Who We Are
The Sappony are currently pursuing initiatives in the areas of economic development, health, education and cultural preservation. They hold annual Tribal events, such as the Spring Festival and Fall Stew, and are involved in Native American health and education issues and organizations.
The Sappony are one of North Carolina's eight state-recognized American Indian tribes. We are the only North Carolina tribe whose traditional homelands, the High Plains of the Piedmont region, cross the border of another state. We settled the area straddling Person County, North Carolina, and Halifax County, Virginia before state lines were drawn, and in fact, helped draw the boundary line in 1728 when Sappony Ned Bearskin led William Byrd’s surveying party through the region.
Pride in our Indian heritage is not new to the Sappony of High Plains. Our efforts for political recognition began as early as 1911. Tied to the funding of the High Plains Indian School, the Sappony were state-recognized in North Carolina in 1911 and in Virginia in 1913. In 1997, the Sappony were seated in North Carolina Commission on Indian Affairs and in 2003, the Sappony officially changed their name from the state-designated label of “Indians of Person County” to the current “Sappony” to more accurately reflect their heritage.
In recent years the Sappony have made efforts to educate others about our heritage and create resources for maintaining our community through economic development and the Heritage Program, which includes a youth camp that began in 2001. The Sappony are also active in healthy eating and active living activities through our annual 5K trail run among other activities. Education remains of utmost importance to the Sappony and our Education Committee awards annual scholarships to encourage and reward post-high school studies.
Sappony history is one of family bonds, hard work, moral values and loyalty. It is the history of a people whose lives changed with the changing of times – from hunters and farmers of pre-contact days to trading partners with the English during colonial times, from tenant and landed farmers throughout the 1800s and 1900s to a contemporary Indian people in a diversified world. Today they are a community descended from, and still formed of, seven main families: Coleman, Epps, Johnson, Martin, Shepherd, Stewart/Stuart and Talley. They are a unified community despite the man-made state boundary line that cuts through High Plains and despite the changes time has brought. The Sappony are one of North Carolina's eight state-recognized tribes and have approximately 900? enrolled members.
The Sappony have ever been a people whose ability to adapt to new lifeways enabled them to survive and to benefit from new opportunities. Today, tobacco farming in the region is no longer economically viable. Tribal members now pursue higher education and have become skilled in a variety of fields, currently working in many professions other than farming including education, medicine, finance and technology. Throughout hundreds of years of changes, we have maintained our tribal and family bonds as Sappony people.
The Sappony commitment to community and family has kept them together. Those who have remained in High Plains have maintained the family homes and farm lands. Relatives who have moved from the area continue to come back for yearly family reunions, school reunions, Sappony homecomings, youth camp and more. Keeping the family stories and reconnecting with their early history has become a passion for many Sappony. Following this time of change, leaders in the community have begun efforts to document Sappony history and to reclaim our Indian heritage.
As part of our Heritage Program with emphasis on cultural reclamation, the Sappony developed a Tribal insignia with historic ties. Because tobacco was a primary subsistence crop, the Sappony placed a tobacco leaf in the center of their Tribal insignia. The insignia also shows corn and wheat flanking the tobacco. Corn and wheat were two other crops that along with tobacco formed the base of Sappony subsistence. Farming families in the community worked together to ready the fields, plant, maintain and harvest crops.
The Sappony are a community descended from, and still formed of, seven main families: Coleman, Epps, Johnson, Martin, Shepherd, Stewart/Stuart and Talley. The seven stars in the Sappony insignia represent the seven families, or clans, of the Sappony, watched over by God. The seven feathers also represent the seven families, tied together. The three arrowheads are the historical Sappony trading symbol with the colonists.
Sappony Heritage Youth Camp
Sappony 5K Trail Run
November Art Gallery