Meherrin

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For the unincorporated community, see Meherrin, Virginia. For the river, see Meherrin River.
Meherrin
081125-N-7987H-069 (16971148108).jpg
Chief Thomas "Two Feathers" Lewis of the Mehrrin Tribe speaks at a United States Navy function in Norfolk, Virginia in 2008
Total population
900
Regions with significant populations
Virginia, North Carolina
Languages
English, formerly Iroquoian Meherrin
Religion
Christianity, Longhouse Religion
Related ethnic groups
Tuscarora Nation, Nottaway Tribe, Coree Indians

The Meherrin Nation is one of eight state-recognized Nations of Native Americans in North Carolina. They reside in rural northeastern North Carolina, near the river of the same name on the Virginia-North Carolina border. They received formal state recognition in 1986. The Meherrin have an enrollment of 900+ people.[1]

The Meherrin are part of the Iroquoian-language Native Americans. They are related to the Tuscarora, who were a neighboring tribe in historic times that migrated north to New York in the early 18th century, and the nations of the Iroquois Confederacy, historically based in New York. Originally inhabiting the Piedmont region of Virginia above the fall line, the Meherrin moved south into North Carolina in the early 18th century to evade encroachment by Anglo-American colonists. Linguistic evidence indicates that the Meherrin share common ancestry with the Tuscarora and Nottoway, and likely spoke the same language or a similar dialect. Common origins are also indicated in Tuscarora oral history.[2]

In 1705 a reservation for the Meherrin was established by the Virginia Colony at Maherrin Neck (later renamed Manley’s Neck), in an area claimed by both Virginia and Carolina and finally assigned to Carolina, and in 1706 Carolina was to order the Meherrin out of her border, menacing to employ violence to have them displaced. The Meherrin asked for more time, just one year to have their crops harvested, and asked Virginia for assistance: Virginia took their side in the quarrel, but in August 1707 Carolinian official Thomas Pollock, leading a troop of 60 men, attacked Meherrin Town, destroying crops, homes and all belongings and seizing 36 men, depriving them of water for two days; in September the Virginia militia met with the chiefs, promising Virginia’s protection to prevent them from retaliating against Carolina, and col. Edmond Jennings, Virginia Council President wrote an harsh reprimenda to Carolinian leading official; by 1707 they had resettled on lands previously occupied by the Chowanoke near the mouth of the Meherrin River.[3]

In 1711–1712 they were allies of the Tuscarora during the Tuscarora War, and in 1713 they had to deliver two youngsters, their paramount chief’s sons, as hostages to be kept at “William and Mary’s College” in Bufferton. In 1720 they made a treaty of peace with the Susquehanna.

In 1717 the Meherrin were given a reservation along the western shore of lower Chowanoc River, not far from its mouth in Albermarle Sound, near modern Colerain (Bertie County, N.C.): at the time, Governor Charles Eden thaught that the reservation only contained 10,000 acres, but Surveyor Col. Edward Moseley later discovered that the reservation contained over 40,000 acres. While, in 1723, Virginia Colony plainly confirmed the Meherrin’s right on the reservation and severely criticized North Carolina in order to illegal taking Meherrin land, after most of the Tuscarora having left the colony and in consequence of the submission to the North Carolina Authorities’ judgement of two opposite petitions (the one by the Meherrin and the other by the squattering colonists), the Meherrin reservation, greatly reduced in size and relocated in the old and abandoned Chowanoke fields, was confirmed as theirs by treaty with the North Carolina Colony in 1726.[1]

Meherrins remained in distinct communities through the 19th and 20th centuries, maintaining their own schools and churches. In 1975, Meherrin descendants reorganized the tribe and reclaimed its identity under Chief Wayne Brown. It became chartered in 1977 after increasing activism by members. They were recognized by the state in 1986. Many Meherrin can trace their ancestry to Sally M. Lewis (1838–1904), who sold several tracts of reservation land.

The Meherrin tribal seat is Winton, North Carolina. The Nation's residents principally reside in and around the "Little California/Pleasant Plains/Union" area of Hertford County, North Carolina. They work in a wide variety of professional fields, as a high proportion of the tribe have college degrees compared to the general population in the county.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Brenda Linton and Leslie S. Stewart, "Economic Development Assessment for the Meherrin Tribe", University of North Carolina, Jul 2003. Accessed: October 26, 2009.
  2. ^ Rudes, Blair A. Cowinchahawkon/ Akawęč?á:ka:?: The Meherrin in the Nineteenth Century. Algonquin and Iroquoian Linguistics. 6 (3) p. 32-34. London, Ontario
  3. ^ Meherrin Nation official website. Accessed: October 26, 2009.