Friday, October 16, 2015

Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Two Major Events
Unlike my Revolutionary War novel Crossing the River, most of the events that occur in Alsoomse and Wanchese are fictitious because I have had very little historical information to utilize.  What historians know about events in the lives of North Carolina coastal Algonquians prior to 1584 (the year that my novel concludes) comes from a single source, Captain Arthur Barlowe, who with Captain Philip Amadas was sent to America in 1584 to find a suitable location to establish a colony.  In his report to his employer Walter Raleigh, Barlowe made sketchy references to two important events that occurred prior to his and Amadas’s arrival: the first having occurred several years earlier and the second a month or two earlier.  These are major events in my novel.
As you read this post, you will need to refer to a map.  Click this link and scroll downward.
The 1584 expedition to Roanoke took back to England two natives: Manteo and Wanchese.  They were taught English at Walter Raleigh’s residence in London and returned to Roanoke in 1585 to act as interpreters.  During their education in London they told their tutor, Thomas Harriot, about an attack committed apparently against the village of Secotan by the Pomouik Indians.  In his report Arthur Barlowe provided this information. 
“Adjoyning to this countrey aforesaid called Secotan begginneth a countrey called Pomovik, belonging to another king whom they call Piamacum, and this king is in league with the next king adjoyning towards the setting of the Sunne, and the countrey Newsiok, situate upon a goodly river called Neus: these kings have mortall warre with Wingina king of Wingandacoa: but about two yeeres past there was a peace madde betweene the King Piemacum, and the Lord of Secotan, as these men which we have brought with us to England, have given us to understand: but there remaineth a mortall malice in the Secotanes, for many injuries and slaughters done upon them by this Piemacum. They invited divers men, and thirtie women of the best of his countrey to their towne to a feast: and when they were altogether merry, & praying before their Idol, (which is nothing els but a meer illusion of the devil) the captaine or Lord of the town came suddenly upon them, and slewe them every one, reserving the women and children: and these two have often times since perswaded us to surprize Piemacum his towne, having promised and assured us, that there will be found in it great store of commodities. But whether their perswasion be to the ende they may be revenged of their enemies, or for the love of they beare to us, we leave that to the tryall hereafter” (Virtual 1).
Historians interpret differently Barlowe’s account of what either he or Harriot had been told.
Historian David Beers Quinn wrote: “Toward the southern limits of Pamlico Sound Indian groups were at war with each other, the “Pomouik” and the Secotan, on the Neuse and Pamlico Rivers, respectively; they also were alleged to be hostile to Wingina.  Wingina may have attempted to assert some degree of hegemony over the Secotan, though this is conjecture, but they [reference to the second major event?] had recently repelled him.  His influence seems to have extended at least as far south as Pomeioc on Wyesocking Bay and perhaps also comprised the Hatarask [Croatoan] Indians from which Manteo came (Quinn 44).
About the extent of Wingina’s control historian Lee Miller wrote: “The King’s name, he [Barlowe] said, was Wingina and the country called Wingandacoa.  … Later, he tells us that Secotan (Secota) was the westernmost town of Wingandacoa and that a country called Ponouike (Pomouik) adjoined it to the west, whose King maintained ‘mortal war with Wingina, King of Wingandacoa.’  … On John White’s map the entire area now known as the Albemarle Peninsula … is labeled ‘Secotan,’ implying that White and Hariot understood Wingina’s country to encompass the area including, at the very least, the towns of Secota, Aquascogoc, Pomeioc, Dasamonquepeuc, and Roanoke” (Miller 265-266).
About the attack, Miller has a different slant.  “”Barlowe tells a story that he heard from Manteo or Wanchese while in England.  The Secotan, he said, once revenged themselves upon the Pamlico by inviting thirty of their women and divers men to Secota for a feast, and slew them every one, reserving the women and children.  That was how wars were conducted; women and children survived” (Miller 234-235).
Historian Michael Leroy Oberg believes that the Pomouik Indians were actually the people of Pomeiooc.  “Indians from Secotan, some time before the English arrived, had traveled to Pomeiooc on [weroance] Piecacum’s invitation for a feast to celebrate a peace agreement between the two towns.  When the Secotans arrived, and ‘were altogether merrie, and praying before their Idoll,’ Piemacum and his warriors ‘came suddenly upon them, and slew them every one, reserving the women and children,’ who probably became either slaves or adoptees.  This story, recorded ambiguously in Barlowe’s account and repeated with no more clarity by John Smith nearly half a century later, raises difficult questions about the relationship between Secotan and Pomeiooc, and of both with Wingina and his people at Dasemunkepeuc and on Roanoke Island” (Oberg 12, 14).
Provided such disagreement among historians, I was forced to decide for myself what might have happened.
I date the year of the Pomouik attack to be 1579.  Wingina’s dominion of “Wingandacoa” – which the English later learned meant “Welcome, friend” – includes the villages Roanoke, Dasemunkapeuc, Croatoan, Pomeiooc, Aquascogoc, Cotan, and Secotan.  Wingina’s father in 1579 is the mamanatowick (chief ruler) of the territory.  He is killed during the Pomouik attack and Wingina succeeds him.  By 1583 the southern territory of Wingina’s rule is beginning to break away.  This gradual rejection of Wingina’s authority is lead by the weroance of Pomeiooc, an aggressive upstart named Piemacum.
Here are two excerpts from the first chapter of “Alsoomse and Wanchese” that illustrate how I am utilizing this first event.
Many summers ago his [Wanchese’s] father Matunaagd, a young brave, had traveled to Secotan with his weroance Wematin and seven high-born, lusty braves to attend the village’s first-harvest corn festival. The purpose of the visit was to impress the villagers of Wematin’s power. Secotan and Aquascogooc had recently accepted Wematin as their chief protector. Secotan lay across the great river from its fierce enemy, the Pomouik. It was important to Wematin that he emphasize his commitment and display his strength. Matunaagd had seen a lithe, graceful beauty dance about a ceremonial post.  He had spoken to her during the subsequent festival. She was demure, but her eyes were welcoming.  He had remained at Secotan for four moons, she had agreed to be his squaw, and he had moved into her parents’ long house.
Two moons later Wematin had sent his sons Wingina and Granganimeo to Secotan to retrieve him.  At Dasemunkepeuc Nadie had given birth first to Wanchese -- twenty summers ago -- then Alsoomse, then Kitchi, and then Kimi. The youngest, Kimi, had died of a fever nine summers ago after four turning-of- the-leaves. Matunaagd, and Wematin, and Nadie’s brothers-in-law Rowtag and Samoset had been slain by the Pomouik four summers ago eight sleeps after Secotan had celebrated its final corn harvest. Nadie, Wanchese, Alsoomse, and Kitchi and Nadie’s sister Sooleawa and her son and daughter had afterward moved to Roanoke.
And, later …
Wematin had taken Kiwasa’s statue with him to Panauuaioc, after his brother Ensenore and the priests had bestowed ceremonial offerings to Kiwasa and sprinkled sacred tobacco on the great river’s waters.  The priests had persuaded Wematin that the Pomouik weroance was sincere in his invitation to celebrate peace!  Wematin had had his doubts, Wanchese had long ago concluded. Wematin had left behind at Secotan his grown sons, Wingina and Granganimeo, and his son-in-law Eracano.  But he had taken Matunaagd and Rowtag and Askook’s father Samoset, all, Wanchese now surmised, having been similarly skeptical, all having chosen to leave behind their wives and children.
Hours later, the women and children that had attended the great feast had paddled back across the river. Their husbands and fathers had been slain. While they had been praying to their idol, Pomouik braves, hidden in the woods, had fallen upon them. The wicked god Kiwasa had chosen to favor Wematin’s enemy.
Four summers had passed. Wingina had not retaliated.
It was not enough to send emissaries such as he [Wanchese] and his elders to the Weapemeoc, the Chowanoc, and the Moratuc to maintain peaceful trade relations and to pretend that the villages across the waters from Croatoan were not slipping away from his grasp.  It was not the Real People’s way to attack their enemy, with large numbers. Victory was achieved in small measure by subterfuge, by ambush. Because of the foolishness of Wematin’s priests the Pomouiks’ victory had been large! With Wingina’s enemy expecting retaliation, such a victory could not be replicated. Revenge, however, was essential. Wanchese believed that Wingina should take ten braves (Wanchese included) across the river above Panauuaioc during a moonless night and wait in cattails for the sun’s first light. Pomouik hunters seeking deer taking water would appear. But Wingina had attempted nothing. Braves, including Wanchese, were questioning his leadership.
So also were the weroances of Aquascogooc and especially Pomeiooc and the people who had remained at Secotan. Every villager accorded privileges to his leader in exchange for his protection. Piemacum, the weroance of Pomeiooc, had become defiant. Wingina had received messages from allies in Secotan that Piemacum had come to their village vowing to protect them. During the past two moons, Pomeiooc braves had encroached on Dasemunkepeuc hunting grounds.  Tetepano, Cossine, and Andacan had been driven away by a volley of arrows.
The second event occurred one or two months prior to Captains Amadas and Barlowe’s arrival in 1584. 
Lee Miller, interpreting Barlowe, wrote: “Wingina had been wounded in a fight ‘with the King of the next country’ and was recovering ‘at the chief town of the country,’ which was ‘six day’s journey off.’ Or roughly sixty miles from Barlowe’s landing at Wococon [on the Outer Banks].  Later, he [Barlowe] tells us that Secotan (Secota) was the westernmost town of Wingandacoa and that a country called Pomouike (Pomouik) adjoined it to the west, whose King maintained ‘mortal war with Wingina, King of Wingandacoa.’  We might conclude, therefore, that Wingina was wounded by the Pomouik and was recovering at his own capital of Secota” (Miller 266). 
Michael Oberg addressed this event somewhat differently.  Wingina was in Dasemunkepeuc, not Secota, when Captains Amadas and Barlowe arrived.   “He had been wounded in battle, sometime before the English arrived, ‘shotte in two places through the bodeye, and once clean thorough the thigh’” (Oberg 31).
I have accepted Lee Miller’s interpretation, but I will have Wingina recovering in Dasemunkepeuc when the Englishmen appear.  I have not yet narrated this event.  Wanchese will be directly involved.
I will adhere to all events that occurred involving English contact with the Roanoke natives in 1584.  My story will end with Manteo and Wanchese’s leave-taking for England.  If I have sufficient time and energy, I will consider writing a follow-up novel.
Next month’s post will be about my characters (including who were real people and who were not) and, especially, what drives my two protagonists.    
Works Cited:
Miller, Lee.  Roanoke: Solving the Mystery of the Lost Colony.  New York, Arcade Publishing, 2000.  Print.
Oberg, Michael Leroy.  The Head in Edward Nugent’s Hand.  Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008.  Print.
Quinn, David Beers.  Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606.  Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.  Print