“We honor the Native American People of Delmarva at the Chicone Village at Handsell”
Save the Date: 9th Annual Chicone Village Day – April 29, 2023
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
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 firstname.lastname@example.org for inquiries or requests.
Getting married? What a Native American venue? Contact us about renting 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
PLEASE CONTRIBUTE TO THIS PROJECT:
Click the DONATE button below to use Pay Pal OR
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:
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
DONATE NOW TO THE CHICONE VILLAGE PROJECT!!!
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:
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.
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.
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.