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This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

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Bear River Indians

by Ruth Y. Wetmore, 2006

"There sittting at meate." 1907. Patterned after John White; depicts two Native Americans sitting & eating around large circullar platter;  in wood frame with glazing. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History, assess #: 1914.235.2 Bear River Indians, an Algonquian tribe also known as the Bay River Indians, lived between the Pamlico and Neuse Rivers in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. They were neighbors of the Pamlico, and there is some evidence they were related to the Machapunga Indians. Both the Bear River and Pamlico Indians may have been descendants of the Indians that the Raleigh colonists of 1585-86 found living in the area. In 1709 the Bear River Indians occupied a single town, Raudauquaquank, which contained 50 warriors.

The colonists complained of depredations and threats from this tribe, which apparently helped instigate the massacre that began the Tuscarora War (1711-13). During that uprising, colonial leaders enslaved a number of the tribe's women and children, and the Bear River chief was tortured to death by Indian allies of the colonists. At the end of the war, the Tuscarora turned on their former allies, promising in the peace treaty to destroy them, sparing no males more than 14 years old.


F. Roy Johnson, The Tuscaroras (2 vols., 1968).

Ruth Y. Wetmore, First on the Land: The North Carolina Indians (1975).

Image Credit:

"There sittting at meate." 1907. Patterned after John White; depicts two Native Americans sitting & eating around large circullar platter;  in wood frame with glazing. Image courtesy of the North Carolina Museum of History, assess #: 1914.235.2


Origin - location: 



what type of crafts and games do they play/do? and what about there spiritual beliefs?



Thank you for  your comment. Unfortunately, There is not much known about this tribe. John Lawson wrote about them. All that is known about them is in the article. 

Erin Bradford, Government and Heritage Library


My family lived in north Harlow newborn nc and they live by the water and I'm trying to find out what Native American Indian tribe is from that area that I belong to


Hi, Regina.

Thank you for your interesting question. Could this be the tribe you are looking for?

Mike Millner, NC Government and Heritage Library


At North Carolina Department of Archives and History, in their vault I am told, there is a letter from one William Powell to the "governor" of the colony of North Carolina, dated 1704 (if I correctly recall), complaining about the "Bare River Indians" under King Lowther who "came on Thursday last" and took "many things that we miss." Much quoted in several versions, this is a remarkable letter for numerous reasons: 1) identifying the Bear or Bay river Algonquian speakers, 2) establishing the early Powell family at the mouth of the Neuse River, and 3) demonstrating the bitterness between the native peoples and the English settlers in advance of the Tuscarora Wars that would follow a decade later. King Lowther's salty language is particularly notable for he had learned to cuss like a Marine, and he had deep issues to settle. The letter speaks of a John Lawton, and it is tempting to think this might be a reference to John Lawson. It also mentions the Eldridges, now Aldridges. Ransom McBride transcribed the letter for North Carolina Genealogical Society Journal in the 1970s, and there have been other published transcriptions.


More information please?


What specific information are you looking for? We can see if we have a resource that might have something about it at the NC Government & Heritage Library. 


Michelle Underhill, NC Government & Heritage Library


Thank you for the help on my school work

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