Blackfoot Indians

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    [EDITOR’S NOTE: We have made this a sticky thread because it raises many of the key issues around research into the Blackfoot ID east of the Mississipi. This discussion arose in 2002 by our friend, Itconani, who has good naturedly played the role of ‘devil’s advocate,’ raising excellent questions we must be able to answer in our research. Reading this thread, plus the Other Blackfoot article at will help to quickly inform the reader on research into this subject.]

    There has been an alarming amount of informtion streaming through the southeast in reference to “Blackfoot” indians in the region.

    Most people are very strong about there family’s heritage coming from this group based on oral history. However, I believe with the utmost assurance that except for some remote locations (Hampton, VA.,Carlisle, PA,etc) there were no Blackfoot indians in the region.

    The Blackfoot indians who were here were relatively late and related to the indian school movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. So where are all these Blackfoot indians coming from? The answer is very simple. Are these individuals indian? Absoloutely. Most Americans could not name you dozen tribal names – they just aren’t that informed. However some gropus have a widespread popularity – Cherokee, Navajo, Sioux (Lakota), Blackfeet, Seminole.

    These groups for what ever reason, stick in history and peoples minds. Some where along the line people of mixed ancestory in the south new they were indian – but through generation had forgotten tribal names. Hence the lumbee (croatan, cherokee of Robeson Co.etc), the Monacan (buffalo ridge cherokee), the Indians of persons Co.(cherokee of Person co.)Haliwa Saponi (HALIfax and WArreen co.)etc.

    The names of dominickers, brass ankles, redbones, mulungeon exist based on these triracial groups. Interesting enough, people ask their elders who are we? and they give the answer of Cherokee, Blackfeet, etc. because of oral tradition as recognizable indianess.

    I cannot tell you how many Blackfeet i have met from Florida to New York. the list would be larger than some local tribal roles. What do they have in common? not very much, except they come from all over the east, they are indian with black and white mixed – looking for who they are.

    Dont spend time researching the Blackfeet of the East. They are absent from the historical, anthropological, archeological, and cultural record in the Southeast. Chasing ghost does not help. lets find the real tribal groups from real records and real oral traditions of settlement patterns. look for the families and the locations of peoples who never left!


    Have you read the article “The Other Blackfoot” linked on the main page of this website? I was asked to write it for a book being published on the ethnic origins of melungeons.

    Do you have any oral traditions in your family concerning this identification?

    We are not discussing the Montana Blackfoot tribe here. We are disccussing the “Saponi Blackfoot,” which identification has survived in some of those families, with the same surnames and locations as others carrying simply the “Blackfoot” identification. The Saponi Blackfoot are a subset of the Eastern Siouan people of the NC/VA Piedmont and have no relationship whatsoever to the Blackfeet of Montana.

    [This message has been edited by Linda (edited 01-02-2002).]


    Thanks linda,

    your article was very good. However i still feel that the term of Blackfoot or Blackfeet

    is as frequent in some circles as Cherokee.

    There are too many “blackfeet” in contemporary minds but absent from historical data to be considered a homogenous group. I dont doubt the sincerity of the individuals – they are more than likely indian – but not culturally Blackfoot. the common term in many triracial communities is not surprising. I’ve met alot Cherokees too – people stick to what they know.

    if they haven’t been educated to know different, or have not gotten out to see the rest of Indian country, they will stick to being Blackfoot of Virginia or Maryland or wherever. “Paha’ is black in lakota for sure, is it the same in Nakota? i dont know – but i know Eastern sioun is Nakota based.

    I think the research for blackfeet is a marker -for further research. its not a branch of the saponi. the eno, the saura, the haw, coharie, yammassee, manohoack, mandoag, chowanoke, weapamoc, tuscarora, gingaskin, tutelo, nottoway, warroskoyac, weanoke all still need descendants – more than they’ve got. Lets have “blackfoot” as a marker for finding these people. trace this marker to the source not create a new source to cover a broad range. Saponis get angry when there get to be too many saponis. Powhatans are the same. As are the Creeks. talk to yall soon.


    Well, I’d love to find out where some of these circles are where there are so many Eastern Blackfoot descended people. One thing we want to do is get this info into a database where it will be easy to see the similarities in migration patterns. I’ve talked to plenty of people myself and I have seen definite, identifiable patterns, traceable back to documented Eastern Piedmont Siouan.

    I don’t know about Nakota, I used the Tutelo translations. In Tutelo, “ici” means foot, “asepa” means black. We are asserting that the village name of Sissipaha is a corruption of “Ici asepa.” There’s a link on the main page to the Early Canadiana site for Horatio Hale’s Tutelo dictionary.

    Actually, we may be having a problem with semantics here. I am using the broad, historic usage of the word Saponi to signify the Siouan nations of the VA/NC Piedmont, as coined by Governor Spotswood. Only a certain percentage of the people I’ve come across who are likely Saponi carry the Blackfoot identification. You mention the Eno and the Haw as unclaimed, actually they and the Shakori (known as Stuckenocks at Fort Christanna) are the people we’re talking about, if we assume that “blackfoot” refers to Sissipaha. Look up Saxapahaw, NC on an atlas.

    If you got time, go to this site,

    and view Report No. 3. On the first page you’ll see an illustration of archeological sites. Look at the big black spot to the left on the Haw River and Cane Creek. The Haw River Valley is the largest fertile region in this part of the country, I’ve heard.

    What this suggests to me is that this area supported a significant Siouan-speaking population. From what I understand, larger populations are more de-stablized by epidemics that smaller ones. It seems sensible to surmise that the Haw valley was home to a significant population, it fell apart very early on, and the memory of it is retained in the Blackfoot identification of people deriving from this region. So what we are claiming ARE some of the unclaimed groups you named, although to be precise, the Eno and the Haw are branches of what came to be understood as Saponi.

    I appreciate your granting us our sincerity. All this has come to be much more an issue of belief for me than of scholarly proof. I started out on this journey assuming just as you said, that what my grandmother said about us being Blackfoot had to be a mistake. I started digging into who we really were based on the history of the regions they lived in. At this point the weight of circumstantials has just piled up to the point where I would be a very hard-hearted granddaughter to say that I did not have more than enough reason to trust in what my grandmother said. Not to mention all the uncanny circumstances that have simply blown me away. This is not about chasing ghosts. It’s the other way around. . .

    I know I’ve taken up a bit of your time, but if you’d care to see how all this has unfolded and why I feel compelled to this belief you can look at this,


    hats off for diligent work!

    i think maybe i disagree with the name blackfoot more on a phlisophical/political basis. i really dont doubt the desdendancy of so many folk – the oral tradition is very prevelant – especially from black folks with indian ancestory. Rather, i think your work is admirable to trace the blackfoot label to a saponi township of sissipaha. the lakota translates from “si” foot and “paha” black. But why label it eastern blackfoot? it seems confusing and propogation of myths of tipis and headresses. The fact that blackfoot has come down the line as a tribal name seems to come more from a convenient well known indian group combined with black intermarriages. my experience has always been medium to dark skinned black folks with indian descent from northeastern urban centers. They claim blackfoot and come from the south 2-5 generations ago. cities like philly, newark, baltimore. basically nj, ny, md, del, etc. if i had a nickel for every one id be rich. at one point we considered writing everyones name in a book in hopes of helping them find each other and a common thread in their roots. it really was uncanny. they spent alot of time confusing western indians, researching western beadwork and history, and not knowing the depth of what they were saying meant.

    however, most groups lose tribal orientation when divided and dispersed so much. corruption of tribal names and places do come down the line – but rarely if ever, transaltions. it just doesnt work.

    i agree with a va/nc sioun concept – even iroquoian and algonquian for lost groups.

    but eastern blackfoot as a tribal identity?

    it seems strange to think of the seminole as the “runaway tribe of florida” or the lakota as the “peace nation”. english translations dont do justice. id use the “blackfoot” as a marker for southern triracial background – like black irish or mulungeon. however i would think of concepts like sissipaha representing a township within the greater saponi. losing the “blackfoot” retains more historical accuracy, contemporary validity, and keeps the blackfoot in montana from chuckling so much. Contemporary indians in this region have worked hard for several generations to be recognized as different from whites and blacks. the line has blurred much and they feel that the burden of proof remains on them. the line is a fine one, legitimacy, history,and and tradition is key. Many shy away from conflicts pertaining to other groups legitamicies. education is essential, as is good research, and cultural renewal. regionaltiy is precious – tutelo is here – chickahominy is here – sissipaha is here-

    blackfoot is in montana.


    Thank you for those kind words. I’ve been waiting for the day someone would come along and question us, and I must say I’m glad it’s you. You are a very reasonable person. We share much the same values on how to regard and respect our native ancestry.

    Let me tell you what tipped me off to the village “Sissipaha.” I came across a lady’s name on the internet who identified herself as Sihisapa Sioux, or Blackfoot Sioux, which is what the word Sihisapa means. They are Teton Sioux. I was intrigued by this, and felt like I’d heard that word somewhere before. Then I remembered the village Sissipaha, I asked someone versed in Tutelo if that could mean Blackfoot and was told yes, that’s what it means.

    What this implies to me now is this, the name Blackfoot may in fact be very ancient, going all the way back to the time when all the Siouan people were together, some say, in the midwest. I believe it’s Prof. Airy Dixon who reports an oral tradition he heard from a Sioux head man, a Teton Sioux if I remember correctly. I need to dig that up. Anyway, the oral tradition remembers cousins in the east near the coast, for a long while there was even a custom of trade between the two for certain special items.

    The upshot of this is that this name may be very ancient and very special. I wouldn’t dream of giving it up. It’s also what my grandmother gave me, making it special for that reason.

    Your point that a translated name would not have persisted so well is interesting. I think the history of this group would make it believable though. In 1713, most of the surviving Eastern Siouan, Piedmont, Saponi people (the proper name for this confederation we believer would be “Yésah”) were at Fort Christanna in Brunswick County, VA. There were, I believe, about 800 souls there. This would mean that for the most part, everybody today descended from those people come from that small, contained population. They learned English there, if they hadn’t already (they were politically defeated by the English in 1673) they were also taught to read and write, remember this is 1713. It does seem possible that a translated version of the name would have come into usage and persisted.

    Now as to the issue of race. My own family has no trace of African descent. We have been classified as white for many generations. In my experience, the people I’ve come across have been as often “white” as “black” and the surnames, locations, etc are the same in either case. I think the fact that so many of these descendants are “black” identified has been used to dismiss it, like it’s a euphemism for Black Indian descent. But, as I’ve said, I’ve yet to personally see any examples of “black” Blackfoot who don’t have the same surname, location patterns as the “white” Blackfoot.

    There’s something interesting you, or anyone else, can do to see the migration path that’s common here. Find an internet “white pages” that will allow you to search the whole country at once, like Search on the last name, Tutterow. I found that surname on a list I have of Southeastern Indian names as a Tutelo name (obvious corruption). It’s amazing how the general locations mirror what I’ve been hearing from these Blackfoot identified people. (Somebody good at cold calls needs to call those people and see what stories they have in their families.)

    I fully agree with you about misidentifying the meaning of this descent. It makes me cringe to see people dressing up like Plains people and acquiring those cultural elements — just going for a simplistic, unresearched assumption and not digging any deeper. I get annoyed too when people won’t hear what I’m saying and keep assuming I’m claiming to be regular Montana Blackfoot. NO!! Our people have zero relationship to them.

    I hope you’ll see the necessity of continuing to use this word publically, since it puts us in touch with each other. I wish you had made that list of the people you’ve come across. That’s exactly what we’re trying to do here, pool all that information and make sense of it.

    At this point we’re not talking about any kind of tribal identity for this group. We are a descendants association. We don’t claim to be a tribe. A tribe is a very intense social structure, I would not presume to approximate. From a search engine point of view, the term “Blackfoot” is the keyword someone with that identification would use. So if our keywords are “Ëastern Blackfoot” we will attract the attention of the right people. Hopefully, these internet surfers will spend enough time here to find out if our research fits their situation and find out what the research has uncovered. Perhaps adding a keyword of “Sissipaha Blackfoot”, with the right description, will be useful in attracting good attention and quickly dispelling incorrect assumptions. Thanks for that idea.

    What people do you descend from?


    Blackfoot? I thought that Saponi was Blackfoot. Just last week I was out burning some fields and a cousin called me “Blackfoot Saponi“. That’s why the Saponi were called that. Our people back here in Missouri still “slash and burn”. Sometimes we even burn our own property! That’s no joke! One certainly doesn’t want to come back here and tell thousands of us who we aren’t. The Saponi Nation in Ohio also goes by “Blackfoot”. Before I start trying to teach someone about them being wrong, I would do some researching. It is my personal belief that the western Sioux may have carried the “Blackfoot” name from the east. And we are not black. Just the facts ya huk! Good job Linda


    I was hoping you’d jump in here, Greywolf, though, as I said before, Itconani is a kindly “opponent” and the opportunity to air some of these issues is a good thing.

    What I said earlier about not being a tribe does not apply to the Saponi Nation of Missouri. They are a tribe and have always been one. I learn more from them every day.


    first, i will say quite honestly, that i will leave this site if continued name calling is involved.

    i was invited here based on the fact that i have done so much research – cultural, historical, archealogical, geneological, linguistic, etc. on this region (va/nc).

    I do not know about other groups with “blackfoot” labels and do not assume anything regarding them. The Blackfoot tribe of Montana and Alberta are of Algonquian language familiy (as are Peigan and Blood related to them). My interest here is to dispell any misinformation and continue research about the interesting blackfoot label out of the Va/NC region.

    Primary HERE, are the language families that are Tutelo and Woccon from Sioun (branch close to nakota) stock. other groups with similiar names that should not be confused with Sissapahaw – sioun from southeast NC/SC:

    Sioux (Dakota, Lakota) subdivisions include santee, teton, Yamkton, Yanktonai, etc. Sioun from plains SD/ND/MN/NB/Alberta/Saskatchewan/


    Sisseton – Santee Sioux division

    Siksika – Blackfoot, Algonquian, Alberta/montana

    I would hope from a few short entries, my diligence on these matters is not misunderstood. I do not question the lineage or the indianess. what we are looking for are the missing links and good material that needs fleshing out.

    I do think it important to maintain the “blackfoot” label as a link, for it is as important as the label Charles City Indian, or Mulungeon, or Brass Ankles.

    It is important however, to address the term in a fashion that is clearly understood by the indian, scholarly and political communities.

    As much as I have a strong belief in this notion, it is intersting that other translations of Saponi towns have not come down the line – and that other contemporary Saponis in the region do not wear the “blackfoot” name as a cultural marker.

    as for migrations – lots of good work there.

    ill put in what i know for consumption.

    Saponi proper lived in the western portion of the state of virginia (1671).They had many villages over a long history and move alot during the colonial era. I think that has been well covered on this site. Village clusters appear in records by various notables including, Lawson (1701)and Jeffeson.

    They were on the roanoke, south of the james, and on the yadkin at different points among others. After the Tuscarora wars the tutelo and saponi suffered greatly and some elected to move northward under the protection of the Five nations(1712).

    by 1745 the tutelo and saponi had congregated in what is known as Shamokin Penn. Also were fragments of

    Nanticoke, Delaware, and other tribes. In 1750 the Six nations (adding Tuscarora) elected to admit the Tutelo and the Nanticoke as full members of the Confederacy. Tutelos were considerd special friends of the cayuga, and established themselves near cayuga at the south end of cayuga lake in ny. after 1779 war drove cayuga and their friends to canada – they settled on the grand river in ontario. the tutelo located their town near brantford. two visits of Asiatic cholera decimated the town and survivors took refuge again with the cayuga.

    when Hale visits the cayuga in 1870 he found one full blooded tutelo by the name of nikonha who was married to a cayuga.

    Hale aquired a vocab from nikonha of nearly 100 words, plus a few more on the second visit. hales work showed the distinction from Iroquois and related to Dakotan family. in 1871 hale returns as nikonha dies to retrieve more words from children of tutelo mothers and cayuga fathers. many papers were given on this research at the time comparing tutelo, dakota,and hidatsa grammatic framework and vocab.

    1907 Frachtenberg visits The grand river reserve and collects a few more words from and old woman using a cayuga interpreter. 1913 Sapir returns later to interview interpreter and gains more vocab, that work is presented.

    all for now more when time allows.

    ps my relations are extensive – but i think the ones you are interested in come from mixed ancestory from the piedmont to the coast of Carolina. Surnames include Spruill, woodard, cahoon, collins, sykes, woodley etc. additional Indian descent comes from farther south “este mvskoke” the muskogee creek. the tree gets bigger as you dig, especially triracial trees.

    best to all



    [This message has been edited by itconani (edited 01-04-2002).]


    I tried to find any name calling. The only thing I could see that might seem like that would be “ya huk” which means “you all” in Tutelo. If I’ve missed something, let me know.

    The thing is, the gentlemen we have here from Missouri and Alberta are from communities who migrated from 18th century North Carolina/Virginia Piedmont. They’ve researched this thoroughly. There’s also a goodly amount of oral tradition that I’m still learning about. The Ohio Saponi mentioned also originate in the NC/VA Piedmont.

    We appreciate your contributions. You’ve just gotten a bit ahead of yourself assuming that you know all that there is to know on this subject of this identification.

    There are people here who’ve done much the same homework, and there are people here who have retained cultural elements and oral histories that make them quite certain of who they are, and who they’ve always called themselves, which is always disconcerting when it’s questioned. I hope you’ll understand. I imagine you will also quickly understand what a unique resource they represent.

    To put it plain, if you’re a Collins, you’ve just come into contact with a cousin who knows what it means to be a Collins in ways that you will never find in any book or museum on any continent.


    nuff said –

    my apologies for confusion.

    i was under the impression a northern term was being tossed my way. “ya huk” is an interesting term for “y’all” but ill take it at face value.

    ill refrain from assuming any more.

    no questions on sincerity, documented movements, or any proclomations.

    however, i think it is important to know as much about the wider indian component

    involved than just “blackfoot” and saponi.

    but ill leave that by the wayside if this is touchy.

    helpful is not always packaged as one wants. criticism is constructive. ill take the hint as you mentioned was a good idea for all before. thank you. it is hard to always know the way comments are intended without tonation, facial gesture, and emphasis. maybe i can sound too strong or vice versa.

    additionally, do not be fooled by knowledge of books or museums. some things from indian country do require first hand experience. more later.


    I’ve been reading this forum for quite a while now, but have refrained from posting much. Now, having seen how some folks reacted to a previous post that expressed a different viewpoint from that held by others on this forum, I’m glad I did. I don’t claim to know everything about Saponi history, but I ecognize that there are often varying, equally valid interpretations of the historical data. I saw Itconani’s post as expressing his view of the “Blackfoot” interpretation, one which I happen to share in large part. I certainly did not see him as an “opponent”, if the real purpose of this forum is to actually learn something, as opposed to simply looking at a topic over and over again from the same angle.


    Greetings to Y’all, this is one of the most heated of topics that I have seen yet! But let me say this, as a very mixed blood person, (I have black-brown hair ,green eyes and in summer a nice tan), I understand the points given here I would never take anything for granted or would I question my families oral history but rather accept it and look for material to support the premise, which I have always found! All points in my research have addressed the views given here. from my own expierence I believe that if a statement or science can stand on it’s own 2 legs then it can take the criticisms of others and from within our own clans/ communities and from the outside. It think that this is not unique to any one but is the heart and soul of human survival , so I have to allow others to define themselves they way they choose and find peace within to give them the space. But I also have to hear what other people are saying and try to understand why they take that position. One issue I have always addressed and come out the same always on is,”if it was not safe to be “indian ” then why define yourself and your family in that sence”? would it not be safer to just be white? look at what our communities and families have gone through in order to retain our identity! I recall a time when I had to fight my way home to and from school 4 times a day 5 times a week, because a school teacher asked us what our descent was! I was the only kid in class with Indian in my blood and from that day until we moved back here to Indian ccountry I had to bite kick scratch, scream and punch my way home! what did this do? It made me much stronger in who Iam! this isn’t new to any one here I’m sure but we know who we are and that will not change! Thank you all once again,Tom.


    Sometimes a little “heat” serves a useful purpose, if it gets folks to think a little about what they believe. Compared to some forum exchanges I’ve seen tho’, on other boards, the conversations here are pretty much models of tact and courtesy, which is how it should be. Grats to Linda for keeping things polite. There is no reason why we can’t “agree to disagree” on occasion, particularly on subjects like the interpretation of historical data.

    Regarding Saponi movements, for example, I disagree with a a respected colleague of mine who tends to believe that between say 1720 and 1770, there was one single group of Saponi moving all over the place, where I feel that the likelihood was that there were at least 2 groups in the general vicinity of the Virginia/NC border. In abt 1765 ( I dont have my notes in front of me, but I can provide the exact reference if anyone needs it) the Saponi and Nottoway together had 60 gunmen. My interpretation of this data would be that (1) the two groups were living in the same general area, and (2) based on numbers given for the Nottoway in 1808, a figure of 30-40 Saponi “gunmen” would not be unreasonable, giving a rough total population of 120-160 Saponi in the group living in the area near the Nottoway Reservation in presentday Southampton Co., Virginia. These Saponi may have included elements of the Occaneechi, Stukenocks, etc., as well as Saponi proper, just as the Nottoway had also incorporated other tribal elements.

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