Another theory of the origin of the term "Blackfoot"

A conversation initiated by Vance Hawkins, September 2006: an exchange of emails

18 Sep 2006


From Vance Hawkins (see biographical note at bottom of page), 15 Sep 2006 --

This website (now inoperative) clearly showed Nanticoke Indians in the location where"Blackfoot Town" was located on or near the Delaware/Maryland Border.

This website says --

. . . the majority of the tribe [Nanticoke] , in company with remnants of the Mahican and Wappinger, emigrated to the west about 1784 and joined the Delaware in Ohio and Indiana, with whom they soon became incorporated, disappearing as a distinct tribe. A few mixed bloods live on Indian river, Delaware. . . .

So amongst the Delaware of Oklahoma are Nanticoke Indians.


The famous (on Saponitown forum) "Blackfoot Church", where an early settler said it was named after Indians who lived nearby, is located in Pike County, and it borders Gibson County. I will send a link to this site when I refind it.

The "History of Gibson County [Indiana]. by Gil Stormont, mentions (p 32 -37 or so) many tribes who lived in this part of Indiana. Altho it doesn't mention Delaware (I thought it did) -- all those mentioned are Alqonquin, including Shawnee. I recall a map I'd seen before showing Delaware in So. Indiana. This could account for the Blackfoot Town in So. Indiana as well as the MD/DE border.

There are references to Delaware living in this region on Miami lands. They asked permission and it was granted by the Miami.


Notice the map at the link above. Notice the location of Delaware and Shawnee Indians in Southern Indiana near the Kentucky border, about 1810. If you look at a map of Indiana, Pike County (which borders Gibson County) is in Southern Indiana and compare it to a map of where Indian tribes lived in Indiana. The "Blackfoot Church," was said to have been named after a tribe of Indians that lived nearby in the late 1790s when the church was first founded, is in Pike County. See how close the 2 Indian Shawnee/Delaware Villages are to Pike County, near the Southern tip of Indiana in 1810? So the only tribe in common to both locations -- one in Delaware/Maryland called Blackfoot Town/Dagsborough, and the other the Blackfoot Church in Pike County, Indiana -- is the Nanticoke, as it was said that the Nanticoke travelled west with the Delaware.

Do the Nanticoke have any legends or stories about a band of their people being called "Blackfoot"? Just curious.

Also on the and I believe yall copied the articles, it said the Totra (aka Tutelo) wre found near this same location.

But at the above website it says --

In 1722, through the efforts of the Colonial governments, peace was finally made between the Iroquois and the Virginia tribes. In consequence the Saponi and Tutelo some years later moved to the north and settled on the Susquehanna at Shamokin, Pa., under Iroquois protection, later moving up the river to Skogari. Their chiefs were allowed to sit in the great council of the Six Nations. In 1763 the two tribes, together with the Nanticoke and Conoy, numbered, according to Sir Wm. Johnson, 200 men, possibly 1,000 souls. In 1771 the Tutelo were settled on the east side of Cayuga inlet, about 3 miles from the south end of the lake, in a town called Coreorgonel, which was destroyed in 1779 by Gen. Sullivan. The last surviving full-blood Tutelo known was Nikonha, from whom Hale obtained the linguistic material by which he determined the relation of the tribe to the Siouan stock. He died in 1871.


I want to know when Blackfoot Town changed its name to Dagsborough (I might have that misspelled). I also would like to know when it was founded. If it was founded before 1722 that would be before the Tutelo showed up in the area. Also I'd like to know where Shamokin (mentioned at the above link as the location the Delaware, Nanticoke, Conoy and Tutelo were at that time) was located, as this is the location the Tutelo were for a while on the Susquehana River. Was Shamokin near the original Blackfoot Town? I believe this was NOT the homeland of the Nantecoke, but it is where those went that migrated westward with the Delaware. Others remained behind at/near Dagsboro.

The Tutelo also clearly are migrating to Canada, not Indiana ith the Delaware, but the Delaware and Nanticoke at Shamokin DID migrate to Indiana and eventually to here in Oklahoma. That map clearly shows Nanticoke in Central Indiana but does not mention Tutelo.

The above link is to that church in Indiana I mentioned. It says it was cfreated in the 1790s I think, and the only Indians in the region at that time were Delaware/Miami/Shawnee.

In researching my family, one branch lived in Gibson County, Indiana from 1806 to 1844 when they went to Arkansas, and in 1872 to Indian Territory, aka Oklahoma, where we have remained. This is why I became interested in the history of that region.

Some have formulated a theory then sought evidence to back it up. I don't want to do that. I looked for evidence and sought what theory best fits it. Altho the Tutelo theory is interesting -- perhaps it is possible -- but the "best fit" for the evidence for the origin of the term "Eastern Blackfoot" seems to be Nanticoke, based on the 2 places the name "Blackfoot" is found in historical records.

Again I thank yall for letting me post thie results of this research. I always admit I might be wrong. I am not gonna publish anything -- whatever I say is free for anyone to share however they like.


A reply from Brian Alnutt, 15 Sep 2006 --

Re: Another theory of the origin of the term "Blackfoot"

I believe the Native American town of Shamokin, distinct from the present-day town, was located where Sunbury PA now stands, at the junction of the 2 Susquehanna River branches. -Brian (Gould) Alnutt.


Responses from Jillyn, 15 & 16 Sep 2006 --

Re: Another theory of the origin of the term "Blackfoot"

Vance... I wonder if you know of Scharf and his book about early Delaware History. He writes about Dagsboro and Blackfoot Town:

DAGSBOROUGH VILLAGE is located on that part of "Dagworthy’s Conquest" taken up by General John Dagworthy, from whom it derived its name. In deeds recorded previous to 1785, it is mentioned "as the place formerly called Blackfoot town, but now Dagsbury."

Have you read Helen C. Rountree's Book? (one of my most favorite of all time)

Barnes & Noble books OR books

It is called Eastern Shore Indians of Virginia and Maryland It has quite a lot of info about the "Indian River Indians" and Robin, The Interpretor" who lived with their tribe in the area of "Blackfoot Town". There are names of people listed in the book taken from colonial records. I have read this book over and over and over... and I pretty much use it as a reference book because it has so much information in it. Perhaps you can trace some of the names.

I do not know if The "Indian River Indians" at that time were "Nanticoke" but I have a strong sense that they were at least closely related.

I spend much of my time walking along the Indian River and I have lived on the Indian River Bay in Sussex County Delaware for most of my life. Over the years I have collected pottery sherds, stone points and tools and some things that I dont know what are they really... The ceramics I have found on the banks of the Indian River area look just like the Nanticoke" ceramics I have found in Vienna, Maryland (about 35 miles southwest) on the old colonial land reservation below marshy hope creek. The Clay and Temper looks a little different sometimes and the Color can range from orangey to brown to tan to grey to very dark grey/brown. But the designs look identical to me. It makes me feel that these two different groups of people are at least related. Plus... I have a strong inner vibe that they are related at least.

If someone asked me if the people at "Blackfoot Town" were related to the Nanticoke People, and If I had to pick yes or no, I would go with yes.

I know that the Nanticoke Language is in the Algonquin (?not sure of that spelling?) family of language. I believe the Tutelo and Saponi peoples are thought to be Eastern Blackfoot" and is their language group Souian?

I am happy to share my thoughts with you on the subject- It is all so fascinating! But, take with a grain of salt because I really do not know what is true on the matter.

Leo Filon wrote: "I believe the Nanticokes have been pretty concentrated in Indian River Hundred, on the opposite bank of the River from Dagsboro, such that Nanticokes outside IRH were pretty much scattered, not having "towns" of their own such as "Blackfoot Town" would seem to indicate. I could be corrected on any of this, but I've looked into it pretty thoroughly myself."

There were several communities of Nanticoke people noted in colonial records: The Broad Creek Reservation on the upper Nanticoke River created from the site of a Nanticoke town that had been in the approximate location for at least the previous century. Chicone Reservation is in Vienna Maryland and was created from the site of a Nanticoke town already occupied at the time of contact.

The Indian River Indians called themselves The Askocksy Indians. They received a land patent for 1000 acrea on the south side of the Indian River in 1705. The town was called Askekesky or Ashquesonne Town (Ashquash). Interpretor and Leader of these people, Robin, stated to Maryland authorities that the tribe had been expelled from Buckingham (Berlin Maryland) and Assawoman (near Assateague Maryland) and finally had been forced to retreat from the last settlement at the mouth of the Indian River (Long Neck to Warwick) and up to its head.

I believe that since the Nanticokes and Indian River Indian as well as the Assateagues were all Algonquian speaking peoples, it would be pretty unlikely that they originated from the same family as the Blackfoot (since Blackfoot are Souian speakers) (Tutelo are Souian Speaking people and that seems indicative of the two possibly sharing ancestry). It is recorded that the Nanticoke removed from Chicone (carrying the bones of their ancestors) to Bethlehem Pa where they were taken in and made a part of the Susquehanock's family (interesting since Susquehanock are Iroquoian speakers).

I know the Delaware Indians (Lenapi) were adopted by the Cherokee and that is interesting as well (since cherokee are Iroquoian speakers and Lenapi are Algonquian speakers).

I am wondering if: The different tribes had more distinct culture and traditions before contact period. Same language groups may have been related culturally. As time goes on the interaction between different tribes and different native languages, intermarriage and mixing and an assimilation of the different tribes that we tend not to think about as much as we think of the assimilation of native language, culture, tradition with European. Really, right up to the present time we are still "assimilating" into one anothers' cultures and families.

Esperanza Gailliard replies, 16 Sep 2006 --

Well, to be honest with the group, in the book A Short History of the Indians of the United States, Professor Spicer states that many of the Eastern Algonquian speaking tribes were under the protection of the Iroquois League and many of the men from the Iroquios League married into the tribes that they protected. Here is an excerpt from page 26 :

"The Iroquiis military actions was nearly continuous from 1644 until about 1700. During this period they reached their peak in population and in military and diplomatic power. The Iroquios program had two aspects, On the one hand, they were engaged in destroying or subordinating all the indian nations from New England to Illinois and from the St. Lawrence to the Ohio. On the other hand, they were concerned with resisting any sort of domination or control by the French. In the first of these objectives they were highly successful and in the course of achieving it they were thrown into incessant conflict with the French. To achieve the second objective they sought alliance with the British who were also seeking to combat the French and eliminate them from the theater of trade and political influence in what is now the northeastern United States. As the Iroquois became the dominant Indian power in the whole area by 1700, they emerged as a political entity which the British accepted as a foreign power."

Page 27: "Having consolidated their western postition deep into the terrirtory being tapped by the French traders, they did not rest content. They continued as they had for some time harassing the remnants of the New England tribes, forcing them into ever greater subordination to the British colonists there. They now moved southeast at the same time that they were raiding into Illinois and instituted a successful campaign to subordinate the Algonkian speaking peoples in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. By 1680 they had succeeded in dominating the Delawares, the Nanticokes, and smaller groups of Algonkians."

At the same time that the Iroquois were achieving their dominant position among all the Iroquoian and Algonkian speaking Indians of the northeast , they had been waging offensive and defensive war against the French.

This information concerning the domination of our peoples by the Iroquois Confederacy is very important when doing family history and looking for ancestors and actually coming into the reality of the situation. Survival is the key, when we think of US. Survival and we would not be here today if not for our ancestors who did NOT give up the fight.


Leo Peter Filon replies, 15 & 18 Sep 2006 --

Re: Is the term "Eastern Blackfoot" of Nanticoke/Delaware origin.

I was referring to the period after the Nanticokes arrived in Indian River Hundred from the other reservations/towns, with regard to the discussion of Blackfoot Town/Dagsboro. But thanks for the historic reminders!

...Many, many people with Native American ancestry rooted in what is now the southeastern United States have handed down the term "Blackfoot," most famously the "Blackfoot Cherokee." Some theorize the term Blackfoot indicates partial African ancestry, i.e., Black. Information on this is available all over the internet. It's certainly not limited to Delmarva, in fact it's mostly outside Delmarva. I'm sure I've seen it in the archives of this list too, maybe in the last year or so.

Only a small handful of researchers today still think the term indicates any connection with the Blackfeet Nation in Montana and western Canada, hence the "Eastern" distinction. So ISTM debunking the Saponi/Tutelo theory of Blackfoot Town/Dagsboro, DE, wouldn't necessarily default it to a branch of Nanticoke. Before the Nanticoke arrived on the Indian River, both banks were controlled by "Indian River Indians," possibly Assateagues based in what is now Millsboro (the town proper and a little to the west), and southeast of Dagsboro in a community they called Assawoman (which I believe was pronounced "oss-uh-WAH-min").

On the other hand, I believe the Nanticokes have been pretty concentrated in Indian River Hundred, on the opposite bank of the River from Dagsboro, such that Nanticokes outside IRH were pretty much scattered, not having "towns" of their own such as "Blackfoot Town" would seem to indicate. I could be corrected on any of this, but I've looked into it pretty thoroughly myself.



About Vance Hawkins --

I am 53 years old, was born in Okmulgee, Oklahma and still live in Oklahoma. An autosomal DNA test proved me to be triracial -- more Caucasian than anything else, but also sub-Sahara African and American Indian. A great uncle wrote about my family in "Indian-Pioneer Papers".

A couple of generations earlier my family is prominently mentioned in the minutes of Stoney Creek Primitive Baptist Church of Scott County, in Southwestern Virginia (surname Wayland). In Jack Goin's book about the Melungeons, he states this church is the first known mentioning of the "Melungins" as a distinct people. We have substantial evidence the maternal line of this family were Gibson's. Another line is Cherokee (through the Brown, Black and Guess surnames), but the line back to the Waylands is the one that appears to be tri-racial, and it was the reason I became interested in Eastern tribes. Someone found a reference to a Peter Wayland (if I recall it right) at a place called Conoy town -- but I do not know if he is related to my Waylands or not. I have no way of knowing. I don't think I am related to y'all but that one possible "Peter Wayland" link leaves the door ajar just a little. :)










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