Saponitown Forum



Historical Articles


The Other Blackfoot, Page Three 

I believe that a factor which motivated many Saponi to resist adoption into the Six Nations was the bitter warfare which had existed between the Iroquois and the Saponi for many years, going all the way back to the Mourning or Beaver Wars of the 17th century.  The attrition devouring the Saponi from this bitter feuding was a major factor in routing them from their homelands.  It would seem natural that some of them would have felt reluctant to capitulate so totally to their hereditary enemies. 

Another factor would be the precocious Anglicization of the Saponi, which would have adapted them well for life within the frontier economy.  During their stay at Fort Christanna (circa 1720) an “Indian School” was instituted in which a number of children were taught by a Mr. Griffin.  Unlike the horrendous abuse associated with most 19th and 20th century Indian schools, Mr. Griffin was reported to be a kindly teacher much enjoyed by his pupils.    Saponi children were also sent to a boarding school at William and Mary College

There is a documentary associated with archeologists at George Washington Forest (just above Roanoke VA), “The Last of the Tutelo" in which the narrative characterizes the northward bound Tutelo population as relatively worldly and sought-after for diplomatic purposes, for their knowledge of English.   It was reported in this piece, that Shickellamy, the Six Nations diplomat who coordinated the tributary tribes of Pennsylvania, was married to a Tutelo woman.  In 1747 Shickellamy's first wife died in Shamokin of a disease that spread through there. Shortly thereafter he married a Tutelo woman. He then died Dec. 12, 1748. She then remarried and is noted passing through Shamokin with her new husband on March 20, 1749. This is from the Moravian Archives,

I’ve been corresponding for some years with the Mingo-EGADs e-list, devoted to resurrecting Appalachian Iroquois, a close dialect to the Seneca language, which was still spoken in some isolated WV communities as late as the 1950’s. I was alerted to subscribe to this e-mail list when posts were circulating called “The Blackfoot of the Seneca.”   Some of the list members recalled seeing a roadside marker by this name in Elkins, WV.  The Mingo language informant, Dr. Thomas McElwain, states that "literally everybody in the town of Mingo at the south end of Randolph country [WV] is a Blackfoot.”    Dr. McElwain is a Professor of Comparative Religions, and a native of Elkins, WV.

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