Where is 'Negrofoot'?

Searching for Saponitown Forums Share History Research Where is 'Negrofoot'?

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    Red Metis

    Where is Negrofoot located? I keep seeing it pop up on census records.



    The USGS site is a great way to look up place names, even many now defunct historic names. Here’s the link to their search engine:


    Unfortunately, I don’t find anything that looks like what you’re referring to. The only two locations with this name that appear are both waterways; but maybe there are populated areas associated with them. One is in Greene Co., AL (Negrofoot Branch)and the other is in St. Landry Parish, LA (Negro Foot Bayou).




    It has occurred to me in the past that the “Blackfoot” name might have something to do with this, but I don’t think it’s likely. And I do think something more akin to the “tarheel” concept is likely, as someone else has already suggested. These people spent much of their history in or near swamps, and if that’s where you walk, you do have black feet.

    Anyway, the question may arise, what is this “Negrofoot.” And I believe one might find the answer (as of about 1830) in Walter Blair & Franklin J. Meine (Eds.), Half Horse Half Alligator: The Growth of the Mike Fink Legend (Univ. Of Chicago Press, 1956). According to then-current folk belief (i.e. stereotype), persons of African descent are prone to having a projecting heel. This foot shape is illustrated, for example, on the covers of sheet music of that era for minstrel show tunes. There is a ghastly story about Mike Fink (keelboatman, and drinking buddy of the more widely known Davy Crockett) using this heel projection for target practice — I think, from his moving boat.

    I have no idea whether there was any general sort of genetic truth behind that stereotype; or whether it might have been reflected among the Indian people who shared that ancestry. I have serious doubts, on both points.

    There is also no very good reason to believe the story about Mike Fink shooting peoples heels off, for fun; but the fact that it was considered humor is fairly indicative of the social climate at the time these stories were published in the Crockett Almanacs, etc.



    Personally, I think the name “Blackfoot” is very ancient, going back before the Siouan split east and west, since there is a branch of the Teton Sioux who are called “Blackfoot.” I think it’s the simplest explanation. People who want to dismiss us have political reasons for disagreeing, IMO, but that doesn’t change the obvious.



    I hope you don’t mean me, about that political agenda — but anyway, my previous post was about the place name “Negrofoot” probably having reference to a physical condition associated with Africans (in America, or not) — and almost certainly not associated with Siouans, east or west.

    I have no particular reason to disagree with your hunch about the antiquity of the name Blackfoot; but I’d be more convinced it’s an ancient and shared name for one (now dispersed) group if it were in an ancient and shared language, instead of English. Is there some Tutelo (or other Siouan) term for “black foot” (or “-feet”) that this is supposed to translate? Is some variant of that Proto-Siouan term being translated (by later-arriving English-speaking traders, etc.) in Delaware, North Carolina, Montana, Alberta, etc.? And if so, why? Did the northwestern Siouans also live in swamps? I’m sure I don’t know; but there are swamps in the Northwest. (In Oregon, for example, Euroamerican settlers from the East who chose to live in them were called Webfoots.) And the western Sioux weren’t chasing buffalo on horseback until there were some horses; before that, I believe the archaeological record shows, they and other (earlier) Plains people had more riparian tastes. If Blackfoot is the original term for the ancestral people of Saponitown, it’s pre-English, pre-horse, and pre-Negro (on this continent); and pre- several other things now widely celebrated, e.g. at that OSP powwow this weekend.

    And the widespread use of the name Blackfoot is just one more thing, on a pretty long list we have, to strive (in our several ways, and with our varied perspectives) to understand.

    By the way, the new look to this Forum (beginning this evening) is snazzy.



    I definitely did not mean you had any political agenda. Sorry to have raised that doubt.

    Sihisapa means “Blackfoot” in Lakota (“asepa means “black, “issi” means foot). They are the Sihisapa Blackfoot Sioux. “Issi asepa:hiye” in Tutelo means “Blackened foot.” The accent is on the even numbered syllables. If English speakers got ahold of that word, the most likely corruption would sound like “sissipaha,” or “Saxapahaw” the name of a NC village, which at the time of Contact was very large. I go through all this on the article I have on the first page, http://www.saponitown.com/Blackfoot.htm

    I’ve heard people question before why the English translation of the word would have taken hold so strong, but the Siksika (regular Algonquin) Blackfoot have always been known by their English translation. Nobody questions that. It’s just an easy word to translate. Most other tribal names were their word for “the People.” In this case it meant something unique that easily ‘stuck.’ Since our people were widely taught English ca. 1720’s, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that the English translation of the name would have been carried with them into Delaware by the 1740’s.

    There are those who argue that all the Siouan people were together in Ohio till the Seneca drove them out well before Contact. If so, the name most likely dates back to then, since it arises in both eastern and western communities. Who knows what it signifies?



    “I go through all this on the article I have on the first page…”

    Yeah, I think I read that — in about Sept. 2002.

    But having been reminded of it, I note that the hypothetical Siouan term being translated means “blackened,” which in itself would argue more for the externally-applied sort of blackness (rather than genetics). Could be a cosmetic process (such as staining, painting or tattooing), or the legacy from walking in swamps, or something else. I don’t think an old Siouan term could have anything to do with charcoal burning for the colonial bog iron industry, one of the other suggestions that has arisen.



    My ancestors were in Negrofoot, in upper Hanover County Virginia, on the 1860 census. This family later lived in Beaverdam, in the northern corner of the county near the Louisa and Caroline county lines, so perhaps Negrofoot is also in that area. Their next door neighbors were Nuckolls, Hall, and Stanley.

    My ggg grandmother in this census (Oteria Butler) claimed she was Indian, according to two of her children. She was born in the late 1830’s. Her or her father’s race isn’t marked on this census, but all of the descendents of one of her sons have claimed to this day that she was Indian. Other evidence strongly suggests she wasn’t making it up.

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