American Indigenous Machapunga/Mattamuskeet Indian Tribal History

Before the British colonists’ efforts to establish a presence in the ancestral homeland (Carolinas), the coastal region was occupied by several small Indian tribes. Among the small coastal tribes were the Algonquian-speaking Pasquotank, Yeopim, Roanoke, Hatteras, Pamlico, Secotan, and Machapunga to name a few. The Algonquian tribe lived along the Outer Banks of North Carolina ancestral homeland long before the English second expedition of 1584 that arrived in Roanoke Island, and long before the ancestral homeland was called Hyde County in 1705. The Algonquian tribe, along with the Tuscarora occupied a more extensive area than any other tribes in North America.

The Algonquian ancestral homeland territory reached from the east shore of Newfoundland Banks to the Rocky Mountains and front Churchill River to Pamlico sound. Archeological evidence advocates that the indigenous arrived in North Carolina around 9500 to 8000 B.C. with the first evidence of habitation in the area occurring between 2500 to 2000 B.C. The Algonquian tribes inhabited the ancestral homeland for at least 800 years. The Algonquian civilization was cultured, resourceful, agricultural, had strong religious beliefs, a significant influence by the indigenous women, and estimated up to 10,000 people spread throughout multiple subgroups and areas. Unfortunately, during this second expedition in the late 1580s to the ancestral homeland (present-day Outer Banks) and coastal areas, the English settlers brought with them 1diseases – smallpox, influenza, and syphilis, diminishing the native population and creating great hostility toward the English.

The ancestral homeland (Hyde County) is positioned on the eastern coast of North Carolina. Hyde was formed on December 3, 1705, as Wickham Precinct. The ancestral homeland was named Hyde Precinct in 1712 and gained county status in 1739. The county extends to Ocracoke Island on the east, Dare, Tyrrell, and Washington Counties to the north, and Beaufort County to the west. Hyde County is the second largest county in North Carolina. Eighty-five percent of Hyde County is classified as a wetland. The Mattamuskeet Lake once a forest inhabited by Algonquin Native Americans is North Carolina’s largest natural lake at 18 miles long and seven miles wide.

The Machapunga natives were a small Indigenous tribe of the Algonquin language living in the Pungo River area. Previously they were identified under the Secotan people. The Machapunga Indians, defined as bad dust, or much dirt were a group of people who migrated south from the Algonquin peoples of the Powhatan Confederacy in present-day Virginia. Machapunga natives spoke an Algonquin language. The early 20th-century ethnographer, Frank Speck, believed the historical 2Machapunga natives and other Algonquin tribes had been connected to the larger population based in coastal Virginia.

The Machapunga people were known as skillful watermen. They made their boats and nets of various size interlocks for herring, drum, shad, netting needles, and floats. The Algonquian women of the tribe, experimented with many herbs and plants, assuring the family had a resource of food from the plants they cultivated. The Algonquian lived by hunting, trapping, fishing, gathering nuts, fruit, and berries, and enriching the land with corn, beans, pumpkins, goosefoot, sunflowers, knotweed, and squash. The average Algonquin village had 20-30 homes, with each home housing four to six inhabitants. John White’s drawing and map identified eight villages of the Secotan chiefdom. Half of these villages, including the village named “Secotan,” were in the Pamlico River area.

The Machapunga women were fierce warriors of the indigenous people, known for fighting in the many wars during the time. The North Carolina Colonial records and the Albermarle County Records (Johnson, 1972, 189–190) indicate another small band that lived in the area adjacent to Machapunga to the south. That group was referred to as the Bear River Indians and may have simply been a division of the Machapunga. The intrusion by white settlers on Indigenous lands was causing problems by 1700, and those invasions were responsible for increasing the hostility between Indigenous people and whites.

The Tuscarora War


European colonists progressed on Native American land as the colony of North Carolina grew; consequently, tensions escalated between the two groups. In 1711, the Tuscarora, who controlled most of the land between the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers, began a war with the colonists. In September of 1711, the Tuscarora captured and killed John Lawson, whom they believed was the governor. Lawson’s capture signaled the beginning of a three-day rampage that left at least 120 colonists dead in Bath and the surrounding countryside.

In 1713 after three days of fighting, Colonel James Moore arranged obstruction to the fort and defeated the warriors by removing an outer wall and setting fire to the entire fort and structures. During the destruction, 392 Tuscarora were burned or killed inside the fort, 558 were either killed or captured, 3,000 were forced from their homes to migrate northward to Pennsylvania and New York, and over 1,000 were sold into slavery.

The Tuscarora War ended as a disaster for the smaller coastal Algonquian groups. The Machapunga (Mattamuskeet), Bear River, Pamlico, and Neuse joined the lower Tuscarora towns in the war against the white settlers. As a result of the war, several of the small coastal groups disappeared completely. The Mattamuskeet Reservation period began at the end of the Tuscarora War and is regarded as a conception of those conflicts.

The Reservation Time


The existing Indigenous people of the coastal tribes were approved by the Colonial Council to remain in the Lake Mattamuskeet area. Shortly after the Indigenous people were established on the land, the European settlers began applying force to take the land. What better opportunity to take someone’s land by identifying ways to discredit the people’s traditions, origin, existence, and knowledge in the trade value of land versus physical goods. Settlement pressure by whites was the greatest problem the Native Americans at Mattamuskeet confronted after the Tuscarora War.

Thereafter, Chief Squires, Chief Mackey, and others representing the Mattamuskeet reservation ask for their lands to be surveyed and conveyed as an official 5grant to the group in 1724. The Colonial Council agreed with this request and ordered the surveyor general to survey a four-mile-square area for the reservation (Johnson, 1972, 212). On April 1, 1727, the land grant was approved. The 1727 land grant designates Chief Squires as the leader of the Indigenous people at Mattamuskeet by default of his mother being of Machapunga ancestry (his father was the Chief of the Nanticoke tribe in Maryland).

The reservation was given to the Indians in exchange for two buckskins and an annual quitrent of one shilling per one hundred acres. The reservation land was twice the size of the 10,280 acres recorded in the original grant. Land sales began in earnest in 1731. Twenty-nine deeds were entered on reservation lands in the Hyde County Records between that time and June 8, 1761.

The population on the Mattamuskeet Reservation was never exceptionally large. The Colonial records state that only eight of ten people lived on the reservation in 1755, and the 1761 deed which ended the reservation included the signatures of only six adult males. Few surnames appear on the Mattamuskeet land deeds. The surnames Squires, Mackey, Long Tom, and Russell are present. Two individuals with the Long Tom surname signed deeds during this period. Although there are slight differences in the way the name appears, it is apparent from documents after the Reservation period that Long Tom was the proper surname for these individuals (see the 1792 deed, appendix 34, as an example). The Mackey surname was represented by three individuals. There is some confusion concerning one of the individuals, as he was called “Joseph Russell Mackey” on a deed dated 1748/49, and Joseph Russell on deeds dated 1746, 1747, and 1761.

The End of the Mattamuskeet Reservation

A 1731 deed implies John Mackey and Long Tom functioned as John Squires close advisors. Long Tom’s homestead was located west of John Squires’ home and on the shore of Lake Mattamuskeet. His homestead was called “Long Tom’s rice patch,” and consisted of sixty-five acres. Long Tom sold his homestead to Casson Brinson, a white settler, in 1746 for six Pounds of Virginia Currency. John Mackey, Joseph Russell Mackey, and George Squires had their homesteads along Wiasocken Creek. A deed drawn in 1748 indicates that the homesteads of John Mackey and George Squires were on adjoining tracts. Joseph Russell Mackey’s homestead was located on a one- hundred-acre tract that he purchased from John Mackey in 1748/49.

John Mackey, who was the son of the John Mackey mentioned in the 1724 request to the Colonial Council for a formal survey of Mattamuskeet lands, did not appear on any land deeds after 1755. John Mackey had served as the other advisor to John Squires and had assumed a significant role in land transactions after his death. The death of John Mackey appears to have removed the last obstacle to the sale of the reservation since he was the last of the elderly leadership remaining on the reservation.


The Mattamuskeets/Machapunga were, as indicated previously, joined by Indigenous people from Roanoke and Hatteras Islands by 1761. There is a reference to a single Indigenous person during this time. This reference appeared in the Hyde County Court Minutes of 1765. It called for William Gibbs to show the reason an Indigenous woman named Cat Collins should not be set free. The outcome of the order could not be determined due to a break in the County Court Minutes from 1765 to 1767. This document is particularly significant since later the Collins family’s history closely paralleled that of the individuals with Mattamuskeet surnames. Some of the Collins descendants now residing in Hyde County are of Native American descent.

The last reference to the Native Americans at Mattamuskeet as a group was on a deed of sale dated 21 November 1792. According to this document, a group of seven Mattamuskeets sold the entire original reservation to a white resident named Hutchens Selby for 50 Pounds. It is obvious that the group sold land they did not own, and the deed was accepted by the Hyde County Court and entered in the Hyde County Record of Deeds by the Registrar on 9 April 1793. The description of the tract was the same as that given on the original Land Grant of 1727. Five females and two males signed the 1792 deed. The four adults who signed the deed were Patience McKey (Mackey), Mary Longtom, Jean Longtom, and Marthey Longtom. The children were Tabithy and Timothy McKey (Mackey) and John Longtom.

The Mattamuskeet Descendants in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Century

The policy of mass apprenticeships of the children of “free persons of color” in Hyde County from 1834 to 1865 made it difficult for the Mattamuskeet descendants to teach their children Indigenous culture, but even to this day, the descendants continued to maintain their Indian ancestry to the Mattamuskeet Reservation. European settlers used apprenticeships (bonds) to continue a form of ownership. The apprenticeship bonds played a vital role in the disintegration and loss of culture and identity of the family as indigenous youth were forced to be bonded to whites. As whites classified our youth as illegitimate, they were quickly bonded, and ownership of life turned over to the whites.

Shadrack and Simpson Mackey were bonded in 1804, along with Joshua and Jordan Longtom, to serve as blacksmiths and seaman for their “masters.” Whatever the reason, the 1792 deed portrays a group in the concluding stages of social disintegration. The Hyde County, North Carolina Apprentice Papers Free Persons of Color from 1771-1865 unambiguously shows the continuation of indigenous people’s discrimination and their identities and culture striped and benefiting whites in the area. Ask yourself this question, how can a six-year-old be apprenticed or asked to do a job as a house carpenter, or a two-year-old work as a farmer?

A small sampling of names on the Hyde County, NC Apprentice Bonds 1771-1865 Date Orphan Name Age Apprentice Trade Bound/Owner FarmerJoseph Pledger 2FarmerJohn L. Martin 9UnknownSeamstressLorenzo D. White James Chance11FarmerRobert Ballance Sally Ann Covel5House ServantBenjamin O’Neal Shadrack Mackey1811/29/1852Henderson Morris9FarmerErasmus Saunderson Nathaniel Beckwith Mackey 2/24/1847John Long Tom7FarmerWill R. Palmer 5/25/1846Seth Berry9FarmerGeorge W. Carrowon 5/28/1844John Easter6House CarpenterJoshua B. Fortiscue

The Mattamuskeet descendants were not classified as being Native American even though a considerable number of Hyde County families (Barber, Collins, Gibbs, Longtom, and Mackey), continued to acknowledge their Indigenous heritage. A large 10amount of the history was passed down and embedded in the storytelling communicated during ceremonies, feasts, at church, and family gatherings. Deeply rooted in spirituality, religion was the foundation of the Algonquian Machapunga Indians. Evidence shows that even during the mid-to-late 1800’s the family organized the Star of Zion Disciple Church with the assistance of family members who served as the trustees (Benjamin Mackey, James Riley Chance, Henry Barber, and Henry Gibbs). Even to this day, religion is the foreground from which we stand.

During the nineteenth century, a substantial number of Mattamuskeet descendants began leaving Hyde County and moving northward to New York, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey, Connecticut, Massachusetts, (Chicago) Illinois, (Detroit) Michigan, and other states in the nation, in search of improved employment, better schools, and better-quality local living conditions. Hyde County was a sparsely populated area with little public transportation, and institutions such as hospitals with doctors were nonexistent. Some of the Mattamuskeet descendants who left Hyde County went to places that were connected to their homes of origin. The descendants moved with them their southern ways, dialect, recipes, and their love of religion.

During the latter part of the nineteenth century, the remaining descendants of the Mattamuskeet Reservation continued to be employed as crab pickers, oyster shuckers, fishers, farmers, bus drivers, truck drivers, farmhands, loggers, in the state of North Carolina and Virginia. During the summer months, some Mattamuskeet descendants moved temporarily to the interior parts of North Carolina (New Bern, Vanceboro, etc.) to pick tobacco, cotton, grapes, and other crops.

The Annihilation of American Indians to Free People of Color

In North Carolina, before the Civil Rights period, Indigenous people – Machapunga Indians suffered discrimination and numerous forms of racialism. Racial categorizations of the area Indians were forced to reclassify as Negro, Free Person of Color, Mulattos, or even forced into apprenticeship during colonial years, denying indigenous people the entitlement to claim their heritage by state laws that were discriminatory against them.

The Mattamuskeets/Machapunga and their descendants were not represented in the Hyde County Records during the period in which they no longer owned little or nothing of value that was desirable to the whites after the massive land sales. The Native Americans of Hyde County never held public office and were not even represented on the tax lists. Therefore, little was preserved in the records concerning the Native Americans from the time they sold their reservation in 1761 until they sold it again in 1792. It is obvious from the available documented material the Hyde County Indians declined in both population and social cohesiveness during the second half of the eighteenth century. There is evidence this movement continued into the nineteenth century and was accelerated through mixing with both whites and Black people, apprenticed and forced to change their names, and in some situations labeled as bastards because of the fathers who forced themselves upon native women and did not take claim to the born child.

The bastard bonds were intended to protect the county from the expense of raising illegitimate children. When the pregnancy of a child was brought to the attentions of the court, a warrant was issued, and the female into the court to affirm the name of 12the child’s father. In many circumstances due to the female being raped, a name was not known, and she could only identify the father as a “white” man. A well-documented example of this can be found in the United States Freedman’s Bank Records 1864-1874 under the name of Sallie Mackey, who identified her mother as Deliah Barber, and her dad as a “white man.”

The Mattamuskeet descendants were not referred to as Native Americans after 1804 and were grouped with the free Black people in Hyde County under the title of 13“free persons of color” “Bastards,” or Mulatto. It is from these forced labels of recognition that much of our indigenous claim has been erased from history.


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