Friday, November 13, 2015

Writing "Alsoomse and Wanchese" -- Characters Real and Imagined
As I stated in my last post, most of the Algonquian characters in the novel that I am writing are fictitious.  This is because historians know very few of the names of the natives with whom Englishmen interacted at or near Roanoke Island in the 1580s.  Most of the names actually reported by explorers or colonizers come from one source: Ralph Lane, governor the English colony on Roanoke Island from August 1585 to June 1586, when he and his colony left for England.  Lane almost single-handedly destroyed the tentative friendship that Captains Arthur Barlowe and Philip Amadas had developed with the local natives during their brief stay on the Outer Banks in 1584.  Delusional, paranoid, Lane came to believe that a great alliance of coastal Algonquian tribes was being organized to exterminate his colony.  He named at least 14 natives in his report to Walter Raleigh following his return to England.  I make use of all of these names.
First and foremost was Wingina, the chief weroance of the villages of Roanoke, Dasemunkepeuc, Croatoan, and, probably, Pomeiooc, Aquascogooc, and Secotan.  (See the map provided by this link:  It was Wingina with whom Lane contested to obtain food during the winter and spring of his tenure as governor.  It was Wingina who, he believed, was organizing an alliance to destroy him.
Lane mentioned two leaders of other confederations of villages: Okisko of the Weapemeoc and Menatonon of the Choanoac.  When Lane took an exploratory party to Menatonon’s primary village, Choanoac, in April 1586, he confronted Menatonon to obtain information about the location of valuable mineral deposits.  He took Menatonon’s young son, Skiko, back to Roanoke as a hostage.  Skiko had been captured by the fierce, Iroquois-speaking Mangoaks west and southwest of Choanoac but had escaped.   
Arthur Barlowe, a co-leader of the first expedition to Roanoke (1584), mentioned information told to him about Piemacum, weroance (chief) presumably of the village of Pomeiooc.  Some historians believe that Piemacun was the leader of the non-Algonquian speaking Pomouik, which through trickery had murdered many braves of Secotan, a village that may have been under Wingina’s authority.  (See my October 16, 2015, post: “Two Major Events”)  Historians do agree that Wingina and Piemacum had a hostile relationship. 
Lane also indentified individual Algonquians who were related to or were important subordinates of Wingina.  There was Granganimeo, Wingina’s brother and weroance of Roanoke.  There was the two brothers’ father, Ensenore, Dasemunkepeuc half-priest and influencial advisor.  Lane also listed principal subordinates.  Tetapano, Eracano, and Cossine guided Lane’s party (and probably acted as Wingina’s spies) to Choanoac in April 1586.  We are told that Eracano was married to Wingina’s sister.  She was not identified.  Osacan was a brave who attempted to rescue Kisko (Menatonon’s son) from Lane’s fort prior to Lane’s leave-taking to England.  Lane wrote that Tanaquincy and Andacon were going to lead a party of twenty braves across Pamlico Sound from Dasemunkepeuc to “attack Lane’s house at night, set its reed thatch on fire, and kill Lane as he ran from the burning building.  Other parties would do the same for Thomas Harriot’s house, and for the remaining individual houses in the ‘town’ (the only case where we hear the word used).  At the same time larger parties, presumably, would attack and overwhelm the guards at the defensive works of the settlement” (Quinn 126).  Historian Michael Leroy Oberg identifies Taraquine and Andacon as the two leaders that Lane believed would lead the assault on his house.  He places Tanaquincy with Osacan and Wanchese as principal men advising Wingina to take hostile action. 
All of these identified Indians appear in my novel.
When Arthur Barlowe returned to England in the summer of 1584, he brought back with him two natives: Manteo and Wanchese.  Manteo was the son of Croatoan’s weroansqua (female chief).  Her name was never reported.  All that historians know about Wanchese prior to Barlowe’s and Philip Amadas’s appearance in 1584 was that he was from Roanoke.  These two individuals were to be taught English so that they could be interpreters when Lane’s men built a fort and settlement at Roanoke in 1585.  Wingina’s choice of them had to have been self-serving.  Manteo was probably very intelligent.  Indeed, he took to English culture readily and upon his return to America behaved more like an Englishman than an Algonquian.  He was Ralph Lane’s interpreter, participated in Lane’s destructive acts, and became Governor John White’s closest native ally in 1587 when White’s colonists were especially fearful of an Algonquian attack led by Wanchese.  Wingina probably chose Wanchese to go to London because Wanchese must have been a highly regarded warrior.  A weroance’s principal men were almost always experienced, esteemed hunters and warriors.  Wingina would have wanted such a man to learn everything he could about England’s far superior weaponry.  Wingina was in particular need of such information given the apparent fact that his authority was being challenged within his own sphere of influence.  (In my novel I have a rebellion beginning to occur in 1583 led by Piemacum of Pomeiooc)  Historians tell us that while Manteo flourished during his instruction in London Wanchese was resistant and sullen.  When the two natives were returned to the Carolina coast in 1585, Manteo stayed with the English and worked for Lane; but Wanchese immediately reported to Wingina and disassociated himself from the English.  During his year’s tenure as governor Lane suspected repeatedly Wanchese’s desire to see the colony and Lane destroyed.
I am certain that Manteo and Wanchese never liked each other.  I indicate this in an early scene of my novel.  Both men are attending a council meeting called by Wingina during a corn festival at Dasemunkepeuc.
Inside his long house Wingina was conducting an informal council.  Attending were his brother, Granganimeo; his brother-in-law, Eracano; his father, Ensenore; three of his best warriors, Tetepano, Andacon, and Mingan [a fictitious character]; Manteo, the son of Croatoan’s weroansqua; Granganimeo’s closest friend, Tanaquincy; and Wanchese. Wingina and Granganimeo were smoking long-stemmed clay pipes. Flashes of the great fire outside danced on the matted reed walls that provided its occupants ventilation. Soon to be twenty summers, Wanchese recognized he was the youngest of the men present. Most had to have seen twenty-five or twenty-six summers, Wingina, Granganimeo, and Eracano at least thirty, and Ensenore more than fifty. He was gratified that he had been included, but he was uncertain of its meaning. He was convinced there was a specific purpose. What that would be he would probably be told after the council. His conduct would be that of respectful listener and, if asked to speak, of a deferential fact-giver. He thought it highly unlikely that these mature men would solicit his opinion.
“With the growing season ended, we need to address our problem with Piemacum.” Withdrawing his pipe stem from his mouth, Wingina glanced at his brother, then at Andacon, his fiercest warrior.
Eracano nodded. He repositioned himself on the long bench he shared with his two sons and son-in-law.
Granganimeo spoke. “Piemacum is your age, Andacon. Too ambitious for his loin skin. He wants power more than he wants wives.”
“He plans to take away our trade,” Andacon said.
Wingina nodded.
“I think he wants an alliance with the Pomouik,” Tanaquincy volunteered.
“We don’t know if that is true.” Wingina raised his pipe. He examined it at chin level. “But we should assume so.”
Manteo half-raised his right hand. The top portion of the large turkey feather embedded in the groove above his forehead bobbed. “I know that Piemacum wants a friendship with the Neusiok. It follows that he needs an alliance with the Pomouik.”
Wanchese watched Manteo out of the right corners of his eyes.  Manteo was seated three braves to his right on the bench opposite that of the senior tribesmen. He had had little acquaintance with this rather tall, self-important behaving Croatoan. What he had seen of Manteo he hadn’t liked. Interjecting himself into this discussion with information that Wingina probably knew was an attempt to gain stature. It contributed nothing to solving Wingina’s problem.
Wanchese’s weroance nodded. His pearl earrings swung. “How do you know that?”
“He has spoken to my mother.”
“Then I will need to speak to her.” He frowned, folded his arms slowly across his bare chest. “She should have told me.”
“He visited her four sleeps ago. I came here especially to tell you.”
“Deliver to her, then, my gratitude.”
Manteo’s upper torso straightened; he appeared to grow. Resentment stirred in Wanchese’s throat.
I have provided specific character traits to all of these real people.  I have given Wingina and Granganimeo wives and children that I have been obliged to name and assign age.  I have given Ensenore a deceased brother that I have named Wematin.  Wingina has succeeded Wematin as the chief weroance (mamanatowick) of the six coastal villages I have mentioned above.
I have provided Wanchese a deceased father and mother, a deceased brother, a deceased sister, and a living sister, Alsoomse.  I have provided a family history.  I have given Wanchese and Alsoomse two cousins – Nootau and Sokanon – brother and sister.  Both are rather important secondary characters.  I have also provided Wanchese and Alsoomse friends and neighbors and several personal enemies.
I chose the names of my fictitious characters from a list of names for Algonquian children.  (  An Algonquian’s name reflected something about the person’s appearance or trait of character.  Algonquians could change their names.  For instance, Wingina changed his name to Pemisapan when he withdrew his Roanoke villagers to Dasemunkepeuc after his relationship with Governor Lane had become especially hostile.   
            Alsoomse means “independent,”
            Kitchi (Alsoomse and Wanchese’s deceased brother) means “brave,”
            Kimi (Alsoomse and Wanchese’s deceased sister) means ‘secret.”
            Matunaagd (Alsoomse and Wanchese’s dead father) means “He who fights.”
            Nadie (Alsoomse and Wanchese’s deceased mother) means “wise.”
It became necessary for me to create a chart of the names of these characters with ages indicated and relationships defined to enable me to narrate my story. 
Here is much of what I decided about my two protagonists before I began writing.
Alsoomse is an independent-minded, creative young woman of seventeen years who feels constrained by the limitations placed on her by her restrictive culture and by the fact that she is female.  She speaks her mind.  She defends those who are abused and vulnerable.  She craves a male relationship.  She feels especially the loss of her mother, who died when Alsoomse was fifteen.
Wanchese is a quick-tempered, impulsive-acting young warrior of twenty.  He suffers both the loss of his father, when he was fifteen, and the death of his brother Kitchi, a year after the father’s death.  Wanchese feels partially responsible for Kitchi’s accidental death.  Wanchese is a skilled hunter and warrior, he is ambitious, and he is loyal (yet privately critical) to his chief weroance (Wingina).   He respects courtesy and generosity and disdains pretension and bullying.  Because of his sister’s independent behavior, he is often at odds with her; but they share important character traits.
Next month I will be more specific about Alsoomse’s and Wanchese’s activities and conflicts and the plot direction that the novel so far has taken.
Work cited:
Quinn, David Beers.  Set Fair for Roanoke: Voyages and Colonies, 1584-1606.  Chapel Hill, The University of North Carolina Press, 1985.  Print.