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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.

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Haliwa Indians and Haliwa-Saponi Tribe

by Ruth Y. Wetmore, 2006

(originally published in the Encyclopedia of North Carolina as "Haliwa Indians." Title updated 2018).

"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.

Update from N.C. Government & Heritage Library staff: 

In the late 1940s a group of Indians in northeastern North Carolina formed the Haliwarnash Croatan Indian Club, a name simplified shortly thereafter to the Haliwa Indian Club.  The change also reflected the deletion of Nash County as most of the enrollees lived in Halifax and Warren Counties.  Subsequently, to bolster their claim for recognition, the tribe appended to their name the suffix Saponi, to reflect tribal ancestral ties to the Sappony tribe.  The name Saponi means “red earth people,” and that phrase had been used in several contexts by the Haliwa-Saponi.

W. R. “Talking Eagle” Richardson led the retribalization effort among the Haliwa-Saponi.  Richardson returned to North Carolina from Philadelphia in 1955 and was elected the tribe’s first chief.  He was instrumental in the founding in 1971 of the North Carolina Commission on Indian Affairs.  Leadership has placed emphasis on tribal self-sufficiency, preservation of tribal culture, and improvement of the quality of life for members.

As on 2018 the tribe consists of 4,300 enrolled tribal members, of which sixty-two percent live on the Warren and Halifax County border.  Another 1,898 members reside in Halifax County in Brinkleyville Township and 887 live in Warren County in Fishing Creek Township.  In recent years Haliwa-Saponi enrollees, living in Halifax County around the community of Hollister, have operated a host of businesses, including restaurants, floral shops, garages, and real estate offices.

--Michael Hill, Research Branch, NC Office of Archives and History, 2018.


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:

Haliwa-Saponi Tribe website:

Thomas E. Ross, American Indians in North Carolina:  Geographic Interpretations (1999)

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: 



Hi Edward, I am of Haliwa-Saponi heritage and my father is Alphonso Richardson. He still resides in the NC area and is very much connected with the Haliwa- Saponi relatives that live there. I would definitely suggest that you come to the annual Pow Wow celebration in April, where you would be reunited with your natives and feel the love and strength of our heritage during the celebrations!


Thank you for visiting NCpedia page on the Haliwa-Saponi tribe. NCpedia is the online encyclopedia of North Carolina managed at the State Library of North Carolina.  We do not have any information specifically about the Haliwa-Saponi Pow-Wow. You may want to contact the tribe -- here is the link to their website at: I found on their website that there will be a pow-wow in March at UNC ( and found on another site they have a pow-wow every April -


If anyone knows a lot of information about the Haliwa-Saponi tribe's traditional hobbies and/or artwork please contact me.


I am a descendant of Sidney Rudolph Richardson and Lucy Lee Hilliard Richardson, born in Castalia N.C. They settled in Nash County, farmed for the Griffin family. My oldest brother says we are of the Saponi tribe. Can anyone assist me? Many thanks, Marcia Richardson


Hi Marcia,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and sharing your question.

NCpedia doesn't have any information that would directly help you.  But I can direct you in a few directions for more information:

First, you may wish to contact the Haliwa-Saponi Tribe.  Here is a link to their website:

The website for the NC Commission of Indian Affairs:

The Genealogy page for the NC Government & Heritage Library:  The library has resources and services to support family history research.

I hope this helps. Please let me know if you have additional questions.

Best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


Hi my 7th great grandfather was Hubert George Basket I was told he was Haliwa saponi he lived in Warren county in 1714 but died in O.K. we think he walked the Trail of Tears he had a daughter named Little Mary Flower Basket who was born in 1740 and married one of my great grandfathers Captain Robert Messer who was hung in 1771 for not showing loyalty to England. He was part of the Regulator movement. Has anyone heard his name


Cool Basket


Have you gotten any reply? I am also searching!!!


Please contact me I am looking for the same family!!?


Hi David Littrell,

I came to this site and noticed your surname, I've seen posting on ancestry about my my Boone and your Littrell beinf connected somehow. I'm researching native american roots of my Boon(e) and Richardson side from the Roanoke and surrounding areas of VA. We were told Cherokee but suspect another tribe.

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