LEARN NC was a program of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Education from 1997 – 2013. It provided lesson plans, professional development, and innovative web resources to support teachers, build community, and improve K-12 education in North Carolina. Learn NC is no longer supported by the School of Education – this is a historical archive of their website.

General information


The Sappony are the only tribe in North Carolina whose traditional homelands, the High Plains of the Piedmont region, cross the border of another state. They 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.


As of 2011, the Sappony Tribe includes approximately 850 enrolled tribal members.


The Sappony Tribe maintains an official tribal website with more information. The tribe has also published a brochure (PDF) with useful information about the Sappony.

Official tribal contact information

Sappony Tribal Center
4218 Virgilina Road
Virgilina, VA 24598
Telephone: 434-585-3352

Tribal governance

The Sappony Tribe is still governed in the old way, the traditional way: A council consisting of one elected representative from each of the seven families governs the tribe. A tribal chair and chief lead the council. An executive committee including a secretary and financial officer help with the daily business of the tribe. Committees address specific community concerns such as education, cultural and public relations, and economic development. All positions in the tribe are voluntary — the dedication to tribe and family in order to further their mission is the backbone of their governance.

Tribal leadership (as of 2011)

Chief: Otis K. Martin
Tribal Chair: Dorothy Stewart Crowe
Executive Director: Dante Desiderio

Sappony mission statement

To offer and promote educational, economic, and social opportunities while maintaining and preserving our history as an Indian people.

Legislative recognition

The Sappony were legislatively recognized by the state of North Carolina in 1911 and by the state of Virginia in 1913.

Tribal insignia

Insignia of the Sappony Indian Tribe

Sappony tribal insignia. (Image for non-commercial, educational purposes only.) Created by the Sappony Indian Tribe.

As part of their Heritage Program (PDF) 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 and to 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.

[Note to teachers: The lesson plan “Sappony Insignia: The Story Behind the Image” enables students to understand the components of the Sappony insignia.]