Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Land Quarrels Between Indians and Colonists in NC... the Dudley/Blount Affair




North Carolina State Archives

Altercation between Christopher Dudley and a Tuscarora Indian
CCR 192 – 13 March 1728

North Carolina.  The Deposition of John Gardiner being of full age & sworn on ye holy Evangelist before us  Gyles Shute & Joshua porter Esqs  Two of his Majesties justices of ye peace of ye precincts of Beafort & hyde, Saith; that Wm Sighaea Blount came up; Mr Dudley askt where he was a goeing and he said to catch Beavers and Mr Dudley said he should not hunt here for it was his land  for; his dogs would seaze his chatle & hogs & ye said Blount made answer that his Doggs followed only Beaver Racoons & Deer and said that he would hunt  and Mr Dudley made answer will you[?] and so catcht up a board & struck ye said Blount and ye said Blount took up a stick to defend ye Blow, & then he advanced up to Mr Dudley & they had a struggle & Mr Dudley pushed him againt a barril  then I hauled ye Indian away, and I told Mr Dudley to let him alone, and Dudley Bid me then to keep of[f] from him; and then ye Indian catcht up ye end of a hoop poll and mad[e] towards him  So I desired ye Indian to stand of[f]  Soe went & left them and further saith not.      John Gardiner.        Jurat Corum Nobis  Gyles Shute  Joshua Porter

North Carolina.  The Deposition of Richard Nixson being of full age & Sworn on ye Holy Evangelist before us – Gyles Shute & Joshua Porter Esqs of his Majtes Justices of ye peace of ye precincts of Beufort & Hyde.  Saith that four or five Indians came up to his house & that Mr Dudley was at his house when they came so that when they came up he asked them where are you a goeing[?] & ye Indians satt down without giving him any answer; then one old Indian named Sighaeha Blount came up after ye rest & when he came up he asked what is ye matter[?] & replyd, English men here allwayes Scold, then Mr Dudley said you shall not hunt here, for this land is all mine, then old Sighacha said, that he would goe hunt & catch Beaver, with that Mr Dudley catcht up a board, and said will you goe[?] & struck him upon ye head, and caused ye Blood to run and then ye aford [aforesaid] Sighacha held up his arm to Defend ye Blow: and recd ye Blow upon his arm and Mr John Gardiner stept in between them and parted them and ye Indian satt down on a block, and said that Mr Dudley had broake his arm and wth that I went to ye Indian and took hold of his arm & felt on it and to ye best of my understanding that there was one broak between ye elbow and wrist.  Two days after I soe ye Indian again and his hand & arm was very much swelld & ye Indian sd to me that ye Bone was broake & nine or ten days after I see ye Indian goeing home and his arm was splintered; and he said he would goe, and tell King Blount; for King Blount he said would go to Capt West; & peace make it and further saith not.    Richd (R) Nixson    Jurat corum Nobis    Gules Shute  Joshua Porter.

North Carolina.  Whereas Complanint is made unto me Christopher Gale Esq Chief Justice of this province that Christopher Dudley of Beaufort precinct in Bath county hath lately violently assaulted and beaten & broke the arm of an Indian man belonging to the Tuscarora Nation whereby many ill conveniencys are to be feared to the tranquility & pace of this Government.  These are Therefore in his majesties name to require & strictly charge you immediately upon receipt hereof to arrest the body of sd Christopher Dudley & him bring before me to answer the said complaint here in fule  not at yr perill as you will answer the contrary  and for so doeing this shall be sufficient warrant  Given under my hand & seale this 13th day of March ano 1728   Gale CJ   To the Provost Marshall of Bath County or to his Deputy or to Mr Edwd Travise   Summon Mr Richard Nickson and John Gardiner  Evidences[i]

The land specified above may have been the 640 acres that Christopher Dudley received April 5, 1720 upon the north side of Pamlico River and bordering White Church Creek.[ii]

This set of documents holds many clues as to the social setting of colonists as they relate to Indians in 1728.  Both depositions are nearly identical, indicating that the events almost certainly transpired in the order as indicated.  John Gardiner’s deposition abruptly ends without mention of the broken arm whereas Richard Nixson’s continues the tale beyond that point.  Gardiner probably did not want any further association in this affair.  Just as likely, he may have been a friend of Dudley’s and did not want to cause him any trouble.  Either way, he remained silent upon this detail.  Nixson’s account, however, reveals the most significant social detail.  Nixson states that he saw Sighacha Blount not once, “Two days after…,” but twice, “nine or ten days after [the last time]…,” indicating that Nixson had the opportunity to see Blount on a regular basis.  This may have been in town [Bath] or on a path to or from town, but it clearly indicates strong familiarity with each other.  This date is fifteen years after the Tuscarora War and the level of familiarity between colonists and Indians may have been rather open by this time, although with perhaps some lingering trepidation. 
            Chief Justice Christopher Gale did not want to upset the friendly relations that existed with the Tuscarora for the past fifteen years.  Therefore, he blamed Dudley for the violent act against Blount.  Clearly, he desired to maintain good relations and still treated the Tuscarora in a neighborly fashion, requiring that they have justice when so called for.
            Still, what does this say about dispossession?  First, Sighacha Blount, nor any of his companions, appeared to want to fight anyone.  For all intents and purposes, the Indians simply wanted to hunt beaver.  Clearly, they did not understand Dudley’s refusal of their right to hunt.  As they saw it, they had not sold him the hunting rights associated with the property (assuming that the property formerly belonged to the Tuscarora Indians).  Regardless of who claimed to own the land, the Creator allowed all men to use it.  Even an Indian might try to prevent another Indian from hunting in a specific area, but that act would have been tantamount to war.  The colonists and Indians, living in such close quarters, clearly had a “pact” or agreement of friendship.  To an Indian, that entitled them to hunt on the properties that all “friends” or family held in common.  Contrary to this belief, Christopher Dudley believed he had purchased full rights to the land and the Indians became trespassers if they came upon it.  Dudley probably knew that since the Tuscaroras were so depleted and weakened by the recent war that they would not retaliate for this minor indiscretion.  If there was an aggressor in this scenario, Dudley qualified.  Whereas, this misunderstanding was mostly unintentional, it may have had serious inter-cultural consequences, both immediate and later.  The Colonial Assembly would debate this Indian presumption of the right to hunt later in 1740.


[i] “Altercation between Christopher Dudley and a Tuscarora Indian” (NC State Archives, CCR 192), John Henry Oden, III, Collection (#1150), Special Collections Department, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
[ii] “File No. 7, Christopher Dudley,” North Carolina State Archives,  Land Office: Land Warrants, Plats of Survey, and Related Records, Secretary of State Record Group, State Records [Microfilm S.108.452, Record: 12.14.31.7 (Folder)], (Raleigh, N.C.: State of North Carolina).

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