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Haliwa Indians

by Ruth Y. Wetmore, 2006

"Haliwa-Saponi Tribe  In NC." Photo courtesy of Flickr user Neil Smith, taken on May 20, 2009. The Haliwa Indians were recognized as a tribe by the North Carolina legislature in 1965. The tribal name is a combination of Halifax and Warren Counties, where the majority of the Haliwa live. One tradition relates that the present Indian communities in this area were founded by wounded survivors of the Tuscarora War and other colonial conflicts who were unable to rejoin their original tribal groups. In addition to North Carolina coastal tribes, Accomac, Cherokee, Nansemond, Occaneechi, Saponi, Tuscarora, and Tutelo Indians are claimed as Haliwa ancestors. Since 1975, the Haliwa have referred to themselves as the Haliwa-Saponi.

Although Indians were living in this area before the American Revolution and some served as soldiers in that war, the emergence of the Haliwa with a collective Indian identity has been relatively recent. The Haliwa Indian Club was organized in the 1950s, and its membership roll became the arbiter of Indian identity. As they were for other state-recognized tribes in North Carolina, schools and churches were important in strengthening Haliwa group identity, although a separate Haliwa school was not established until 1957.

In 1965, when the Haliwa became a state-recognized Indian tribe, nearly 400 persons successfully brought suit in Halifax County court to change the racial designation on their birth certificates, marriage licenses, and driver's licenses to "Indian." In the early 2000s there were approximately 3,000 Haliwas living in Halifax and Warren Counties. The tribe holds an annual powwow in April and conducts a number of economic and educational programs for its members.


J. K. Dane and B. Eugene Griessman, "The Collective Identity of Marginal Peoples: The N.C. Experience," American Anthropologist 74 (1972).

Alfred Tamarin, We Have Not Vanished: Eastern Indians of the United States (1974).

Ruth Y. Wetmore, First on the Land: The North Carolina Indians (1975).

Additional Resources:


Image Credit:

"Haliwa-Saponi Tribe  In NC." Photo courtesy of Flickr user Neil Smith, taken on May 20, 2009. Available from (accessed May 23, 2012).


Origin - location: 



I was trying to find out info on my other family heritag. Grandfather was a saponey and grandmother was Haliwa . Could you help me ?


Thank you for posting your question! I have connected you via email with reference services at the State Library of NC's Government & Heritage Library.

Good luck in your research!

Michelle Underhill, Digital Information Management Program, Government & Heritage Library


400 people were able to change their race to "Indian" in 1965, what was their race before they changed it to "Indian?"

Thank you for taking the time to post a question.
I am assuming your question pertains to the first sentence in the third paragraph of the article.
I sent you an email to connect you with Reference Services at the State Library of North Carolina's Government & Heritage Library on this email as they may be able to answer your question, or connect with someone who can. Contact information for them may be found at:
Good luck in your research!
Michelle Underhill
Digital Information Management Program, NC Government & Heritage Library

What would I need to do to get my race status changed?

Comment Response:

Thanks for you inquiry in NCpedia. You may want to try contacting the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. More information about their contact information can be found here: If you need additional help References Services at the Government & Heritage Library is also a good starting point. Their direct email address is Contact information may be found for them at  Good luck in your research!

Emily Horton, Government & Heritage Library, State Library of North Carolina

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Copyright notice

This article is from the Encyclopedia of North Carolina edited by William S. Powell. Copyright © 2006 by the University of North Carolina Press. Used by permission of the publisher. For personal use and not for further distribution. Please submit permission requests for other use directly to the publisher.

Educator Resources on North Carolina American Indians

NC Humanities Council, 2009 - 2011. "Teaching about North Carolina American Indians." Online at Learn NC.

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