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Tuscarora Indians Seek Landmark Status for 18th...

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SNOW HILL, N.C. (AP) — Historic landmarkdesignation is beingsought for a demolished Tuscarora Indian fort where the tribe madeits last stand to keep British settlers from taking over NorthCarolina's interior.

About two dozen Tuscaroras toured the property for the firsttime Monday.

The Tuscarora Council of North Carolina supports making theforta historic site, one council delegate said.

``I think it's some of the most significant Native Americanhistory in North Carolina,'' Robert Locklear of Pembroke said as hewalked the site. ``It needs to be published, it needs exposure, itneeds to be told, it needs to be taught.''

With support from the landowner and state and local officials,an ad hoc group is preparing the documents needed to have about 25acres acquired by the National Park Service and managed as ahistoric landmark. The group will seek federal legislation tosupport the designation and funding for the site, which is aboutfive miles west of Snow Hill in Greene County.

``There is no better site to create a memorial to the Tuscarorathan this place,'' said David Phelps, an East Carolina Universityarchaeologist who has excavated part of the fort.

Dark spots in the dirt reveal the outline of stockade walls,trenches and the houses that were burned to the ground on March 22,1713. About 800 Tuscarora are believed to have been killed, woundedor captured in the battle for the fort the tribe called Neohoroka.The defeat ended a three-year conflict and opened the NorthCarolina interior to colonial expansion.

``Their spirits are still not at peace,'' said Elisha Locklear,a vice chief of the tribe in North Carolina. ``No one hasacknowledged that they died or were even here. We're dealing withwomen, the elderly and babies.''

The Tuscarora Nation, located between the Neuse and Pamlicorivers, thrived for about 1,000 years before disputes withcolonists led to a war that began in 1711.

After their defeat, tribe members moved north and were adoptedby the Oneida around 1722 under the Six Nations alliance.

About 1,000 Tuscarora live on a reservation near Buffalo, N.Y.,and an estimated 500 live in North Carolina. The Tuscarora in NorthCarolina are not recognized as a tribe by the federal government.

The North Carolina site would be a fitting site for remains ofTuscaroras from throughout the United States, said Chief KennethPatterson of Sanford, N.Y., a representative of the TuscaroraNation Council. Many Tuscaroras have roots in North Carolina,although they have lived farther north for generations, he said.

Elkton Richardson, a project director for North Carolina'sCommission of Indian Affairs, said a historic site would teachchildren about an underappreciated period of state history.

``Most children have no idea that major Indian battles werefought in our state,'' he said.

Organizers would have to buy 20 acres of what are now soybeanfields from George Mewborn Jr., whose family has owned the propertysince 1905. Establishing a historic landmark would prevent the sitefrom being picked apart by treasure hunters, he said.

State archaeologist Stephen R. Claggett ranked the historicalsignificance of the site with the recent discovery of whatscientists believe is Blackbeard's ship.

With their network of villages in the interior of NorthCarolina, the Tuscarora had contained the colonists to theTidewater and coastal areas, Claggett said.

Settlers defeated the Tuscarora by enlisting their Indianallies- the Cherokee, Yamasee and Catawba - and by getting help from themore established British colony in South Carolina.

Neohoroka, believed to have been built about 1712, was unusualamong Indian fortifications because it had a European-stylepalisade around the outside. Inside, the structures were moretraditional, consisting mostly of earth lodges partially dug intothe ground with soil piled on top.

Researchers have been excavating every summer since 1990.Because the Tuscarora dug bunkers deep into the ground, manyartifacts have been preserved even though the land has been plowedfor soybeans and tobacco for the last 90 years.

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