Chowanoc Indians

Chowanoc Tribe: Meaning in Algonquian “(people) at the south.”

Chowanoc Connections. The Chowanoc belonged to the Algonquian linguistic family and were evidently most nearly allied to the other North Carolina Algonquians.

Chowanoc Location. On Chowan River about the junction of Meherrin and Blackwater Rivers.

Chowanoc Villages

  • Catoking, (probably) near Gatesville, in Gates County.
  • Maraton, on the east bank of Chowan River in Chowan County.
  • Metocaum, on Chowan River in the present Bertie County.
  • Ohanoak, on the west side of Chowan River not far below Nottoway River probably in Hertford County.
  • Ramushonok, apparently between the Meherrin and Nottoway Rivers in Hertford County.

Chowanoc History. In 1584-85, when first known to Europeans, the Chowanoc were the leading tribe in northeastern North Carolina. In 1663 they entered into a treaty with the English by which they submitted to the English Crown, but they violated this in 1675 and after a year of warfare were compelled to confine themselves to a reservation on Bennett’s Creek which became reduced by 1707 from 12 square miles to 6. They sided with the colonists in the Tuscarora War, and at about the same time were visited by a Church of England missionary, Giles Rainsford. In 1723 a reservation of 53,000 acres was set aside for them conjointly with the Tuscarora and in 1733 they were given permission to incorporate with that tribe. They continued to decline in numbers until in 1755 Governor Dobbs stated that only 2 men and 3 women were left.

Chowanoc Population. In 1584-85 one of the Chowanoc towns, Ohanoak was said to contain 700 warriors, and Mooney (1928) estimates their numbers at about 1,500 in 1600. In 1707 they were reduced to one town with about 15 fighting men, but at the end of the Tuscarora War their numbers were placed at 240. In 1731 less than 20 families were reported and by 1755 only 5 individuals, as above noted.

Connection in which they have become noted. The Chowanoc seem to have been the most powerful Algonquian tribe south of the Powhatan. Their memory is preserved in the names of Chowan River, and Chowan County, and in the designation of a small post office the county of the name, all in North Carolina.

Swanton, John R. The Indian Tribes of North America. Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 145. Washington DC: US Government Printing Office. 1953.

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