The Tuscarora People - Native Cultures of North America

Arguably more culturally similar to tribes in the Northeast than to those to their southwest, many Tuscarora lived in longhouses (longhouse interior pictured).

5. Description

The Tuscarora people are an American Native group. This American Indian tribe had their origins in what is now the state of North Carolina, with many later moving to New York and then into Canada. The word ‘Tuscarora’ is derived from their extensive use of hemp for cloth, rope, and other materials, and it means ‘hemp gatherers’. In the 17th Century, the Tuscaroras encountered European settlers and shared everything they had with them. This tribe is governed by a Tribal Council of 9 elected representatives. This tribe was among those who fought against British during American Revolution, and today many have been resettled in the Canadian province of Ontario. Most of the Tuscarora people are English speaking, though some members of the tribe still continue to keep alive and speak the traditional Tuscarora language.

4. Architecture

Traditionally, Tuscarora people lived in villages made up of large wooden-framed buildings smothered with sheets of elm bark known as longhouses. These longhouses were about 100 feet long, and could accommodate as many as 60 people. In the present day, longhouses are only used for celebrating ceremonies. These houses are converted into tribe meeting halls or sweat lodges. As of this date, most of the Native American Indians live in Western-style apartments and modern houses no different from those of other North American residents.

3. Cuisine

The Tuscarora people cooked simple food. They preferred eating fresh food without using spices. This is in contrast, however, to those Native Americans from Central America and Mexico, who used more complex foods preparation with more spices, including cumin, chocolate seasonings, and hot peppers. The Tuscarora grilled game meat over hot stones or roasted over their fires, while fish was smoked or baked. Some tribal people had popular stews and soups as well. They also used their staple crop, corn, in a variety of different ways, including as corn bread baked in their clay ovens, popcorn, corn-on-the-cob, tortillas, and hominy. They also enjoyed maple candy and fruit puddings for desserts.

2. Cultural Significance

Originating from North Carolina, their lifestyle involved hunting and gathering as well as farming. Apart from this, they could collect fish from rivers, gather shellfish from the ocean, and, thus, fishing played a significant role in their way of life and their diets. They slowly adopted the "Great Law of Peace" as their "Founding Constitution". This formed the government, which in turn decided the procedures and duties of chiefs and clan mothers. This constitution was codified using a memory device in the form of special beads known as "wampum", which was said to have inherent spiritual values. The men also used "gustoweh" in ceremonies, which were basically ornamental caps ornamented with turkey feathers.

1. Threats

In early 1930s, the Tuscarora people filed a petition to be included in the U.S. Indian Reorganization Act. However, for two decades, they were not included in IRA, as the investigators felt that they aren’t eligible. Then, in 1979, the U.S. Department of the Interior formulated a process through which unrecognized tribes in the country were given more power to file petitions for Federal recognition. Today, most of the Tuscarora people reside in Mecklenburg County, around Charlotte, North Carolina, United States. Here, they face similar challenges shared with other urban minority communities. Some reports show higher rates of high school dropouts and poorer literacy than norms for their non-Native American neighbors. Because of such educational disparity, poverty and unemployment is also widespread among these Native Americans. These are some of the problems which the American Indian tribe is hoping to overcome via increased access to legal, Federal resources, and exercising tribal sovereignty.


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