The Nanticokes and the Chicone Village Project

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“We honor the Native American People of Delmarva at the Chicone Village at Handsell”

“Halac’quow Ewapaw’gup Allappah’wee”

(“Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow”, translated from the Algonquin language)

Save the Date:  11th Annual Chicone Village Day – April 27, 2024

photo credit: Rev. Karis Graham

Chicone Village Logo copyright of the NHPA.

The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance is proud to honor the Eastern Woodland Native People of Delmarva by constructing and maintaining the first authentic replica of a single family homestead using the materials and techniques available to prehistoric people circa pre-1600.  Now that the longhouse is complete, a waddle fenced garden has been installed and is planted each summer with plants appropriate to a garden of the native people.  In 2016, our “Village Volunteers” completed a lean-to “workshelter” to even further enhance this project. The Chicone Village at Handsell may be visited at any time during daylight hours year round.

At special events like the Chicone Village Day in the spring and the Nanticoke River Jamboree in October, there are native historic interpreters and representatives from Delmarva Native tribes who come to Handsell to celebrate their history.  Our events are not Pow-Wows, but educational events held to teach of the ways of the ancient Eastern Woodland people who inhabited the Chesapeake Bay region and Mid-Atlantic coast.  Experimental archaeological techniques are explored and ancient skills demonstrated at these events.  For more on this project and the history of the Nanticoke People, scroll down this page.

Local tribal groups are invited to participate in our events by exhibiting or demonstrating special skills or crafts which reflect the ways of the ancient Eastern Woodland People of this continent.  Participating last year were: the Pocomoke Indian Nation, the Mid-Atlantic Cherokee Tribal Group, the Lenni-Lenape Manetu, the Cheswald Lenape and Nanticoke descendant Daniel Firehawk Abbott, past Coordinator of Native Programming at Colonial Williamsburg.  Please email us if you are interested in participating in our events in the future.

Chicone Village Day

featuring Daniel Firehawk Abbott, Native American Interpreter

Native Flutist Ron Warren and Chief Norris Howard of he Pocomoke Indian Nation at 2019 Chicone Village Day.

Wayside Signs are installed at the Nature Walk at Handsell for your enjoyment and education in the memory of William Hanks, Jr. and Nature Walk brochures are available on site :



Please come visit anytime!

The Chicone Village is available for small groups of 10-20 people as a learning venue for Native American culture and history.  School groups, professors, teachers, church groups, family reunion organizers, etc. PLEASE contact us at for inquiries or requests.

Getting married? Need a location for a Native Ceremony?  Want a Native American venue?  Contact us about using our site for your outdoor event.

 “My husband and I visited Handsell yesterday for the first time.  We loved it!  No one else was around—no sounds but insects and the breeze.  It was a big experience… It was wonderful to walk around and see everything.  The Chicone Creek is spectacular!  We plan to attend this year’s Jamboree and are sorry we didn’t know sooner about all that is happening there.  The longhouse is amazingly beautiful.  Congratulations on an excellent project” ! 

– Susan Killey


Send check to NHPA to:  Miriam Zijp-Koedijk, NHPA Secretary,

128 Regulator Drive North, Cambridge, MD 21613

The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance

wishes to thank those who have given financial support to

The Chicone Village Fund:

Mid-Shore Community Fund

Vaughn W. Brown Charitable Trust

Choptank Electric Cooperative, Inc

Mrs. Paige Insley Austin
Mr. and Mrs. Bruce Bernard
DAR-General P. Benson Chapter
Mr. and Mrs. Escher
Mrs. Shirley S. Jackson
Mr. and Mrs. M. McKnight

  • Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Thompson
Longhouse Interior Fall 2013

Longhouse Interior
Fall 2013


The first piece of synthetic bark is placed on the cap of the longhouse on a foggy, gray winter day!

The first piece of synthetic bark is placed on the cap of the longhouse on a foggy, gray winter day

Thanks to Choptank Electric Cooperative and the Vaughn W. Brown Charitable Foundation 

The Longhouse Exterior is NOW complete!

Help us raise the funds to maintain the longhouse and provide educational workshops and demonstrations:

Summer 2015 - The Chicone Village Native Garden

Summer  – The Chicone Village Native Garden

The Chicone Lodge, or Longhouse at Handsell

The Chicone Lodge, or Longhouse at Handsell

The lodge framing was nearly complete on September 30, 2012 Additional lashing will strengthen the structure before covering with bark and matting. Thanks to the dedicated team! Pictured here is Roger, Tom, Jim, John and Daniel.  Handsell awaits it’s own restoration in the background.

Visit the Indiantown to see the construction of the FIRST authentic native lodge to be built in over 200 years  in Dorchester County!

The Chicone Native Village Project As a former Trading Post set up by Thomas Taylor in the 1600’s, the location of the original Handsell Land Grant on the site of the native village, known as Chicone (or Chicacone , Chicawan) gives NHPA the unique opportunity to create an authentic interpretation of those early days of European settlements upon the native people’s lands.  With Daniel Firehawk Abbott, well-known interpreter of the Eastern Woodland Indians, as one of our Trustees and a resident of Dorchester County, we have created the “Chicone Native Village Project”.  This effort includes the building of an authentic native lodge (often called a roundhouse, or longhouse) on the grounds of Handsell so that interpretations and re-enactments can be held here, enriched by this visual and tactic experience of a real native dwelling.

More funding for this is still needed, so if you or other organizations are interested in helping, please email us or call Midge Ingersoll 410-228-7458.

Upon arriving in the new world, 17th century English traders like Thomas Taylor and Christopher Nutter traded goods in an amiable relationship with the Eastern Woodland native people.

Brief Nanticoke History Pre-History
The Eastern Woodland Indians inhabited a wide area in the eastern part of the United States  including the vastly wooded area of the Delmarva Pennisula.  These included the Algonquian speaking “Nentego” (Nanticokes), the largest tribe on the Eastern Shore, who were part of a matrilineal culture.  They lived off the land, using wood, stone, bone and clay products as the basic raw materials in their lives. This region is noted for ample rainfall, numerous ponds, streams, and rivers and the Woodland Indians tended to establish permanent settlements near water in the forested areas.Traditionally, Eastern Woodland Indians lived in longhouses built of bent saplings covered with mats and/or bark.  Some of these would be single family size while others were quite extensive, housing larger family units.

The Nanticokes were a hunter forager culture.  Their primary animal foods were deer, turkey, turtle, fish and shellfish. As experienced farmers they grew beans, corn, and squash. While the males hunted, the females worked in the gardens raising crops and foraged for nuts, berries and roots like tuckahoe and cattail.  Available plant material was used both for food and medicinal purposes.

Prior to the arrival of Europeans, there were numerous tribes living on the Delmarva peninsula.   John Smith’s 1608 voyage around the rim of the Chesapeake Bay described one of the largest villages, that of “the Emperor” which was in this area of Chicone Creek and Vienna.

While many tribes had moved freely up and down the peninsula for centuries, by the mid 1600’s, Europeans seeking land forced the tribes to abandon their traditional homes and lifestyles.  Nanticoke Indians who originally lived along the Nanticoke River found themselves slowly being pushed north away from their ancestral lands, some eventually  joining the Iroquois Confederacy.

The story of Eastern Woodland Indian culture reaches thousands of years into the distant past of what is now the state of Maryland.  Their heritage is intimately woven into the fabric of our nation, yet it is often misinterpreted and remains largely obscure.  Disease, conflict and assimilation wiped out much of this heritage within one or two generations.  As a result, an awareness of native culture is limited to place names of many of our towns and rivers whose meanings have long since been forgotten.


A primitive loom is set-up for the making of woven mats to be used in the interior bedding of longhouse.

A primitive loom is set-up for the making of woven mats to be used in the interior bedding of longhouse.

Timeline of the Chicone Village

1678 – The Maryland Proprietary formally acknowledged a number of Eastern Shore town sites or informal reservations including the Nanticoke “Emperors” village of Chicone located nearby.  If existing land patents already included these village sites they were honored.  (English traders sometimes obtained land patents to
protect their economic interests and the Indians from further encroachment.)  Thomas Taylor, a licensed trader and military officer obtained such a patent for 700 acres at this site which he called Handsell in 1665, upon which he built a local and no doubt prosperous trading post (the old English word, Handsell, translates to “earnest money handed at market.” )

1698 – The Nanticokes experienced ever increasing English encroachment (social
hostilities; hunting, fishing and foraging pressures; and English livestock rooting up Indian gardens) and had lodged numerous complaints with the Maryland Colony.  English settlers were building houses nearby on the banks of the Nanticoke River.  Christopher Nutter purchased Handsell from Taylor and assumed Taylor’s role as trader-interpreter, however, Nutter was less sympathetic to the Nanticoke plight.  Tensions continued to mount.   The Maryland Assembly passed an Act “for ascertaining the bounds of certain tract of land, to the use of the Nanticoke Indians, so long as they shall occupy and live upon the same…”  Reservation Lands were then established for the Native Americans at Chicone Indian Town.

1723 –  After acquiring Handsell from the heirs of Nutter, Captain John Rider claimed legal possession of the land within the Chicone Reservation after finding it deserted except for one Indian, William Ashquash, son of the late Nanticoke Emperor.  Rider had physically ousted Ashquash, set fire to his cabin and built a clapboard house of his own.  The Indians returned in the Autumn, re-established residence and burned the house erected by Rider.  They testified to the Maryland Assembly that Rider had found their towns uninhabited because they were following their traditional seasonal migration to alternative food sources.  Maryland authorities ruled that Rider was trespassing.

1742 –  Ongoing English violation of Indian Reservation rights cause the Nanticokes to continue to abandon “Chicacone”.

1768 – The Maryland legislature passed a bill authorizing the purchase of all remaining rights to Chicone Indian lands from the Nanticoke Indians.  In 1769 all Indiantown land including Handsell was returned to the ownership of the heirs of John Rider including Henry Steele and his wife Anne and her sisters. 1770’s – Henry Steele purchased from the other “heirs in law” and became the sole owner of the Indian Towne Purchase, which originally extended from the “Chicacone Creek to the junction of the northwest fork of the Nanticoke near Walnut Landing.” Through the years, some of the Nanticokes and Choptanks and their descendants left the Eastern Shore for the north, espcially Canada. However, many remained here on the Shore and simply “disappeared”  into the marshes of Dorchester and Wicomico counties where they intermarried with white and black residents to create individual communities.  Local oral tradition says that such communities were established on and near Deal Island, Wicomico County and the lower parts of Dorchester near villages of Robbins and Abbottstown.  Descendants of the native people still live here in Dorchester County today.

23 comments on “The Nanticokes and the Chicone Village Project

  1. Nancy McKnight says:

    I would like the specific name to write on my check for
    Daniel’s project, and the address to which it would be sent.

  2. rosalie carr says:

    Just read history & now am aware of this community.
    Will be visiting this Spring to see village.

  3. Karen Shaw says:

    Hello, is there any way to copy photos of the African American community in a booklet format? Photos such as houses, crops, churches, etc.?


    Karen Shaw

  4. Amy & Bill Craig says:

    Bill & I will be attending the Social tomorrow night at Layton’s Chance Winery. I neglected to return our tickets w/check prior to today. We will be paying at the door. Can’t wait! Amy & Bill Craig

  5. Venniaticokesimmon Emperor of the Nanticokes says:

    Christopher Nutter was the interrupter for the English crown. Here in Manokin, Somerset County (now know as Princess Anne) he was making Match coats of course cloth . Six of these Match coats was given for payment of each plantation to the emperor, as he was the only person that was authorized by Maryland to sell indian land. Nutter stole land from the Nanticoke’s,you can find these plantations in Somerset and Wicomico (Nutter’s neck). Please don’t think these match coat blankets was to keep the indians warm. They were given to cover up the nude indian women. Children 0-12 wore no clothes an the men & women only covered the genitals area after puberty, which shocked the European women about the Eastern Shore Indians. Please change the spelling of Captain Ryder of Maryland’s Lower House. Ryder had 3 cabins & the fields of corn burnt.

    • Thank you for these interesting additions to the history. Our rearch has found documents with the two different spellings for Ryder, Rider. Although we do agree the first is the earliest correct spelling. I will recheck the original inventory, a copy of which is in our collection.
      Thanks again for your interest.

  6. I would like any information you have on the town of Vienna, Md., specifically the Indian Reservation there and what happened to the Nanticoke (I guess)who inhabited the town. I lived on a farm nearby and have been told both my grandmother and grandmother were at lease 1/2 Indian. I hope so.

  7. Joseph I Maxted says:

    Hello, I am a Taptico (Chicacoan) descendant. I am trying to find a link between the Chicacoan of VA to the Chicone of MD. I live in TX, but would really like to visit the Coan River area of VA, and the Chicone area of MD… Thank you for the work you are doing

  8. Alexander Carl Baliko IV says:

    I am a direct descendant of Christopher Nutter and so thankful and blessed for all that has been done on this project!! Looking forward to my next visit!

  9. Rene Tucker says:

    You know if any of Christopher Nutters relatives or any of the English settlers took Native women as their wife’s?

  10. Jan Chastain says:

    I am attempting to trace NANTICOKE PLANTATION, which was the ancestral homne of my English Carter lineage. Where was it located? Is there anything on site remaining to mark the site? The Carters held Nanticoke Plantation in 1700’s earlier, I believe. thank you, Jan Chastain

    • Jan,
      Thank you for your inquiry and visiting the Handsell website. Our research indicates there was a land grant called Nanticoke Manor, however we have been unable to find the exact location with meets and bounds for the property. Our best guess is that it is in the general location of the Indiantown farms located near the current Handsell Historic Site, which is located on the former Chicone Indian Reservation. We have seen references to the fact that Henry Steele of Handsell was the “owner” of several Indiantown Farms including the old Nanticoke Manor. There is nothing in the area that marks the exact site of the Nanticoke Manor. I doubt the Carters ever had a dwelling there as they were largely from the Western Shore and Virginia. You are welcome to visit Handsell anytime. Just email us ahead and we will try to accommodate you with a tour.
      Midge Ingersoll, NHPA Vice President

  11. Tony Hurley says:

    I have visited there. I am from the Nause Waiwash Band of Indian people.

  12. Donna B Bunkelman Hans says:

    I’m very interested if there is information you can share with me regarding Billy Nanticoke, Elizabeth Gohunk (Naticoke by marriage?) and Sarah Meyers. They were part of the transfering Nanticoke land with Valentine B Arnett an attorney who is my direct ancestor as well as I believe husband of Sarah Myers. Any help would be amazing. I do have some documents from a book regarding this transaction. I’m just hoping for more information of the three listed besides Valentine B Arnett. Thank you so much!

  13. Adrian Gomes says:

    My organization is in the initial stages of planning an event to commemorate American Indian Heritage Month (November 2024).

    I have consulted Maryland’s Commission on Indian Affairs website to learn of appropriate ways my organization might honor Native Americans. I attempted to use the “Services Contact Us” link to make inquiries, however, the link will not recognize my email or telephone number. Subsequently I am unable to communicate with the Commission.

    I am requesting assistance in making contact. Can the recipient of this text lend any assistance?

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