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Susquehannocks

North of the head of the Bay, John Smith encountered a tribe of Indians of unusual size.   Based on what must have been the striking appearance of these people, he had a drawing of one such Indian at the north end of the Bay on his famous map of the Chesapeake Bay. 

susquehannock1Personal Narratives from the Virtual Jamestown Project, 1575-1705 ( John Smith's description of the Susquehannocks ) 

".... But to proceed, 60 of those Sasquesahanocks came to the discoverers with skins, Bowes, Arrowes, Targets, Beads, Swords, and Tobacco pipes for presents. Such great and well proportioned men, are seldome seene, for they seemed like Giants to the English, yea and to the neighbours: yet seemed of an honest and simple disposition, with much adoe restrained from adoring the discoverers as Gods. Those are the most strange people of all those Countries, both in language and attire; for their language it may well beseeme their proportions, sounding from them, as it were a great voice in a vault, or cave, as an Eccho. Their attire is the skinnes of Beares and Woolves, some have Cassacks made of Beares heades and skinnes that a mans necke goes through the skinnes neck, and the eares of the beare fastned to his shoulders behind, the nose and teeth hanging downe his breast, and at the end of the nose hung a Beares Pawe: the halfe sleeves coming to the elbowes were the neckes of Beares and the armes through the mouth, with pawes hanging at their noses. One had the head of a Woolfe hanging in a chaine for a Jewell; his Tobacco pipe 3 quarters of a yard long, prettily carved with a Bird, a Beare, a Deare, or some such devise at the great end, sufficient to beat out the braines of a man: with bowes, and arrowes, and clubs, sutable to their greatnesse and conditions.

       Theses are scarse known to Powhatan. They can make neere 600 able and mighty men, and are pallisadoed in their Townes to defend them from the Massawomekes their mortall enimies. 5 of their chiefe Werowances came aboard the discoverers, and crossed the Bay in their Barge. The picture of the greatest of them is signified in the Mappe. The calfe of whose le[g] was 3 quarters of a yard about: and all the rest of his limbes so answerable to that proportion, that he seemed the godliest man that ever we beheld. His haire, the one side was long, the other shore close with a ridge over his crown like a cocks combe. His arrowes were five quarters long, headed with flints or splinters of stones, in forme like a heart, an inch broad, and an inch and a halfe or more long. These hee wore in a woolves skinne at his backe for his quiver, his bow in the one hand and his clubbe in the other, as is described..... "

This description would make these people well over 6 feet tall, very rare in this time, the archeological evidence for the region as a whole being 5 feet 7" as an average height for men, only slightly taller than the English (Roundtree et al, John Smith's Chesapeake Voyages, pg 29).   However, this description was probably NOT a complete exaggeration by Smith.  The unusual size of these people is attested by Thomas Campanius Holm, a Swede missionary who published a small Susquehanna vocabulary .. Writing from this author ( and his grandson ) can be found on the Internet.    Smile 

The Susquehanocks were Iroquian speakers and were hardly known to Powhatan.  Despite Smith's favorable description of these people, they did not do well in future generations.  There is considerable material on the Internet regarding their history and demise. 

         Wikipedia reference                                   Native American reference (Broken Claw)

         

 



 
 
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