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Nanticoke Indian Tribe

  The Nanticokes were known as People of the Tide Water. They were called Wenekto by the Delaware Indians. The Nanticokes and their descendants were not of ancient descent in the region they were found, Chesapeake, by John Smith in 1608. Smith was the first white man to find the Nanticoke. The traditions of the Nanticoke claim we had moved there much earlier from the plains region of what is now the United States. By 1748 the encroachment of the white man most of the Nanticoke had moved up the Susquehanna to the Iroquois, with whom some became affiliated. Still others affiliated with the Delawares. Others continued north into what is now Canada. The Nanticokes who stayed in the Maryland and Delaware region assimilated into the main stream, mixing the blood.
  Around 1608, Captain John Smith, found (not like it was lost) the River known today as The Nanticoke River. Captain John Smith gave the River several names, but the Tribe he encountered there, he called Nantaquak and also the Kuskarawaok, the name of the Tribal Chief's home village. The life style of this prosporous Indian Tribe corresponded to the land they inhabited. Since primitive farming was difficult on the marshy ground, they thrived on hunting and fishing. The Nanticoke were accomplished canoeist and it was their close ties to the water which inspired their name,translated, "Those who ply the tidal stream", "Sea Shore Settlers" or "Tidewater People". The Nanticoke did not lead an isolated life. Smith called them the "Best merchants" of all Tribes in the region. Important trading commodities were animal pelts and roanoke beads, made from Oyster and Clam shells.
Because the tribes settled on the river or shore, fishing was a vital part of their food source. Crab, shrimp, eels, fish, clams and oysters were caught. A fishing method used was to make a weir. Brush and twigs were driven into shallow bottoms of the river or stream to create a v shaped barrier. In the center of the weir was a narrow opening through which the fish could swim they were trapped in baskets or a small fenced in section. At other times a bow and arrow or spear was used for fishing. Nets were also used by the Nanticokes.

   The women butchered animals and prepared skins. Deer skin was used extensively for making garments. To make warm weather garments the fur was scraped off the hide and the skin was softened to make an apron like garment worn by both men and women. Garments were often decorated with beads, shells and fringe. For cold weather bear skin or deer skin fur was left on the hide and the fur side worn against the body to provide warmth. Moccasins, leggings, cloaks and long robes were also made of deer skins.

   Corn was one of the most important foods. Corn could be eaten as a vegetable, made into corn meal or mixed with other vegetables and plants. Pone was a bread made from cornmeal mixed with water and baked on a flat stone that had been heated in the fire. Fish was another important food. Fish could be impaled on a sharpened stick and stuck into the ground near the fire or broiled by placing them on green wood racks that were over the fire.

   A wide variety of plants were used to make baskets for carrying and storing food. Plants commonly used were silk grass, bulrush, corn husks, native hemp, bark and pine cones.

   If you would like more information on Indian food and basket making visit Native tech.

Or check out the Naticoke Indian Museum in Delaware

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