These poles are the first step toward the creation of a second replica village for the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation— a village that will depict the history of the Occaneechi.
The replica village represents the home of the Occaneechi people from Alamance County— the site of their refuge from Bacon’s Rebellion in the 1600s. It’s being built close to the original location.
“I visited the archaeological dig in the ’80s in Hillsborough down by UNC,” said John “Blackfeather” Jeffries, who came up with the idea for the replica village. “I was upset at first when they were seeing the graves of our ancestors there. But after I saw what they had gridded, it showed me where the huts had been and I thought that I would like to rebuild the village.”
Jeffries, a past chief of the Occaneechi and a current elder, created the first replica village behind the Orange County Courthouse in 1997.
Jeffries said he used three journals to document the building of the first replica village. He said he has changed the ways the project has been approached, but the motivation behind the creation, to honor the lives of the Occaneechi ancestors, has stayed the same.
“This is not only for Hillsborough but it’s for my grandchildren, my great grandchildren and my great-great grandchildren,” Jeffries said. “I’m carrying on the legacy of my family that’s been here hundreds of years before Hillsborough — it’s a thing that I would like to see carried on.”
Sarah DeGennaro, the executive director of the Alliance for Historic Hillsborough, said that she was glad the county was finally giving the Occaneechi the support and attention they deserve. To make this replica possible, Orange County is providing $20,000 to go toward the materials and workers needed.
“We are here to support the Occaneechi and make the vision that they have a reality,” DeGennaro said.
DeGennaro also said this village will provide community members an opportunity to see what the lives of the Occaneechi would have been like through interactive events and tours.
“This is about cultural conservation — it is about preserving the history that was once here and telling that story,” she said.
Volunteer and Hillsborough resident Holly Reid agreed that the replica village will help bolster appreciation for the first generations that lived in Hillsborough.
“I view this as an incredible opportunity,” Reid said. “We have such a rich history in Hillsborough, which we are extremely lucky to have, and I’m deeply interested in enriching the community by supporting the efforts to create this village that will support an underrepresented part of our history.”
Jeffries said that he hoped the replica village would help Hillsborough residents perceive history in a new way, different from how history books tell it.
“Who wrote the book?” he said. “That’s what I ask people when they think about the history of the native people — our history has been passed down through oral tradition and we are ready to tell it.”