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Meherrins refer to ourselves as Kauwets'a:ka today, and historically.

Kauwets'a:ka (pronounced Gauwentch-AAga)


The above photo shows the site of the primary Meherrin village near present-day Emporia Virginia, was called “Cowonchahawkon” and “Cowinchehoccauk,” by the colonists but was in fact "Kauwets'a:ka."  The English often mispronounced or misspelled Iroquois words.

References to our name:

o  Cowinchahawkon, the Meherrin village located near Emporia Virginia, was pronounced Kauwets'a:ka, or Akawęč?á:ka:? which are used interchangeably as spellings.  (Rudes,  Blair A. Cowinchahawkon/ Akawęč?á:ka:?: The Meherrin in the Nineteenth Century.  Algonquin and Iroquoian Linguistics. 6 (3) PAGES 32-34.  London, Ontario). 

o   Kauwetsaka/ Kauwetseka- a term that has been used interchangeably with Akawenchaka (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . University of Michigan. 1910. p 33). 

o   Akawenc'aì:ka'- Tuscarora word for the Meherrin Tribe (Rudes,  Blair A. Tuscarora-English, English-Tuscarora. 1999. pages 36, and 682).

o "Kauwetsaka- Cusick (1825) quoted by Macauley, N. Y., n, 178, 1829 (mentioned as a settlement in N.C.). "Kauwetseka" Cusick, Sketches Six Nations, 34, 1828.”  (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . University of Michigan. 1910. p 33).

o  "The six family (of Iroquois) made resident near the mouth of Neuse river, in North Carolina, and became three tribes, the Kautanohakau, Kauwetseka, and Tuscarora, and united into a league and were at war with the Nanticokes, and totally on the sea shores.”  (Cusick, David. Sketches of the Ancient History of the Six Nations. 1828.  page 43) 

o  “Akawenchaka (Onondaga: A-ka-we"ch-ha-ka). A small band that formerly lived in North Carolina, now numbering about 20 individuals, incorporated with the Tuscarora in New York. They are not regarded as true Tuscarora. Hewitt, Onondaga MS., B. A. E., 1888.  (Hodge, Frederick Webb. Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . University of Michigan . 1910. p 33)   * note: Meherrins were taken into the Iroquois Confederacy and a number of Meherrin people migrated to live among them in New York and Canada (see History page, 1802).

o  In 1711 Henry Briggs, who was the official interpreter to the Meherrins, testified that one of the Meherrin village's was called “Cowinchehoccauk,”  which was a / mispelling of Kauwets'a:ka

The meaning of Kauwets'a:ka:

o   Having a “k” at the beginning of a word often gives it animate meaning.

o   “Awe” means "water" in Skaru:re, the Meherrin, Tuscarora and Nottoway language.

o   “Aka” is a “locative suffix” in most Iroquois languages. At the end of a word, it denotes “people” or “people of a place.”

Therefore, Kauwets'a:ka means “People of the Water.” 

The Tuscarora/Meherrin word for mud is “u-gi-squa”  or  “u-na-re-we” these, and other terms of similar meaning do not seem to fit with the term “Muddy Water People” as some have claimed. 

There is no source which states that Kauwets'a:ka, or any disambiguation contains the word for "Muddy."  Additionally, there is a good possibility that the "Muddy Water" misnomer was due to confusion with a different Iroquois nation. The Conestoga/ Susquehanna were called Sasquesahanough by the Algonquians, and later Susquehannock by the English. The Algonquin term Sasquesahanough in fact means “People of the Muddy River.” There may have been confusion with the application of this term.  (Kent, Barry C. Susquehanna's Indians. Harrisburg: The Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission, 1984.)

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