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Total population
350[citation needed]
Regions with significant populations
Virginia and North Carolina
English, formerly Algonquian[citation needed]
Native, Christianity

Ani-Stohini/Unami is a small Native American tribe located in seven counties of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia and one county of North Carolina. They submitted a full Petition for Federal Acknowledgment of Existence as an Indian Tribe through the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) in the Department of the Interior in 1968. The Bureau of Indian Affairs stated that they lost the petition and blamed the American Indian Movement take over of the B.I.A. during protests in 1972 for the missing documentation. The tribe again submitted a petition in 1994.[1] but remain an unrecognized tribe. They are not recognized by the state of Virginia.[2]

Members of the Ani-Stohini/Unami live in Carroll, Grayson, Wythe, Washington, Smyth, Patrick, and Floyd Counties in Virginia and Surry and Alleghany Counties in North Carolina.[3] The Tla Wilano Indian language has almost died out due to recent deaths of five tribal elders. Dr. Charles Howard Thomas is currently working on a Tla Wilano language grammar book, lessons, and dictionary. The International Encyclopedia of Linguistics list Tla Wilano as a Delaware language dialect, however the language has not really been studied to any degree by anyone outside of the tribe. The tribe has been called 40+ different names throughout history making tribal identification difficult. In the south, they were called the Saura Indians and some historians insist that their language is a Siouan language rather than a language related to Delaware. In the area around Saltville, Virginia, they were called the Chisca Indians. In the sixties, they settled upon the name Ani-Stohini/Unami to denote a distant kinship to the Cherokee and their own name for themselves in Tla Wilano. The Ani-Stohini/Unami have never claimed to be Cherokee and in fact, insist that chiefs noted as Cherokee by some historians and even some early explorers were Tla Wilano speaking Indians, not Cherokee.


The Ani-Stohini/Unami first petitioned the federal government for recognition in 1968. It renewed its effort in the 1990s after having been told that the original application materials had been destroyed during the 1971 takeover of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) headquarters by activist members of the American Indian Movement (AIM).[citation needed] The tribe began the recognition process again, with a letter of intent to petition to the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 1994. The Ani-Stohini/Unami is officially listed as petitioner #150 of the tribes in the BAR process for federal acknowledgement and is so noted in the Federal Register. The tribe was represented at all six of the White House Conferences for non-federally recognized tribes by the Clinton Administration, helped to save the Indian Child Welfare Act, and successfully lobbied for federal protection of the Appalachian Mountain bog turtle through the Interior Department and Virginia Senator John Warner.[citation needed]

Most recently the tribe participated in the making of the motion picture Morning Song Way (2006).[4] The unrated drama is in English and was directed by Charles Howard Thomas.[5]


The Ani-Stohini/Unami describe their language as Tla Wilano, which others have said is a dialect of Unami. According to Ethnologue, there are no known living fluent speakers of any Unami language; however, 308 people self-reported on the US Census that some Unami language is used at home.[6] The International Encyclopedia of Linguistics lists Tla Wilano as an alternate name for Unami, which was formerly spoken in Oklahoma, New Jersey, and the lower Delaware Valley.[7] The historical speakers of Unami were the Lenape, who are not documented as ever residing in Virginia or North Carolina.[8] However, the Chisca Indians were most definitely documented as living in southwestern Virginia and it is not known what language or dialect they spoke.


Today the Ani-Stohini/Unami live in mountainous rural communities. They are primarily employed in factories, agriculture, and food services. They suffer diabetes at a rate higher than in neighboring populations.[citation needed] Most of the people of the tribe have known each other all of their lives and live where their ancestors lived. They have never applied for state recognition but have been seeking Federal Recognition since 1968. With the recent deaths of elders Myrtle Marsh and Caroline Frank, and the most recent passing of Richard Marshall, three seats remain empty on the tribal council. The position of Youth Representative was recently filled by Damaskas Thomas(19).


  1. ^ "Receipt of Petition for Federal Acknowledgment of Existence as an Indian Tribe." Federal Register. Volume 60, No. 48. 13 March 1995. Accessed 8 Feb 2014.
  2. ^ Stockes, Brian. "Virginia tribes begin a quest for federal recognition." Indian Country Today Media Network. 6 Sept 2000. Accessed 8 Feb 2014.
  3. ^ Pepper, C. "Eastern Tribes of First Contact." Indigenous Peoples' Literature. Retrieved 8 Dec 2013
  4. ^ "Morning Song Way Film Screening." Archived December 11, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. WSLS10. Retrieved 8 Dec 2013.
  5. ^ "Plot, Details & Awards: Morning Song Way." Archived December 13, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Moviefone. Retrieved 8 Dec 2013.
  6. ^ "Unami." Ethnologue. Retrieved 8 Dec 2013.
  7. ^ Frawley 68
  8. ^ "Native Americans: Introduction to the Lenni Lenape, or Delaware Indians." Penn Treaty Museum. Accessed 6 May 2014.


  • Frawley, William, ed. International Encyclopedia of Linguistics, Volume 1. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003. ISBN 978-0-19513-977-8.