1761.

  • In return for this peace, the British promised that no White settlements would be allowed west of the Appalachian Mountains. But land-hungry Whites ignored this promise and continued to settle on Cherokee land.

  • Currently, there are around 14,000 Cherokee still in the western part of the Blue Ridge.

  • The tribe has recently thrived due to the building of casinos being built on their lands…

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