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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: 



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.


Hello, ,
I am researching my great grandfather George Richardson from Roanoke, VA. He married Mamie Corbett. If you have any information, I would appreciate it.


Hello. My name is Jovon and I have been picking my grandmother's brain for ages trying to get her to think back to her mother whom is from the rocky mount area possibly. She says she doesnt remember much because she was the youngest of many but my grandmother is a Hawkins (paternal) and a Lucas (Maternal) can anyone help me find my past?


What was your grandmothers name


Dear Jovon,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia and taking time to share your interest and question. 

We would be glad to try to help you.  By email, I'm connecting you with Reference Services at the N.C. Government & Heritage Library.  A librarian will contact you shortly to help suggest ways you can go about researching your past and family history.

I’m also including a link to a free online learning resource at the Government & Heritage Library.  It’s called “RootsMOOC” --  It’s a short online tutorial on how to go about doing family history research. There are four “modules” and they are all self-paced.  You can access the video and tutorials online at that link and watch them at your leisure. 

Good luck with your research and best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


Hello. I was always told I had ties within the Haliwa-Saponi tribe through my mother's side. She is in the Hart family and they reside in Rocky Mount NC. I would love to know if they have had ties to the tribe because I would love to learn more about my heritage.


Dear Courtney,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia  and taking time to share your history and question. 

I am also replying to the email address you included with your post and cc’ing Reference Services at the NC Government & Heritage Library.  A librarian will contact you shortly to suggest resources for researching Haliwa-Saponi heritage in North Carolina.

Good luck with your research and best wishes,

Kelly Agan, NC Government & Heritage Library


I have always known that as a child i belong to a special people. This year i have had the wonderful experience of meeting them through NASA at NCSTATE. Thank you

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