Doeg History

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Where did the name "Doeg" come from?

A number of scholars have theorized that the Virginia Doeg were a dispossessed people that migrated into the Potomac River valley, set up residence in abandoned Algonquian villages, and then adapted to an Algonquian way of life, including making Potomac Creek pottery.

Linguist Blair Rudes believes they came from a town in the Appalachian Mountains west of Joara. All three of the following Indian names could have evolved into Doeg/Dogue.

In 1566, Spanish Conquistador Juan Pardo left Parris Island, SC, to explore the interior. About five miles north of Morgantown, NC, he established Fort San Juan, which is the oldest known European settlement in the interior of the United States. The following year, Pardo continued his exploration of Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina. On October 1, 1567, he "arrived with his company at a place which is over the top … of the ridge [of mountains] and which is called TocaE …"

In 1670, Englishman John Lederer set out to explore the Virginia Piedmont and the Blue Ridge Mountains. He was the first European to do so. He was looking for a passage across the mountains. In his writings, he talks about a place at the foot of the Appalachians. "These parts were formerly possessed by the Tacci, alias Dogi; but they are extinct; and the Indians now seated here, are distinguished into several Nations of Mohoc, Nuntaneuch, … &c."

Rudes believes that the (Tacci) ~ (Dogi) were the same people as the residents of TocaE. However, while the Doeg may have come from this place, that tells us nothing about their ethnic affiliation.

One scholar believes he has evidence that "Doeg" was a generic word to describe a people whose "polities had been destroyed." (His book on the subject will be published in 2008.) Another source has heard of a "remnant family" somewhere in central Virginia that calls itself Doeg Shawnee.

An old Scottish family calls itself the "Dogs [Doeg] of Menteith." An ancient French breed of dog is called Dogue de Bordeaux. The expression "Mad as a dog" is reputed to have been used by the Colonists. The reference, of course, was to the Doeg. One Algonquian scholar today pronounces Doeg "dog." Could "Doeg" be a term of contempt applied to these people by the English? If so, would this support the notion that they were dispossessed? Did the English know that they weren't Algonquian and just called them dogs? They did treat them like dogs.

These are all intriguing possibilities. Maybe someday we will have answers.

Meanwhile, there is the further question as to why John Smith called their main Virginia village Tauxenent. Stay tuned.


For more on the Doeg, check out my website.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The Mysterious Doeg Indians

Early in 2005, the webmaster of the Friends of Huntley Meadows Park approached me to write a history of the park for his site. My interest in the Doeg (Dogue) Indians started when I was doing the research for this project.

At the time of historic contact, around 1608, these Indians lived in Fairfax County, Virginia, where the park is located, as well as in Maryland. Their main town in Virginia, called May-umps, was on Mason Neck. Their main town in Maryland, called Moyaons or Moyumpse, was on Stump Neck almost directly across the Potomac from Mason Neck.

The more I delved into the history of these people, the more I realized that no one really knows much about them. The official Fairfax County version is that they migrated from the Maryland Piedmont around A.D. 1300 when Potomac Creek pottery first appeared in the area. But this theory weakens when it becomes clear that they probably were not Algonquian. The prefixes May- and Moy- are Algonquian and are interchangeable. So these people lived in towns that had Algonquian names, but the word "Doeg" is not Algonquian.

Some people contend that Doeg is not the real name of these people, that, in fact, they called themselves "Moyumpse." There is nothing in the record to support this. "Moyumpse" was usually associated with Moyaons. Doeg is what the English called these people. We cannot know what they called themselves because they had no written language. The word May-umps and all of its derivatives are names of places -- peninsulas (called necks or islands in the seventeenth century), rivers or towns. One cannot assume that because a people lived in a town, they were automatically called the same name as the town.

Stay tuned for more on this mystery.

Meanwhile, click here to see my website on the history of the park, which grew too large to fit on the Friends' site.