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Thread: Haliwa-Saponi Newspaper Article

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    Post Haliwa-Saponi Newspaper Article



    Haliwa-Saponi


    Tribe continues quest for spot on the map
    Haliwa-Saponi leaders carry on the fight for
    federal recognition begun by late chief


    By THOMAS MCDONALD, Staff Writer

    Raleigh
    News-Observer










    [PHOTO]

    Senora
    Lynch of Warrington etches one of her hand-coiled clay pots.

    Staff Photo By Corey Lowenstein




    In the offices of the Haliwa-Saponi tribal administration in Hollister hangs a series of maps sure to catch a visitor's eye. The maps show, in red, the areas in the United States occupied by American Indians. The first, dated 1492, is completely red. The red area gets smaller and smaller in later maps, and in the current map is a sparse scattering of red dots. The last map is dated 2090, and the only red is a big question mark.


    The maps are a graphic representation of why the Haliwa-Saponi tribe should get federal recognition, said Dr. Joseph Richardson, tribal administrator. "The ironic thing is we used to own the whole place," Richardson said. "Now you gotta prove that you're Indian. It seems unfair."


    It's not only a matter of helping to preserve their heritage, tribal leaders say. With federal recognition come the keys to what has been economic empowerment for American Indian tribes all over the country: the gambling industry.


    Keeping a red dot on the map has become a particularly poignant quest since the death in late April of W.R. Richardson, Haliwa-Saponi tribal chief from 1955 until 1999. Current tribal leaders say Richardson's guidance was no less important to the Haliwa-Saponi people than Martin Luther King Jr.'s leadership for African-Americans during the civil rights years. Richardson was a tall, big, clean-shaven, hard-as-nails man whose piercing eyes behind horn-rimmed spectacles complemented a forceful, charismatic personality. Whether presiding over the tribe's annual powwow bedecked in a white-feathered war bonnet or seated in a dark suit and tie at a conference, Richardson, whose tribal name was Talking Eagle, was an effective general capable of rallying the troops, admirers say.


    "He was stern and to the point. He was not afraid," said Joseph Richardson, who is not related to the chief. W.R. Richardson died of a heart attack April 26, just days after the tribe's 36th powwow ended. He was 86.


    Leaders say the tribe is still in mourning but is determined to finish an incomplete segment of Richardson's work: the federal recognition that he first petitioned for in 1979. Their dream? To build a heritage resort and eventually a gambling casino on Interstate 95 near Rocky Mount.


    Along with tall pine trees and red dirt fields, stark poverty is very much a part of the landscape of Hollister, the unincorporated community about 50 miles northeast of Raleigh where most of the tribe's members live. A tiny, one-room red brick post office at the corner of Gibbs and Main is the nearest thing residents have to a downtown. Save for the late-model cars, the only signs of progress are the family-owned convenience marts that have replaced the crumpled, wooden general stores overgrown with weeds and tall grass.


    The community's teens like to hang out at night in the parking lots of Journigan's Food Mart or Cle's Stop 'n' Shop, but there are few social outlets for adults since Dan's Disco burned down nearly a decade ago. According to a 1997 housing survey, nearly 75 percent of the tribe's 3,807 members have incomes of less than $20,000, while 21 percent have incomes of less than $6,000. More than 60 percent of the residents do not have high school diplomas. "I'd do it in a heartbeat," Joseph Richardson said, when asked whether he had any qualms about opening a Las Vegas-controlled casino in Eastern North Carolina. "Indians have to make a choice. Would you rather die in poverty or have gaming?"


    Not everybody thinks federal recognition is important. George Coley, a 29-year-old mechanic, doesn't want a gambling casino in his community. I don't think it'll make things better. In fact, I think it'll make it worse," Coley said. "If they're going to put anything in here, then put something that will help everybody. The elderly have a hard time getting out of town to shop. Why don't they put up a shopping center?"


    But Cynthia Silver, a 44-year-old married mother of three who owns a home health care business in Hollister, thinks the tribe desperately needs federal recognition. "We really need a lot of economic development here," Silver said. "We need more services for the elderly like health care. We need help with the environment. People think there are a lot of pollutants here because of the toxic waste dump 20 miles down the road."


    Getting federal recognition is a lengthy, costly process. The Bureau of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., requires tribes to prove who they are by answering seven detailed questions regarding their ancestry and ties to the land they occupy.


    Besides the Haliwa-Saponi, six other Indian tribes are recognized by North Carolina: Coharie, Eastern band of Cherokee, Indians of Person County, Lumbee, Meherrin and Waccamaw-Siouan. Only the Cherokee are federally recognized, while the Lumbees, the state's largest tribe, are quasi-recognized but receive no benefits.




    The process takes years of painstaking documentation. "You need a cadre of attorneys and serious financial support," said Greg Richardson, a Haliwa-Saponi and executive director of the state's Commission of Indian Affairs. Although Greg Richardson understands the need for the stringent guidelines, he nonetheless describes it as a difficult and politically convoluted process. The region's only documentation was done by whites," he said. "Finding documentation by Indians is next to impossible."


    Even without federal recognition, the Haliwa-Saponi have made remarkable gains in recent years, particularly with efforts to preserve their culture. The Haliwa-Saponi Tribal School, closed since 1969, reopened last year with grades K-5 and is 95 percent Indian. With classes in American Indian Studies to be added at the school next year, the tribe offers community classes and workshops in traditional drum and dance, basketmaking, bead work, history and language classes to revive the lost Saponi language. The tribe's Annual Pow-Wow, which celebrates the group's state recognition, is the oldest and largest in the state.


    The Haliwa-Saponi tribe is a remnant of a collection of Indian tribes that settled in Eastern North Carolina during the 1600s. The tribe is believed to have descended from at least five tribes: the Saponi and Tutelo, who were already in the area; the Nansemond and Gingaskin tribes of Virginia; and a band of Tuscaroras who moved from Bertie County after the reservation they were living on was terminated. Saponi means "Red earth people." It was W.R. Richardson who renamed the community the Haliwa tribe.

    "As a boy sitting in meetings I can remember him talking about how the name represented the two counties [Halifax and Warren]," said Greg Richardson. "He talked about how, back in time, the tribe would pick out a name based on the land or the river they lived near. He said our people were separated by two counties and the name was a way to join our people together." Tribal members say their community desperately needs the services federal recognition would provide. Federally recognized tribes receive funding for housing, police and fire protection, health care, road maintenance and other municipal services.


    But in the end, getting official recognition may be more a matter of self-identity, some tribal members say. They are tired of being treated like strangers in their own land. "It would certainly help our status," Silver said. "Native Americans are the only people in America who have to prove who we are. That's outrageous."



    Staff writer Thomas McDonald can be reached at 829-4533 or tmcdonal@nando.com






    [This message has been edited by Linda (edited 05-29-2001).]

  2. #2

    Post

    I talked to the Haliwa-Saponi about this and they said the article did not represent their views. I suspected as much.

    Barry

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