By Jeannette Holland Austin (Profile)
When the Europeans were settling the colonies during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the Chowanoac Indians occupied both banks of the Chowan River in Northeastern North Carolina. They spoke the Algonquian language which is said to mean " people at the south." Their villages and lands covered Gates, Hertford, Bertie and Chowan Counties. Their neighbors were the Iroquoian Mongoak (later Tuscarora) to the south and west of Salmon Creek in Bertie County, the Algonquian Weapemeoc were neighbors east of Rockyhock Creek in Chowan County. When Sir Walter Raleigh was colonizing from 1584 to 1590, the Chowanoac were probably the most powerful of the Carolina Algonquians. The Chowanoac took offense to English encroachment during 1666 when and violence broke out upon the settlers occupying the western side of the Chowan River. Eventually, however, as the English continued their settlements, the Chowanoac abandoned their lands west of the river. The Chowanoac were one of the tribes which ignited the rebellion of Nathaniel Bacon in 1676 but who were subdued in 1677. There were less than 200 Indians left and the Chowanoac were placed on a reservation of 12 square miles in Gates County. At the onset of the Tuscarora War of 1711 to 1713, the Chowanoac could muster only fifteen warriors to fight with the English against their historic Iroquoian neighbors to the west. It was during this era that the tribe suffered both at the hands of their enemies as well as the English which prompted the chief (John Hoyter) to petition the colonial government for protection. The result was that the tribe was reduced to six square miles, losing some of its best lands. After about a year they did not have enough people to farm the land and the tribal leaders asked the colonial government to sell 2,050 acres. They continued selling their lands during the next twenty years. By 1751 the tribe had ceased to exist.
Find the Records of your Ancestors on North Carolina Pioneers