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Definition: Tuscarora from Collins English Dictionary


1 (pl -ras or -ra) a member of a North American Indian people formerly living in North Carolina, who later moved to New York State and joined the Iroquois

2 the language of this people, belonging to the Iroquoian family

Summary Article: Tuscarora
From The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Member of an American Indian people who lived in North Carolina until the early 18th century. Their language belongs to the Iroquoian family. Hemp was gathered for rope and medicine, and later traded with the Europeans for rum, which they sold to neighbouring peoples. They rose against the colonists in 1711 but were defeated in 1713, and the majority moved north. In 1722 they were the last to join the Iroquois confederacy. After splitting allegiance during the American Revolution, they separated to reservations in New York and Ontario, Canada, where most now live. The Southern Band are descendants of those who remained in North Carolina and Virginia.

The Tuscarora were originally divided into three distinct groups: the hemp gatherers, the people of the pines, and the people of the water. Society was matrilineal (descent being traced through the maternal line), and consisted of clans that belonged to one of two moieties, or divisions. Each of the clans was headed by a clan mother. They lived in towns of round bark-covered lodges, subsisting on maize supplemented by hunting.

When first contacted by Europeans in 1708, the Tuscarora were living across most of North Carolina, and had 15 towns and an estimated population of 6,000, including 1,200 warriors. European colonists kidnapped many of their people and sold them as slaves, and also stole their lands, leading them to raid the colonists in 1711 under the leadership of Chief Hancock. The settlers retaliated and, in 1713, the Tuscarora were defeated with the aid of reinforcements from South Carolina. Some 1,000 Tuscarora were either killed or captured and sold into slavery. Most of the survivors migrated north in 1714, and eventually settled on Oneida territory in New York State. In 1722 the 1,600 remaining Tuscarora joined the Iroquois confederacy, although they were not allowed voting rights. During the American Revolution the Tuscarora split their allegiance between the colonists and the British. Those who supported the British were granted lands on Grand River reservation in Ontario along with the Mohawk, while those who supported the Americans were settled on reservations in New York State, although some were removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) in 1846.

The Southern Band Tuscarora remained in North Carolina and were placed on the Indian Woods Reservation in 1717. However, settlement began to encroach on these lands, and the Tuscarora were coerced into illegal land deals. Efforts to preserve reservation lands by law in 1748 and 1777 proved ineffective, and in 1803 a group of chiefs sold the rest of the reservation lands and migrated to New York State. The remaining Tuscarora and their chiefs dispersed, many joining other Indian groups or moving to the mill towns. They began to regroup in the late 20th century, and now have a membership of some 250 (2001). Land was purchased within the original boundaries of Indian Woods through donations. They have reorganized into seven clans, and plan to establish a cultural centre and museum.

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