Native American Tribes of Maryland
[submitted by Jo Ann Scott]
The original inhabitants of the area that is now Maryland included:
The Nanticoke tribe (including the Piscataway and Conoy)
People: The Nanticoke Indians are a southern offshoot of the Lenni Lenape, considering that tribe their elder
kin. Today most people of Nanticoke descent have either merged into Lenape groups or passed into American society,
but about 1000 people identifying as Nanticokes still remain today, primarily in Delaware.
History: The Nanticoke tribe originally occupied the area between the Delaware and Chesapeake bays, in what is
today Maryland and Delaware. After the British conquest of the east coast, the tribe was granted a reservation
near the Nanticoke River, but the British soon disbanded it and forced the Nanticokes off the land. Some Nanticoke
people fled north to Pennsylvania or joined the Delawares on their westward migrations to Ohio, Indiana, Oklahoma,
and Ontario, Canada. Other Nanticokes remained behind in their traditional territories. Dispossessed and isolated,
the Nanticoke tribe became known for sheltering escaped slaves during the early days of American history--one 18th-century
recording of "Nanticoke" vocabulary turned out to be Mandinka, a West African language! After emancipation
many Nanticokes passed as black, or sometimes as white if they were mixed-race, but despite losing their language
and much of their culture, other Nanticoke people have maintained their heritage to the present day.
How do you pronounce "Nanticoke?" What does it mean?
It's pronounced NAN-tuh-coke. ("NAN" rhymes with "man.") It comes from Nentego, a word in the
Nanticoke Indian language that means "tidewater people."
Where do the Nanticokes live?
The original Nanticoke home land was located in Delaware and Maryland. Many Nanticoke people still live in Delaware
today, while others have joined Lenape and Munsee groups in their forced migrations.
How is the Nanticoke Indian nation organized?
There is no officially recognized Nanticoke tribe in the United States. That means the Nanticoke Indians don't
have a reservation or their own government. In Delaware, the Nanticokes have an unofficial tribe which serves the
cultural needs of the Nanticoke community. Here is a link to their tribal home page. http://www.nanticokeindians.org.
The Powhatan tribe (including the Accohannock)
People: The name "Powhatan" has caused a lot of confusion. Originally it was the name of the town the
chief Wahunsunacock came from. This chief later united and/or conquered much of what is now Virginia, and called
his lands the Powhatan Empire and himself Chief Powhatan (English lords did the same thing, if you think about
it.) Modern-day Powhatans trace their roots to this powerful but short-lived empire.
History: The Powhatan Confederacy--more of an empire or a fiefdom, really--was made up of several Algonquian tribes
united by an early seventeenth-century ruler, Wahunsunacock, better-known as Chief Powhatan. Though Powhatan is
known today primarily as the father of the highly romanticized heroine Pocahontas, in fact he was a powerful leader
who controlled most of eastern Virginia. The marriage of Pocahontas to a prominent settler was meant to ensure
peace between the Powhatan and British Empires, but she and her father both died prematurely, and after a few ill-fated
attempts at rebellion, the Powhatan Confederacy was destroyed by the British in 1644. Several of the original member
tribes of the old Powhatan Confederacy, including the Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and Chickahominy tribes, still make
their homes on their ancestral lands in Virginia. Other Powhatan survivors fled northward, to Pennsylvania and
New Jersey, and took refuge with survivors of the similarly decimated Lenape . Their descendants live there together
today to this day. Tribal site: http://www.powhatan.org/
The Susquehannock tribe
Susquehannock was an Iroquoian language of the Northeast Woodlands. The language is extinct and tragically so
are the Susquehannock as a people; the tribe was devastated by smallpox, and a lynch mob massacred the survivors
Susquehanna River and its branches from the north end of Chesapeake Bay in Maryland across Pennsylvania into southern
New York.The original number is uncertain, since Europeans seldom visited their villages. The best guesses of their
population are somewhere between 5,000 to 7,000 in 1600 in at least five tribal groups. By 1700 there were only
300 Susquehannock. Their rapid decline continued until the last 20 were massacred by a mob of colonists in 1763.
There are, however, known descendents among the Iroquois and Delaware. The famous Oneida sachem during the American
Revolution, Skenandoa, was of Susquehanna descent as was Logan, a Mingo chief in Ohio. Another possibility is some
Susquehannock are believed to have joined the Meherrin (North Carolina) during the 1670s. The Meherrin were later
absorbed by the Tuscarora and migrated as a part of them to New York in 1722. Currently, there should be Susquehannock
blood among the members of the Delaware, Tuscarora, Oneida, and Oklahoma Seneca.
Susquehannock appears to have been an Algonquin name meaning the "people of the Muddy River" (Susquehanna).
Whatever name they used for themselves and their confederacy (if indeed there ever was one) has been lost. There
are several other different names for Susquehannock which were commonly used by early Europeans. The French called
them Andaste from their Huron name Andastoerrhonon. The Dutch and Swedes used the Delaware name of Minqua meaning
"stealthy" or "treacherous." Eventually, they made a distinction between White Minqua (Susquehannock)
and the Black Minqua who lived farther to the west and were probably part of the Erie. Variations of these were:
Andastaka, Andasto, Atrakwer, Gandatogué, Mengwe, Menquay, Mincku, and Minque. The English colonists in
Virginia and Maryland called them the Susquehannock, but Pennsylvanians during the 1700s preferred Conestoga derived
from Kanastoge (place of the immersed pole), the name of their last village in Pennsylvania. The Powhatan in northern
Virginia may have called them the Pocoughtaonack or Bocootawwanauke. Although it is likely these peoples were Susquehannock,
their precise identity is uncertain.
Language: Iroquian - reportedly similar to Huron
The Susquehannock appear to have been a confederacy of at least five tribes with more than 20 villages.
Unfortunately, the names of individual tribes and villages have been lost. Names associated with the Susquehannock
Akhrakuaeronon (Atrakwaeronnon), Akwinoshioni, Atquanachuke, Attaock, Carantouan, Cepowig, Junita (Ihonado), Kaiquariegehaga,
Ohongeoguena (Ohongeeoquena), Oscalui, Quadroque, Sasquesahanough, Sconondihago (Seconondihago or Skonedidehaga),
Serosquacke, Takoulguehronnon, Tehaque, Tesinigh, Unquehiett, Usququhaga, Utchowig, Wyoming, and Wysox.
Almost completely forgotten today, the Susquehannock were one of the most formidable tribes of mid-Atlantic region
at the time of European contact and dominated the large region between the Potomac River in northern Virginia to
southern New York. Little is known about them, since they lived some distance inland from the coast, and Europeans
did not often visit their villages before they had been destroyed by epidemic and wars with the Iroquois in 1675.
The Susquehannock have been called noble and heroic. They have also been described as aggressive, warlike, imperialistic,
and bitter enemies of the Iroquois. They may also have warred with the Mahican from the central Hudson Valley.
When he first met the Susquehannock in 1608, Captain John Smith was especially impressed with their size, deep
voices, and the variety of their weapons. Their height must have been exceptional, because the Swedes also commented
on it thirty years later. The constant warfare between Iroquian-speaking tribes gave the Susquehannock a military
advantage over their more peaceful Algonquin neighbors to the east and south. Using canoes for transport, Susquehannock
war parties routinely attacked the Delaware tribes along the Delaware River and travelled down the Susquehanna
where they terrorized the Nanticoke, Conoy, and Powhatan living on Chesapeake Bay.
The Susquehannock lived in a number of large, fortified villages (perhaps as many as 20) that stretched along the
Susquehanna River and its branches across Pennsylvania into southern New York. How far west their territory extended
on the western fork of the Susquehanna and the Juanita Rivers is unclear. It was, however, far enough that they
were allies and trading partners of the Erie in northern Ohio and the Huron and Neutrails of southern Ontario.
Little is known about their political and social organization, but it can be safely assumed that it was similar
to the Iroquois who lived just north of them in upstate New York. There would have been several individual tribes.
Clans were almost certainly matrilineal (descent traced through the mother), and Turtle, Fox, and Wolf have been
mentioned as possible names. Like other Iroquian tribes, the Susquehannock farmed extensively. In the spring, they
planted maize, beans, and squash in the fields near their villages. After this was finished, many groups moved
south for the summer to temporary sites on Chesapeake Bay to fish and gather shellfish returning in the fall to
harvest their crops and hunt.
Since the Susquehannock apparently had been good friends with the Huron from times long before contact, it is possible
they migrated to the Susquehanna Valley from the north. The earliest village sites identified as Susquehannock
were located on the upper Susquehanna River and date from about 1550, but they probably had occupied the region
for at least 400 years before this. Although they inflicted a major defeat on the Mohawk shortly before 1600, wars
with the Iroquois had by 1570 forced the Susquehannock south into the lower Susquehanna Valley. Hardened by years
of constant warfare, they overwhelmed the Algonquin tribes along the shores of Chesapeake Bay and began extending
their control southward. The first European contact with the Susquehannock was in 1608 when Captain John Smith
(from Jamestown) was exploring the northern end of Chesapeake Bay. This encounter was friendly enough, but Smith
was wary because of their reputation and awed by their size. His later reports described them as giants.
The Powhatan also knew the Susquehannock (whom they called cannibals) from painful experience, and when the English
first settled Virginia, the Powhatan had placed their villages well-inland to protect them from Susquehannock war
parties who ranged the coastline by canoes. One reason the Powhatan were not completely opposed to English settlement
at first was that they provided additional protection, but the Susquehannock still attacked the Potomac (Powhatan)
villages in northern Virginia during 1610. Drawn by the potential profits from furs, other Europeans came to the
New World during the early 1600s. Henry Hudson explored Delaware Bay and the Hudson River in 1609 for the Dutch
East India Company, and by 1614 the Dutch had established a trading post on the Hudson River and were trading with
the Delaware on the lower Delaware River and Delaware Bay. From the French settlement at Quebec on the St. Lawrence
River, Étienne Brulé visited the Huron villages on Georgian Bay in 1611.
During 1615 Brulé explored the area south of the Huron homeland. Crossing the Niagara River, he reached
the Susquehannock villages on the upper Susquehanna River, where he discovered the Susquehannock were more than
willing to ally themselves with the French and Huron in their war against the Iroquois League. Friendly relations
with the Susquehannock were particularily valuable to the French, not only for purposes of trade, but because they
trapped the Iroquois between two powerful enemies. Unfortunately, the new alliance alarmed Dutch traders on the
Hudson River, and they actively supported the Mohawk in 1615 against the Susquehannock. Although they were relatively
few in number and isolated by their inland location, the Susquehannock managed to become an important trading partner
with all of the competing European powers - an achievement unmatched by any other tribe.
Also handicapped by their inland location, the Iroquois first had to contend with the powerful Mahican confederacy
in order to trade with the Dutch, and it took four-years of war (1624-28) before the Mohawk emerged as the pre-eminent
trading partner of the Dutch in the Hudson Valley. The Susquehannock, however, had an easier time against the numerous
- but peaceful and disorganized - Delaware tribes who traded with the Dutch along the lower Delaware. Beginning
in 1626, the Susquehannock attacked the Delaware and by 1630 had forced many of them either south into Delaware
or across the river into New Jersey. The Dutch accepted the outcome, but when they began to trade with the Susquehannock,
they were pleased to discover the Susquehannock (skilled hunters and trappers) had more (and better) furs than
the Delaware. By the time the Swedes made their first settlements on the Delaware River in 1638, the Delaware were
entirely subject to the Susquehannock and needed permission from the "Minqua" to sign any treaties.
Meanwhile, to the south in Virginia, the English colonists in 1625 had defeated the Powhatan, the only Algonquin
confederacy strong enough to have challenged the Susquehannock. It took another war (1644-46) for the English to
completely crush the Powhatan and take control of eastern Virginia, so they had little time to concern themselves
about the Susquehannock. Unchallenged, the Susquehannock extended their dominion south from the Susquehanna to
the Potomac River and claimed the area in between as hunting territory. They did not ask the tribes who lived there.
To remain, the Patuxent and Conoy (Piscataway) on the western shore of the Chesapeake were forced to ally with
the English in Virginia by 1628. This alliance was never tested, since the Susquehannock usually left the residents
alone as long as they did not challenge their right to hunt when and where they pleased. The English in Virginia
soon grew interested in fur trade with the Susquehannock, and William Claiborne established a trading post on Kent
Island in upper Chesapeake Bay in 1631. The Susquehannock by this time were able to trade with the French in Canada
(through the Huron), the Dutch on Delaware Bay, and the English in Virginia.
The friendly trade relationship with the English became increasingly strained after the settlement of Maryland
by English Catholics began in 1634. For obvious reasons, the Conoy and Patuxent welcomed the new colonists, and
a Jesuit mission was opened that year at their village at Piscataway. The reaction of the Susquehannock was not
nearly as friendly, especially when settlements began to move steadily up the western side of Chesapeake Bay from
Fort St. George on the St. Mary's River. A mutual desire to trade kept the English and Susquehannock from open
warfare for a while, but steady encroachment eventually led to a series of incidents and confrontations, including
wars with the Conoy and Wicomese. By 1642 the governor of Maryland had declared the Susquehannock were enemies
of the colony to be shot on sight. Attempts at peace in 1644 failed, and Susquehannock trade with the English temporarily
sputtered to a halt. In 1645 the Susquehannock ended their hostilities with Maryland and signed a treaty ceding
their claims in Maryland between the Choptank and Patuxent Rivers.
The Susquehannock hardly noticed the brief interruption of trade with the English. In 1638 Peter Minuit, a former
Dutch governor of New Amsterdam who had a new job, brought the Swedes to the lower Delaware River (claimed by the
Dutch). Minuit purchased land from the Delaware and built Ft. Christina for trade and to block Dutch access to
the Delaware Valley. It should be noted that the Delaware needed permission to sell, and two "Mingua"
representatives attended the signing of their treaty with the Swedes. While the trade with the English slowed between
1640 and 1645, the Swedes more than made up the difference. The Susquehannock were also able to continue trade
with Dutch by using the portages between the Susquehanna, Delaware, and Hudson Rivers to New Amsterdam.
Trading with all four European powers during the 1640s required that the Susquehannock produce a lot of fur. They
were skilled hunters and trappers, but the huge demand kept them so busy hunting they had little time left to continue
their war of conquest against the Delaware and Chesapeake Algonquin tribes. In west, however, it may have been
different. One can only wonder where and how the Susquehannock got so much fur, and it is likely that, as the Susquehannock
exhausted the beaver in central and western Pennsylvania, they were forced to look beyond their territory for more.
Some was obtained from trade with the Erie and Shawnee, but the remainder probably came at the expense of encroachment
and warfare with unknown tribes in the Ohio Valley. The Beaver Wars (1630-1700) were a period of intense intertribal
warfare in the Great Lakes and Ohio Valley created by competition in the fur trade. The Susquehannock were obviously
a major participant, but the most important confrontation was between the Huron Confederation which traded with
the French and the Iroquois League which traded with the Dutch.
At first Europeans had been reluctant to trade firearms to natives and restricted the number and amount of ammunition.
This restriction dissolved as the competition increased. When English traders from Boston attempted to lure the
Mohawk from the Dutch by selling firearms, the Dutch countered by providing them in unlimited amounts. Suddenly
much-better armed than the Huron and their allies, the Iroquois began a major offensive, and the level of violence
in the Beaver Wars escalated dramatically. In the arms race that followed, no tribe had a more advantageous position
than the Susquehannock. By playing on the fears of the rival European traders, they had access to whatever weapons
in any amount they wished. To say they were well-armed would be an understatement. One of the Susquehannock villages
even had a cannon to defend itself, and so far as is known, they were the only Native Americans ever to use this
type of heavy armament.
For as far into the past as can be determined, the Susquehannock were friends of the Huron and enemies of the Iroquois.
Susquehannock alliances and trade also extended to the Erie and Neutrals, with the result that the Iroquois were
surrounded by hostile tribes. Having exhausted the beaver in their homeland, the Iroquois were running out of the
fur they needed to trade for Dutch firearms. Otherwise, with European epidemics decimating their villages, it was
only a matter of time before they were annihilated. Their enemies, of course, were well-aware of this problem and
refused permission for Iroquois hunters to pass through their territories. Faced with a blockade, the Iroquois
were forced into a war where they needed to either conquer or be destroyed. They concentrated their attacks on
the Huron after 1640, and by 1645 had succeeded in isolating them from the Algonkin, Montagnais, and French in
the east. There was a two-year lull in the fighting following a truce that year, but in 1647 the Iroquois launched
massive attacks into the Huron homeland and destroyed the Arendaronon villages.
Sensing that the situation was becoming serious, Susquehannock warriors fought as Huron allies, while their ambassadors
sent to the Iroquois council flatly demanded a halt to the war. For some inexplicable reason the Huron refused
further offers of help from the Susquehannock and were overrun by the Iroquois during the winter of 1648-49. The
Tionontati met a similar fate a year later, and as the Iroquois absorbed 1000s of captured warriors into their
ranks, the Susquehannock were in grave danger. In 1650 the western Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga) attacked
the Neutrals, and the Susquehannock entered the war against the Iroquois. Whatever help they could have given the
Neutrals was cut short when the Mohawk attacked the Susquehannock villages in 1651. With the Susquehannock unable,
and the Erie unwilling to help, the Neutrals were quickly defeated. The Mohawk, however, found the well-armed Susquehannock
a dangerous and stubborn foe. The war dragged on until 1656 with the Mohawk (at great cost to themselves) slowly
pushing the Susquehannock down the eastern branch of the Susquehanna River.
The Susquehannock were suddenly alone. The French were powerless after Iroquois victories over the Huron and Neutrals,
and the Erie soon had their own war of survival against the western Iroquois (1653-56). Hard pressed by the Mohawk,
the Susquehannock tried to strengthen their ties to the Dutch in 1651 by selling them some land on the Delaware
River, but the Dutch remained neutral. The Swedes continued to supply them with anything they wanted, but the Susquehannock
had become involved in fighting with Virginia Puritans that had settled in northern Maryland in 1649. Not able
to fight two wars at the same time, the Susquehannock in 1652 signed a treaty with Maryland ceding much of the
lower Susquehanna Valley to secure peace and trade with English. Smallpox hit their villages during 1654, but this
affected the Mohawk as much as the Susquehannock and slowed the fighting. For the Susquehannock, the major blow
came in September, 1655 when the Dutch seized the Swedish colonies. Without their primary supplier, the Susquehannock
were forced to ask the Mohawk for peace. Equally exhausted, the Mohawk agreed in 1656.
The Mohawk and their Oneida allies never fought the Susquehannock again, but peace with them did not extend to
the rest of the Iroquois League. After finishing with the Erie, the western Iroquois turned their attention to
their only remaining Iroquian-speaking enemy. Besides the fact the Susquehannock had aided the Neutrals, there
was continuing aggravation since the Susquehannock had given refuge to small groups of Neutrals and Erie that had
eluded them. This simmered and finally erupted into open warfare in 1658. Badly outnumbered, the Susquehannock
drew their Shawnee trading partners into the fighting and enlisted the support of their tributary Algonquin and
Siouan tribes (Delaware, Nanticoke, Conoy, Saponi, and Tutelo). The Iroquois first attacked the Susquehannock's
allies: dispersing the Shawnee and scattering them to Illinois, Tennessee, and South Carolina. Then they struck
the Delaware throughout the Delaware Valley during the 1660s and effectively took them out of the war. For the
Susquehannock, the worst blow was a smallpox epidemic in 1661 that devastated their population to a point from
which it never recovered.
Still they managed to hold on. A treaty signed with Maryland ended the lingering hostility with the English. The
agreement provided firearms and ammunition, since the Maryland colonists were well-aware of the value of the Susquehannock
as a buffer against the Dutch-allied Iroquois. With English help, the Susquehannock were able to turn back a major
Iroquois invasion in 1663. The following year the English took New York from the Dutch, and shortly afterwards
formed their own alliance with the Iroquois. Maryland, however, did not feel entirely assured by this and in 1666
renewed its treaty with the Susquehannock. Coinciding with another outbreak of smallpox in 1667, the Iroquois made
peace with the French and their native allies and this allowed them to concentrate on their war with the Susquehannock.
With the support of Maryland, the Susquehannock fought on in an increasing bitter struggle, but by the fall of
1669, they were down to only 300 warriors and were forced to ask the Iroquois for peace. The Iroquois response
to their offer was to torture and kill the Susquehannock ambassador who brought it.
It took the Iroquois until 1675 to defeat the Susquehannock. Driven from Pennsylvania, the survivors settled on
the upper Potomac River at the invitation of the Maryland's governor. Actually there was no refuge for them. The
location may have been acceptable to a royal governor, but it was deeply resented by the local colonists. After
several depredations (probably Iroquois), a 1,000 man army (actually an armed mob) assembled under Colonel John
Washington (great-grandfather of George). In direct defiance of the orders of Virginia's governor, Washington's
militia besieged the Susquehannock in an old fort on the Potomac which they had occupied to defend themselves against
the Iroquois. Eventually the Susquehannock were able to assure the colonists they were peaceful and even offered
six of their sachems as hostages as proof. Satisfied, the English took the hostages and left, but on the way home,
they learned of other attacks in the area and killed the hostages.
The Susquehannock abandoned the fort, but launched a series of retaliatory raids on the Virginia and Maryland frontier.
Most of the blame for these raids fell on the Virginians' Pamunkey and Occaneechee allies and led to their near
annihilation by the colonists during Bacon's Rebellion the following year. Afterwards, the Susquehannock moved
north but were attacked by Maryland militia near Columbia, Maryland where many were killed. Some managed to reach
safety with the Meherrin in North Carolina, but the remaining Susquehannock had little choice but to surrender
to the Iroquois in 1676. Under the circumstances, they were treated well. Under the terms of the peace agreed to,
the Susquehannock were settled among the Mohawk and Oneida, became members of the Iroquois "covenant chain,"
and their dominion over the Delaware and other former allies was also surrendered to the League. During the years
following, several Susquehannock rose to leadership as Iroquois war chiefs.
Although treated with respect, the Susquehannock were not free. In 1683 William Penn attempted to sign a treaty
with them only to learn that the Susquehannock (like the Delaware) first needed Iroquois approval to sign. Subsequent
dealings by the Pennsylvania government concentrated on the Iroquois and ignored the subservient tribes. By 1706
the Iroquois had relented somewhat and allowed 300 Susquehannock to return to the Susquehanna Valley in Pennsylvania.
No longer a powerful people, they became known as the Conestoga (from the name of their village). The Iroquois
kept a watchful eye on them and used their homeland as a kind of supervised reservation for the displaced Algonquin
and Siouan tribes (Delaware, Munsee, Nanticoke, Conoy, Tutelo, Saponi, Mahican, Shawnee, and New England Algonquin)
who were allowed to settle there as members of the "covenant chain."
Quaker missionaries arrived and made many conversions among the Susquehannock. As Conestoga became a Christian
village, the more traditional Susquehannock left - either returning to the Oneida in New York, or moving west to
Ohio to join the Mingo. By 1763 there were only 20 members (all Christians) of this last identifiable group of
the Susquehannock. They were totally peaceful, but atrocities committed by others during the Pontiac Uprising of
that year outraged the white settlers in the vicinity who just wanted to kill Indians - any Indians - in revenge.
Feeling this way they could have grabbed a rifle and taken to the woods to find the hostiles, but there was an
easier target closer at hand. As feelings rose, fourteen Conestoga were arrested and placed in the jail at Lancaster
for their own protection. A mob formed (known as the Paxton boys). They proceeded to the village at Conestoga,
killed the six Susquehanna they found there, and burned the houses. Then they went to the jail, broke in, took
the last fourteen Susquehannock the world would ever see ...and beat them to death!
(Source: "Indians of Maryland", state reprints.)
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