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Setting the Record Straight About Native Peoples: Southern Blackfeet

Q: Did the Blackfoot Indians ever live in the South (Georgia, Virginia, the Carolinas, etc.)? Did they ever merge with the Cherokee tribe?
A: It's interesting how often this question comes up. The Blackfoot Indians are people of the Northern Plains--Montana and Alberta, Canada--where they still live to this day. Not only did they never live in the southern states, they were never forced to move to Oklahoma, so they never had close contacts with the Cherokees either before or after the Trail of Tears.

However, during the 1800's, a lot of Native Americans suddenly began to surface in the southeast identified as "Blackfoot" or "Blackfoot-Cherokee." There are several theories as to why. One is that "Blackfoot" may just have been a popular tribe around then, so great-grandma from South Carolina got remembered as a Blackfoot Princess simply because it sounded more glamorous than "Catawba" did. This kind of thing happened more often than you might think (coincidentally enough, many people have been incorrectly identified as Cherokees when they really belonged to some other tribe, as well). Second, "Blackfoot" was evidently a code word among the early African-American community for a person of mixed American Indian and African heritage. And third, I've heard it suggested that local white people may have called the Saponi people of Virginia and North Carolina "Blackfoot" for some reason--possibly because the name of a Saponi band, town, or leader may have translated as "Black Foot." Since the Saponi were known for taking in escaped African slaves, perhaps the second and third theories might both be true.

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