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Conflicts in North Carolina Colonial History: Tuscarora War (Lesson 1)

Together the class will examine primary source documents and secondary sources to answer the questions who, what, when, where and why about the Tuscarora War.

(There is a second lesson in which the students examine documents and secondary sources related to the Culpepper's Rebellion with the expectation that they complete the same activity independently.)

Grade Level 4th grade

Learning outcomes

Students will:

Teacher Planning

45 minutes



Ask the students if they have ever witnessed a conflict. (It would be best if the majority of children had seen the same incident, or as a teacher you could have a colleague pretend to come in and argue.) Have the students think about who was involved in the conflict, what the conflict was about, why it occurred, where it happened and when. Explain that these are important questions to investigate when exploring a conflict.

Today we are going to explore a colonial conflict between a Native American tribe and the colonists. We are going to use different sources to answer who, what, when, where and why. Some of the best sources to explore events are primary sources because they were written by people actually engaged in the event. The North Carolina Colonial records are a compilation of documents detailing the earliest inhabitants of North Carolina. Secondary sources can also help fill in missing information.

On chart paper write who, what, when, where, and why providing space to record answers for each. You may also want your students to record on their own paper. Using an overhead or a projector, display one of the documents on the screen. Together with the students read through the document. While reading, help the student paraphrase what the document is saying. Also remind them that words were spelled differently and not to get stumped by the unusual spelling. While reading, remind the students of the questions they are trying to answer. If the document provides an answer to a certain question record it on the chart paper. Continue to read through each of the primary documents. If after using the three documents there are still unanswered questions refer to the secondary sources. In North Carolina the fourth grade social studies textbook has a few paragraphs about the Tuscarora War.

This lesson is designed as a whole class activity to help students learn to find important information within primary sources. The second lesson will provide for assessment because the students are expected to take what they learned today and apply it to the second lesson. The extension activity could be used as an assessment of today's lesson.

Supplemental Information

There are several graphic organizer that include who, what, when, where and why which could be integrated into this lesson.

The students could practice reading the newspaper having them look for who, what, when, where and why in the different articles.

Extension activity
The students could write a newspaper article about the Tuscarora War using their notes recorded today.

NC curriculum alignment
4th grade Social Studies

3.01 Assess changes in ways of living over time and determine whether the changes are primarily political, economic, or social.

3.02 Identify people, symbols, events, and documents associated with North Carolina's history.

3.05 Describe the political and social history of colonial North Carolina and analyze its influence on the state today.

4.05 Identify and assess the role of prominent persons in North Carolina, past and present.


This is an excerpt from a document. An excerpt is provided because the entire document is very explicit in regards to the ways the colonists were killed at the hands of the Tuscarora.

The entire document can be found at:

In September, 1711, occurred a terrible massacre of the colonists on the Neuse and Pamplico by the Indians, the Tuscaroras being the chief instigators thereof, that, with the Indian war that followed, blighted the colony for years, and would have destroyed it entirely but for the prompt and generous action of South Carolina in coming to its assistance. Governor Spotswood of Virginia made a very eloquent speech to his Legislature, appealing to its members by all the considerations of humanity, kinship, neighborhood and self-interest for help for their brethren in Albemarle, and succeeded in getting an appropriation of £1,000 in their behalf; but the appropriation was not expended, the security required by Governor Spotswood for repayment being such as the North Carolina authorities said they could not give. The security required by Governor Spotswood was a mortgage upon the territory north of the Roanoke, that is to say, the inhabited part of the territory, then in dispute between the two colonies. South Carolina voted £4,000 and sent troops at once, without asking for a mortgage, or other security for repayment.

What was the character of the previous intercourse between the colonists and the Indians does not fully appear, though it was doubtless much like that between other colonists and Indians. We know that there was an Indian invasion in Albemarle in the early fall of 1666 of sufficient magnitude to prevent the transmission of the act of Assembly of that year for the cessation of tobacco-planting to Maryland by the last of September, the time agreed upon for it to be there, and from the common use of the term "enemy Indians," it would seem that hostilities with the Indians were not infrequent.

But even if there had been an unbroken peace hitherto, the massacre of 1711 was horrible enough to make the Indian annals of Albemarle of the bloodiest and cruelest kind. One hundred and thirty people were massacred in the space of two hours.