Carolina - The Native Americans

The Occaneechi Indians

The meaning of the name Occaneechi is unknown.

The Botshenins, or Patshenins, a band associated with the Saponi and Tutelo in Ontario, were perhaps identical with this tribe.

The Occaneechi belonged to the Siouan linguistic stock; their closest connections were probably the Tutelo and Saponi.

The Occaneechie lived primarily on the middle and largest island in the Roanoke River, just below the confluence of the Staunton and the Dan, near the site of Clarksville, Mecklenburg County, VA. When the Occaneechi lived on Roanoke River, VA, they probably ranged over into Warren, Halifax, and Northampton Counties of present-day North Carolina. In 1701, they were in Orange County, North Carolina.

Edward Blande and his companions heard of them in 1650. When first met by Lederer in 1670 at the spot above mentioned, the Occaneechi were noted throughout the region as traders, and their language is said to have been the common speech both of trade and religion over a considerable area (Lederer, 1912).

Between 1670 and 1676, the Occaneechi had been joined by the Tutelo and Saponi, who settled upon two neighboring islands. In the latter year the Conestoga sought refuge among them and were hospitably received, but, attempting to dispossess their benefactors, they were driven away.

Later, harassed by the Iroquois and English, the Occaneechi fled south, and in 1701, Lawson found them on the Eno River, at the present-day town of Hillsboro, Orange County, North Carolina.

Later still they united with the Tutelo and Saponi and followed their fortunes, having, according to Byrd, taken the name of the Saponi.

Mooney (1928) estimates that there were 1,200 Occaneechi in the year 1600.

There is no later estimate, but in 1709 this tribe along with the Shakori, Saponi, Tutelo, and Keyauwee were about 750.

The name Occaneechi is associated particularly with the Occaneechi Trail or Trading Path, which extended southwest through North and South Carolina from the neighborhood of Petersburg, VA.


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