Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation
|Regions with significant populations|
|English, Tutelo-Saponi (historical)|
|Indigenous Religion, Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
|Occaneechi, Saponi, other eastern Siouan tribes|
The Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation are descendants of the historic Saponi and other Siouan-speaking Indians who occupied the Piedmont of North Carolina and Virginia. The community is located primarily in Pleasant Grove Township, Alamance County, North Carolina. The tribe maintains an office in Mebane, where it carries out programs to benefit the roughly 701 enrolled tribal members.
Limited documentation exists linking members of the tribe to the historical Occaneechi and Saponi tribes. After warfare in the Southeast in the 18th century, most of the remaining Saponi tribe members went north in 1740 for protection with the Iroquois. After the American Revolution, they relocated with the Iroquois in Canada, as they had been allies of the British.
After the war and migration, the Saponi disappeared from the historical record in the Southeast, in part because of racial discrimination that often included them in records only as free blacks or free people of color, when the states and federal government had no category in censuses for American Indian. In addition, because slavery became essentially a racial caste, southern society tended to classify people with any African ancestry as black, rather than recognizing mixed ancestry. This was especially true in the late 19th and early 20th century, after white Democrats regained control of state legislatures across the South and imposed a binary system of racial segregation.
Remnant Saponi who stayed in North Carolina were mostly acculturated. The community was traditionally located at the old "Little Texas" community of Pleasant Grove Township, where the tribe owns 25 acres (100,000 m2) of land. In the twentieth century, the tribe worked to revive its cultural traditions. It is developing a tribal center facility. This will include a reconstructed 1700 Occaneechi village, museum, log farm from the 1880s, community meeting space, and classroom areas.
The Occaneechi-Saponi Band is recognized by the state of North Carolina.
Although the North Carolina Commission of Indian Affairs (NCCIA) originally opposed granting recognition, an administrative law judge found that the Occaneechi-Saponi met the established guidelines and recommended that the commission grant tribal recognition to the petitioners. This recommendation became the final decision of the case when the NCCIA failed to issue a final decision within the time limits set forth in N.C. Gen. Stat. § 150B-44 (1991).
The NCCIA appealed the decision, but the Supreme Court of North Carolina denied review and dissolved a temporary stay in 2001. (see 354 N.C. 365, 556 S.E.2d 575 (2001). This meant that the recommendation of the administrative judge held.
The tribe holds an annual Pow-wow on the second weekend in June on its tribal property on Daily Store Road, ten miles (16 km) north of Mebane.