The Lost Colony

Ossomocomuck

Algonquian Tribes in Vicinity of Roanoke Colony, 1584

The Algonquians called the Outer Banks of North Carolina Ossomocomuck. Translation is uncertain but Ossomocomuck means something akin to “the land that we inhabit, the dwelling house, or the house site.” a region that included “the coastal region of the North Carolina mainland, from the Virginia boundary south to today’s Bogue Inlet.” Eastward it included the barrier islands of today’s Outer Banks and several larger islands located on the sounds between the two. Roanoke was the name of a local Indian group and the island they inhabited. According to a report submitted to Sir Walter Ralegh by Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas (informed by Wanchese, a Roanoke Indian and Manteo, a Croatoan,two Algonquians captured on the first voyage and brought back to England to learn English and serve as guides on a subsequent voyage) at least four and maybe as many as five, Indian kingdoms composed Ossomocomuck. The names of the places and tribes of Indians all reflect a land of competing chieftancies — Secotan (Wingina’s Kingdom), “the town at the bend of the river”; Chawanook (Menatonon’s Kingdom), after the Chowan River; Weapemeoc (Okisko’s Kingdom), “where shelter from the wind is sought”; Pamouic (Pimacum’s Kingdom), and Newsiok, on the Neus River. Scattered among these chieftancies were a number of Indian groups, such as the Croatoan (Manteo’s tribe), Roanoke (Wanchese’s tribe), Aguascogoc, Dasamonquepeuc, Wokokon, Pasquenoke, and numerous others whose allegiances no doubt each kingdom sought at different times. Manteo and Wanchese, for example, reported a “war” between Piamacum and the lord of Secotan (presumably not Wingina) and Wingina that resulted in a peace two years before the English arrival. The war also resulted in injuries and deaths that left an immense residue of malice between the Secotans and  Piamacum’s people.

History

Roanoke Colony was founded in 1587 by Sir Walter Raleigh and was led by Captain John White. White left the colony to return to England for supplies, leaving his wife and daughter, Virginia Dare. When he returned in 1590, the island was deserted and no sign of the colonists could be found. The word “Croatoan” was carved into the fort’s gatepost and the letters “Cro” were found etched into a tree. Their whereabouts are still a matter of speculation.

Myth:

Wahunsenacah (Powhatan) did not know about the Roanoke Colony settlement.

Reality:

John Smith reported that Wahunsenacah on several occasions inquired about other invasions. In addition, he also knew about contact with the Roanoke settlers and the Chesapeake Indians. When one of his shaman told him of a vision that a people would rise to threaten his chieftancy, Wahunsenacah attacked and destroyed the Chesapeake tribe.