One of the most interesting annual events on Delmarva will be held this weekend, as the Nanticoke Indian Association welcomes members of of more than forty tribes, as well as the general public, to Oak Orchard for the 30th Annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow, a two-day event featuring dancing, drumming, singing, food, and crafts.
Prior to the current succession of annual powwows, a number of similar events were held on and off throughout the 20th century, beginning in the 1920s. The association itself was organized in 1921 and incorporated the following year in an effort to preserve the identity and heritage of the multiracial descendants of several peninsula Indian tribes who had settled on the north side of Indian River at an unknown date (but prior to the 1850s), during an era when they were legally and socially classified as Negros and mulattoes, and discriminated against. Although the organization took the name Nanticoke, its members are believed to be descended primarily from a band of Assateague refugees which settled south of present-day Millsboro around 1700, as well as the dwindling remnants of other local tribes, which intermingled with each other as well as white settlers following the tribes’ decline in the 1740s. The degree to which they intermingled with blacks is somewhat controversial, and is complicated by the fact that generations of local Indians were called black whether they had black ancestors or not.
I plan to post a couple of short pieces about the historical Nanticokes and so-called Indian River Indians this week. Previous articles which may be of interest include The Nanticokes’ Last Stand, which tells the fascinating story of an unsuccessful intertribal plot to attack and expel the English, as well as this somewhat technical, speculative piece about the Indian River surname Sockum and its probable connection to the Nanticokes of Broad Creek.
– Chris Slavens