"Before the first European explorers came, North Carolina was full of many Native American nations belonging to at least three language families. Little has been written about a world that existed longer than the post-contact period in which we are now living.
A biologist and environmental scientist, Dr. Jennifer Frick Ruppert’s The Legend of Skyco greatly expands part of that forgotten world. It is based on the writings of explorers, the contemporary watercolors of John White, folklore and Frick-Ruppert’s masterful knowledge of Chowan River basin wildlife. The Chowan River itself it is frequently overlooked in North Carolina histories, yet the first explorers saw it as a key path to settlement and several nations lived in and around it.
The Skyco of Frick-Ruppert’s book is based on an actual heir to the Chowanook nation leadership in 1586. The author imagines Skyco as an observant, thoughtful and respectful boy who is rising to leadership even before he passes to manhood. Growing up in a stable community with its order of worship, family, friendships and self-sustainment, Skyco is further introduced to the adult ways of diplomacy, hunting, fishing, planting and more importantly, he is taught to connect to the wisdom and spirits that will guide him to the expected leadership of the Chowanook nation.
I am a descendant of a fairly well-known Chowanoke or Chowanook family and have written about them. I grew up near the Chowan River and have fished, canoed and hunted in and around its waters. Before The Legend of Skyco, the only book that best illuminated the world of Carolina Algonkians was Dr. Micheal Leroy Oberg’s The Head in Edward Nugent’s Hand. I am grateful for Oberg’s book that tells of that world’s destruction from the view of the Chowanoke and related groups. My thankfulness extends to Frick-Ruppert’s The Legend of Skyco for giving great value to Chowanoke life before the coming of the English."
- Marvin T. Jones is the founder of Chowan Discovery Group whose mission is to document, research, preserve and present the history of the Winton Triangle, a 275 year-old landowning mixed race community in the Chowan River basin.