Whence came they? No written language exists to tell the story of their race and only a few specimens of “picture writing” are preserved to throw light on the Indian’s past, hence our present day knowledge is based chiefly on legendary lore which like most traditions is not always authentic.
The historians of early days would seem to have been possessed of vivid imaginations. Note for example the record of Captain John Smith who explored on the Eastern Shore in 1608. “They were noble warriors. One was like a giant the calf of whose leg was three-quarters of a yard about, and all the rest of his limbs so answered to that proportion, that he seemed the goodliest man we ever beheld. His hair, the one side was long, the other shaved close, with a ridge on his crown like a cock’s comb. His arrows were five-quarters long, headed with the splinters f a white crystal-like stone, in the form of a heart, an inch broad and an inch and a half more long. These he wore in a wolf’s skin at his back for a quiver, his bow in one hand and his club in the other.” Reading this we can only say “And there were giants in those days.”
The chief tribe of the Eastern Shore was the Algonquin. They covered a vast area and from them sprang the sub-tribes such as Delaware, Nanticoke, Choptank, etc. These tribes were shore Indians and lived by fishing. Generally speaking they were peace-loving, gentle, and noted for making and selling weapons, or bowls of soapstone to the neighboring tribes who prized them
The Delawares were a branch of of the Algonquins from which sprang the Netegro or Nanticokes and from this tribe the Nanticoke River gets its name. Indians figured extensively in Eastern Shore history because of all the Algonquins they were the most warlike. Their fighting spirit was probably developed in part both before and during Colonial days through frequent attacks on the Algonquins by the fierce Susquehannoughs, a branch of the more northern Six Nations which had wandered south from New York and Pennsylvania and had become separated from their people. In colonial days these warlike Susquehannoughs not only massacred the whites but swooped down on the gentle Algonquin tribes with death dealing attacks.
Again, in the heart of the savage might makes right. The Nanticokes were the most numerous sub-tribe of the Algonquins hence the desire for power may have developed their savage instincts. This aggressiveness of the Nanticokes extended not only toward the weaker camps
III. Policy of Maryland
The policy of this colony as shown by the attitude of the Governors was one of “justice, moderation and kindness.” Land acquired from the natives was, if possible, paid for by giving hoes, broadcloth, axes, etc., thus maintaining peaceful relations between the white and red men.
Self-protection, too, was a strong incentive on both sides. The Indians outnumbered the white settlers and this same justice, moderation and kindness was the best means of self-protection from the savage, while through their friendship for the whites, the Algonquin hoped safety from the Susquehannough.
The chief business relation between the whites and Indians was the bartering of guns or ammunition for hides.
To avoid any possible difficulty in trading with the Indians, a privilege was granted every white inhabitant of Dorchester County to trade with them without license, only at Captain Henry Trippe’s house, in 1680. Previously the Governor had issued special licenses to individual traders who could go to the Indian camps and there trade, often selling them guns and ammunition, in violation of the trading regulations, which caused much trouble between colonists and the native Indians.
This privilege was during the time when Caroline was in part included in Dorchester County.
IV. Indian Wars
Maryland as a whole was comparatively free from Indian incursions and the history of the Eastern Shore gives record of only two organized expeditions to repel the savage,--one active and one incipient. They were as follows:
The first expedition came in 1639 when various Indian troubles on Eastern Shore led Lord Baltimore to send an expedition across the Bay. McSherry says, “The armament consisted of two pinnaces and a skiff manned with thirty good shot or marksmen who were drafted or pressed, and several volunteers. To equip and victual this force the Governor was under the necessity of sending a shallop to Virginia to procure a supply of arms, ammunition and food.”
The second or incipient expedition was 1642 when Indian outbreaks were rumored. The Nanticokes had planned to cross the bay to Western Shore and attack the white settlers there.
Governor Calvert anticipated their actions and appealed to the Governor of Virginia, to join him, as previously, in raising a force of approximately 200 men to repel the Indians. He also declared that we might call martial law, and establish a “deadline” extending from the Pawtuxent River to the Potomac. Hearing of this preparation for their reception the Nanticokes weakened and a truce was declared before active warfare began.
V. Continuation of Peace Policy
The original peace policy is shown throughout the remainder of this account. At Saint Mary’s, April 13, 1669, the following act was passed for the “Continuance of peace with the protection of our neighbors and confederate Indians at Choptank River.”CHARLES CALVERT, ESQUIRE, Governor.VI. Treaties
It being most just that Indians, the ancient inhabitants of this province, should have convenient dwelling place in this their native country, free from the encroachments and oppression of the English, and more especially such who are in danger to be destroyed by their neighbor nations our enemies, and whereas Ababco Hatsawapp and Tequassimo have of late given large testimonies of their fidelity towards us in delivering up the murderers of Captain John Odber for which they are in danger to be cut off and destroyed by the Wiccomesses and their confederates, the Matwha Indians. Be it enacted that all the lands lying within a certain district shall be unto said Ababaco Hatsawapp and Tequassimo and the people under their government, under the yearly rent of six beaver skins, to be paid to the lord Proprietary of this province.
There is recorded but one official treaty with the Indians, namely, The Treaty With Nanticokes, 1704.“It is agreed upon that from this day forward there be an Inviolable peace and amity between the Right Hon’ble and the Lord Propry of this Province and the Emperor on Nanticoke upon the articles hereafter in this treaty to be agreed upon to the worlds end to endure and that all former acts of hostility and damages whatsoever by either party sustained be buried in perpetual oblivion.VII. Migration
“That the said Emperor of Nanticoke shall deliver up all Indians that shall come into his dominion that are, or shall be, enemies to the English and further that if any Indian subject to the said Emperor shall be obliged to deliver such Indian p to the Governor of this Province as a prisoner.
“Forasmuch as the English can not easily distinguish one Indian from another, that no Indian shall come into any Englishman’s plantation painted and that all the Indians shall be bound to call aloud before they come within three hundred places of any English man’s cleared ground and lay down their arms whether Gunn, Bowes or Arrows or other weapons, for any English man that shall appear upon his call to take up, and in case no one appears, that he shall leave his arms if come nearer, and that afterwards by calling aloud endeavour to give notice to the English of his nearer approach, and if any English man shall kill any Indian that shall come unpainted and give such notice, and deliver up his arms as aforesaid, he shall die for it as well as an Indian that kills an English man, and in case the English and the Indian meet in the woods accidentally every Indian shall be bound immediately to throw down his arms upon call, and in case any Indian so meeting an English man refuse to throw down his arms upon call shall be deemed as an enemy.
“The privilege of hunting, crabbing, fowling and fishing shall be preserved to the Indian inviolable.
“That every Indian that killeth or steleth an hog or calfe or other beast or any other goods shall undergo the same punishment that an English man doth for the same offence.
The marke of Vnnacok Casimon.”
By harassing the Nanticokes the Six Nations had brought them into subjugation; also in a treaty with the white had stipulated that these Indians be permitted to leave Maryland. About 1750 the majority of the Nanticokes migrated north, carrying with them the bones of their fathers, as was their custom. Part of the tribe went to Canada West, near Lake Erie, part of Wyoming Valley, Pa., and part to Otsiningo (now Binghampton), New York.
Following this migration we find that in 1761 those Nanticokes in Wyoming Valley appealed through the Governor of Pennsylvania to Maryland for permission to return for a remnant of their tribe yet remaining in that state. The appeal was granted and the remaining Indians were permitted to migrate.
Two appeals were made by Nanticokes for land monies. That part which had withdrawn to Canada West petitioned in 1852 through their chief and headsmen, that the Maryland Assembly grant them certain annuities for which tradition claimed had once been paid their tribe for land rights.
The Maryland Assembly declared the claim faulty and the petition was denied.
Again, we find in 1767 the Nanticokes from Otsiningo, New York making a similar appeal through one Ogden, Atty. In this case the appeal was granted but not seemingly for the amount asked, for the records add that, Sir William Johnson, England’s chief Indian agent “made up the difference at the expense of the Crown.”
So the Indians wandered away, lost their tribal identity and were blighted by civilization. Then with all this in 1761 came smallpox. In the Nanticoke tribe alone from 1763 to 1773 the warriors were reduced from 700 to 300. Soon all that was left on the Eastern Shore to mark the home of the Red Man was their camp sites or the relics often found in field and forest.
A further account of the Nanticoke Indians comes from one of their chiefs—White by name.“Every Indian being at liberty to pursue what occupation he pleases, my ancestors, after the Lenape came into their country, preferred seeking a livelihood by fishing and trapping along the rivers and bays to pursuing wild game in the forests; they therefore detached themselves and sought the most convenient places for their purpose. In process of time they became very numerous, partly by natural increase, and partly in consequence of being joined by a number of the Lenape, and spread themselves over a tract of land and divided into separate bodies. The main branch of the Nanticokes proper were then living on what is called the Eastern Shore of Maryland. At length the white people crowded so much upon them that they were obliged to seek another abode and as their grandfather, the Delaware, was himself retreating back in consequence of the great influx of the whites, they took the advice of the Mengroe (mingo’s) and bent their course to the large flats of Wyoming, where they settled themselves, in sight of the Shawanos town, while others settled higher up the rivers, even as high as Chemenk (Shenango), and Shummunk, to which places they emigrated at the beginning of the French War.
“Nothing,” said White, “equaled the decline of my tribe since the white people came into the country. They were destroyed, in part by disorders they brought with them, by the smallpox and by the free use of spirituous liquors to which great numbers fell victims.”
“The Nanticoke, the Choptanks and the Metapeake Indians, descendents of the Delawares, were first seen along the bay shores of Talbot county by Captain John Smith and his exploring party from Virginia in 1608 and later by Claybourne and his trading party four or five years before Lord Baltimore’s Colonists landed at Saint Mary’s, near the mouth of Saint Mary’s river. They had a peculiar and sacred respect for their dead. The corpse was buried for some months and then exhumed and the bones carefully cleaned and placed in an ‘Osuary,’ called manot-kump, (Manito) with the local termination or rather signification, “place of the mystery spirit.” When their tribes moved from one place to another they carried the bones of their dead with them. When they emigrated, about the middle of the 18th century and settled in northern Pennsylvania, they carried their sacred relics with them, in bags on their back, and buried them near the present site of Towanda. The Indian name literally meant “where we bury our dear.’ ”
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