Ska-ru-ren (Those of the Indian Hemp)

Artwork by John Kahonhes Fadden



by Sheila Staats*

Name, meaning: The Tuscaroras call themselves, "Ska-ru-ren". It means "those of the Indian hemp" or "hemp gatherers" because they originally wore woven hemp shirts.

Historical location: Virginia and North Carolina - villages were located along the Neuse and Roanoke Rivers. Estimated population precontact - 25,000; 1700 - 5,000 in 15 villages.

Clans: Turtle, Wolf, Bear, Beaver, Snipe, Eel, and Sand Turtle/Deer.

Gahsdo:wa: Made from a strip of deer hide wrapped around the head like a turban. There were no upright feathers. Fine feathers were secured on top of the turban like headwear.

Position in Confederacy: Tuscaroras become the Sixth Nation of the Iroquois Confederacy in 1722. They are the Younger Brothers with the Oneida and Cayuga Nations.

Chiefs: The Tuscarora had clan Chiefs before joining the Five Nations. They did not have their Chiefs added to the original 50 founding Chiefs of the Five Nations.

History: According to educator and writer Shirley Hill Witt : "the Tuscarora homeland is in what is now North Carolina. When the white man invaded our country, Tuscarora land extended from near the Atlantic seacoast clear inland to the Appalachian Mountains. Our hunters ranged even further: the hunting lands extended into South Carolina and Virginia and even as far as Pennsylvania sometimes. Thousands of Tuscarora people lived there then, in North Carolina. There were larger and smaller settlements, ringed around by cornfields. The larger settlements were called 'towns' by the white men when they saw them. The villages and towns were made up of long houses...

The Tuscarora Nation became the sixth member after the Christians pushed them out of their homeland in the early 1700s. Since 1722 the Confederacy has been known as the League of the Six Nations of the Iroquois."

Source: Shirley Hill Witt. The Tuscaroras. New York: Crowell-Collier, 1972, pp. 6,7,19.

The Tuscarora suffered greatly at the hands of the European settlers. They were devastated by disease. In addition the settlers often kidnapped Tuscarora children and sold them as slaves. Numerous wars with the English and other Indian Nations reduced the lands of the Tuscaroras and their population. During a serious war in 1710-1713 the Tuscarora finally began leaving their homeland. They searched for a new home. Eventually they followed the White Roots of Peace that extended out from the Tree of Peace in the territory of the Five Nations. They went to live near the Oneidas and officially joined the Five Nations in 1722.

For a time the Tuscaroras found peace and built new homes. The American Revolution brought more war and loss for the Iroquois. Most Tuscaroras joined the Oneidas and supported the American cause against the British.  Even though the Americans won the war the Iroquois allies suffered as a result.

A few Tuscaroras joined the Iroquois allies of the British. As a result these allies had to leave their homes and villages and went to live in what is now Ontario. About 130 Tuscaroras went to the Grand River territory with Joseph Brant and the Mohawks. They made their home among the Mohawks and others of the Six Nations who had supported the British.

By the early 19th century many of the Tuscaroras had become Christians. They maintained their Chiefs Council, the clan system and their agricultural economy.

The Tuscaroras who remained in the United States finally established a reservation by purchasing their lands near present-day Lewiston, New York.

By 1940 there were 400 Tuscaroras living on their 6,249 acre New York state reservation, called the Tuscarora Reservation; there were 400 Tuscaroras living among the Six Nations of the Grand River in Ontario. Today the Six Nations territory has been reduced to about 44,000 acres in Tuscarora Township of the County of Brant.

Location, 1997:

Tuscarora Reservation, New York
Six Nations of the Grand River, Ontario
Tuscarora Tribe of North Carolina, Pembroke, North Carolina

Thank you Sheila for providing the above information. Nia:wenkowa!

Sheila Staats, Researcher
Working World New Media/
Producers of The Great Peace...The Gathering of Good Minds CD-ROM.
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Website created May 27, 2000:Updated August 2001

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