Weapemeoc Indians

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The Weapemeoc Indians were a Native American tribe in North Carolina that were first noted in literature in 1585-6. During this time, they approximately had 700 to 800 people. They were a highly maritime culture dependent on the land and water sources around them. However, their tribe changed rapidly as European settlers came to the land, and they disappeared as a tribe in result of this by 1780.

Total population
Regions with significant populations
United States North Carolina
Algonquian (estimate)
Related ethnic groups
Powhatan, Chowan, Machapunga, Pamlico


The original meaning of Weapemeoc could be "People of the First Light," or "People of the Dawn Land," similar to Wabanaki or Wampanoag.[1] The tribe was also commonly referred to as Yeopim as a shortened alternative.[1] It is predicted that this alternative name was the outcome of settlers attempting to pronounce the tribes name.[2] There were also many subdivisions of the tribe each with their own individual names.[1]

Pre-Colonial History[edit]

The first recording of the Weapemeoc Indians was in 1585.[1] During this time, they were said to have approximately 700 to 800 people.[1] Throughout their existence, they migrated across various North Carolinian counties such as Currituck, Pasquotank and Perquimans and Chowan.[1] Despite their existence only first being noted in 1585, accounts shared by members of the Weapemeoc tribe have enabled historians to reconstruct their history.[3] In 1550, the Weapemeoc Indian tribes were at peace with surroundings tribes and alliances were common.[3] From 1585 to1586, a map of the Weapemeoc nation was established. Their land focused along the coastline and rivers.[3][4] In 1607, the James River area became the battleground between the Weapemeoc Nation, the Powhatan Confederacy and tributary nations.[3]

In 1622, battles continued between neighboring tribes and English Settlers. This eventually became known as the Indian Massacre of 1622.[3] Three years later in 1625, a smallpox and measles outbreak killed many Native Indians who did not have natural immunity to such illnesses.[3] In 1650, European presence increased as more and more settlers arrived in North Carolina.[5] With such large numbers of men arriving, the male to female ratio in the Albemarle region of North Carolina was close to 8 to 1.[3] In 1670, marriages between British settlers and Indian women started to occur.[3] This encouraged the exchange of cultures and prompted negotiations to end the constant battles.:[3] During negotiations the battles continued and as a result the tribe's population dramatically decrease. By 1700, it is believed that the Weapemeoc tribe only had a population of around 200 people.[3]

In 1704, a reservation of 10,240 acres along the North River was established for the tribe.[6][3] However, they were completely surrounded by European settlers and peace did not continue. Many members of the tribe left their reservation and moved to Indiantown.[3][5]


The Weapemeoc Indians were located in what is northeastern North Carolina today.[2] In the early 1580s they experienced a dramatic cultural shift with the arrival of European colonizers.[2] The English established a short two year settlement from 1584 to 1586 and subsequent settlements were established by Spanish, Portuguese and French explorers.[3] The initial interactions between Weapemeoc and settlers remained minimal and were limited to the shoreline.[2] However these interactions eventually resulted in conflict with European efforts to displace the tribe from their traditional maritime way of life.[2] While some of the subdivisions of the tribe formed alliances with the settlers, others remained loyal to their traditional roots.[2] Those who regularly interacted with the settlers exchanged their cultural ways of living.[2] With the ever growing encroachment of the settlers, a reservation of 10,240 acres was granted to the tribe by the Executive Council of the colonial government.[6] However by 1780, the Weapemeoc lived in such a similar fashion to their European neighbors that distinguishable archaeological records could no longer be made.[2] The loss of the traditional culture of the tribe was paired with their disappearance as a distinct group of people.[2]

Due to little documentation, it is not clear when the last Weapemeoc member passed away.[7] Today there are no known remaining Weapemeoc Indians and are believed to be an extinct tribe.[3]


The Weapemeoc Indians almost certainly spoke an Algonquian language.[7][8]

The Weapemeoc Indians were very skilled hunters and farmers.[2] As they lived close to banks and rivers, the tribe had access to freshwater fish, clams, and mussels year round.[2] Their various fishing instruments ranged from spears, hooks and nets, demonstrating their excellent maritime skills.[2] Their diets also consisted of seasonal elements such as corn and any animals which they managed to hunt using a bow and arrow.[2]

Due to the importance of water in their daily lives, many religious rituals and superstitions revolved around maritime activities. For example in the event of violent waters or potential signs of a storm, the Weapemeoc Indians would throw tobacco and other herbs into the water in hopes of a resolution.[2] However, this maritime culture began to fade as the European settlers began to colonize in their area. Consequently, the members of the tribe began to lose much of their cultural practices and tradition.

The Weapemeoc Indians, over the course of almost 300 years, went from being a traditional maritime culture to a culture that was highly influenced by European settlement.[2]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Swanton, John Reed (1952). The Indian Tribes of North America. Genealogical Publishing Com. ISBN 9780806317304.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o R., Petrey, Whitney (2014). "WEAPEMEOC SHORES : THE LOSS OF TRADITIONAL MARITIME CULTURE AMONG THE WEAPEMEOC INDIANS". Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n Laster, Charles. "History of the Weapemeoc Nation". Lost Tribes Warriors of the Rainbow.
  4. ^ Parramore, Thomas C. (2001). "The "Lost Colony" Found: A Documentary Perspective". The North Carolina Historical Review. 78 (1): 67–83. JSTOR 23522231.
  5. ^ a b "North Carolina American Indian History Timeline | NC Museum of History". www.ncmuseumofhistory.org. Retrieved 2018-02-22.
  6. ^ a b "Marker: A-47". www.ncmarkers.com. Retrieved 2018-02-20.
  7. ^ a b "Weapemeoc Indians | NCpedia". www.ncpedia.org. Retrieved 2018-01-30.
  8. ^ McGowan, John B. "Algonkian Ethnohistory of the Carolina Sound, Part 1". www.ncgenweb.us. Retrieved 2018-02-22.