ALAMANCE COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper has ordered that flags be lowered to half-staff until sunset on Wednesday, Feb. 1

The order, which came out Tuesday, honors John “Blackfeather” Jeffries, tribal elder and former chairman of the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation. Jefferies died on Jan. 24.

The Occaneechi Band is a small American Indian community in Pleasant Grove in Alamance County. According to OBSN, the band is centered in the “old settlement of Little Texas.”

Jeffries chaired the Occaneechi Band from 1995 to 2000, according to the governor’s office. He served on the tribal council until 2020.

  • North Carolina flags fly half-staff in memory of Alamance County tribal elder (Occaneechi band of the Saponi Nation, Inc.)
  • North Carolina flags fly half-staff in memory of Alamance County tribal elder (Occaneechi band of the Saponi Nation, Inc.)
  • North Carolina flags fly half-staff in memory of Alamance County tribal elder (Occaneechi band of the Saponi Nation, Inc.)

“Chief Jeffries was a great leader, and our state is stronger because of his legacy,” Cooper said in a statement. “Our hearts are with his family, loved ones and Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation members during this difficult time.”

The Occaneechi Band of Saponi Nation announced Jeffries’ death in a statement on Jan. 25:

Tribal Elder and Past Chairman John Jeffries passed away on January 24th, 2023! The entire Tribal Nation, Indian Country, Friends and beyond are saddened at the loss of one our great leaders and standard bearers. His efforts have been felt for decades by American Indians and others across our great nations. He touched so many of us and was an iconic mentor for us all. The Tribal Nation will be in mourning and will honor Chief Jeffries’ family by respectfully following their privacy wishes for his last rites and private ceremony. We have lost a legendary Warrior for all Natives across the country; he will be remembered and forever live in our hearts and actions!

Please keep the Jeffries family in your thoughts and prayers! May he rest in peace.

The state invites all North Carolinians to fly flags at half-staff until sunset Friday.

About the Occaneechi Band

In a brief history on their website, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation addresses how members of multiple tribes, including the Saponi and the Occaneechi, came together to form a singular Saponi confederation and later enmeshed their own culture with the culture of the American colonizers.

The Saponi and related American Indians became formally tributary to Virginia in 1677 and 1680. In 1713, members of the Saponi, the Occaneechi, the Eno, the Tutelo and others agreed to join together as a single confederation. The communities that came together had once been part of the larger Siouan communities that lived in North Carolina and Virginia in prehistoric times.

This confederation formed a settlement at Fort Christianna at the Virginia-North Carolina border in what is now Brunswick County, Virginia.

Some members of the confederation became more acculturated, meaning they adopted the larger culture while preserving their own customs and traditions, and settled in a small area in what is now Greensville and Brunswick counties in Virginia and Northampton County, North Carolina.

Up until the mid-1900s, the Occaneechi Band of the Saponi Nation was an agricultural community with some members taking on day wage labor jobs. Now, fewer members continue to work in agriculture with more working “in offices or as skilled workers and craftsmen or in the few remaining factories in the area,” OBSN says in its history.