Pocomoke Indian History on the Eastern Shore
The Pocomoke Nation, an Eastern Woodland culture of the Algonquian language group,
is historically identified as the First People of the rivers of Pocomoke, Annemessex,
and Manokin and the bay of Chincoteague. The Pocomokes were likely engaged by Europeans
prior the Captain John Smith's 1608 exploration, however Smith's 1612 Map of Virginia
provides the first known depiction of their King's House on the Wighco Flu, now called
the Pocomoke River.
Pocomoke villages or towns ideally situated along rivers, creeks, and bays, provided a
bounty of seafood and convenient access for travel. Women and children worked garden
plots where they grew beans, squashes and corn. Men and older boys hunted and trapped
animals upstream and in the hinterlands for food and hides.
The Pocomoke's unique location, extending between the Chesapeake waters to the Atlantic Ocean,
provided resources to make wampum and peake. Made in "belts", wampum-peake was traded with
northern and western tribes for copper, stone, and other items. Dugout canoes made from local
cypress, cedar, and pine trees also served as a Pocomoke trade item.
As noted by Captain Smith, the Pocomoke spoke a dialect so different from the Occohannocks and
Accomacs to the south that an interpreter was needed for communication. Smith further noted
the Nanticoke to the north also spoke this strange dialect. The Nanticoke are described by
historians as associated with the Lenape to the north and probably the Pocomoke were also.
Villages were situated on both sides of a river or creek, sometimes representing separate clans or
family groups. Hereditary leadership followed the mother's clan or family and the leadership
could be a male or female. Homes were rounded frame and mat or thatch construction, called
wigwams. The leader's home was sometimes larger, more oblong, and better furnished. Other
structures and shelters were built as needed.
The territory of the Pocomoke took in what is now Somerset and Worcester Counties of Maryland and
extended into northern Accomack County, Virginia. Towns and villages took the name of adjacent
rivers, creeks, and bays or vice-versa. Pocomoke lands were greatly consumed by the encroachment
of European settlements during the seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Except for surviving
villages at river necks the Pocomoke were driven onto reservations including Askiminikansen, near
Snow Hill, Maryland. It is through intermarriage of Europeans and Pocomoke People of the villages
in these "necks" that the mantle of leadership has been perpetuated and survives.
This information was provided by The Pocomoke Nation
For more information visit their website at pocomokeindiannation.org