From the North Carolina Colonial Record. Agreement between chief men of the Bay River Indians and colonials assuring the that the Indians would have no trouble with the English provided they assist them in various manners and turn over any Indians who have, or were planning to commit crimes against the English to English authorities to face justice.
The Bay River Indians made their home, as their name indicates, on the Bay River which is a small river that runs about midway between the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers in present day Pamlico County. It seems from looking at the historical record that the Bay River Indians were actually Pomuik Indians on earlier maps.
The agreement below was ordered by then-deputy governor of Albemarle, Henderson Walker in response to reports of a number of white travelers being assaulted by Indian gangs.
According to the Colonial Record, in the latter half of the seventeenth century a number of complaints had been registered with the General Assembly in reference to seafarers, traders and travelers along the coast, and particularly in the Cape Fear region being in fear of local Indians who were allegedly making life quite difficult for anyone who wondered into their territory. It was stated that they [the Indians] “do murder or hold in Slavery all persons that either by Shipwrack or passing in small vessels so unhappily fall under their Power.” (Colonial Record of North Carolina, Volume I, p. 674)
South Carolina had dealt with such “Indian troubles” by entering into a protection agreement with their local tribes around 1695-1696 which ultimately led to the Indians there offering assistance and friendship to wayward travelers instead of entering into conflicts with them. A few weeks after the agreement went into effect in South Carolina, the local Indians there offered fifty two survivors of a shipwreck off the coast “their friendship and food.” (Johnson, 188)
Apparently, white travelers in North Carolina’s coastal region continued to have troubles for a few years before Deputy Governor Walker decided to enter into a similar agreement with the Bay River Indians.
Nearly all treaties or “Articles of Agreement” with tribes had common characteristics:
Indians are made into virtual English subjects, they are ordered to come to the aid of any Englishmen who they find in need (through shipwreck, etc.), they are ordered to take up arms against or else hand over to the English any Indians found trying to do harm to the “King’s Subjects”, they are given specific instructions to ensure that any item found belonging to an Englishman be returned to him or his allies immediately. In return for doing all of these things for the English, the English promise to maintain friendly terms with the Indians abiding by the agreement and not do them harm.
Unfortunately, these agreements didn’t really offer any special protection to the Indians as it did to the English. There are no assurances made that Indians in need will be assisted or that items recovered belonging to Indians will be returned to them.
Surely agreements such as these ultimately contributed to a number of tribes feeling as though their kindness had been taken for granted and that the government had preyed upon their good nature and taken advantage of them. The colonial government may have meant well in trying to protect their subjects and maintain some level of peace with the “natives”, but the lopsidedness of such agreements left the Indians vulnerable to every sort of encroachment and assault imaginable. After all, the protection these agreements offered were only useful if the Indians never stood against the English. The minute these local tribes tried to stand up to defend their right to maintain their villages, their hunting and fishing lands or their ways of life, they were looked upon as being in defiance and in breech of the agreement.
Here are some elements to consider as you read this agreement:
Government-encouraged division amongst tribes (see “4thly”)
The requirement that the Indians pay tribute to the English
The apparent necessity to instruct the Indians on how they are to assist the English
We must also wonder what would have caused King Sothell and Matthews to sign this document. What advantages did they achieve from this agreement?
There are also a couple of noteworthy names in this agreement:
Thomas Blount was a prominent figure in the affairs of colonial Carolina. He was frequently involved with solving matters between the colonists and Indians. He is also the apparent namesake of the man who became leader of the upper Tuscarora towns, King Tom Blount. It is not known whether or not King Blount was an illegitimate son of Thomas Blount, the colonist, or if he was merely someone who the elder Blount had taken under his wing.
King Sothell, the chief of the Bay River Indians is apparently named for colonial governor, Seth Sothel.
Johnson reference above is from The Algonquians: Indians of That Part of the New World First Visited by the English — Volume 2 History and Traditions by F. Roy Johnson. ©1972 Johnson Publishing Company, Murfreesboro, N.C..
Articles of Agreement with the Bay River Indians
Pamptico, the 23rd 7ber, 1699.
Articles of agreement made and concluded on by & between Daniel Akehurst, Caleb Calloway, Thomas Blount & Henry Slade of on parte in behalf of the Government of North Carolina & Sothel King of the Bear River Indians with his Great Men on behalf of the sd Nation of the other Part as foloweth:
1ly. The Indians shall at all times if they are accused by any Englishmen or Judiciary of murdering any of the King’s Subjects they shall send the said Indians soe accused into the English Government or to some Officer to answer the Accusation.
2ly. If any Shipp or Vessel shall be cast away on any shore & any of the men be found that have effects in the load, they shall relieve them with provisions & conduct them to sum English plantation for which they shall have a match coat reward for each man soe conducted & what goods they find on the Seashore they will deliver to the English government & they shall allow them reasonable salvage for ye same.
3rdly. As to the goods they can take any that are ruin, for all they shall bring into the English as alleged (illegible), or vessel in which they are (illegible) shall have a match coat for each man (illegible).
4thly. The Indians shall at all times assist the English in all trouble with all Indians as shall ofer, are not to fight against the English or any Indians who fight with them.
5thly. The sd King or sum of his great men shall yearly & during year make their appearance at the Genirall Corte to be holden in July & then & their pay to pair of Skins as a tribute to the English Government.
|Edmund Welly,Signum||Capt. GibbsSignum||Lewis VandermulenSignum||Geo. FisherSignum|
(The original of this document is at the Court House at Edenton, N.C.)