Occaneechi Tribe

Occaneechi Indians. A small tribe of the eastern Siouan group formerly residing in south Virginia and northern North Carolina. Their history is closely interwoven with that of the Saponi and Tutelo, and there is historical evidence that their language was similar. The first known notice of the Occaneechi is that of Lederer, who visited them in 1670. They then dwelt on the middle and largest island in Roanoke river, just below the confluence of the Staunton and the Dan, near the site of Clarksville, Mecklenburg County, Virginia. Their fields were on the north bank of the river, where they raised large crops of corn, having always on hand as a reserve a year’s supply. Between the date of this visit and 1676 they were joined by the Saponi and Tutelo, who settled on two neighboring islands. In 1676 the Conestoga sought shelter with them from the attacks of the Iroquois and English. They were hospitably received, but soon attempted to dispossess their benefactors, and, after a battle, were driven out. Being harassed by the Virginians and Iroquois, they left their island and fled south into Carolina. In 1701 Lawson found them in a village on Eno river, about the present Hillsboro, Orange County, North Carolina. They combined later with the Saponi, Tutelo, and others. They were cultivators of the soil and traders. We are assured by Beverley that their dialect was the common language of trade and also of religion over a considerable region. They divided the year into the five seasons of budding or blossoming, ripening, mid-summer, harvest, and winter. They were governed by two chiefs, one presiding in war, the other having charge of their hunting and agriculture. Ceremonial feasting was an important feature of their social life. Their tribal totem was a serpent.

Consult: Mooney, Siouan Tribes of the East, Bull. B. A. E., 1894.


Occaneechi, Siouan,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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