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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.

References:

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: 

Comments

Comment: 

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.

Comment: 

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.

Comment: 

My father(Sanford Collins) was a descendant of the Mattamuskeet Indians. His father was Fred Collins and his mother was Sankie Chance. I still have relatives living in Hyde County. I would like to know more about my relatives, please feel free to e-mail me.

Comment: 

Leroy , you are my relative! Call me at 1-302-670-6717, CALL ME we have to talk!

Comment: 

My maternal Great Grand Mother was from Fairfield NC Hyde County her name was Neta Collins/Harris Her Mothers name was Nancy Collins and her Fathers was Charlie Collins. I would love to find out more about them..I too have lots of relatives still living in Fairfield NC .

Comment: 

my family live on the Neuse river the Fenners ,Carters,Godettes,and the dove family are my ancestors.

Comment: 

Hello I was wondering why I didn’t receive any response , to my knowledge a plethora of families kept their Native American ancestry very quiet , so to me that would not say that particular tribe does not exist . Many tribes migrated to different states because they didn’t want to partake in the extermination that was going on . I would like to know the truth and it should be told truthfully.

Comment: 

Dear Regina,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and especially for taking the time to leave your comments.

And I apologize if you were expecting a reply and did not receive one.  Sometimes other viewers reply to comments and at other times not, unfortunately.

If you would like assistance with questions about researching your family history in North Carolina, please visit the website for the NC Government & Heritage Library at the State Library of NC -- https://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/ghl.  If you scroll down to Resources and Services, you’ll find information about the collections our library offers for researching family history as well as learning resources and services the library provides.  If you have a specific question, you can also submit your question to our reference librarians for help. Please visit this page: https://statelibrary.ncdcr.gov/contact.

In addition, the library is open to the public for research and we would be delighted to have you visit.  The library is located at 109 E. Jones Street in Raleigh, NC and is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. and most Saturdays throughout the year (excepting holidays) from 9 a.m. to 2  p.m. Please see the website for more information about location and hours.

 

And please let me know if I can answer any additional questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, Government & Heritage Library

Comment: 

Your link to Ncpedia.org/tribes is not working. Is there another source for that information?

Comment: 

Hi DeAnna,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and for taking the time to let me know that you had difficulty with a link.  I’m sorry it didn’t work for you.

Here is a link to the article on the state’s tribes -- http://www.ncpedia.org/tribes.  I hope this is the article you were looking for.  You may also be interested in this NCpedia page that includes a number of topics and articles about the history of American Indians in the state: http://www.ncpedia.org/exploring-north-carolina-native.

If you have an extra minute and could tell me where the link is that did not work, I will look at it and get it working properly.

And please let me know if I can help with anything else.

Best wishes,
Kelly Agan
 

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