Historic Native American Tribes in North Carolina

North Carolina has a long history of Native Americans in the state from pre-historic times to more modern times. This page will explore North Carolina's pasttribes: who theywhere, where they lived, and what happened to them. This page is a work in progress.


North Carolian tribes are grouped into three linguistic classes:

  • Algonquian
  • Iroquoian
  • Siouian

These groups should not be confused with the Algonguin, Iroquoise, adn Sioux tribes. Linguistics in the study of language and all of it's parts, including structure, syntax, dialects, phonetics, and semantics. Those grouped as liguistically Algonquian speak a language that is very similiar or based on the Algonquin tribal language. The same way, those who are Iroquoian speak a language similar to or based on the Iroquoise tribe and those who are Siouian tribes speak a language similar to on based on the Sioux language. There are some tribes with no preserved language and unknown what they were linguistically, but sometimes assumptions have been made by researchers based on their location, neighboring tribes, and movement.

Historic Tribes

At the time of European contact, there were approximately 33 tribes, although there is some discussion on whether some of the tribes were actually the same tribe, such asthe Croatoan and the Roanoac. I will present my findings from several years of research. The majory of the tribes were located in the Coastal Plains region all along the cost from Currituck County down to New Hanover and Brunswick County. Many tribes were also along the North Carolina Virginia Border. About a dozen tribes were in the mountain areass of Western North Caroalina. A few tribes were along the North Carolina/South Carolina border. Several tribes were more nomadic in nature and moved around between South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia. In the list below, each tribe will be listed by region they mostly lived in followed by (A), (I), or (S) to show their language, or (?) when it is unknown, and then a brief description of the tribe. At a later time, I hope to create profiles for each tribe and the tribal names will be linked to the profile, but for now will just have a brief description. Check out a timeline of the Native Americans in North Carolina created by the NC Museum of History

Tribes in the Coastal Plains

  • Bay River (A) - also known as Bay River, in present day Beaufort County, The Bear River and Pamlico Tribes together numbered about 1000 in 1600, but about 50 in 1709
  • Cape Fear (S) - Near present-day Brunswick County along the Cape Fear River, had moved to SC by 1810, about 1000 in 1600 and 206 in 1715
  • Cathechney (?) - Also known as Cathna; lived along border of present-day Pitt and Craven Counties; no information on population
  • Chowanoac (?) - Lived in present-day chowan and Gates County
  • Coree (A or I) - Also known as the Coranine, often thought to be related to the Neusick tribe, close association with the Tuscarora and many of the remnants went to live with the Machapunga on Mattamuskeet Lake; population 1000 in 1600
  • Croatoan (?) - lived in present-day Dare County, related to the Hattaras tribe
  • Hattaras (A) - lived in Cape Hattaras east of the Pamlico Sound, often thought to be the same as the Croatoan Tribe; population 1200 in 1600, 80 in 1701
  • Machapunga (A) - also called Mattamuskeet, often grouped with the Secotan; Bear River tribe may have been part of Machapunga, population statistics not available
  • Meherrin (I) - Tribe is still well and alive in NC; lived along NC/VA border in Northampton County area; population 700 in 1600, 700 in 1755
  • Moratok (A) - Not much is known about this tribe, only mention in Sir Walter Raleigh's expedition notes
  • Neusik (?) - Near New Bern on the south sidce of the Neuse River, often grouped with the Coree tribe
  • Pamlico (A) - Not a lot is known about this tribe other than that some members were enslaved by the Tuscarora
  • Roanoak (A) - Also known as the Roanoke and lived on the Roanoke River; located present-day Dare County; population unknown, often said to be the Croatoan tribe who also lived in the area
  • Secotan (?) - moved around some, lived in the area of present-day Beaufort and Hyde County with several villages in Hyde County at the time of European Contact
  • Tuscarora (I) - spread out on coastal plain along Roanoke, Tar, Pamlico, and Neuse rivers; Population 5000 in 1600
  • Tutelo (S) -
  • Waccamaw (S) -
  • Weapmeoc (A) - also k,now as Yeopim; lived in the NE corner of the state around present-day Currituck, Chowan, Pasquotank, adn Perquimans County; population of about 800 in 1600
  • Woccon (S) - Lived around present-day Goldsboro in Wayne County on the Neuse River, had villages in present-day Greene County; population of about 600 in 1600

Tribes in the Piedmonth Region

  • Catawba (S) - also known as the Esaw, Issa, and Ushery, lived along the Catawba River, in SC by 1763, population 5000 in 1600 down to 60 in 1760
  • Eno (S) - Lived on the Eno River in present-day Durham County, population 1500 in 1600
  • Keyauwee (S) - Near Uwharrie River in present-day Randolph County, population 500 in 1600; migrated with the Saponi and Tutelo tribes; during Tuscarora War, fought against colonists, after the war, joined the Catawba Tribe
  • Occaneechie (?) - Also alive and well in NC; lived in the Caswell/Person County area; population 1200 in 1600
  • Saponi (S) - located in present-day Surry County, but moved east; population 2700 in 1600
  • Shakori (?) - Related to Eno tribe
  • Sissipahaw (S) - Lived on the Haw River in the lower part of present-day Alamance County; population 800 in 1600
  • Sugeree (?) - neighbors with the Catawba Tribe
  • Waxhaw (?) - language not preserved, likely Siouian; also called flat heads, related to the Catawba; located around present-day Union County, came from SC.

Tribes in the Mountain Region

  • Cherokee (I) - Perhaps the best known tribe of the state and one of the 3 largest tribes of the state before the Tuscarora War in 1711. The tribe was situated in the SE corner of the state and was mostly located in TN, SC, and GA; population6000 in 1600 in NC alone, about 22,000 in all areas of TN, GA, SC, and NC, down to 240 in 1713 in NC; sided with colonists during the Tuscarora War
  • Cheraw (S), also known as Saura - originally from SC, moved up to Polk County area, by 1700 lived near VA border on the Dan River, but moved to join the Keyauwee on the Pee Dee River by 1710; population about 1200 in 1600 and 510 by 1715
  • Natchez (A or I) - often not mentioned by other researchers, lived in modern-day Clay County in SW NC
  • Shawnee (A) - lived in a small part of NW corner of the state. They mostly lived in present-day Tennessee
  • Wateree (?) - located on the upper Yadkin River; population of 1000 in 1600
  • Yadkin (S) - Tribe was situated along the Yadkin River. Some sources tend not to include the Yadkin in their list of tribes for some reason