Saponi Tribe

Saponi Indians. One of the eastern Siouan tribes, formerly living in North Carolina and Virginia, but now extinct. The tribal name was occasionally applied to the whole group of Ft Christanna tribes, also occasionally included under Tutelo. That this tribe belonged to the Siouan stock has been placed beyond doubt by the investigations of Hale and Mooney. Their language appears to have been the same as the Tutelo to the extent that the people of the two tribes could readily understand each other. Mooney has shown that the few Saponi words recorded are Siouan.

Lederer mentions a war in which the Saponi seem to have been engaged with the Virginia settlers as early as 1654-56, the time of the attack by the Cherokee, probably in alliance with them. The first positive notice is by Lederer (1670), who informs us that he stopped a few days at Sapon, a town of the Tutelo confederacy, situated on a tributary of the upper Roanoke. This village was apparently on Otter river, southwest of Lynchburg, Virginia. Pintahae is mentioned also as another of their villages near by. It is evident that the Saponi and Tutelo were living at that time in close and apparently confederated relation. In 1671 they were visited by Thomas Batts and others accompanied by two Indian guides. After traveling nearly due west from the mouth of the Appomattox about 140 miles, they came to Sapong, or Saponys, town. Having been harassed by the Iroquois in this locality, the Saponi and Tutelo at a later date removed to the junction of Staunton and Dan rivers, where they settled near the Occaneechi, each tribe occupying an island in the Roanoke in what is now Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Lawson, who visited these Indians in 1701, found them dwelling on Yadkin River, North Carolina, near the present site of Salisbury, having removed to the south to escape the attacks of their enemies. Byrd (1729) remarks: “They dwelt formerly not far below the mountains, upon Yadkin river, about 200 miles west and by south from the falls of Roanoak. But about 25 years ago they took refuge in Virginia, being no longer in condition to make head not only against the northern Indians, who are their implacable enemies, but also against most of those to the south. All the nations round about, bearing in mind the havock these Indians used formerly to make among their ancestors in the insolence of their power, did at length avenge it home upon them, and made them glad to apply to this Government for protection.”

Soon after Lawson’s visit in 1701 the Saponi and Tutelo left their villages on the Yadkin and moved in toward the settlements, being joined on the way by the Occaneechi and their allied tribes. Together they crossed the Roanoke, evidently before the Tuscarora War of 1711, and made a new settlement, called Sapona Town, a short distance east of that river and 15 miles west of the present Windsor, Bertie County, North Carolina. Soon after this they and other allied tribes were located by Gov. Spotswood near Ft Christanna, 10 miles north of Roanoke river, about the present Gholsonville, Brunswick County, Virginia. The name of Sappony creek, in Dinwiddie County, dating back at least to 1733, indicates that they sometimes extended their excursions north of Nottoway River. Their abode here was not one of quiet, as they were at war with neighboring tribes or their old enemies, the Iroquois. By the treaty at Albany (1722) peace was declared between the northern Indians and the Virginia and Carolina tribes, the Blue Ridge and the Potomac being the boundary line.

Probably about 1740 the Saponi and Tutelo went north, stopping for a time at Shamokin, in Pennsylvania, about the site of Sunbury, where they and other Indians were visited by the missionary David Brainard in 1745. In 1753 the Cayuga formally adopted the Saponi and Tutelo, who thus became a part of the Six Nations, though all had not then removed to New York. In 1765 the Saponi are mentioned as having 30 warriors living at Tioga, about Sayre, Pa., and other villages on the northern branches of the Susquehanna. A part remained here until 1778, but in 1771 the principal portion had their village in the territory of the Cayuga, about 2 miles south of what is now Ithaca, New York. When the Tutelo fled to Canada, soon after 1770, they parted with the Saponi (Hale was informed by the last of the Tutelo) at Niagara, but what became of them afterward is not known. It appears, however, from a treaty made with the Cayuga at Albany in 1780 that a remnant was still living with this tribe on Seneca river in Seneca County, New York, after which they disappear from history.

For Further Study

The following articles and manuscripts will shed additional light on the Saponi as both an ethnological study, and as a people.

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54 thoughts on “Saponi Tribe”

  1. I have just been informed that my 3rd great grandmother had Siponi ancestry. I have no way of knowing if this is at all true. The surnames in question are Sims and Holder.

  2. the saponi tribe isn’t extinct directly… as Saponi tribal people married within white settlers thus the word “mulatto” was used. my 5th great grandfather’s grandfather came from Saponi tribe. Although it is thinned out, the genes are still there. So tribes directly, yes, extinct… but generations later, the genes are flowing through us.

  3. My name is Jynhae and my grandfather William Davis was born on a reservation outside of Salisbury, NC. in 1908. His mother, Marie Bolten, is believed to have been Saponi or Tutelo. I am trying to help my daughter trace our family heritage so I am looking for information on Saponi and Tutelo tribes.

    1. Is that a marie bolton b. 1775 in virginia ? But passed away 1838 in arkansas ? Because i found a couple of gedcoms for a couple of people of the same name

  4. I am looking for Deas, Wilson, Thomas, Benson who might have been Melungeons. One of my ancestors came from Ireland (was sent to Ireland from Scotland during Jacobite Rebellion in 1746 as an indentureed servant to Robert Nesbit of Virginia. Trying to track down if we have Native American in us. Any help will be appreciated. Even if it might be negative info.

    1. If u go to a horry county historical society of south carolina. U will find a rough unofficial census of families living along four rivers . The black river. The pee dee. The santee and a fourth. Listed u will find the deas surname. Alongside that in parenthesis is the name deers. ( Deers ?) What i found out about the deas family was. That their name was a bastardization of the spanish name “diaz” what happened there ? Well , from what ive been able to ascertain was that it was a small family from portugal who mixed with natives and as is the customs and laws of this turtle island , began to identify themselves as purely native american, this is a clue as to the minds of those people. They knew the law and followed it. They were no longer portugese but native and were completely absorbed by the culture and all connections to europe had been dissolved , the deas also spoke the tribal language with whom they became mixed with. So diaz became deas and deers ( census taker probably misheard them and wrote what he heard because by then they no longer spoke portugese and had a southern drawl )

  5. Saponi not at all extinct. I’m a Lynch from Halifax County with all kinds of documentation. I am Haliwa-Saponi. My family is full of Native Borns. I come from the Scotts, Jones, Hillary’s,Hewlins, McWilliams and The Lynch’s. You should research before making statements!

  6. For the Hannah Love and John Austin descendants. I have a facebook group specifically for that line. It’s called The Early Virginia Austin Family.

    1. Katie M Walling

      Tonya, I am doing research for a friend and I am wondering if you may have any information on a Richard Austin born about 1700 Brunswick County Virginia and a Francis Littlefoot last name is questioned married about 1718 or 1719 there first daughter was named Sarah they lived around Surry County Virginia? Francis is supposed to be from the Saponi Indian Tribe.
      I was wondering if you could be able to help me out in any way?

      Thank you Katie

      1. Talitha Farrell Joyce

        Hi Katie, I am a descendant of Austins here is a little information that may help
        Richard Austin
        Born 1700 in James City County, Surry Counties, Colony of Virginiamap
        Son of Robert Austin and Alice Wheeler
        [sibling(s) unknown]
        Husband of Frances (Saponi Indian) Austin — married [date unknown] [location unknown]
        DESCENDANTS descendants
        Father of Sarah (Austin) Joyce
        Died after 1 Mar 1759 in Lunenburg, Lunenburg, Colony of Virginiamap

    2. Talitha Farrell Joyce

      Hannah Love and John Austin are my 8th great grandparents. I will definitely check out this facebook group!! Thanks Tonya! I have been trying to trace my family tree and have been able to get this far back hoping my luck continues.

  7. I have not been able to prove my connection to the saponi but I know one exists. My great great grandmother Rachel davis. Was a santee Indian. Her mother may have been a woman named sapo davis meaning black in Dakota. I came across a story once about a woman who’d married a soldier while the saponi went to work in Virginia alongside other tribes this soldier had treated sapo extremely bad . Anyway I wanted to assure people that they have nothing to worry about in testing for dna. The truth of the matter is. Geneticists have yet to identify those markers and a lot of these tests ar3 deep. No we did not com3 across an ice bridg3 10,000 yrs ago. We cam3 from the South now, our relatives the lenape on the other hand may have crossed a bridg3 and they may have Mongolian blood but they are every bit as native as the rest of us. They been here for a long time

    Craig. [email protected]

  8. False negatives are common with DNA Native American tests. There might not be enough DNA representation to compare with other Natives. YOU may not have inherited the Native American gene. Have your siblings tested too. The organization you used may not be reliable for Native ancestry.

    Don’t be discouraged,

    1. ESCOFFERY BABATUNDE II

      they only count the Mongolian markers dna …but most of us were here thousands of years before them. Although most of my family has Mongolian birthmarks, we should have more South Pacific and Aboriginal dna markers as that is who were here before the Mongolians who were mostly in the North and Canada. We have too much confusion and a lot is dis-information from outsiders and some from deniers.

      1. Sorry man. But the markers that identify us all as natives have not yet been identified but instead reclassified and redisgnated as iberian and north african due to several things. Eastern seaboard nations refusal to allow the labs access to bones ? And the labs taking liberties that they shouldnt. Of all the people on the eastern seabord that were passed the narrative of a native ancestor havent all been wrong. Its been discovered when the labs threw those markers up on a lighted board. That our markers were very close to iberian and north african. They said ” well what do we have to go on “? The response was. ” they wont allow testing ” oh well then. Since this sequence is close to iberian and north african thats what we will name these people in their results. Simply because the genomic sequences were ” almost identical ” almost is just almost. Not the same. So anyone showing iberian and north african ” they can count and tally those up to give their percentage of native dna. The fault lies with the tribes actually. This is why we do not have a strong data base as a reference point. We arent mongolian. All this time i believed that i was only from eastern bands. Which i am of course. But i also descend from people who were yankton, sissetowan and ihsanti dakota sioux people. As most in this thread probably are as well

  9. ElizabeTh patience Northern nee keever

    My grandparents are Holderfield/Holyfield. And fields. Isaacholderfield married ‘Cintha=“. Their daughter eCynthia Elizabeth holderfield married John Branson Fields. This Fields line came from Guilford co. N. C. To Grayson Co. VA. WHERE MY MOTHER WAS BORN. I HAVE BEEN SEARCHING FOR YEARS FOR MY INDIAN CONNECTION. hi hope to make a connection here.

    1. It is interesting that the Holderfield/Holifield have several males in their line are named Valentine. I would love to know the surname of isaac Holderfield’s wife’Cintha.

    2. Mike Hollifield

      My name is Mike Hollifield,my father was Odess,my GF was Joseph Wesley,my GGF was Isaac Pearson,my GGGF was Joseph H,my GGGGF was John L, my GGGGF was Esom Water. I believe Isaac’s wife was Elizabeth Wages. I hope this helps….let me know. [email protected] gmail.com. I also found a Halawi- Saponi by the name of Hanna Hope Love,married to John Austen I also have other info if this is what your looking for…sounds promising to me!???!!!

      1. Wow, it seems there are so many related to HANNAH AUSTIN. MY Father is a Descendant of the Austin Line of John Champness Austin. We are waiting for the results of his DNA testing. Like others stories have been told. I do not hold true until proof is found. I can say. Physical characteristics are consistant to what has been described as Mulegeon /Native American/Anatolian Turks. One trait we have are very distinct almost Asian eyes small in size some in the family eye color is Startling Blue. HIigh cheekbones. My father has the nose in which has given him the nickname Bird. Skin tone reddish , light , and darker. Features of the Skull teeth and others are also comparative. DNA IS A WONDERFUL THING.. it would be wonderful to be part of such a rich culture. We can honor Native American Culture by being Respectful and Sensitive in how we make c laim to being of Native American Descent. Full Blood Indian, Indian Princesses or inserting an Indian Squaw when there’s a blank are ridiculous and are insulting to Native Americans (at least the ones that I know) consider that if you are f actually found to be of Native American Descent. You would begin to see things from a much different point of view.
        I am happy to know I have more family out there than I ever knew. GOOD journey. Peace be with y’all.

      2. Talitha Farrell Joyce

        Hi Mike, my name is Talitha Farrell Joyce and Hannah and John Austin were my 8th GGrandparents and I am trying to find out as much as possible about my heritage. Do you have any information on them? I would love to hear back from you on this…. please and thank you!

  10. I think the article is saying that the tribe’s culture and language are essentially extinct.
    I come from Pittsylvania County. Lots of folks here claim Native ancestry. Im only familiar with one ancestor by name, May Dove.

  11. Unfortunately, the Virginia Saponis might be considered extinct. They moved (or were forced to move) to NC and joined with Saponi tribes there. While there are many of us that are descended from Virginia Saponis, we are given no credence and have no tribal affiliation, despite having blood quantum.

  12. I am just now learning of my Saponi 6th great grand mother “Hannah Honor Love” who married John Champness Austin; all the information I have seen so far says that she was a Saponi Indian Squaw, the family was living in Pittsylvania County VA until her death on 20 Apr 1778 . Her daughter Valentine or Mary Austin b. abt 1725 married William Hollifield. I can’t verify her Native Indian ancestry except through story, but every one tend to agree that she was in fact a Saponi Indian Squaw. That doesn’t leave me much Saponi blood but it does leave me enough to say I am proud to claim it. Would love to verify my information though.

    1. We are relatives then. Hannah Love is my ancestor too. Her marriage certificate states “Saponi Squaw” instead of her name. That makes me mad.

      There might be more info on Ancestry.com.

    2. Hi Doug-I just learned that Hannah Honor Love is my 5th great grand mother!!! So, I guess we are kin. I’m searching for any information about her and her life. I saw where she was adopted-so Love would be her adopted parents last name. Do you have any information about Hannah? I would love to learn her real last name and what her Indian name was.

      1. Hi Lisa- I just found out that Hannah Honor Love is my 5th great grandmother. . My Ancestry DNA showed no Native American ancestry. Does anyone have more info

    3. She was my 8th great grandmother! I would love any information or documents you all may have to share.
      Thanks!

      1. Talitha Farrell Joyce

        Hannah Love Austin was my 8th G-Grandmother and I also have no Native American DNA show up on my test.. I am still trying to find out more about them. If anyone has any info I will be forever grateful.
        Thanks- Talitha Farrell Joyce

    4. Hi,Doug:
      My name is William Joseph Austin,my 4th great grand father was John Austin Sr.His wife was Hannah Love.I know a fare amount about John but little about Hannah’
      How much if any do you know about Hannah?

      Thanks
      Bill Austin

      1. I know little aboutAustin and would love more information. Everything I know about Hannah Love is on my Ancestry.com family tree. I am currently not a member, so I don’t have access to the tree myself. If you are a member, you can go to my tree and read it there. If you are not a member, you can get a free one month membership and then see the tree without any expense to you. Sorry I can’t be of more help.

        Linda

  13. Angela Hodges-Smith

    I am NOT extinct! My grandmother who’s parents ‘Richardson’ were part of the Hollister NC tribe. We have assimilated into the ‘American’ culture not by choice but as others have said due to ignorance. When we, my family of the darker color say we are Native American are asked to show proof of such with papers from the tribal Chief. When those of light color or white claim such heritage they are not asked to show proof so ‘we’ the darker colored are NOT classified or recognized as Native American. I have worked in places where they ask the survey what race and have had that Native American selection DE-SELECTED on my forms! So no we are NOT extinct just not recognized! My grandmother Rose Anna (Evins) Boone use to tell us about the “bag” test and other things such as how they weren’t allowed to speak their native tongue if they didn’t live on the reservation. My mother and her siblings were classified as ‘Negro’ on birth certificate until recent were allowed to change to Native American due to my brothers persistent fact findings and paper trail to show their heritage. The funny thing is my mom and her siblings are whiter than the whites claiming to be Native American. Talk about stolen heritage!

    1. My maiden name is Richardson. I suspect my father is Saponi, but I have no proof. I can’t connect the dots, the way I can with my mom. Any relation to Turner Richardson?

      1. I am related to some richardsons. A man from south carolina. Former ex military worked for the hudson bay company eons ago and served as interpetor between whites and natives and spoke several languages. Look in an 1870 census in fulton clarendon county south carolina for a james richardson who has a wife named caroline and a son named benjamin along with other children . On the ancestry census they appear as white. But on another website they are listed as mulatto. I am related to them somehow. And they were back and forth between south carolina and virginia and nc for many yrs. Listed living with the family is an adam singleton as a hired hand. That is my second great grandfather and hes about 19 at the time. U can also search him out if a search for the richardsons doesnt show up. Adam singleton 1870 fulton clarendon county sc then look at the neighbors. Hope it helps

    2. Hello my name is Laysha Gordon
      My Grandmother was born in Person N.C. 1916 from what I was told her father ,Robert Smith was full blooded Saphoni. The mother Pecola Miles may have been as well. I’m not sure she had twelve children with Robert.
      I trying to find out more information if you have the parts I’m missing.

      I am looking for some information on my grand mother Hattie Mae Smith and her parents.

      Hattie migrated to Maryland had six children of her own.

      My grandmother described living on a farm never wanting for anything. From what she told me spent a lot of time with her grand father. She was the eldest of twelve children.
      This is my grand mother’s daughter. Any information you can find would be great.

      1. ESCOFFERY BABATUNDE II

        My family in Person county are Smith’s and Lawson’s. We never been extinct the darker ones were classified as Colored now Black and the Lighter ones as Ysha or Little Texans if had more white blood.

  14. We are not extinct! I have Chavers (father) and Howell (mother) ancestors who have Saponi ancestry. I am a card carrying member of the Saponi Nation of Ohio. We are not extinct. We are mixed blood people but being Indian is a matter of the heart and spirit.

    1. You are Right we have never become extinct. The lighter mixed with white the darker were enslaved with the Africans during slavery. Lies just lies! Look at some of the non corrupted documents. If you were darker than a paper bag you were called coloured and went…you guessed it. Thank God many elders passed the stories down despite that enslavement ignorance….

  15. O.M.G they are extinct!! Please don’t tell my hubby who’s of Saponi Ancestry, Mahenips Band of Missouri. I suggest you might try talking to the people at http://www.saponitown.com/forum, but please don’t tell them they are extinct they are family and friends. Not only that they could laugh themselves to death. L.M.A.O. Have a great day!

  16. I’m sorry to burst you bubble but we (haliwa saponi tribe) are not extinct. My dad is a Meherrin Indian and my mother is a saponi. The saponi tribal counsel is in Hollister NC. Please go and do your research and stop telling people that we are extinct, we have our annual pow wow in April.

    1. I am talking about the Virginia TRIBE. I am also Saponi, so I know we are not gone totally. But there is NO tribe in Virginia, to my knowledge.

  17. I am not sure the Saponi Indians are totally extinct, assimilated yes.
    Why I think this? The family stories of my great grandmother and her mother’s family from Burnt Chimney Virginia. Welcome the education.

    1. Hello Kamela

      My name is Laysha my great grandma born right in Persons N.C. Hattie Mae Smith 1916 to Robert Smith and Pecola (Mile) Smith. They had twelve children. Looking for information born as Saponi tribe.

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