A Southeastern Siouan Blackfoot Nation

The Saponi Nation of Ohio is a tribal group composed of descendants and heirs of the historic Saponi Nation. We are a sub-group of the Dakota from the time when our Siouan ancestors lived in the Ohio River Valley area around 1200 A.D.

According to archaeologists and others, the original Native population of the Ohio Country was wholly or mainly Siouan. Anthropologists generally agree to on a great Siouan occupation of the Ohio lands.

At the beginning of historic time, the great Ohio Valley had been emptied by Iroquois invaders. The Siouan people were separated, going to the four directions. Some the Siouan tribes were driven toward the southeast and found refuge in Virginia and the Carolinas. They then emerged on the pages of history as the Tutelo, the Saponi, the Monacan, the Occaneechi and others.

Lt. Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia sought to protect the various Siouan people by inviting them to settle in 1713 around Fort Christanna in Brunswick County, Virginia. From the western history's point of view these groups were consolidated as the "Saponi Nation".

During this period the various groups migrated back and forth and across the Virginia-Carolina Piedmont Area seeking safe refuge as English settlements overwhelmed the Piedmont area. The Eastern Siouan tribes as well as the other Native people were pressured to cede their lands and move west. A band went North and was ultimately absorbed by the Six Nations. Another group went Southeast and became associated with the "Five Civilized Tribes". A third group stayed in the Piedmont area while a fourth group went South and joined the Catawba Nation. Our group returned to the Ohio River Valley, the ancestral homeland of the Siouan people.

The Saponi people returned in mass into southeastern Ohio in the early 1600's. The English and Christian surnames that they had taken on begin to appear in Gallia, Jackson, Lawrence, Pike, Ross and Highland counties.

Our present day Saponi community encompasses only a fractional portion of our ancestral territory and is located primarily in Gallia, Jackson and Lawrence counties in Ohio.

The Siouan Saponi, one of the oldest groups of indigenous people in the Ohio River Valley, have upheld the proud heritage of their people and have struggled defiantly to preserve their Indian community.


Compiled by Cindy Stillgess-Fite


The Ohio River Valley Sioux (related to the Dakota tribe) were located in what is now southeastern Ohio, including Gallia, Meigs, Vinton, Lawrence, Jackson, Pike, Highland and Ross counties.


The Ohio River Valley Sioux became so large in population that their settlements spread to the eastern slopes of the Allegheny Mountains, in what is now Virginia and West Virginia.

During this time, the Tutelo/Saponi and other tribes related to the Sioux made first contact with European colonists. Because of attacks by the Iroquois from the north, these Siouian tribes were forced to move to North Carolina.


The language spoken by the Siouian tribes was Tutelo, and a part of the people called the Tutelo, while others call themselves by other names, including Saponi.

In 1711, Governor Alexander Spotswood of Virginia offered sanctuary to the Tutelo and related tribes, who were still being attacked by the Iroquois. The sanctuary was located at Fort Christanna, Virginia. So the people returned to Virginia. The Iroquois attacks stoped at the signing of the Treaty of 1722.

The tribe began to move north to Pennsylvania and New York under pressure from white settlers coming into Virginia.


They were adopted into the Six Nations of the Iroquois by the Cayuga (one of the Six Nations) and lived in Cayuga villages in New York. During the American Revolutionary War, some members of the Tutelo and Saponi, together with the Cayuga and Mohawks, crossed the Canadian border and settled in the valley of the Grand River in southwestern Ontario. The area is still known today as Tutela Heights.

The Saponi people who lived in the region adjoining the Ohio River Valley near Pennsylvania under the rule of the Six Nations of the Iroquois were called Mingoes.

In 1770, a group of Mingoes (Saponies) fled from white settlers and moved into Chillicothe, Ohio. This group splintered again as white civilization forced them onto the reservation. Some of the people who refused reservation life fled west to Missouri Indian Territory. By 1780, the Saponies were driven out of Virginia by whites from the east and Iroquois from the north. Some were found living in Mount Airy, North Carolina in 1780.


Saponi Indians of Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, Southeast Kentucky, Michigan, Indiana, Ohio, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania referred to themselves as Catawba or Blackfoot of the Saponi Nation. About 1870, a small number of Saponi known as the Catawba Indians, settled on the Saponi Reservation in Greenville County, Virginia.


The Indian Removal Act became law. This law made it legal to remove Native Americans from their land in the southeast. Indians were rounded up by soldiers and forced to march long distances to reservations. Many Indians died on these journeys.

Because of the Indian Removal Act, many Native Americans began to refer to themselves as "colored" or "mulatto" to avoid removal. Therefore, the former Saponi were forced to take English names. The descendents of the Ohio River Valley Sioux are now called Blackfoot Band of the Saponi Nation of Ohio, Inc.

Following is a partial listing of family names, which are included in the bylaws of the Saponi Nation of Ohio, Inc. If you or an immediate family member carries one of the following names, the chances are very high that you are descended from Indians who survived removal by merging into the mainstream culture.

CORE FAMILY NAMES: Burnett, Chavis, Chavers, Shavers, Coker, Croker, Craddolph, Dungey, Harris, Howell, Long, Marsh, McKeel, Keel, Keels, Scott, Stewart.

EXTENDED FAMILY NAMES (partial list): Bass, Bolling, Brown, Branham, Byrd, Collins, Corn, Cousins, Dempsey, Dixon, Garland, Gibson, Goings/Goins, Griffin, Guy, Haithcock, Hart, Haskins, Hawk, Hawkins, Henson, Holly, Hughes, James, Jeffries, Jeffreys, Johnson, Jones, Keeton, Liggins, Martin, Mason, Matthews, McDaniel, McKinney, Moss, Newman, Nichols, Parker, Pettiford, Ragland, Rickman, Richardson, Robbins, Robinson, Saunders, Sanders, Shumake, Simmons, Spears, Stills, Valentine, Vaughn, Viney, Watkins, Watson, Whitt, Winborn.