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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Indian Wars in North Carolina

by
E. Lawrence Lee


The Carolina Charter
Tercentenary Commission
Raleigh, 1963

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Chapter 2

This site is not affiliated with the US Military Academy.

p1 Chapter I

The Land of the Indians

(facing p1) 
[image ALT: A painting of a man with a markedly oval face and a solemn expression. His head appears to be shaven or bald except for a stray lock over the forehead, and is crowned by a large, wide feather pointing behind him. He wears a cotton shirt and over it an elaborate robe with tassels or drawstrings, in which he conceals his left hand; in his right, clenched, he holds a slightly curved hunting knife about 25 cm long, pointing up. He is the 18c North Carolina Cherokee chief Cunne Shote.]

The Cherokee Chief Cunne Shote, in 1762.

(After Parsons. Courtesy of D. I. Bushnell, Jr.)a

Many years ago North Carolina was a battlefield on which its native people fought to survive. The greater portion of this struggle took place in the century between 1663 and 1763. At the beginning of this period North Carolina became an English colony when King Charles II granted it to eight of his loyal followers, the Lords Proprietors. It was then an almost unbroken forest that stretched westward from the sea coast over the low and flat Coastal Plain; across the rolling hills of the Piedmont Plateau and up and over the lofty mountains of the west. At the time of the grant to the Lords Proprietors, a few white settlers had already begun to come into the area. To them, and to others who followed for many years thereafter, this forest was both a friend and a foe. On one hand, it provided timber and fuel, food and medicine, and many other things necessary to life. When cleared, it also provided land for cultivation. But endless toil was the price of a share of this treasure of nature. Courage, too, was needed, because the forest also sheltered the native Indians, to whom it had long been a home and who were not willing to have it taken from them.

Within the forest the Indians lived a primitive life in which they depended on nature to supply their simple needs. Suddenly, they were confronted with a more complicated way of life known as Western Civilization which the whites brought with them from Europe and which they sought to transplant on American soil. The ways of life of the two races were too different for one race to accept that of the other. As a result, a struggle over possession of the land followed. In this struggle, it was the good fortune of the p2whites that their advanced civilization was the more powerful. It was the misfortune of the Indians that the more advanced civilization was also the more destructive. Before the relentless white tide, the Indians were eventually crushed, but not before they had shed their own blood and the blood of countless whites. To the very end, the Indian fought to save his home and his people.

In his struggle for survival, the Indian has emerged as a savage villain. In part, this is because certain of his practices were cruel and barbarous when measured by the standards of Western Civilization. In part, it is because the story of the conflict between the two races has been told by white men who alone possessed a written language to record it. The story has become distorted because those who recorded it were generally too close to the horrors of the conflict to view the enemy with sympathy and understanding. Nevertheless, it is a story that can be seen in its true proportions only with some knowledge of the Indians as human beings. Fortunately, from the pens of certain writers of the time we are able to learn something of these people and of their way of life. Among the earliest of these writers was John Lawson, naturalist and historian, who lived and travelled among them.


Thayer's Note:

a Cunne Shote is a variant transcription of the Indian name more commonly rendered Oconostata — as in the text of this book the one time he is mentioned by name (p85).

The original oil painting, for which Oconostata sat in London for Francis Parsons in 1762, is now in the Gilcrease Museum, Tulsa, OK. It was of course in color, and at least a dozen color reproductions of it are found online, as well as several reproductions of contemporary black-and‑white engravings based on the painting: but the colors vary widely and therefore none is to be trusted. Here is one of them, in the middle of the range, from which I removed, at least in part, what seemed to me a false cast:


[image ALT: A painting of a man with a markedly oval face and a solemn expression. His head appears to be shaven or bald except for a stray lock over the forehead, and is crowned by a large, wide feather pointing behind him. He wears a cotton shirt and over it an elaborate robe with tassels or drawstrings, in which he conceals his left hand; in his right, clenched, he holds a slightly curved hunting knife about 25 cm long, pointing up. He is the 18c North Carolina Cherokee chief Cunne Shote.]

Page updated: 9 Jun 13