Who are the Halooies?

They call themselves the háu lu wi, meaning “people who greet the sun.” The paleface calls them Halooie. Having no written history, what we know of them derives from oral tradition and conjecture.

While the Native Americans encountered by early English settlers in Tidewater Virginia spoke an Algonquian tongue, linguists tell us the lively patois of the Halooies is a Siouan dialect. This observation lends support to a widely held belief that the Halooies descended from a rogue band of Tutelo-Saponis of the Manahoac Confederacy, who, in response to English encroachment above the fall line in the mid 1730s, split off from their brethren and ventured east in search of a new homeland.

The place they settled was a wooded, fertile plateau above the Holmes Run Valley. Originally dubbed “Halooie Hill” by the palefaces, today we know it as “Seminary Hill” for the Virginia Theological Seminary located there since the mid 19th Century. Once within the borders of Fairfax County, the region was annexed by the City of Alexandria in 1952 and has since become a fashionable quarter of the City’s “West End,” only minutes by automobile from our Nation’s Capital.

The Halooies were a peaceable people who lived a hunter-gatherer existence made possible by their extensive knowledge of edible berries and skill at making a nutritious pemmican from pounded acorns and gray squirrel meat. A distinguishing characteristic of Halooie culture was their maintenance of raked trails throughout their woodlands. In the early years, their only enemies were the ȟunipšit or “Juniprites,” a fearsome rival tribe living to the southwest, a remnant of the Algonquian-speaking Tauxenent.

For some history on the important role Halooies played during the American Civil War (1861-1865), see the separate article on this site.

In the 20th Century the Halooies found themselves increasingly hemmed in by suburban sprawl until they occupied only the wooded hillside where their burial ground was situated. Then in 1960 construction began on the new Alexandria Hospital at Seminary Road and Howard Street on the Halooies’ sacred land. Despite the desecration of their burial ground, the Halooies sought to live in peace with their paleface neighbors and managed to do so for more than 15 years. However, in the late 1970s overzealous moped-mounted security guards became aware of the Halooies’ presence and began an effort to displace them from what they termed “hospital property.” Not since the Removal Act of 1830 had such injustice been perpetrated against First Peoples. This time, however, there would be no Trail of Tears.

Radicalized in a way they hadn’t been since the Beaver Wars, the Halooies went on the warpath against the Hospital’s security guards as well as so-called “volunteers” who were well known to be in cahoots with them. The tribe issued their demands to the Alexandria Hospital in the form of an artistically rendered manifesto. Particularly effective was use of CB radios to jam the hospital’s communications and “scream-baiting” to lure security guards outside their safe zone where they could then be disoriented by loud bangs. The easy availability of helium balloons, certain pyrotechnic devices and the popularity of model rocketry during the 1970s worked to the Halooies’ advantage. An operation targeting the Hospital’s underground laundry facilities exposed the security guards’ inability to fend off hit-and-run attacks. No sooner would the Halooies appear than they would melt back into their woodland stronghold where pursuit of them was both futile and dangerous due to numerous maswígmuŋke, or booby traps.

While no decisive battle ever unequivocally determined a victor and no peace treaty was ever signed, the Halooies’ use of these tactics over a multi-year campaign so thoroughly degraded the morale of the Hospital’s security services that the tribe’s territorial claims were acquiesced to in a de-facto manner.

The Halooies are recognized by Wikipedia as one of the unrecognized Indian tribes in the United States and in the Commonwealth of Virginia. As an unrecognized tribe, they are not entitled to any benefits from the State or Federal government. While lack of such benefits has been a hardship, it has also allowed the tribe to lay low and escape the notice of their neighbors for many decades.

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Where are the Halooies today?

The Halooies have shown an extraordinary ability to “live beneath the radar” of their paleface neighbors for many decades in one of the most densely settled parts of the country. The fact that they have not been seen in their ancestral home since the early 1980s should not be taken as sufficient evidence that they are not still out there, somewhere.

Did the Halooies save the Union in the War Between the States?

The Halooies skill at escaping the notice of their neighbors may have been perfected during the American Civil War (1861-1865) when Northern Virginia was occupied by Union troops and Seminary Hill was the site of an enormous military encampment. The war transformed the area the Halooies had called home for more than a century. Three of the fortifications surrounding Washington—Fort Ward, Fort Willams and Fort Worth—were built on Halooie territory, the latter near a mansion called Vaucluse owned by the Fairfax family.

We have no record of interactions between the Fairfaxes and the Halooies, but they are likely to have been frosty, at best. Mary Aylett, the first wife of Thomas Fairfax (1762–1846), 9th Lord Fairfax of Cameron, was a Christianized Tauxenent, the tribe the Halooies knew as ȟunipšit or “Juniprites” and regarded as their mortal enemies. Constance Cary Harrison, Thomas’s granddaughter who came of age at Vaucluse wrote knowledgeably about Native Americans in a short story entitled “An Encounter with Indians,” no doubt based on her experiences with Halooies and Juniprites during her years there.

With regard to the American Civil War, few know about the decisive role the Halooies played in this conflict at a pivotal moment. Here is a brief account.

In March 1865, Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia was pinned down by Grant’s Army of the Potomac near Petersburg, Virginia and close to defeat. It was clear to the Union command that the conflict was nearly at an end and that an active threat to Washington no longer existed. Union soldiers stationed at the defensive fortifications in Northern Virginia had grown soft from lack of regular drills and had become careless about posting sentries, having seen no sign of the enemy during the previous three and a half years. Confederate Colonel John S. Mosby, the “Gray Ghost,” encamped near Centerville, Virginia with his men—the 43rd Battalion of the Virginia Cavalry (a.k.a Mosby’s Rangers)—was well aware of this situation and thought it could be used to the South’s advantage.

Mosby’s idea was to sneak his small unit of about 50 mounted men to Seminary Hill by night, capture Fort Worth, raid its armory, and then take neighboring Forts Ward, Williams and Ellsworth, opening up a large hole in Washington’s southern defenses. Grant’s Army of the Potomac would be obliged to rush north to protect the capital, allowing Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia to get out from under Grant’s thumb, resupply, take on reinforcements, and prepare to fight another day. A risky gambit to be sure, but Mosby was known for taking chances and desperate times called for desperate measures. The fact that communication had been cut off between Mosby, Lee and other Confederate commanders was no issue as Mosby had always worked at will from behind enemy lines. Even if Lee remained in the dark about the operation, Grant would surely receive quick news of a breach in Washington’s defenses and that was all that mattered for the plan to work.

On the night of March 19th, Mosby and his men secretly traveled singly and in small groups from Centreville to Bailey’s Crossroads where they mustered in a large barn belonging to a farmer sympathetic to the Southern cause. In the early morning hours they advanced towards Alexandria. To avoid detection, they approached Fort Worth from paths through the woods instead of by road. Unbeknownst to the them, the neatly raked trail they followed took them over the Halooie’s sacred hill.

As they neared its summit, the lead Ranger’s horse stumbled into a well concealed pit in the middle of the trail: a maswígmuŋke, a Halooie booby trap. The rider was thrown to the ground and the horse injured. While the shaken Ranger was helped onto another’s horse, the men were startled by war whoops followed by a hail of rocks, dirt clods and crabapples. From the saddles of their panicked horses, the Rangers were unable to get steady shots at the Halooies, who were in any case obscured by the darkness and trees. The clamor and gunfire alerted the neighborhood and the critical element of surprise had been lost. Mosby and his Rangers were obliged to retreat at full gallop back the way they had come.

Losing a horse and retreating before a few lightly armed indians (whose very existence would be doubted by anyone who heard the story) was an enormous embarrassment for this vaunted unit. Mosby ordered his men to make no mention of the raid—about which no one else had been informed—in their notes, diaries and letters.

One month later, Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox Court House.