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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Mattamuskeet Indians

by R. S. Spencer Jr. and William G. DiNome, 2006

Copy of John White drawing, "Indians Fishing", Large Canoe w/ Fire in center of it; 4 Indians are fishing from the canoe; various types of fish are shown in the water; in wooden wooden frame w/ glazing." Roanoke Island; 1907. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History, access #: 1914.235.8 .The Mattamuskeet Indians, also known as the Machapunga or Marimiskeet Indians, inhabited the region of present-day Hyde County at the time of the attempted settlements on Roanoke Island in the 1580s. According to explorer John Lawson, by 1701 the Mattamuskeet/Machapunga were reduced to a single village, called Mattamuskeet, and numbered about 30 warriors (representing a probable total of less than 100 people). The Mattamuskeet were known as expert watermen. They likely became dependent on European trade, as did their neighbors, and in the years prior to the Tuscarora War (1711-13) they undoubtedly witnessed their share of the clashes that were becoming frequent between natives and European settlers. Along with the Bay River Indians and the Pamlico Indians, the Mattamuskeet joined the lower Tuscarora, the Coree, the Woccon, and possibly other tribes, in fighting against European settlers in the Tuscarora War.

Following the war, several remnant Indian bands, comprised mainly of Mattamuskeets and Corees, were relegated to a Mattamuskeet reservation, an isolated tract of about 36 square miles of marsh and low ridges bordering Lake Mattamuskeet in Hyde County. The Coree evidently did not remain long on the reservation. The Indians occupying the reservation began selling off their land to white settlers as early as 1731, and the final sale, dissolving the reservation, occurred in 1761. Sporadic references to surnames common among these Indians continued to be recorded through the 1800s, and some surnames survive in Hyde County today.

The Mattamuskeet apparently faced constant pressure from white settlers, and in 1724 Mattamuskeet "kings" John Squires and John Mackey petitioned the Colonial Council for their lands to be surveyed and conveyed as a formal grant. The grant was approved in 1727, but the actual survey seems never to have occurred. The Indians had been given 10,240 acres, but in reality they received a considerably larger number of acres in exchange for two buckskins and an annual quitrent of one shilling per 100 acres.

Squires served as chief of the Mattamuskeet from 1718 until his death in the 1740s, apparently residing on a 150-acre tract at the mouth of Mattamuskeet Creek, later renamed Middle Creek. After Squires's death, a leadership struggle appears to have occurred, with power split between several individuals.

Alexander Stewart reported after his 1761 trip to the area that the Roanoke and Hatteras Indians had joined the Mattamuskeet and were residing with them at that time. Stewart baptized more than 25 Indians during his visits in 1761 and 1763. The Mattamuskeet Indians declined in number, and in 1792 the entire reservation was sold for £50 to a white settler. That deed was signed by four adult females and three children.

By the early 1800s, apprentice bonds revealed that Mattamuskeet Indian youth were being taught trades by white masters. Afterward the remaining individuals with Mattamuskeet Indian surnames were frequently referred to as "free persons of color" and apprenticed as such and also listed in the Hyde County census records under that classification. Even in the late twentieth century, some Hyde County families-including the Collins, Barber, Chance, Clayton, and Bryant families-can trace their Indian heritage back to the Mattamuskeet.


Patrick H. Garrow, The Mattamuskeet Documents: A Study in Social History (1975).

Douglas L. Rights, The American Indian in North Carolina (1947).

John Reed Swanton, The Indians of the Southeastern United States (1946).

Ruth Y. Wetmore, First on the Land: The North Carolina Indians (1975).

Image Credit:

Copy of John White drawing, "Indians Fishing", Large Canoe w/ Fire in center of it; 4 Indians are fishing from the canoe; various types of fish are shown in the water; in wooden wooden frame w/ glazing." Roanoke Island; 1907. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History, access #: 1914.235.8.

Origin - location: 



Little Berry Is my 8th great grandma- she married John Harris (of Northampton Co, VA) born 1680... they had children - Cheapoke Harris, Benjamin Harris, Nathan Harris and Elizabeth Harris. My research shows 8th great grandma as Machapunga ! Is there any information or books I might be able to research? Thank you



Most books about tribes in North Carolina are about the Cherokee or the Tuscarora. Some books, like Ruth Y. Wetmore, wrote wrote First On the Land about NC's tribal history does gave a short section on the Machapunga.

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library 


I am from Engelhard NC. My great grandmother) Mary Barber Adams was a descendant of the Mattamuskeet Indians. Her parents were William Asby Barber and Sara Jane Collins Barber. I am familiar with my relatives from Engelhard would like to know if there are any more out there. Feel free to email me.


Hi Andre,
William Asby Barber is my great-great uncle. Sarah Jane Collins is my great-great aunt. This would be true even if they did not marry. Thus all of their descendants would be my double cousins. I am from New York and now live in New Jersey. So hello Cuz, nice to meet you.



Thank you for visiting the site and leaving the information about your family! We would love to help you with additional questions but will need more information. You are welcome to email our reference team at or go to this site and fill out the form:


Kelly Eubank

Government and Heritage Library


hey I’m a Clayton from Ponzer community how can I find out if I am kin to the Mattamuskeet Indians


Hi Marilyn,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing your question.

For some research tips on how to search for your ancestors and heritage, you may want to contact Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library.

Here is their email address: And here is the library's website where you'll also find information and resources for family history research in North Carolina:

Best of luck with your research!

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library



Collins, Berry, Chance, Pierce, Smith, Barber, Brooks My people are from Piney Woods, we all intermarried Please call me @ 1-302-670-6717, if I do not answer please leave a message and I will call you back. We are blood and it is time for us to come together.


Hi Josephine,
I am a direct descendant of the Barber's, Chance's and Collins lines. With the amount of intermarriage, I'm sure we are related. I have the Collins family line all the way back to the late 1700s, but cannot positively prove they were Mattamuskeet. I believe there is a possibility, however, they could also be Croatan, Hatteress or some other tribe. After the Tuscarora Wars, there were members of different tribes on the reservation in Hyde. Send me an email if you would like to exchange info.


My maternal Great Grandmother was named Neta Collins/Harris and she was from Fairfield, NC Hyde County. Her parents were John and Nancy Collins I too still have relatives in Fairfield and would like to know more about the Collins side of my Family.

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