north carolina highway historical marker program
North Carolina Highway Historical Marker Program
 

 
 
 

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Essay:
     Weapemeoc was the principal town of the Weapemeoc Indians, an Algonquian confederation that occupied the territory south of the Chesapeake Bay and north of Albemarle Sound during the time of Sir Ralph Lane’s Expedition of 1585-86. It was located on the Perquimans River between present day Edenton and Hertford. The tribes of the Weapemeoc were subdivided into the Pasquotank, Perquimans, Poteskeet, and Yeopim. They lived throughout what are now Chowan, Currituck, Camden, Pasquotank, and Perquimans Counties. Other towns of the Weapemeoc tribes were Pasquenock (the woman’s town), Chepanoc, and Mascoming. Members of the Weapemeoc confederation may have also been related to the Powhatan Indians to the north and the Pamlico Indians to the South.
     The Weapemeoc were known for offering minimal resistance to the English settlers. This was probably due to their small population, which peaked at 1,500. In addition, the land they inhabited was very swampy and of little appeal to the white men. At the time of their first encounter with English colonists, they were led by chief Okisco. The Weapemeoc’s western neighbors, the Chowanoacs, were the largest and most powerful tribe in the area. Their chief, Menatonon, was believed to have commanded about 25,000 Indians, including Okisco and the Weapemeocs. When hostilities mounted between the colonists and the Roanoac tribe, Menatonon, an ally of the colonists, commanded Okisco to pledge himself and his tribe to the “great Werowanza (Queen) of England and after her to Sir Walter Raleigh.” However when it came time for action, Okisco refused to participate on either side and he and his immediate tribesmen moved further into the mainland.

     Smallpox, conflicts with other tribes, absorption into other cultures, and encroaching white settlements took their toll on the Weapemeoc Confederacy. In 1679 there were only slightly over 200 native Weapemeocs. By 1730 the surviving one hundred lived in one town on the North River that had been reserved for them by the General Court. By 1735 their tribal identity was no longer recognized.


References:
F. Roy Johnson, The Algonquians: Indians of That Part of the New World First Visited by the English, II (1972)
Four Directions Institute Website: http://www.fourdir.com/weapemeoc.htm
John R. Swanton, The Indian Tribes of North America (1952)
Wepemeoc Indian Tribe wbsite: http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/tribes/algonquian/weapemeochist.htm William S. Powell and Michael Hill, North Carolina Gazetteer (2010)
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Early map showing Weapemeoc territory.

© 2008 North Carolina Office of Archives & History — Department of Cultural Resources