Tragic End to Native-Newcomer Encounter

A watercolor of Pemisapan by John White. Image from East Carolina University Libraries.On June 1, 1586, Algonquian chief Pemisapan was decapitated by Edward Nugent, a member of Ralph Lane’s Roanoke Island colony.

Originally known as Wingina, Pemisapan was a well-respected regional leader in the Algonquian tribe on Roanoke Island and the adjacent mainland in the 1580s. Although he and his people helped the English colonists on Roanoke at first, Pemisapan came to the same conclusion that many native chieftains would in future years: the Europeans intended to take over by any means, including violence.

Realizing the English had superior weapons and numbers, Pemisapan conspired with other tribal leaders to unite and fight together to drive the Ralph Lane colony away from Roanoke.

When an Algonquian hostage revealed Pemisapan’s plot to the English, Lane assembled men to pursue Pemisapan. Lane lured him into an open area, so he and other colonists could shoot at him, and though wounded in the initial volley, Pemisapan ran into the woods.

Nugent and another colonist pursued Pemisapan and returned later carrying his head. Algonquian Indians later killed White’s close advisor George Howe as a spiritual act of revenge for the murder of Pemisapan. Fearing the consequences of their actions, the tribe abandoned their capital town and moved inland.

Visit: Roanoke Island Festival Park in Manteo tells the story of the region’s early Native American settlement and

Other related resources:

For more about North Carolina’s history, arts and culture, visit Cultural Resources online. To receive these updates automatically each day, make sure you subscribe by email using the box on the right, and follow us on FacebookTwitter and Pinterest.