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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: 



what would I need to do in order to get my race changed?


would love to be able to find out more about my family history on both sides of my family. my mom maiden name was or is Hedgepeth, and my Fathers Last name is Coley, don't know a whole lot about either,Bob Coley, Odelll Richardson Coley, Wilson Hedgepeth and Olivia Rudd Hedgepeth. Also i'm interested in becoming a tribal Member,not sure how to do this.but if i could get
more infomation on this it would be much appreciated. Thank you so much,hope to hear from you soon.


Hello, my grandmother was Uyzella Hedgepeth and my grandfather was Lartha Anistead. I have just started doing research.


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!

Kelly Eubank

Government and Heritage Library


Ancestors research: William Burton 1770 to 1820 pension from revolutionary war says he was married to Indian and her name was unknown....
They moved to granville tn. With john Smith webb and some more settlers..around 1800... would like to know as much as I can learn about William Burton's wife they were from granville county n.c. thinking she was haliwa saponi Indian. Have been searching for years, help would be greatly appreciated..


Hi Greg,

Thank you for visiting NCpedia. I am sending your email to the Government and Heritage Library’s Reference Team. A librarian will be in touch.

Best wishes,

Elizabeth Hayden

Government and Heritage Library


I am trying to locate the group in Towson Md that teaches tribal dances to Native American children. My grand daughter is 8 years old and would like to become a part of the group. We live in Waldorf Md. Her mother is Native American "Alicia Richardson Jones" and her grand father who is deceased Frederick Richardson from Warren County in N.C. was Native American. His parents were also native Americans. It is my desire to teach her as much as I can about her native American ancestry.
Please forward to me information about the group in Towson. I learned about it when visiting the Pow Wow in Warren County three years ago.
sincerely Margaret Jones


Dear Margaret Jones,

Thank you for visiting and contacting NCpedia. I recommend contacting the Haliwa Saponi Indian Tribe ( for more information.

Francesca Evans, Government & Heritage Library


Hello my family and friends... I must say that I get misty eyed when I think about my family being labelled " Mullato", the trail of tears and the young who were" bound" out , considered" tithable"... I am a direct descendant of the Tuscarora, halawi-saponi people...My grandmother's great grandfather was a progenitor of the halawi-saponi people... Benjamin Richardson, look it up ,1742... He fought in the revolutionary war...My grandmother's name was Estelle Lee Boon.... Even Benjamin Richardson was bound out to Capt. Blount, along with 5 other siblings.... I wish I had a tomahawk when I hear the term "bastard Mullato"... I'm sorry brothers and sisters ...


Greetings one and all. I am brand new to this whole family tree thing but I believe that my family tree has uncovered some ties with the Haliwa-Saponi through my Great Grandfather Alfred Richardson. I went to the website for the tribe and see that Richardsons are still large and in charge in the area and amazingly their are a lot of folk on that website that look a lot like me... My mom and dad were born and raised in Nash County, NC (both deceased now) and migrated to Baltimore, MD in the late 50s where I was born in 1959. I am currently residing in the Atlanta area but I am very much interested in attending the Haliwa-Saponi Pow-Wow and making contact with some extended family I have yet to meet. Please feel free to reach out.

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