Tutelo Tribal History
~ James Hamlett ~
Many people believe that the Siouan Nations were all Plains people due to misinformation and popular culture. However; there were entire groups of Siouan speaking peoples in the eastern woodlands, most living above “The Fall Line,” of the Appalachian chain of mountains. Other Siouan tribes were the Monocan, Niponi, Saponi & Catabwa clear down into Georgia. They were sworn enemies of the Tsalagi (Cherokee). One of these Siouan groups was the Tutelo. They lived mostly in the valleys and mountains of Shenandoah and to the west of the Allegheny Mountains. They also migrated into what is now Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, & Maryland. They existed in separate bands in long houses just like their Iroquois brethren. There were bands in the Piedmont area of Virginia. I have seen a map that had a small group of the Tutelo in what today are Fairfax and Arlington Counties of Virginia. The language base was essentially the same as the Saponi who lived in the Tidewater area of Virginia. Some oral traditions amongst what remains of the people having the Plains Sioux people split off from these peoples, due to the prophesy of a Holy man who had a vision of white monsters coming to the shores of the east coast. Presumably the white monsters were the sailing ships of the English and Spanish invasion.
Today two principal separate bands now live on the Six Nation Reserve in Canada in a section designated “Tutelo Heights.” The other band lives in “Indian Country,” in Oklahoma. In Tutelo history, in 1733 peace was made with Iroquois, and they were absorbed into the Iroquois Confederacy. It was either that or perish at the hands of the Iroquois.
The Tutelo were first mentioned in the logs of Captain John Smith of some infamy. They were also at constant war with the Powahatan Confederacy. In the western areas of Virginia and North Carolina they were at war with the Iroquois and Cherokee.
The last known speaker of their language was a half breed whose english name was “John Key” and native name was Nastabon, or “One Step.” Nastabon died in 1898. In the days prior to major contact with whites, tribe oral history showed they hunted elk, bison, & deer. They were described as “tall, likely people, with large bodies.” The last known full blood died in 1871and was known as Nikonha. In the only town left in the east with Tutelo residents, some whites considered them as drunkards and thieves. That town was obliterated in an attack by General Sullivan.
One historian also describes a Chief named Nahyssan as an absolute monarch. He described their Medicine Lodges as having large quantities of pearls stolen from Southern tribes.
My ancestry came from a full blooded Seneca woman who was adopted and lived amongst a band that lived near Franklin, West Virginia. There is rock formation there known as Seneca rock. Precisely who named it is unclear.