Searching for Saponitown

Searching for Saponitown

This site is for those seeking to research Native American ancestry deriving from the Piedmont of Virginia and North Carolina.  These are Siouan people, commonly referred to generically as the Saponi, Tutelo. Occoneechee, Eno, Cheraw. Many families connected to these bloodlines have carried the identification of ” Blackfoot .” Virginia and North Carolina, especially Southside Va, has thousands of the descendents of these people. Some of these people are in state recognized tribes but the vast majority of these people are not formally organized in tribes. Also we have found migration trails into all of Appalachia — West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee; on into Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Iowa. Some are even known to have settled in Alberta, Canada. There are historical records and family genealogies involving New York, while the historical records notes the main body, referred to at that point as Tutelo, being adopted into the Six Nations in Ontario. It is believed that many descendants survive Tutelo adoptees into some of those Six Nations. There are also migration patterns into South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Arkansas and Texas.

The Eastern Siouan of the VA/NC Piedmont (Saponi, Tutelo, Occoneechee) are notable historically, by our limited historical record, for the massacre of the Occoneechee at Occoneechee Island, in Clarksville, VA (in Mecklenburg County); their stay at the Saponi Reservation commonly referred to as Fort Christanna (Saponi Town) in Brunswick County, VA; their journeys through the Susquehannah Watershed and the eventual adoption of some bands into the Six Nations in Canada. However, many never left Virginia and North Carolina, with some staying in tight-knit communities. Also there is a growing body of evidence for the survival of many descendants whose families migrated out in many directions across the country, as noted above, often as distinct communities which held together for many generations. Some of these communities were designated racially as “white,” some were noted as “colored” “mullatto” or “black.” Sizeable, intact communities are noted in Ohio and Missouri, in particular.

These tribes of the NC/VA Piedmont spoke Siouan languages, of them only a small portion of the Tutelo language was recorded.  ” Blackfoot ” is an identification found among descendants also aware of their Saponi origins, and is a designation reported among many native-descended people with ties to southeastern states.

Saponi people have also been identified as the founding core of some groups termed “melungeon” in Appalachia or “Portugeuse” communities in the south.  Communities of people exist in pockets on or near the former Fort Christanna reservation, which descend from these Indians.  The Fort Christanna Saponi-Occoneechee Indians,still living on the reservation land, are one of these tribes . Several state recognized tribes, the Haliwa-Saponi, the Sappony of Person County NC and Halifax Co VA, the Eno-Occoneechi and the Occoneechi Band of the Saponi Nation in Hillsborough, NC descend primarily from these tribes.

Please join our forum and introduce yourself.  We are eager to gather all the information we can on our families, and to build a base of reference material.


Historical Articles

Save yourself some trips to the university library.  The text of some of the basic historical texts on the Southeastern Siouan are here, along with some original articles by members of this group.

Saponi/Tutelo History Timeline by Barry Carter

Story of Fort Christanna by Crystal Rose

The Other Blackfoot  by Linda Carter.  Explains the probable origin of the Blackfoot identification among people deriving from Virginia and North Carolina, outlines the history of the Piedmont Siouan, and provides theories and data on their migrations paths.

Virginia Native History

The Saponi Indians  from The Indian Tribes of North America by John R. Swanton. Swanton is considered a very basic source for academic, documented information on Indian history.

The Indian Tribes of Virginia listing the Manahoac through the Tutelo.  As above, from The Indian Tribes of North America by John R. Swanton but more inclusive.

A New Voyage To Carolina, by John Lawson (circa 1700)   A Journal of a Thousand Miles Travel Among the Indians, from South to North Carolina.

Africans and Indians:  Only in America.  Article written by prolific Black/Indian History author, William Loren Katz.  Eloquent and well documented discussion of the impact of Indian parentage and heritage on Black Americans, and the role these two allies played in the American heritage.  Re-published by permission of the author.

Needham and Arthur Journey A rare account of the journey of these two Englishmen during the time of Occoneechi power, past the western frontier (which at that time was apparently mid-Virginia). The well born Englishman offended an Occoneechi and was killed by him. The illiterate Englishman Arthur, lived amongst the Indians for a good while and had many remarkable adventures.

Carrie Buck — The true story on why the State of Virginia sterilized Carrie Buck.

Pittsylvania County at time of Settlement — Pittsylvania County is an important location for historic Piedmont Siouan, and descendants.

Saponi Collins and other Appalachian Families researched by Brenda Collins Dillon.



Disappearing Indians? — a case for the continued inhabitance of the Virginia Piedmont by the Monacan Indians. The Monacans are one of the component tribes of the VA/NC Piedmont Siouan group of nations. This site, created by the University of Virginia, contains valuable and credible information useful to anyone researching the Piedmont Siouan. There is much information on the village of Monasukapanough, which many approach as an important “Saponi” (generic sense) site.

Eastern Woodland Tribes of First Contact — Information and links to tribes in the southeastern states.

Cherokee Communities of the South — From the Selected Works of Robert K. Thomas

Longwood Archeology Field School site.   A site on the Staunton river is being excavated, which may tie to the Piedmont Siouan people we are discussing here.

The Chikamaka Band —– The Chikamaka Cherokee — Cherokee descendants in Grundy, Marion, Coffee, Franklin, Warren, and Sequatchie Counties of Tennessee.

UNC Lesson on Siouan Tribes

Mahenip’s Band of the Missouri Saponi — A still cohesive group of Saponi descendants in Missouri, currently seeking federal recognition.

Malungu: The Mbundu-African Origin of the American Melungeons They lived free in the South nearly two hundred and forty years before the American Civil War. Yet the African ancestors of the American Melungeons have remained elusive ghosts for the past four centuries; the missing characters in the saga of America’s largest and oldest mixed communities.

The Native Americans of Halifax County, Virginia & the Early Explorers

Forest Hazel’s Occaneechi-Saponi Descendants in the Texas Community of the North Carolina Piedmont

Revitalization of the Tutelo Language

The Tutelo Language and History by Horatio Hale (at Early Canadiana site)

Baron de Lahontan’s “New Voyage to North-America” (at Early Canadiana site) Lahontan’s interviews of Kandiaronk, the brilliant Huron whose critique of European culture inspired the “Age of Enlightenment” in France and toppled the dominoes of revolution in that country, much of monarchical Europe and America. Also refer to Barbara Mann’s “Native American Speakers of the Eastern Woodlands” available in University libraries, for a fresh translation of the French, and a thoroughly researched account of this pivotal figure in world history.

Trading Path Preservation Association — An archeological study into the trading paths of early Colonial times in VA and NC. Monthly hikes are planned and noted on the site.

Bacon’s Rebellion and the Occoneechee Massacre This unabridged text of the Colonial Narratives tells the story of Bacon’s Rebellion, which involved the illegal extermination of the Occoneechee living on Occoneechee Island. This mob action ended the political integrity of all the VA/NC Piedmont Siouan (commonly referred to in history as the Saponi). Click here to begin with the editor’s Introduction.