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Nanticoke Work to Preserve Their Heritage

The News Journal (Wilmington, DE) , December 4, 2005

Summary:

The Nanticokes -- whose name translates into English as the "tidewater people" -- maintain a solid community of about 200 members along the north shore of Indian River Bay, near Millsboro. But as they've merged into the mainstream community of Sussex County, some tribal members say the future of Nanticoke customs and practices is in peril.

With only about 30 Nanticoke elders (most in their 70s) left to pass on what they know about Nanticoke customs, tribal members are making a deliberate effort this year to effect a resurgence of cultural pride among their people.

The steps they are taking include a planned expansion of the tribe's cultural center, oral history recordings of their elders and the formation of youth groups to instill appreciation of the Nanticoke heritage.

Tribal leaders say without those efforts, the Nanticoke tribe, like their language -- which hasn't been spoken since the mid-1800s -- will disappear.

"Every day it becomes harder to maintain our identity, and that's why we need to be more visible," Norwood said.

At the Nanticoke Indian Museum that sits off Del. 5 and Del. 24, tribe member Patience Harmon, 84, often answers questions from people who know little about the group.

"People are surprised that we don't live in a reservation but instead that we own land," Harmon said. "Our history is different than that of other tribes."

Subjects Covered: education


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