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Orange County Historical Museum unveils new series to explore Native American history

The Orange County Historical Museum on Jan. 27, 2021. A four-part series, "The Networks of Early North Carolina History," will be presented by Tom Magnuson after researching some of the earliest commercial transportation networks in Southeast North Carolina for the past thirty years.

The Orange County Historical Museum will be hosting “The Networks of Early North Carolina History” this February, diving into untold parts of the state’s history.

The four-part series is led by Tom Magnuson, CEO of the Trading Path Association. It begins February 4 with “First Contact: Native Americans and Europeans in the Sounds, 1524 - 1650." The series covers topics ranging from the sophistication of Native American trade routes to the unique relationship between the Albemarle Quakers and Native Americans.

The museum site manager, Tanya Day, said she enjoyed putting the series together as a narrative to emphasize the importance of the trading paths and expand people’s understanding of Native American trade.

“I love that this will be sort of correcting a preconceived notion that it was the Europeans to set up trade when, in reality, there had been trade, very organized trade, for hundreds and hundreds of years right through this area,” Day said.

First Contact

The series started as a way to highlight the museum’s permanent artifacts associated with Native Americans. Day said the museum asked Magnuson to lead the event because they became familiar with his name from the Occaneechi exhibit.

Magnuson said the first part of the series will cover the trading routes and patterns of Native Americans in North Carolina, as well as their first contact with the Europeans.

“Contrary to most history books, the Native Americans in the Carolinas, especially in the Sounds, were totally familiar with Europeans for 150 years before the Roanoke experience,” he said.

Magnuson's interest in early Native American trading came from a Native American village site in Hillsborough, where he lives. 

“One day — I don't know what triggered it —  I realized that if you want to find archeology, find the roads because people seldom live very far from the road,” Magnuson said.

Carolina's First Permanent Settlement & Lasting Impacts

The second part of the series, "Carolina's First Permanent Settlement, 1650-1705,” covers what Magnuson said is his major point of interest: the settlement of the Albemarle Quakers in North Carolina and their peaceful companionship with Native Americans.

The third part covers the Quaker’s return to North Carolina, their time laying low to stay off the government’s radar and the impacts they had in preserving the Native American population in North Carolina.

The final presentation will explore the lasting impact of the Albemarle Quakers in the area.

Day said the series appeals to people at any level of knowledge on the subject. She believes the series will deepen the knowledge of people who are already familiar with the topic, and open the eyes of people who are new to it.

“I definitely feel like in the American system, which is skewed towards a white perspective, we are not giving enough appreciation of the fact that there were very intricate and experienced and detailed and highly technological people here that had their own systems,” Day said.

A big goal for the series is to shine a light on the stories untold. Magnuson said he has found the recent takeover of the historical narrative by marginalized groups really inspiring.

“All these people that have been excluded up until the 1980s and '90s are now writing the books,” Magnuson said. “So we're getting a new look at the world, and I find that inspirational.”

Audiences can sign up for the event on the Orange County Historical Museum’s website or Facebook page. It will be held over Zoom due to COVID-19 restrictions, but Day said she hopes later events can be held at the museum, either outside or in small groups inside. 

“If it does not work, we would rather have fewer participants than potentially be a spreading event when it comes down to it,” Day said. “But fingers crossed.”

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