Wednesday, October 5, 2016


William Christie MacLoud
University of Pennsylvania

Oak Orchard, Indian River, Delaware December 10, 1923

Within the Delmarva area there are mounds built by ancient Indian inhabitants and descendents of the people who built them still live in the neighborhood where they are found. The region lays along the Indian River near Millsboro. A party of scientist from the University of Pennsylvania of Philadelphia have began digging in these mounds to study the descendent of their builders. This group also plans to spend Thanksgiving week end enjoying the hospitality of these Indians and other Indians who come from all over the United States to attend a great Council Fire.

The mounds built by the Nanticoke Indians are of a very curious origin. The tribe held the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Delaware to the Indian river and west to the Susquehanna River. It is known that these Indians, ever since they were discovered by John Smith in 1608 mummified their Kings or Chiefs after death just as did the Egyptians. To mummify a body the insides were cut our and buried and the corpse filled with herbs and spices, then smoked dried over a sacred fire, then placed in a Kiocasan, a temple so to speak, in which stood an Idol of Kiocas, where they remained until the temple was full.

What happened to the mummies after the temple became crowded? This is why the scientist are doing the study and the mounds being examined. It is the thinking that the mounds cover the temples and remains of the Nanticoke Indians. The scientist need to move carefully and work slowly. They have been dug into only about ten feet so far. No skeletons have been recovered but spearheads, tomahawks, arrow heads and pottery have been dug out.

Members of the Pennsylvania Department of Anthropology attending this Council were Dr. Frank Gouldersmith Speck, his wife , A. Irvin Hallowell, instructor, A. R. Davidson, student, Yale Nathan, student and W. C. MacLoud.

The visiting Indian Chiefs gathered at the Nanticoke settlement are from the remnants of the tribe of the great Powhaten Confederacy which when John Smith landed in Virginia in 1608 were under the Emperor Powhatan who ruled a territory eight thousand miles in extent and whose influence reached the Nanticoke Tribe on Delaware shores.

Todays chief of the confederacy , Chief Tomacoma, or A. R. Nelson, whichever you wish, is also Chief of the Rappahannock of Tappahannock Indians, and twentieth century successor of Emperor Powhaten.

Chief Nantacuus or B. T. Atkins, whichever you wish, is chief of the Chiekahoming Indians, Chief Wahauganoche, aka T. L. Bass, chief of the Nassumund tribe, who live below the Great Dismal Swamp
of Virginia,

Tribal Councilors present were Chief Namuacus , aka A. L Clarke, of the Rappahannock Indians, andchief Tap-ha-cope, aka N. C. Bass, of the Nansumunds. Chief Pahamencoot , head of the Pamunkey Tribe was unable to come due to illness. The host of the Ccouncil was Chief Wyniaco, aka, R. H. Clarke.

From the far away Ojibway Tribe of the west came Chief Strongwolf, who served in the World War I, enlisting in an Canadian regiment in 1914. From the Mohican Tribe of Connecticut came Princess Gladys Tantequidgeon lineal descendant of Indian Chief Uncas, who was friends to the Puritans, and ate at the first American Thanksgiving in the 1600's. Princess Madacanna, Jannie Harmon, of the Nanticoke Tribe was host to the Connecticut Princess.

War Paint and Feathers

The Tuesday night prior to Thanksgiving Day most of the Virginia Chiefs were dressed in their every day ordinary cloths. On Wednesday the Pennsylvania University people arrived as did more Indians and the settlement was crowded with Indians in War paint and Dance paint, feathers and ancient costumes of the various tribes. They must have numbered well over six hundred.

That morning the Council of the Confederacy was held and routine business transacted. Plans were laid
to furthering the cause of Indians who even today meet with injustice. At one thirty a Great Council Fire was built and the chiefs of the tribes smoked the pipe of peace and made welcoming addresses to the settlement and its white visitors. After a turkey feast which was enjoyed by all, and spirits ran high, a dance was held in the council house. Chief Strongwolf of the Ojibway opened the danceing with the Dance of the Snake followed by an hour long weird war dance to the beating of ten wild tom-toms . Indian songs and feasting followed, the scalp dance, the dancers painted and feathered, crying a wild war whoop , winding out of the Council House along the pine shadowed river and back.

Friday morning the Council Fire was blackened and the Indians in a much quieter mood. After another turkey feast the Council gathered to consider a most important question laid before them. The Indian Tribes since the 1641 war with whites, had never been permitted to socialize with the whites. This did not trouble them until compulsory state public education came about. The Indians refused to attend the schools they were told to attend and built their own schools and paid their own teachers. It must be noted they had their own churches too. It was noted that governments were passing bills allowing states to build and endow schools for the Powhatan Confederacy.

The evening following the council another banquet was held outdoors for hundreds of Indians in war paint and feathers. A Place of Honor was given to the two beautiful Indian Princesses , Princess Madacama of the Nanticokes and Princess Tantequidgeon of the Connecticut Mohican Tribe. The Rappahannock Chief chanted to the beat of ten tom-toms , in true Indian manner, a poem dedicated to the two charming girls.

Late that night when the most of the virginia Indians had left, the pale face group from Pennsylvania decided to go on a coon hunt. As we had not made any previous preparations we could find only one dog, a red one, with no idea what the excitement was about and we thought he would never tree a coon.
We were surprised however, when the evening was saved, when the red dog treed a cat and it was voted that the coon hunt was a success.

A Country Full of Romance

The country side which held the Powhaten Confederate Council of Tribes this year is one of beauty and romance. The Indian village that is now the present Nanticoke Settlement was the northern most
of the Nanticoke villages and marked the north limits of the Powhaten empire. At Lewes on Delaware, only a few miles north, was the village of Sieonnese, the southernmost of the Delaware Indians. The region between Cape Henlopen and Indian River was neutral, neither Delaware Indians nor Nanticoke claimed it, The Delaware and Nanticoke Indian were often at war with each other. In 1630 a Dutch Colony purchased Indian land and built a settlement which was soon destructed by an Indian disagreements.

Indian lore tells that the area was covered by great flocks of pigeons that would obscure the sun, the woods were full of the Carolina Parokeet, whales ascended the Delaware river and at time to the west were found herds of buffalo.

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