Pocomoke Indian History on the Eastern Shore
There was a time when a squirrel could go from the Atlantic ocean
to the Mississippi and never touch the ground. We were on the eastern shore
of what was to become Maryland and Virginia to watch the squirrel's' journey
Generally, it is considered that we are one of the neighbor tribes to
our brothers, the Nanticoke,
Our ancestors lived along the banks of the Pocomoke river up to the area
around present day Crisfield MD. The Pocomoke Indian People are an Algonquian-speaking
sub-tribe of the Powhatan
nation. The bands of the Pocomoke People were part of the Accomac
Confederation. We were the first watermen, hunters, farmers, and trappers
on the Chesapeake Bay waters and wetlands. We harvested food from
the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries. We grew squash, maize (corn),
and other foods. We also were great hunters of waterfowl, deer, rabbit,
squirrels, raccoons, bear and elk.
Detribalized in 1646, by the Treaty of Middle Plantation, rapid changes
driven by colonial and federal policies of dispersion and assimilation,
first weakened, then dismantled and prohibited the culture. The Chief
and the government were forced to cede all authority and lands to the
King of England and Colonial powers representing him. With the loss
of its land, self-government and other aspects of the tribe were destroyed.
It was said of us that "They were a warm and civilized people", according
to Howard Hudson's report to the Worcester County Historical Society. "They
were a monogamous tribe and they lived by strict moral codes. they were
a people who looked into life and saw beauty", as portrayed in the following
attributed to them:
"I was a seed:
I came to flower,
spread my fragrance,
withered, and died.
The remembered fragrance will be a joy
to fill the place that was me"
The Pocomoke People were in a confederation with five other tribes in
the lower shore:
Nanticokes Wighcocomocus Qqinticas Quandangums Nassawattox Ammemesses
Along with our Nanticoke brothers,
the Pocomokes were the money makers including reddish shells and amber
and brown bits of shell from the Pocomoke River to wampum. In addition,
the Pocomokes traded with other tribes; bartering cypress and boats dug
out of trees in trade for other goods. In 1608, there were 335 Pocomoke
living on the eastern shore, mostly in clan villages of 4 to 6 families.
We built our lodges, cleared the land, planted, fished, and traded with
other tribes in the area and from Pennsylvania. Then the Europeans
arrived. At first things were not bad. We hunted, fished, farmed, and traded.
But there were friction. Then, in 1659, the unexpected happened. Colonel
Edmund Scarburgh, a wealthy man, gathered a band and attacked our village
in what became known as the Seaside War. Those that were not in the village
survived but those that were at home, did not. he and his friends slaughtered
all but a small portion of the Pocomoke people. For this the General Court
decreed that he was suspended from "all offices as well as military
and civil until by his future obedience an fidelity it shall please the
Right Honorable Governor to restore him."
In 1678 we were party to a treaty along with our Assateaque brothers
that established the five Askiminokonsoi (Indian Town) reservations along
the Pocomoke river. Another treaty was signed by Chief Wassounge (Daniel)
of our people and Chief Knosuk (M. Walker) of the Assateaque Maryland Governor,
Charles Calvert. Unfortunately, in 1742 the relative peace was broken when
rumor of an attack was heard of from either the Nanticoke or Shawnee. We
and our brothers from Askiminokonsoi, wishing not to be caught in the middle,
took to the surrounding swamps. As is common, Maryland punished all for
the folly of the few and we again found ourselves hunted. By this time
many had either been killed, died as a result of diseases brought by the
Europeans, or had migrated north and became assimilated into the Delaware
or Pennsylvania tribes. Some, however stayed and blended in with the colonist
as farmers and fishermen. Of those that left, we know nothing. Those brothers
and sisters are lost to us. Like so many of us from the lightly populated
eastern shore, if they survived, they became adopted of other tribes. Of
those few of us who stayed behind: We survived. Now, it our pleasure and
honor to share our culture with others.
We are still very few. Most living on the eastern shore or close to
our ancestors land. It always calls to us, Though, according to law,
it is no longer ours to care for.
Because of the way Indian people were treated, most "Indians" called
themselves "white" and hid their true roots so that their children could
go to a "white" schools. Many still deny their heritage. This saddens us
but it is the choice of each one to choose as they desire. For those who
look back through their families and see their roots, we welcome you.
This information - is from The Pocomoke Indian Nation Website
You may contact them at Information@Pocomoke-Indian-Nation.org