Sunday, May 11, 2014

What Tribe is the Eastern Blackfoot?

Eastern Blackfoot

So many people say their ancestors were “Eastern Blackfoot, or Blackfoot Cherokee Indian. Since there was no known tribe with either of those names, who were they?

A few years back (2006) something I'd written something and it was posted at the link below. I spent little time on it, so it isn't as organized as I wish it was. For a full transcript please visit the site itself. Others have written on the same topic. I have several opinions below.

Another theory of the origin of the term "Blackfoot"

A conversation initiated by Vance Hawkins, September 2006: an exchange of emails; 18 Sep 2006

From Vance Hawkins (see biographical note at bottom of page), 15 Sep 2006 --
This website (now inoperative) clearly showed Nanticoke Indians in the location where "Blackfoot Town" was located on or near the Delaware/Maryland Border.

This website says – . . . the majority of the tribe [Nanticoke] , in company with remnants of the Mahican and Wappinger, emigrated to the west about 1784 and joined the Delaware in Ohio and Indiana, with whom they soon became incorporated, disappearing as a distinct tribe. Some mixed-bloods are said to live on Indian River, Delaware. . . .

So amongst the Delaware of Oklahoma are most Nanticoke Indians.
There was a "Blackfoot Church", where an early settler said it was named after Indians who lived nearby, is located in Pike County, and it borders Gibson County.

Please read the historical marker above. It says Blackfoot Church was named after a local Indian tribe. It was founded in the 1790s. What Indians were found there at the time? Let's find out.

The "History of Gibson County [Indiana]. by Gil Stormont, mentions (p 32 -37 or so) mentioned several algonquin tribes who lived in this part of Indiana. Altho it doesn't mention Delaware specifically, (I thought it did) -- all those mentioned are Alqonquin, including Shawnee. I recall a map I'd seen before showing Delaware in So. Indiana. This could account for the Blackfoot Town in So. Indiana as well as the MD/DE border.

There are references to Delaware living in this region on Miami lands. They asked permission and it was granted by the Miami.

There was once a map at the link above. Fortunately, I copied and pasted it on my computer (Indiana map above). Notice the location of Delaware and Shawnee Indians in Southern Indiana near the Kentucky border, dated @ 1810. If you look at a map of Indiana, Pike County (which borders Gibson County) is in Southern Indiana and compare it to a map of where Indian tribes lived in Indiana. The "Blackfoot Church," was said to have been named after a tribe of Indians that lived nearby in the late 1790s when the church was first founded (see historical marker at the church above), is in Pike County. See how close the 2 Indian Shawnee/Delaware Villages are to Pike County, near the Southern tip of Indiana in 1810? So the only tribe in common to both locations -- one in Delaware/Maryland called Blackfoot Town/Dagsborough, and the other the Blackfoot Church in Pike County, Indiana -- is the Nanticoke, as it was said that the Nanticoke travelled west with the Delaware.

But at the above website it says – [note: unfortunately I just looked, the website I was quoting is no longer there, either – I'll look for other references, and update when I have time.].

In 1722, through the efforts of the Colonial governments, peace was finally made between the Iroquois and the Virginia tribes. In consequence the Saponi and Tutelo some years later moved to the north and settled on the Susquehanna at Shamokin, Pa., under Iroquois protection, later moving up the river to Skogari. Their chiefs were allowed to sit in the great council of the Six Nations. In 1763 the two tribes, together with the Nanticoke and Conoy, numbered, according to Sir Wm. Johnson, 200 men, possibly 1,000 souls. In 1771 the Tutelo were settled on the east side of Cayuga inlet, about 3 miles from the south end of the lake, in a town called Coreorgonel, which was destroyed in 1779 by Gen. Sullivan. The last surviving full-blood Tutelo known was Nikonha, from whom Hale obtained the linguistic material by which he determined the relation of the tribe to the Siouan stock. He died in 1871.

The Tutelo also clearly are migrating to Canada, not Indiana with the Delaware, but the Delaware and Nanticoke at Shamokin DID migrate to Indiana and eventually to here in Oklahoma. That map clearly shows Nanticoke in Central Indiana but does not mention Tutelo.

Thosa known as “The Seneca of the Sandusky” can be prefectly traced and they migrated to Northeastern Oklahoma, and are a part of the Seneca-Cayoga Tribe of Northeastern Oklahoma, today. It was said of them there wasn't a Seneca amongst them. They were said to have been made up of remnant bands, mostly Algonquin, who had been subsidiary to the Seneca, and owned allegiance to the Six Nations through conquest by them. Since the Tutelo who went North were considered a conquered people there might have been some of them amongst them. But there is no record of them, if that wqas the case, in Indiana.

I just tried to enlarge this, and it wouldn't enlarge, unlike earlier posts! I don't know! You can see it at the link above, as well.

The above link is to that church in Indiana I mentioned. It says it was created in the 1790s The only Indians in the region at that time were Delaware/Miami/Shawnee.

In researching my family, one branch lived in Gibson County, Indiana from 1806 to 1844 when they went to Arkansas, and in 1872 to Indian Territory, aka Oklahoma, where we have remained. This is why I became interested in the history of that region.

I always admit I might be wrong -- whatever I say is free for anyone to share however they like.

DAGSBOROUGH VILLAGE is located on that part of "Dagworthy’s Conquest" taken up by General John Dagworthy, from whom it derived its name. In deeds recorded previous to 1785, it is mentioned "as the place formerly called Blackfoot town, but now Dagsbury."

Blackfoot Indians, Another View


Another opinion mentions a location and people called Indian River Indians. Some background information about Blackfoot Town by Dick Carter, chairman of the Delaware Heritage Commission:

From Dick Carter 16 Mar 2008

Subject: Sussex County's Native American community

Dick Carter says (dated 2008) “ I have to say that, although I am in no position to dispute it, I've never seen an authoritative primary source proving that the "Blackfoot Town" moniker was in fact used in the early 18th Century.” Immediately after saying this, he continues to write and say that he thinks it was called Blackfoot Town because early setters were walking through the swamp. He says “that the area between what is now Dagsboro and the Great Cypress Swamp was then far muddier than today (before drainage ditches had become common) and the mud was black. So if you walked around in it, you got black feet. I do dispute the theory, which I've also heard from time to time, that there was some connection between the "Blackfoot Town" designation and the "Blackfoot Indians", which I gather were a small sub-tribal group of the Teton Sioux who entered the historical record of the American West somewhere in the mid-19th Century and are said to have gotten their name from the fact that they wore black moccasins.” So apparently there was a Blackfoot Town then, near Dagsborough, but he suggests that it was so named later in time, and that the term “Blackfoot Town” might not have been used before the majority of the original peoples, the Nantecoke and their allies, migrated westward with the Delaware.

So Blookfoot Town might have been named as it was simply because people walking in the area got their feet muddy when walking in the area. That is possible.

Blackfoot Cherokee

There are a great many people who think their ancestors were called “Blackfoot-Cherokee” Indians. Historically, there is no record of such people ever existing. Why then, are there so many people who have family stories of their ancestors being called “Blackfoot-Cherokee? So here I am, in search of the Blackfoot Cherokee. Here is one idea:

Back in 1991 i moved to Chattanooga from Minneapolis. Two years later i was invited to join in the founding and development of the Chattanooga InterTribal Association (CITA). Recently (ca.1997) an education graduate student at the local university told me that there was a local 'tribe' of Cherokee and Blackfoot over in the Cleveland, Tennessee area. I was amazed, given that the Blackfeet are a tribe from the Montana and Alberta, Canada area and the Cherokee from the Tennessee, Georgia and Carolinas area, and that these two very different Native nationalities were represented down here about 40 miles northeast of Chattanooga.

This was not the first time i had heard of this mix: back around 1994 a member of CITA had said that he was Cherokee&Blackfoot. I was puzzled by the fact that these two nations are separated by over 2,000 miles and at least ten Native nations in between (not to mention the differences in language and culture), and that these two nations have never shared any geographical proximity before or after the racial cleansing of this area (euphemistically referred to as "The Removal" or "The Trail of Tears"), ie, not here in the southeast United States or in Oklahoma or Texas. Moreso than simply puzzled, i became suspicious that the claimed incidences of Cherokee&Blackfoot mixing could be better explained by something other than a statistical anomaly.

So i've been wondering how this mixture of nationalities took place. Part of this curiosity is fueled by my own mixed-blood Native heritage - Blackfoot & Hunkpapa Lakota of Standing Rock. Among the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Nation, Blackfoot is a clan that i've never heard anybody refer to apart from history and cultural texts. Another part of the mystery is the term "Blackfoot" itself: the tribe up north is called "Blackfeet", but most people claiming this mix with Cherokee blood refer to themselves as "Blackfoot" -- is it the same? or different? I haven't found "Blackfoot" people who know much - if anything - about the Blackfeet up north. What does this mean?

I've come to the conclusion, albeit based on personal observations, the following information and stories and my growing knowledge of Cherokee history, that for the most part, the claim to Cherokee and Blackfoot blood is actually a story intentionally designed by people's ancestors to cover up the African ("Black") bloodline in their past, and to disguise it as a racial group more commonly accepted in White majoritarian society - American Indian. Hence "Black" becomes "Blackfoot", and thereby more tolerable to White relatives.

Granted that there certainly are actual instances in which Blackfeet and Cherokee people have met and intermarried - i readily accept this. But down here in the South, and the Chattanooga area specifically, where Whites are now so ready to cite their Native American ancestors, there still exists a very deep racial prejudice among Natives and Whites against having African/Black ancestors. I hear about it all the time -- the bad-mouthing by Native full-bloods and mixed-bloods alike of a local full-blood Indian Commissioner who's reputed to have Black blood, fully intended as a racial slur; the active ignoring of the local African American community whose various members have, by far, more Native blood than their White counterparts; the attempts to cheapen the Indianess of another state official involved in American Indian politics by saying she's Black, not Indian, because she looks more Black; the self denial of any Black blood by a Native American very active in Tennessee Native politics who appears to have African ancestors. These incidents tell me that Black/african blood will be denied in most every person's genealogy.

In sum, my argument is based entirely on the philosophical principle of Occam's razor (see the bottom of this page for a more complete explanation) -- that when faced with differing explanations for an event, rational simplicity is best. So when given the concept of Cherokee & Blackfoot marriages and their general lack of explanation, i deduce from their geographical separation that it is unlikely that such a preponderance of marriages actually occurred between Blackfoot people of the Northwest and Cherokee people of the Southeast, and that a simpler, more logical explanation is that "Blackfoot" became a way of disguising African/"Black" relatives and ancestors.

I'm interested in what you think about this theory, especially if you offer proof to debunk or support it.

Thanks for taking the time to read this.

From the above website hwe have the following:

Q: Did the Blackfoot Indians ever live in the South (Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas, etc.)? Did they ever merge with the Cherokee tribe?

A: It's interesting how often this question comes up. The Blackfoot Indians are people of the Northern Plains--Montana and Alberta, Canada--where they still live to this day. Not only did they never live in the southern states, they were never forced to move to Oklahoma, so they never had close contacts with the Cherokees either before or after the Trail of Tears.

However, during the 1800's, a lot of Native Americans suddenly began to surface in the southeast identified as "Blackfoot" or "Blackfoot-Cherokee." There are several theories as to why. One is that "Blackfoot" may just have been a popular tribe around then, so great-grandma from South Carolina got remembered as a Blackfoot Princess simply because it sounded more glamorous than "Catawba" did. This kind of thing happened more often than you might think (coincidentally enough, many people have been incorrectly identified as Cherokees when they really belonged to some other tribe, as well). Second, "Blackfoot" was evidently a code word among the early African-American community for a person of mixed American Indian and African heritage. And third, I've heard it suggested that local white people may have called the Saponi people of Virginia and North Carolina "Blackfoot" for some reason--possibly because the name of a Saponi band, town, or leader may have translated as "Black Foot." Since the Saponi were known for taking in escaped African slaves, perhaps the second and third theories might both be true.

This author has obviously been influenced by the website.
Blackfoot Indians are Sissipahaw Indians, a band of the Catawba

Enigmatic Blackfoot Identifications East of the Mississippi and the Piedmont Siouan of Virginia and North Carolina By Linda Carter

Sissipaha - A former small tribe of North Carolina, presumably Siouan, from their alliance and associations with known Siouan tribes. They must have been an important tribe at one time, as Haw River, the chief head stream of Cape Fear river, derives its name from them, and the site of their former village, known in 1728 as Haw Old Fields, was noted as the largest body of fertile land in all that region. It was probably situated about the present Saxapahaw on Haw River, in the lower part of Alamance County, North Carolina. -- Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30.

If this huge settlement in the Haw river valley was called 'Isi Asepihiye' and the English heard it, they would likely slur all the double vowels. English speakers have trouble pronouncing the double vowels common to Native languages.. They also have difficulting accenting even numbered syllables the way native languages are generally spoken. It's quite likely they'd drop the initial 'i' sound. Given those assumptions,

Tutelo =                English
Isi =                 foot
asepihiye =      blacken
Isi asepihiye = Blackfoot
isi asepihiye = sissipaha

I think this makes for an exceptionally 'clean' corruption. It also makes sense as a name when you consider that the Haw river valley is the largest fertile plain in the region. The people there were great, prosperous farmers. Native farmers used slash and burn agriculture. Hence the emphasis on blackened feet. That's where their prosperity came from, the crux of their economy. From the archeological evidence, they were a very dense population. Epidemics spread through them like wildfire (which is documented). Then, once the economy switched to the fur trade in order to compete in the European-imposed arms race, agriculture lost its importance economically.

The name Blackfoot would then have evoked memories of a much kinder and gentler past. Something a people facing chaos and obvlivion would have treasured. Perhaps that's why that name has been preserved in so many families for the past three hundred years.

The word “Blackfoot” has been carried in a small but distinct group of families that derived east of the Mississippi, and who could have no logical connection to the Blackfoot nation of the Plains.   I would like to demonstrate that there is a distict pattern of surnames and origins to this group, and that they hark back to an historic group of tribes by way of much intriguing evidence. . . .

There have been objections raised to the theory that the Blackfoot ID in families deriving east of the Mississippi are Eastern Siouan. This objection has an alternate theory that this ID is the result of the popularity of the western, Siksika, Blackfoot performers in the Wild West shows of the 1890s, making their tribal name a household word. So, the theory goes, families who had either Native blood they knew nothing about, but wanted to give a name to, or, families with some degree of African blood they were trying to disavow, borrowed the name Blackfoot.

If this were the case, then there would be a geographical source traceable to the 1890s. With these families, however, the geographical sources clearly traces back to Colonial days, with many of these Blackfoot ID'd families migrating to other states as early as the 1740's.

Between 1740 and 1780, there was a Blackfoot Town, MD documented in what is now Dagsboro, DE (the border changed). Interestingly, in 1743, there was a well-documented uprising of the Tutelo (Piedmont Siouan) and the Seneca against the British in that vicinity. This does demonstrate that this identification was found on the east coast in Colonial times, with an association to the Piedmont Siouan. I've also heard from other researchers of documentation they saw, but didn't note the source for. One was of the "Blackfoot of the Dan" (a river in the VA/NC Piedmont). Another, which may be in Colonial records held in England, was a reference to a group of tribes coming to the VA colonial government, stating that they were banding together for strength and were calling themselves the Blackfoot. I've yet to find these sources and would appreciate word if anyone does find them.

Let me deal chronologically with what’s known about the village or tribe, the Sissipaha, which I believe translates as “Blackfoot.” The Sissipaha are associated with the Shakori and Eno branches of the Piedmont Siouan family or confederation of tribes, which were extremely early casualties of English encroachment and simultaneous conflict with the Iroquois. [NOTE HERE MAP I HAVE]

There are perhaps 20 tribes or villages of Siouan speaking people of the Piedmont who were constantly merging together for protection through harrowing times.  (Though very distantly related to the Sioux tribes of the west, we must be careful not assume too great a cultural similarity.)   Eno (where, presumably, Sissipaha survivors who would have been associated at that point) are mentioned as one of the groups huddled at Fort Christanna in 1713-1717.  Some accounts refer to them as the Stuckenock.  There is also mention of the Sissipaha/Shakori/Eno joining the Catawba (also Siouan) in northern South Carolina in roughly this period. 

During the Fort Christanna period, Governor Spotswood of Virginia, for his convenience, dubbed all the Siouan tribes there as “Saponi.” That, and the word Tutelo, dominated the naming of these people in historical references from then on.   For that reason, we will refer to the Eastern, Piedmont Siouan as "Saponi" in most of the following.  The historical record runs mainly as such:

Probably about 1740 the Saponi and Tutelo went north, stopping for a time at Shamokin, in Pennsylvania, about the site of Sunbury, where they and other Indians were visited by the missionary David Brainard in 1745.  In 1753 the Cayuga formally adopted the Saponi and Tutelo, who thus became a part of the Six Nations, though all had not then removed to New York.  In 1765 the Saponi are mentioned as having 30 warriors living at Tioga, about Sayre, PA, and other villages on the northern branches of the Susquehanna.  A part remained here until 1778, but in 1771 the principal portion had their village in the territory of the Cayuga, about 2 miles south of what is now Ithaca, NY.  After which they disappear from history [the Saponi, that is - the Tutelo survived a bit longer with the Cayuga on Six Nations reserve in Canada. A cholera epidemic in the late 1800's reduced their numbers to the point that the survivors merged with the Cayuga. Some of their customs and ceremonies are still observed, and they have many descendants there]. -- Bureau of American Ethnology, Bulletin 30, page 464.

What has interested me, however, since it appears my own family was among those who “had not then removed to New York” are the other clues to migrations that did not end in total biological extinction.

Please go here

for more information.


So my own opinion is that the Eastern Blackfoot are a remnant group of Nanticoke Indians, a group who migrated westward with the Delaware, and eventually merged with them, disappearing from historical records sometime after 1810.

A second opinion about Blackfoot Town by Dick Carter, chairman of the Delaware Heritage Commission, states the term probably originated not as with respect to any Indian community, but with the first settlers who walked through the local swamp, and the mud was black, hence the term "Blackfoot".

A third opinion is found at the link below.
The person creating this page thinks the term "Blackfoot Cherokee" refers to Southern mixed race (white, black, Indian) people who had African blood, and were ashamed to admit it.

A fourth opinion, that of Linda Carter, at the website, is that the term "Blackfoot" refers to the Sisipahaw, a band of the greater Catawba, or eastern Siouan peoples.

Hopefully I might have time to come back here and make arguments as to why I prefer my explanation. All are good arguments, and make have merit. It will be a while before I have time to comment further. When I do I will mention it on my facebook page