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Delaware Indians
Nanticoke River
The Nanticoke Indian Tribe is a state-recognized Native American tribe from Sussex County, Delawaremarker, comprising the Nanticoke Rivermarker watershed which empties into the Chesapeake Bay.

They hold an annual pow-wow near Oak Orchard, Delawaremarker that attracts descendants of Nanticoke and representatives of other tribes and nations.


The Nanticoke claim to descend originally from the Lenape. They spoke an Algonquian language that has since become extinct. The last speaker of Nanticoke was Lydia Clark, who died in the 1840s.

The indigenous people who were ancestors of the Nanticoke and other American Indians inhabited the peninsula of Delaware for thousands of years. In addition to the Nanticoke proper, the tribe originally included the Arseek, Cuscarawoc and Nause. Neighboring tribes were the Choptank, Matapeake, Ozinies and Tocwogh.

Archaeological evidence for the ancient population of the Delmarva Peninsulamarker by Native Americans is easily found: arrow points, pottery shards, axe-heads and other items such as bone drills, etc, are turned up regularly in farmers' fields. Excavated sites along the riverbanks of the state have revealed evidence of long-term, ancient settlement.

The Nanticoke suffered after the English incursion into Maryland. Their leaders disliked the large amount of liquor brought into the area by traders. This led to violent incidents. In 1642 the government of Maryland Colony declared the Nanticoke "hostile Indians". They attacked the Nanticoke.

The Nanticoke also suffered some from the violence connected with Bacon's Rebellion. Between 1678 and 1742, the Nanticoke were restricted to progressively smaller parts of their traditional lands, with the rest being taken over by English settlers. In 1742 the Nanticoke were deprived of the right to chose their sachem. In 1747 the Nanticoke migrated to Wyoming, Pennsylvaniamarker. In 1753 they moved to the Onondaga valley in New York and joined the Iroquois confederacy for protection and land.

Modern day

Not all the Nanticoke left in 1747. The Nanticoke Indian Association is the state-recognized Nanticoke tribe in Delaware. They have their headquarters in Millsboromarker. They received recognition from the state of Delaware in 1881. In 1922 they were chartered as a non-profit organization.

In 2002 Kenneth S. "Red Deer" Clark Sr., the head chief of the association, and Assistant Chief, his son "Little Owl" Clark, resigned because of actions by other members of the association. Their family had provided leadership for many years. They felt relations within the tribe had gotten too strained. About half of the 50 members at the meeting followed them from the room.

Chief Clark said he felt others were taking actions that were shortsighted and not beneficial to all members. Members disagreed about the scale of the pow wow. There was also concern about some members who only came out for it, yet did not participate in the work to put it on.

Tee Norwood was next elected chief and served until 2008. The chief is Larry Jackson, elected in 2008.

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey are recognized by that state and based in Bridgeton, New Jerseymarker. They have members with both Nanticoke and Lenape ancestry.

See also


Further reading

  • Waldman, Carl. Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes. (New York: Checkmark Books, 2006) p. 183.

External links

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