The Occaneechi Indian Replica Village in Hillsborough, North Carolina, is a living history site immersing visitors in the culture of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. The replica village recreates a 17th-century Occaneechi settlement using traditional building techniques and materials.
The village exists to promote understanding of indigenous history and foster appreciation for the Occaneechi people’s heritage. The replica village stands as a bridge between the past and present, celebrating the resilience and enduring spirit of the Occaneechi community while providing insight into their rich cultural heritage. Visitors come from all over the country. “It’s like a living bridge connecting the past and present,” a visitor from Houston, Texas, wrote, “celebrating the resilience and spirit of the Occaneechi community.”
Wita:he:hu:k meku: – All friends are welcome
The original settlement of the Occaneechi Indian people was located along the banks of the Eno River, less than a quarter mile east of today’s replica site. From the 1680s until the early 1700s the site was home for 35 to 75 villagers. They lived in a palisaded village covering roughly ¼ acre and containing as many as 10 Atʰi: (huts).
Occaneechi society was changing because of contact with the Europeans. Around 1710, the Occaneechi left the Orange County area to settle at Ft. Christanna, near present-day Lawrenceville, Virginia. The abandoned site of Occaneechi Town became the local horse racing track for the settlers of what would eventually become Hillsborough in 1754.
In the 1780s, the Occaneechi people returned. With the old village and land occupied, the Occaneechi families settled some 15 miles northwest of Hillsborough in the Texas Community of northeast Alamance County. In 2002, North Carolina officially recognized the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation as the eighth Indian Tribe in the state.
Reconstruction of the Occaneechi Village
When you visit the Hillsborough site, you will be viewing a replica of a traditional village built by the Occaneechi Indian people, c., the late 1600s. The site lies near the Great Trading Path used for generations by Indian tribes in this region. Archaeologists from UNC-Chapel Hill began studying this area in 1938 to identify the locations of the former settlements. Through a series of excavations, they located the remains of three villages. This Hillsborough replica includes examples of traditional dwellings called Atʰi:, surrounded by a protective fence called a palisade. The size and location of the Atʰi: and the palisade were revealed when the archaeologists uncovered distinct patterns in the soil where the original wood poles decomposed.
In the late 1990s, guided by the archeological findings, members of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation began construction of a replica village here. Completed in 1998 under the leadership of tribal member John Blackfeather Jeffries, the replica provides a setting for interpreting the village life of the Occaneechi.
“Our ancestors lived by a combination of hunting, fishing, gathering, farming, and trading with the Europeans,” said the late John Blackfeather Jeffries in a dedication ceremony of the replica village. “The surrounding woods gave us animals to hunt: wita:I (deer), ma:nda:hkai (turkey), mo:nti (bear), tąyǫ:yaha (rabbit), mika (raccoon), and squirrels. The nearby river provided turtles, freshwater mussels, and wiho:i (fish). Our people gathered acorns, hickory nuts, walnuts, blueberries, blackberries, and wild greens from the surrounding forest. They raised an assortment of ma:ta:xe (corn), ha:dine (beans), and mandamaį (squash) in gardens outside the village walls and made their clothing from the skins of animals.”
Learn more about Occaneechi Kōwa Mahanañka (history) by visiting the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation website at www.obsn.org
The Replica Village is open to the public. Says Amanda Boyd, Director of the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, “With the permission of the Tribe and with a Tribe representative present we will do tours. However, we encourage everyone to experience it respectfully on their own during times there isn’t an event or representative present.”
Separately, various arts groups host nearby music and dance ceremonies in River Park as part of Hillsborough’s Last Friday Artwalk. Don’t let summer slip by without experiencing this event: JULY 28 & AUGUST 25.
Margaret Lane, behind the Orange County Sheriff’s Dept.
Hillsborough, NC 27278
For more information, visit the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough: https://historichillsborough.org
Photos by: DRONE DATA AND FILM® PHOTOGRAPHY