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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: 



Well K Richardson...I don't want to try to guess which cousin of mine this is but since Rev. Charlie Horace Richardson was my great-grandfather too, I have sneaky feeling that I already know:-).


I believe i may be a relative of yours as well. I believe Horace to either be a brother or nephew to my grandfather. His name was Prince Richardson Sr., and had other siblings in the Hollister area (one i remember well was Roosevelt, his youngest brother - Sisters named Pattie Richardson and Seal Richardson)
All that being said, I would love to reach out and meet my blood relatives. My grandparents are deceased now and my father is also. He has one sister living who is familiar with the blood line but she is not too familiar with anyone past her generation.... (age 65).
Thank you


Angela - I believe that you are correct. I have been doing research on our family and I do remember a Roosevelt and a Prince as relatives of our family. I too am the great-granddaughter of Rev. Charlie Horace Richardson.


Lol...yep u got me, not too many of your first cousins have a name that starts with a ''K"! I was just talking to dad today about great grandpa. I was also asking him if he knew where our great, great grandparents came from. While we were on our cruise last week we were asked over and over if we were from puerto rico and while in saint maarten i had someone speak to me in spanish. It makes me wonder if at some point our family did have some ties to south america, there are tribes there. Dad said to talk to Aunt Nancy and Uncle Earnest because with them being as old as they are they know more about the generations before them.


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?"


It show no Race for me, but for both of them their Race show black, they both say they are not Black, but are Indian, my Grand parents Race was Indian think, when I ask them they say they are Indian, but for some reason their Race is recorded to be Black. My Grandmother on my Fathers side , well her name is Odell Richardson Coley, she was a Cherokee Indian Princess so i was told. My Grand Father was a mix ,his Father was White,And his Mother was Indian, not sure of what Tribe though. I've lived my whole life not knowing my race, kinda makes life hard, I have one child, that was born out of wedlock,and she constantly ask me what her Race really is, she goes as Black , just like my parents do. My father say he remember his Grand Father who dressed as an Indian. Long story short, I would just love to find out who I really am, so I can share that with my off spring, so they will can indentify with themselves past present and future.

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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