Our History

We have followed the movement of the Sizemores from the early 1700’s up until the early 1900’s and the filing of more than 2,200 Eastern Cherokee Applications filed by Sizemore descendants. Despite those Eastern Cherokee Applications, our research has found is that we are a Siouan people who migrated here from the Ohio River Valley around 1100 AD. When you research history you find our people have gone by many names. Some of these names include, Esaw, Yesa, Yesah, Tutelo, Catawba, and Saponi. The evidence tells us the Sizemores were Tutelo, and that they were part of the Catawba Confederacy. We have been closely aligned with the Catawba, Saponi, Saura, Keyauwee, Occaneechi and a few others for centuries.

The Catawba and their confederates were among the Siouan speaking tribes of the Piedmont area of the Carolina’s at the time of the first European contacts. What is known is based largely on the writings of John Lawson, who explored the Piedmont territory and visited the Catawba in 1701. The Catawba Nation or Confederacy was actually a military alliance of several Siouan tribes and remnants of tribes or bands decimated by war and disease, which joined the Catawba.

From the early 1700’s and Fort Christanna the story of the Catawba, Tutelo, Saponi and others is so closely tied that to separate their stories is very hard. They suffered the same hardships, disease, wars, shared customs and traditions, and even death and decimation. Near the end of the 1700’s with numbers dwindled, political riffs, they began to separate and move toward the frontier to try to live out their lives in peace and to be able to carry on their traditions, beliefs, culture. It was at this time that some of the Sizemores, Riddles, Ayers, Shepherds, and Collins and etc. moved back into the far northwestern mountains of North Carolina along the New River. It wasn’t new to them though for this was the home of the Tutelo back in the late 1600’s. This river has been used for centuries by our people in many ways including being used as a mode of transportation, trade, as well as a source of food and water The New River is a part of our history. Here the descendants of the Sizemores, Ayers, Shepherds and other Native American families remain till this day.

22th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration Raleigh, NC Nov. 14th, 2017

Members of the tribe attended the 22th Annual American Indian Heritage Celebration in Raleigh, NC on November 14, 2017. Representatives from all eight state recognized tribes were present in the state’s capital. There were crafts, storytelling, singing and dancing, and hands on activities. Here is an example of a social song sung by Arnold Richardson and his group:

The following is one story about the meaning of the Canoe Song: “The women of the village are paddling canoes down to the river to do some washing. They see the men of the village paddling upstream. The men are tired from the hard work of the hunting. At first the men pass the women, but they are so happy to see each other that the men turn around and they all paddle downstream together.

Many artists were present demonstrating screen printing, bead work, pottery, flint knapping, wood carving, and  many other forms of native crafts.

Tribe members attended two symposiums. The first was entitled “Where’s Your People?” and focused on the geographic distribution of people of Native descent within Robeson County. Robeson County is the home of the state recognized Lumbee tribe. It was interesting to note that while the Natives of Robeson County originally inhabited the undesirable land and swampy areas of Robeson County, by the 20th Century they controlled more of the desirable land in the county.

The second symposium was entitled “Spiders, Panthers, and Snakes, Oh My! Southeast Indian Symbols” and was presented by Lumbee Tribe member Jamie Oxendine. Mr. Oxendine discussed the origin and meanings of many of the symbols most associated with the Southeastern Indians. One of those is the spider symbol seen below.

One Native American story described by Mr. Oxendine says the spider was the creature that brought fire to mankind. She carried the first ember in a web on her back, thus becoming a sacred insect to Native Americans. Mr. Oxendine went on to discuss the four directions and the medicine wheel.

The day was wrapped up with singing from two champion drum groups, Stoney Creek and Southern Sun. Stoney Creek hails from the Haliwa-Saponi tribe and sings in the style of the Northern Plains. This style has the men singing in a high falasetto and frequently incorporates Native languages into the lyrics. Southern Sun is a southern style group led by veteran singer and Native culture advocate Joe Liles. Southern style groups sing in the style of the Southern Plains which originated in Oklahoma and nearby areas. Southern singers sing in deep bass tones and use vocables, which are words with no real meaning. Examples of a vocable phrase would be “yo whay ay ya ah ha, yo whay ay yo hey yo hey”. Vocables were used by tribes as a universal language so that members of different tribes could share songs without sharing languages. This has made modern powwow music a cultural bond between tribes all across the country. Here is a song from Stoney Creek (with members of champion groups WarPaint & Blue Moon Singers):

“It was a great day and a wonderful experience.” said Chief Jamie Harris. “It was amazing to see all the tribes come together and create such a beautiful day of culture right in our state’s capital.” said Harris. Jamie hopes to attend the celebration again in 2017.

  • written by Seth Harris

Everybody Loves Old Family Pictures! Right?

Bill Hawk Sizemore

Everybody loves to see old family pictures. The moment we see these pics, if we are related, we try to figure out who they look like. Or we say “wow, they sure look Native American!”. But what if somebody shared a picture that involved your family member and labelled it with the wrong names? I know I would be upset at my family being disrespected like that.

Such is the case with the pictures above. More than one website has the picture of the couple labelled as William “Blackhawk” Sizemore and Sally Sizemore. The original offending article has been around since 2001, and since then several websites have just copied the picture with the erroneous information.

I was recently contacted by a direct descendant of the people in the picture. She says she wants the records set straight on who this is. The people in the portrait of the couple are actually Bill Hawk Sizemore and Sal Hawk (sometimes pronounced Sal Zhawk). She says she knows this because this is her dad’s grandpa and this very picture hung in her grandma’s house. She says her dad (who is 102!) knew his grandpa because he used to stay with him when he was a boy.

Another common mistake is pictures are shared of people that were born before photography was even invented (the birth of practical photography was in 1839). Another mistake is people share pictures of Plains Indians and label them with the Sizemore name. The eastern natives wore a totally different style of dress than the Plains Indians. It is very likely that our Sizemore ancestors (and other Christianized Native Americans in Virginia & North Carolina) adopted European style clothing well before the Revolutionary War. Again, the pictures of Plains Indians labelled as (fill in the blank) Sizemore had to have been taken after 1839 and were more than likely taken after the Civil War.

So please think before you share a Sizemore picture. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. That is the only way we will be able to dispel all of the myths and legends surrounding the Sizemore families.

Setting The Sizemore Story Straight

With the advent of the internet and social media, many armchair Sizemore researchers have the opportunity to find and share way more information than was possible 20 years ago. Family researchers have a lifetime of Sizemore family research literally at their fingertips. Their are also some documents available digitally that weren’t even accessible to the average researcher 20 years ago.

Their are also major drawbacks to having this much information available instantly. Many of the stories written are based on family stories or tailored to fit an individuals family story. Many new researchers and those that don’t understand the complexities of Native movements and racial identities believe these stories because they loosely fit “what they have always heard”. The they share these stories on social media or otherwise, and the myths and legends are perpetuated.

It is the goal of this series of articles to dispel these myths.

The first article will deal with the simple issue of mis-identification of family pictures. We hope you enjoy these articles. As always, if you have any questions please contact us via the contact page: http://canawhayappomattoc.com/contact-us/

On Being “Part Indian”

How often have you heard or said “I’m part Indian or American Indian”? If you have, then some Native American elders have something to teach you. A very touching example was told by a physician from Oregon who discovered as an adult that he was Indian. This is his story. Listen well:

Some twenty or more years ago while serving the Mono and Chukchanse and Chownumnee communities in the Sierra Nevada, I was asked to make a house call on a Mono elder. She was 81 years old and had developed pneumonia after falling on frozen snow while bucking up some firewood.

I was surprised that she had asked for me to come since she had always avoided anything to do with the services provided through the local agencies. However it seemed that she had decided I might be alright because I had helped her grandson through some difficult times earlier and had been studying Mono language with the 2nd graders at North Fork School.

She greeted me from inside her house with a Mana’ hu, directing me into her bedroom with the sound of her voice. She was not willing to go to the hospital like her family had pleaded, but was determined to stay in her own place and wanted me to help her using herbs that she knew and trusted but was too weak to do alone. I had learned to use about a dozen native medicinal plants by that time, but was inexperienced in using herbs in a life or death situation. She eased my fears with her kind eyes and gentle voice. I stayed with her for the next two days, treating her with herbal medicine (and some vitamin C that she agreed to accept).

She made it through and we became friends. One evening several years later, she asked me if I knew my elders. I told her that I was half Canadian and half Appalachian from Kentucky. I told her that my Appalachian grandfather was raised by his Cherokee mother but nobody had ever talked much about that and I didn’t want anyone to think that I was pretending to be an Indian. I was uncomfortable saying I was part Indian and never brought it up in normal conversation.

“What! You’re part Indian?” she said. “I wonder, would you point to the part of yourself that’s Indian. Show me what part you mean.”

I felt quite foolish and troubled by what she said, so I stammered out something to the effect that I didn’t understand what she meant. Thankfully the conversation stopped at that point. I finished bringing in several days worth of firewood for her, finished the yerba santa tea she had made for me and went home still thinking about her words.

Some weeks later we met in the grocery store in town and she looked down at one of my feet and said, “I wonder if that foot is an Indian foot. Or maybe it’s your left ear. Have you figured it out yet?”

I laughed out loud, blushing and stammering like a little kid. When I got outside after shopping, she was standing beside my pick-up, smiling and laughing. “You know” she said, “you either are or you aren’t. No such thing as part Indian. It’s how your heart lives in the world, how you carry yourself. I knew before I asked you. Nobody told me. Now don’t let me hear you say you are part Indian anymore.”

She died last year, but I would like her to know that I’ve heeded her words. And I’ve come to think that what she did for me was a teaching that the old ones tell people like me, because others have told me that a Native American elder also said almost the same thing to them. I know her wisdom helped me to learn who I was that day and her words have echoed in my memory ever since. And because of her, I am no longer part Indian,




  • shared by Pam Lewis

Traces – Poetry by Shonda Buchanan


for my NC Sampson County Manuels


Since 1830, every year on the Census

my third great grandfather disappeared in his


 First Indian, then Mulatto in 1840,

 in 1850, he was eventually white.


What were we?


My fourth great grandfather

 could have left an easier trail to follow.

          One of cornbread, drum songs, splintered

wagon wheels.

 Anything to locate their breath on the ravaged


The scent of pokeweed

 unpicked cotton

         something to wet my finger and test the wind

of a three hundred and forty-four years’


all the way back to North Carolina and


A porous golden map of some kind:

deer bone, a horse shoe

that told us how to interpret the dreams we

woman had

dreams that scared the shit out of us

when dead people came to call, when the

crystal future

unfolded like a horror movie in our dreary



We knew them, the ghosts folding air-dried


clipping wooden pins off a clothing line

walking away with a full basket of my


wet, white bones

into mist, into shadows.


We will never find him.


Shonda Buchanan – Who’s Afraid of Black Indians? – http://amzn.com/B009LC6U6G

More about the author: Poet, memoirist, and fiction writer Shonda Buchanan is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English at Hampton University teaching creative writing, composition, essay writing, editing, and research. Author of Who’s Afraid of Black Indians?, which was nominated for the Literary of Virginia Literary Contest and the Black Caucus of the American Library Association Literary Awards, and editor of Voices from Leimert Park, Shonda is an award-winning poet whose expertise includes Narrative Nonfiction, Contemporary American, African American, American Indian and Women’s Literature, and Comparative Literature, as well as canonical texts. She freelanced for the Los Angeles Times, the LA Weekly, AWP’s The Writer’s Chronicle, and Indian Country Today. She commentated for Marketplace Radio, and was featured on National Public Radio’s Tell Me More. A culture and literary arts ambassador, her presentations, workshops and lectures demonstrate her passion for exploring gender, ethnicity, family, heritage, landscape, environment and ancestry. For more information, visit: www.shondabuchanan.com, or Poets & Writers.