The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand: Roanoke's Forgotten Indians

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Roanoke is part of the lore of early America, the colony that disappeared. Many Americans know of Sir Walter Ralegh's ill-fated expedition, but few know about the Algonquian peoples who were the island's inhabitants. The Head in Edward Nugent's Hand examines Ralegh's plan to create an English empire in the New World but also the attempts of native peoples to make sense of the newcomers who threatened to transform their world in frightening ways.

Beginning his narrative well before Ralegh's arrival, Michael Leroy Oberg looks closely at the Indians who first encountered the colonists. The English intruded into a well-established Native American world at Roanoke, led by Wingina, the weroance, or leader, of the Algonquian peoples on the island. Oberg also pays close attention to how the weroance and his people understood the arrival of the English: we watch as Wingina's brother first boards Ralegh's ship, and we listen in as Wingina receives the report of its arrival. Driving the narrative is the leader's ultimate fate: Wingina is decapitated by one of Ralegh's men in the summer of 1586.

When the story of Roanoke is recast in an effort to understand how and why an Algonquian weroance was murdered, and with what consequences, we arrive at a more nuanced and sophisticated understanding of what happened during this, the dawn of English settlement in America.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal

Through an interesting combination of historical documentation, ethnography, and fiction, Oberg (history, SUNY at Geneseo; Dominion and Civility: English Imperialism and Native America, 1585-1685) examines how an Algonquian werowance (leader) named Wininga came to be decapitated by an Englishman at Roanoke in 1586. The story begins much earlier, which allows the author to show from the Algonquian perspective how repeated attempts to engage the English civilly were often met with brutal violence. Eventually, the desperate native peoples, whose populations were also being ravaged by European diseases, were forced to respond in kind for their own self-preservation. While historians generally fixate on Roanoke as the "lost colony," the author demonstrates that the Algonquian peoples that encountered the English at that locale also saw their population dwindle to the brink of extinction. Recommended for academic libraries, which should also consider acquiring a current reprint of Thomas Hariot's 16th-century A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginiaand Kim Sloane's A New World: England's First View of America, which shows 16th-century Roanoke Island illustrations in the British Museum's collections.
—John Burch

From the Publisher
"Michael Oberg sheds new light on one of the great stories in early American history. . . . He has tried to reconstruct the history of Roanoke not only from the view of colonists, who left all of the written records, but also from the view of the Native peoples of the region. The narrative is briskly paced and the research is thorough."—Peter C. Mancall, author of Hakluyt's Promise: An Elizabethan's Obsession for an English America

"[Oberg's] short, extremely readable work weaves together analyses of developments, causes, and effects with detailed views of the Native and English communities, cultures, leading personalities, and significant events, including their encounters along the Carolina coast. Oberg ends, fittingly and impressively, by tracing the surviving coastal Carolina Indian communities from the seventeenth into the twentieth century. This is an excellent book for U.S. history survey classes. . . . Highly recommended."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780812240313
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/30/2007
  • Series: Early American Studies Series
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 224
  • Product dimensions: 6.20 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Michael Leroy Oberg is Professor of History at the State University of New York, College at Geneseo.

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Table of Contents

Chapter One: Ossomocomuck
Chapter Two: Granganimeo
Chapter Three: Wingina
Chapter Four: A Killing, and Its Consequences
Chapter Five: Vengeance
Chapter Six: Lost Colonists, Lost Indians


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