Thursday, June 16, 2011

Native Americans

People frequently ask me if there was ever a Native American village on Ocracoke Island. I explain that we occasionally find artifacts (pipe bowls and arrowheads) along the ocean or soundside shoreline, but no evidence of a permanent settlement has ever been discovered. On the other hand, a number of Indian villages have been identified on Hatteras Island. I have always anticipated the discovery of a pre-European settlement on Ocracoke.

Yesterday, for the first time, I began reading a transcript of the account of the 1584 voyage of Philip Amadas and Arthur Barlowe to "Virginia" [North Carolina] that was compiled by Richard Hakluyt, Elizabethan historian, in 1589. It records the first voyage to find a place for the English to settle a colony on American soil.

I was fascinated by the following paragraph (from "Grenville & The Lost Colony of Roanoke" by Andrew Thomas Powell, copyright 2011, p. 45):

"Towards the sunset, some days journey, is situated a town called Sequotan, which is the westernmost town of Wingandacoa, near unto which, five and twenty years past, there was ship cast away, whereof some of the people were saved, and those were white people [most likely Spanish mariners] whom the country preserved. And after ten days, remaining in an out island unhabited, called Wocacan [Ocracoke], they with help of some of the dwellers of Sequotan, fastened two boats of the country together, and made mats unto them, and sails of their shirts, and having taken into them such victuals as the country yielded, they departed after they had remained in this out island three weeks but shortly after, it seemed they were cast away, for the boats were found upon the coast, cast aland in another island adjoining [most likely Portsmouth Island]."

So, there you have it...if Hakluyt is to be trusted, Ocracoke had no permanent Native American settlements.

Our latest Ocracoke Newsletter is the autobiography of Frank Treat Fulcher. You can read it here:


  1. Anonymous7:28 AM

    I am trying to imagine what "Wocacan" must have looked like during that era. Sad to hear after being on the island, everyone eventually drown. Certainly not an uncommon story for the brave folks back then, but still quite sad.

    As much is known about Ocracoke and the number of interesting stories you and others have shared about the island, just consider all the "untold" stories perhaps still out there, waiting to be discovered. It does cause one to pause and contemplate the possibilities for a while.

  2. Anonymous2:10 PM

    I find this notion of permanent settlement interesting. Perhaps temporary/vacation spots --a weekend getaway from the drudgery of village life was a role of Ocracoke. Who is to say the demands of a village chieftain were not stressful to the average Native American in a leadership role. You know he did not have twitter to well, thank goodness for that. Perhaps rites of passage were sanctioned for OI or special ceremonies -- just because a pile of trash was not left behind as on the moon does not mean they were not there

  3. Anonymous2:11 PM

    Maybe a hurricane blew away or washed away any evidence.

  4. Anonymous7:10 PM

    I vote for the hurricane theory. A big storm could easily scrub the island clean -- just like it did to the "Lost Colony" up in the neighborhood of Manteo.

    Anyway, that's my theory.