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My Nanticoke Native American HeritageJanuary 4, 2016
Published under: Shamanism
I never felt that I belonged in my birth family. From an early age, I sensed that I was different and somehow out-of-place. I was the dark-haired child in a household full of blonds. My dad had dark hair, too — but, he was always away at sea — working to support our family. It took me years to discover that what I had inherited from him went way beyond my looks and disposition.
While my mother’s well-documented family tree stretched back to include Dutch settlers arriving in New Amsterdam in the 1600’s — my dad’s family was much more of a mystery. I remember him showing me an old sepia-hued photograph of a husband and wife who looked very Native American. They had dark eyes, dark complexion, and long dark hair. Evidently, my great, great, great grandmother was a Nanticoke Indian.
The Nanticoke Indians of southern Delaware 1 - also known as the Tidewater People - are an Algonquian tribe that was first encountered by Captain John Smith in 1608. They lived on the peninsula between the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay – but, in the late 1700’s many of them moved up the Susquehanna where they ultimately became affiliated with the Iroquois. 2
The Nanticoke were distinguished from neighboring tribes by their darker complexion. According to their tradition they intermarried with a crew of Moorish sailors — Spanish Privateers aka pirates – who became shipwrecked along the southern coast of Delaware. 3
Although the Nanticoke fished and trapped for subsistence – these were unsettled times and their way of life was being turned upside down by the encroaching European settlers. According to a missionary who wrote about Native American culture at the time
Now that’s some powerful magic. Knowledge that was probably used for both good and evil – depending on whose side you were on.
My inheritance reflects the victories, defeats, and hard won battles of all my ancestors. These karmic traces inform who I am and how I see the world. In this legacy is a gift that’s longing to be expressed through me. How lucky am I to be part of this family?
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