The Choanoac Indians, the largest Algonquian group in North Carolina at the time of English contact, were honored in October by way of a commemorative marker provided by the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources’ Highway Historical Marker Program.
“Explorers Ralph Lane, Thomas Harriot and John White encountered the Choanoac Indian tribe in the village of Choanoac during the 1586 Roanoke Expedition,” says a press release. “With a population of about 2,800 it was the largest tribe of the Algonquian Indian group. By the 1700s only a few families survived.”
Lane reportedly described the Choanoac leader, Menatonan, as “a man of great understanding and reputation.”
According to Carolana.com, less than 20 families remained in 1731 and by 1755, only five individuals were left.
“Although the Choanoc no longer exist as a tribe some descendants have intermarried with or are members of other Native tribes, such as the Meherrin,” said Shoshone P. Elmardi, a Choanoac descendant.
Elmardi, who is also a member of the Pee Dee Indian Nation, was moved by the event, which was held October 21 at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church in Harrellsville, North Carolina, and organized by the Chowan Discovery Group. She drove from New York City to bring her two sons, who are 24 and 10 years old. She remembers her mother telling her stories about her Native American ancestors.
“She kept that fire burning in my soul to never forget them,” Elmardi said. “I will keep that burning in my children and now my new grandson.”
To help her sons keep their culture alive she is teaching them some of the Algonquin language her ancestors once spoke.