F&M College Library

Native & Indigenous Resources at F&M


"While exploring the Chesapeake Bay in 1608, Captain John Smith first encountered the Susquehannocks. In his journal, Captain Smith described them as “seemed like Giants to the English” but archeological research shows the Susquehannocks to have been of average size.

It is unknown what the Iroquoian-speaking Susquehannocks called themselves, but the name that graces the river, the people and the state park is derived from the name, Sasquesahanough, given to Captain Smith by his Algonquian-speaking American Indian interpreter. The word has been translated ‘people at the falls’ or ‘roily water people’ referring to the Susquehannock’s home by the river. This small tribe had only one village by present-day Conestoga, but controlled the important trade routes along the Susquehanna River and the Chesapeake Bay."

-- Text directly quoted from lenapeprograms.info page on the Susquehannocks



Depiction of a Susquehannock man on the Smith Map (1624).

Image from Wikimedia Commons, original map at Library of Congress


"Life with the Lenape
One thousand years ago, the local landscape was quite different. Just about all of Bucks and Montgomery counties were covered by dense forests. According to “Pennsylvania Archaeologist,” this was a transitional forest region, with maple, beech and hemlock trees abundant in the northern part of the Delaware Valley and oak and chestnut in the southern portion. Over the past 200 years, settlement, urban sprawl and parking lots have eliminated most of these mighty forests. As we walk along an ancient Lenape trail, we are surrounded by the sights, sounds and smells of the forest on a typical summer day.

And animals.
The forest is filled with white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, black bears, porcupines, rabbits, beaver, woodchucks, chipmunks, gray and red squirrels, raccoons and muskrat. Think of this as the Lenape version of a supermarket. There were more than 250 species of birds, 40 types of fish and 15 species of turtles. “You would have heard birds, lots of birds,” Messinger said. We can hear the “who, who” of an owl and the croaking of frogs and can see a bald eagle and a couple of hawks soaring high above us. We’re startled as a deer bounds across the trail, only 20 yards ahead of us. As we get close to a village, the first sound we hear, long before we actually see the village, is the thump, thump, thump of the women pounding dried corn into flour.

The Lenape were farmers and corn was their staple.
As we get even closer, we smell the aroma of baking corn bread, or the day’s midday meal —usually a soup made out of whatever vegetables and fruits were in season, as well as the meaty leftovers of the previous night’s dinner —or the rather nasty smell of tanning deer and bear hides or decomposing fish parts used to fertilize gardens where corn, beans, squash, melons and pumpkins are growing. And then, magically, the forest gives way to a clearing and there, in front of us almost always near a river, stream or spring —is the hustle and bustle of a Lenape village."

-- Text directly excerpted from "Short Lenape History for Adults: For many millenniums, the Lenni Lenape ruled" by Steve Wartenberg, in interview with Carla Messinger, found on lenapeprograms.info



Images, L to R: Jennie Bobb and her daughter Nellie Longhat (Delaware), Oklahoma, 1915. Susie Elkhair (d. 1926), wearing a ribbonwork shawl. Both images from Wikimedia Commons.


When did Europeans discover the Nanticoke Nation?

First contact with the Nanticoke Tribe was recorded by Captain John Smith in 1608. While exploring the Chesapeake Bay, Smith and his crew sailed onto the Kuskarawaok River. The Kuskarawaoks, later known as the Nanticoke Indians, cautiously watched Smith's ship from the shore, climbing into the trees for a better look. When Smith approached the shore in a boat, the Nanticoke answered with arrows. Smith prudently put down anchor for the night in the middle of the river.

The next morning, the Nanticoke appeared on the shore with baskets of food. Still cautious, Captain Smith had his men fire muskets over the heads of the Nanticoke. The Indians escaped. Not until then did the English see warriors lying in the reeds for ambush. Later that afternoon, Smith noticed the Indians were gone, and he and his men came to shore. He found fires still burning, but no Indians were seen. Smith discovered glass beads, shells, and copper pieces left as gifts of friendship.

The following day, four Indians who had been fishing approached Smith's ship in a canoe. Smith convinced them he came in friendship, and they returned with twenty villagers. Food, water, and furs were exchanged for gifts the English brought. Several Nanticokes agreed to serve as guides for Smith to continue his exploration of the Kuskarawaok, now known as the Nanticoke River. Smith described the Nanticoke as "the best merchants of all."

What does the name Nanticoke mean?

In Algonquian, the common Indian language of Northeastern tribes, the word Nanticoke is translated from the original Nantaquak meaning the tidewater people or people of the tidewaters.

How large was the tribe?

Smith recorded that nearly 200 warriors lived with their families on the Nanticoke River, making their tribe more significant in population than many other tribes on the Eastern Shore at that time. However, the Nanticoke were allied with the Powhatan Confederacy in what is now Virginia. Such alliances allowed smaller bands of Indians to have protection from enemy tribes.

-- Text directly quoted from The Nanticoke Indian Tribe website


The Nanticoke Nation Flag, designed by Matthew Harmon



Historically, we were a Confederacy of Tribes under the premier authority of the Tayac or Emperor. Our Confederacy extended between the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay to the watershed of the Potomac River in the area now known as Virginia, and all land from the southern tip of St Mary's County, MD, north to include Baltimore, Montgomery, and Anne Arundel Counties MD to include Washington DC. 

Our first European contact was in 1608 with John Smith and William Claiborne and first contact with the colonist occured in 1634 upon the arrival of the Ark and Dove which carried passengers, Leonard Calvert and a Jesuit priest, Father Andrew White. It was Mr. Calvert who began colonizing our ancestral homelands and Father White who converted the tribe to Catholicism. 

...The Piscataway people were farmers, many who owned large tracts of land. They also were employed as tenant farmers, farm foremen, field laborers, guides, fishermen and domestic servants. The men were revered for their expert hunting and fishing skills and the money they earned bought land and expanded their community and property holding. The Piscataway people rarely took part in public life, staying separate from the mainstream of society with little visibility to the world."

-- Text directly excerpted from the History page of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe website

Seneca and Haudenosaunee Confederacy


"With a proud and rich history, the Seneca were the largest of six Native American nations which comprised the Iroquois Confederacy or Six Nations, a democratic government that pre-dates the United States Constitution.

The Seneca Nation of Indians currently has a total enrolled population of nearly 8,000 citizens. The territories are generally rural, with several residential areas. Many Seneca citizens live off-territory, some are located across the country, as well as in other countries. Off-territory residents comprise nearly 1/2 of the citizenship.

The Seneca are also known as the "Keeper of the Western Door," for the Seneca are the westernmost of the Six Nations.  At the time of the formation of the Iroquois League, the original five nations of the Iroquois League occupied large areas of land in the Northeast USA and Southeast Canada.

In the Seneca language we are known as O-non-dowa-gah, (pronounced: Oh-n'own-dough-wahgah) or "Great Hill People."

The historical Seneca occupied territory throughout the Finger Lakes area in Central  New York, and in the Genesee Valley in Western New York, living in longhouses on the riversides. The villages were well fortified with wooden stake fences, just one of the many industrious undertakings.

The people relied heavily on agriculture for food, growing the Three Sisters: corn, beans, and squash, which were known as Deohako,(pronounced: Jo- hay- ko) "the life supporters." In addition to raising crops, the early Seneca were also subsistence hunters and fishers.

The Senecas were also highly skilled at warfare, and were considered fierce adversaries. But the Seneca were also renowned for their sophisticated skills at diplomacy and oratory and their willingness to unite with the other original five nations to form the Iroquois Confederacy of Nations."

-- Text directly excerpted from the Seneca Nation of Indians website


Haudenosaunee Confederacy

"Called the Iroquois Confederacy by the French, and the League of Five Nations by the English, the confederacy is properly called the Haudenosaunee Confederacy meaning People of the long house. The confederacy was founded by the prophet known as the Peacemaker with the help of Aionwatha, more commonly known as Hiawatha. The exact date of the joining of the nations is unknown and said to be time immemorial making it one of the first and longest lasting participatory democracies in the world.

The confederacy, made up of the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas was intended as a way to unite the nations and create a peaceful means of decision making. Through the confederacy, each of the nations of the Haudenosaunee are united by a common goal to live in harmony. Each nation maintains it own council with Chiefs chosen by the Clan Mother and deals with its own internal affairs but allows the Grand Council to deal with issues affecting the nations within the confederacy.

The Haudenosaunee symbol of the long house, provided by the Peacemaker, is recognized in traditional geographic locations. Upon confederation each nation took on a role within the metaphorical longhouse with the Onondaga being the Keepers of the Fire. The Mohawk, Seneca and Onondaga acted as the Elder Brothers of the confederacy while the Cayuga and Oneida were the Younger Brothers within Grand Council. The main meeting place was and still exists today on Onondaga territory.

Often described as the oldest, participatory democracy on Earth, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy’s constitution is believed to be a model for the American Constitution. What makes it stand out as unique to other systems around the world is its blending of law and values. For the Haudenosaunee, law, society and nature are equal partners and each plays an important role."

-- Text directly excerpted from the Haudenosaunee Confederacy website



Panoramic photograph of a group of Haudenosaunee Confederacy members in Buffalo, NY, dated April 8, 1914. Image from Wikimedia Commons, original image at the Library of Congress


"The Shawnees are an Eastern Woodlands tribe pushed west by white encroachment. In 1793, some of the Shawnee Tribe’s ancestors received a Spanish land grant at Cape Girardeau, Missouri. After the 1803 Louisiana Purchase brought this area under American control, some Cape Girardeau Shawnees went west to Texas and Old Mexico and later moved to the Canadian River in southern Oklahoma, becoming the Absentee Shawnee Tribe.

The 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs granted the Shawnees still in northwest Ohio three reservations: Wapakoneta, Hog Creek, and Lewistown (see map right). By 1824, about 800 Shawnees lived in Ohio and 1,383 lived in Missouri. In 1825, Congress ratified a treaty with the Cape Girardeau Shawnees ceding their Missouri lands for a 1.6 million-acre reservation in eastern Kansas. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the Ohio Shawnees on the Wapakoneta and Hog Creek reservations signed a treaty with the US giving them lands on the Kansas Reservation.

The Lewistown Reservation Shawnees, together with their Seneca allies and neighbors, signed a separate treaty with the federal government in 1831 and moved directly to Indian Territory (Oklahoma). The Lewistown Shawnees became the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, while their Seneca allies became the Seneca-Cayuga Tribe of Oklahoma.

In 1854, the US government decimated the Kansas Reservation to 160,000 acres. This, coupled with the brutal abuses perpetrated against them by white settlers during and after the Civil War, forced the Kansas Shawnees to relocate to Cherokee Nation in northeastern Oklahoma. The 1854 Shawnee Reservation in Kansas was never formally extinguished and some Shawnee families retain their Kansas allotments today.

The federal government caused the former Kansas Shawnees and the Cherokees to enter into a formal agreement in 1869, whereby the Shawnees received allotments and citizenship in Cherokee Nation.

The Shawnees settled in and around White Oak, Bird Creek (Sperry), and Hudson Creek (Fairland), maintaining separate communities and separate cultural identities. Known as the Cherokee Shawnees, they would also later be called the Loyal Shawnees.

Initial efforts begun in the 1980s to separate the Shawnee Tribe from Cherokee Nation culminated when Congress enacted Public Law 106-568, the Shawnee Tribe Status Act of 2000, which restored the Shawnee Tribe to its position as a sovereign Indian nation."

-- Text directly excerpted from the Shawnee Tribe website

Portrait of Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader, dated 1848. Image from Wikimedia Commons.