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Indigenous Futures: Native Americans

This guide was originally created for the use of instructors and students in the reACT Decolonizing Education Experiential Learning Program funded by the 2022-2023 TLTC Curriculum Grants. Specifically: ARCH460; ARCH478; ARCH601; ARCH678; CHBE473; ENCH648


I named my daughter, Jansikwe, meaning “Beautiful River Woman” to honor ancestral indigenous connections to the Potomac River. As Piscataway people, our identity merges entirely with the riverine environment and adapts to its changes. Piscataway translates to “where the waters blend.” -- Gabrielle Tayac, PhD, Member of the Piscataway Indian Nation and activist Indigenous scholar (2021)

Kenny, H. (1951) The origin and meaning of the Indian place names of Maryland.  To do full justice to a regional body of American Indian place names, one must study them as a group, largely by themselves, not neglecting local history, but giving the greatest attention to the grammar and comparative philology of the particular Indian tongue involved.  The present work is a special study of the Indian place names of Maryland. Though an investigation of America's Algonquin place names in their entirety would yield more complete results, yet the Indian place names of Maryland are typical and comprise a large but workable group. The state is an auspicious region for the project: she has an ancient colonial history; she has a big variety of bays, islands, necks, points, and swamps; and within her borders, there are 770 streams. This book is intended for the general reader who desires to learn what the Indian place names of Maryland meant in the original and who has sufficient intellectual respect to want to know also whether what he is reading is the truth.

Tayac, G. (2021) How the Piscataway people are still protecting this pristine Potomac place.  Indigenous Voices: Discover the beauty of Nanjemoy. Potomac Conservancy. A fundamental ethic in Piscataway philosophy centers on reciprocity. We take care of each other. The land cares for you, you care for Mother Earth. All in balance. Nanjemoy maintains a healthier ecosystem than many places in the region, its trees oxygenate DC. So we, in turn, have this opportunity to let this space breathe, protect it, help the lost environments and cultures regenerate. When deforestation was threatened by a solar project (and don’t get me wrong, I support renewables like solar), environmentalists, community folks, and Piscataway activists spoke up. We took action together, perhaps finally all understanding the necessity of indigenous wisdom – now shown through science, that all is connected.

Hopkins, J. (2021) What's in a Place Name? Exploring the history of Piscataway Park and Accokeek Creek Site. University of Maryland Special Collection and Archives. Just as Native place names endure, so do Native communities and sites of their local cultural heritage and historical significance. 

Piscataway Voices: Sharing Cultural Connections is a three-part blog series that shares the heritage and culture of Maryland’s Native people — Piscataway — and the individual perspectives of Native people, their relationship to land, stewardship, and each other. Sponsored by the Accokeek Foundation. 

Hamilton, T. (2018) Piscataway-Conoy: Rejuvenating Ancestral Ties to Southern Parks. in Maryland Natural Resource Magazine, vol. 21, No. 4, Fall 2018.   The Piscataway have flourished, celebrating their culture with traditional events such as the Seed Gathering in early spring, the Feast from the Waters in early summer, and a Green Corn Festival in late summer. Prior to the Pandemic, the tribe partnered with the Maryland Park Service during the Greeting of the Geese event at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary.

Rice, J. (2009) Nature and History in the Potomac Country: From Hunter-Gatherers to the Age of Jefferson. The first third of Rice's book, in which he describes Native American life along the river before European colonization, is the most innovative section. He examines hunter-gatherer relationships with the Potomac landscape, the role of a warming trend between 900 and 1300 AD in promoting the development of regional agriculture, and the annual cycles of Algonquin life. Throughout these three chapters, Rice relies heavily on archaeological sources and imaginative passages that draw the reader into ground-level explorations of Native American land use. 2" (p. 11). Following contact, native peoples do not disappear from Rice's narrative. Indeed, the fur trade, Indian agricultural practices, warfare between the Algonquin and Iroquois peoples over hegemony of the river system, and the Albany and Lancaster treaties, which altered geographical boundaries and control over natural resources, remain central events in his narrative of life and nature along the river. As late as the American Revolution, Rice states, "the trajectory of Native American history before John Smith's visitation in 1608 had not been entirely cut off nor subsumed into the trajectory of Euro-American history." Nature and History in the Potomac Country is a well-executed regional history that serves as a powerful example of the necessity of environmental history focusing on the intimate details of both natural and cultural landscapes.

MNCPPC. (2013) Conserving Significant Cultural Landscapes: Protecting the Piscataway and Accokeek Historic Communities and the Mount Vernon Viewshed:  This study provides recommendations for conserving the cultural landscape of the rural communities of Piscataway and Accokeek, which are a portion of a significant viewshed across the Potomac River from the porch of Mount Vernon. The Piscataway-Accokeek area has a unique history as all places do but is particularly unusual given its proximity to the nation’s capital and its relationship to the District of Columbia. This area was is part of the traditional territory of the Piscataway Native American tribe, one of the most populous and powerful in the Chesapeake Bay region. The tribe lived in fortified villages, including those found along the banks of Piscataway Creek where it flows into the Potomac River. The first European settlers arrived in that region in 1634. Numerous archaeological sites and artifacts have been identified in the Fort Washington, Piscataway, and Accokeek areas and along the Potomac River that point to the area’s rich history and the molding of Native American, European, and African (slave) cultures. 

Where the Waters Blend (2019) is a documentary film about one of Maryland's modern-day, non-reservation dwelling Indian tribes. The Piscataway people's ongoing struggle to retain and share their heritage frames the journey of Cryz - the two-spirit (LGBT) daughter of the Tribal Chairwoman of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway - from rejection to acceptance of her leadership role in the tribe. Directed by Emily Wathen and Susanne Coates.


First Peoples. Southern Maryland National Heritage Area.

Master Plan. Through Piscataway Eyes. 2016.  The Through Piscataway Eyes Master Plan is an effort to preserve and protect Piscataway culture and land for the purposes of discovery and education about the Piscataway people. 

Maryland American Indian Sites and Experiences. State of Maryland. Office of Tourism.  The indigenous peoples who walked in the mountains, paddled rivers, hunted, fished and made their homes in Maryland also bestowed the names—like Patapsco, Wicomico, and Chesapeake—that still mark today’s landscape. Walk in the woods, feel the spirit of the land and discover the history and thriving culture of the Nanticoke, Lumbee, Piscataway, Patuxent, Chicone and Pocomoke tribes. Modern Maryland American Indians are still living these traditions today.

Indigenous Maryland Map. Guide to Indigenous Maryland is a multi-faceted community engagement initiative of the Maryland State Library Agency and Maryland’s public libraries. Through the development and curation of educational resources, the project aims to teach Marylanders about the history of local Native and Indigenous peoples and how their heritage influences contemporary life in Maryland. Content for the app and website are based on crowdsourced contributions and recommendations from individual Native and Indigenous Marylanders, as well as tribal nations heritage organizations, in collaboration with Maryland’s public libraries. It is also available as an app: Guide to Indigenous Maryland (mobile app) by Dr. Elizabeth Rule, Project Curator, with the Maryland State Library Agency, and Prince George’s County Memorial Library System.

Piscataway Indian Museum and Cultural Center. Dedicated to the history and culture of the Piscataway and other native people of the United States. Each exhibit contains historical and contemporary artifacts from the Eastern Woodlands, Plains, Northwest, and Southwest, while demonstrating how location influenced tribal structure, art, and lodging. 

Through Piscataway Eyes is a Non-Profit 501(c)3 registered with the Internal Revenue Service to promote and protect the welfare, culture, and history of the members of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe™. Piscataway Land Trust™ is a division of our Non-Profit 501(c)3 to accept land donations and/or monetary donations to purchase land to benefit all future generations of Piscataway people. We are seeking lands in our ancestral homelands of the Western Bank of the Chesapeake to include all of Southern Maryland (Charles, St. Mary's, and Calvert Counties), Prince George's County, Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore City, and Baltimore County, Montgomery County, Frederick County, Carroll County, present-day Washington, DC, and parts of Northern Virginia. We however will gladly accept other donations as well, especially in other areas that our ancestors occupied. 

The Piscataway have a close relationship with the Maryland Park Service in the form of a long-term agreement that allows the use of Merkle and Chapel Point State Park, both of which have deep cultural significance to the tribe. The Piscataway use the park facilities for ceremonies, cultural education, and interpretive programs, and as a venue to forge cultural connections with other Marylanders by offering classes and guided kayak trips along the waters that have sustained their people for centuries. St. Mary's River State Park is also a significant Maryland site.

Nanjemoy Natural Resource Management Area (NRMA). Nanjemoy NRMA is situated along the tidal Potomac River on the Nanjemoy peninsula. The majority of the property straddles Maryland Route 224 and has been labeled one of the most ecologically and culturally significant landscapes remaining in Maryland, as it protects 1.2 miles of relatively undisturbed shoreline.

Nanjemoy Creek Preserve. Nanjemoy Creek Preserve was established to protect a large breeding colony of great blue herons that once nested here.  The herons have since moved on, but the preserve abounds with life. Local farmer and naturalist Calvert R. Posey, site manager for many years, kept a detailed field journal listing 48 tree species, 86 wildflowers (including rare Virginia wild ginger) and numerous creatures—snakes, skinks, and salamanders, to name a few. Posey noted that his lists on this richly endowed place were by no means complete.

Piscataway Park (Moyaone). The land and waterways now known as Piscataway Park have been the tribal homeland of the Piscataway People for longer than records have been kept. Today it remains the cherished homeland of the Piscataway People of Southern Maryland.  Piscataway Park is federally-owned property of the National Park Service and is operated and managed by the Accokeek Foundation (non-profit) through a cooperative agreement.

Chicone Village at Handsell. The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance is proud to honor the Eastern Woodland Native People of Delmarva by constructing and maintaining the first authentic replica of a single family homestead using the materials and techniques available to prehistoric people circa pre-1600.  Now that the longhouse is complete, a waddle fenced garden has been installed and is planted each summer with plants appropriate to a garden of the native people.  In 2016, our “Village Volunteers” completed a lean-to “workshelter” to even further enhance this project. The Chicone Village at Handsell may be visited at any time during daylight hours year-round.

Jefferson Patterson Park & Museum.  Nearly 70 archaeological sites on the property reflect more than 8,000 years of human occupation. Included are a visitor center, exhibit barn, gift shop, hiking trails, a re-created Indian Village and canoe/kayak launch. Also on the grounds is the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory. Call about scheduling a tour of the facility.

Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm. The Biscoe Gray Heritage Farm, a site rich in natural and cultural resources, is a living laboratory to explore, understand, and experience Southern Maryland agricultural practices and lifestyles throughout its history—from Native American settlement, small-scale colonial farming, 1800s era agriculture and 20th-century tobacco farming to contemporary community supported agricultural and sustainable farming efforts.


Accohannock Indian Tribe/ Traditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Somerset; Virginia Counties: Accomac and Northhampton

Assateague People of Delmarva / Traditional Lands: Eastern Shore, Maryland Counties: Worcester; Delaware Counties: Sussex; Virginia Counties: Accomac, North Hampton

Cedarville Band of IndiansTraditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's; Parts of the District of Columbia

Choptico Band of Indians/ Traditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's; Parts of the District of Columbia

Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians/ Traditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Dorcester

Piscataway Conoy TribeTraditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's; Parts of the District of Columbia

Piscataway Indian Nation and Tayac Territory/ Traditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Prince George's, Charles, St. Mary's; Parts of the District of Columbia

Pocomoke Indian Nation ( a series of tribal bands within the Pocomoke Paramountcy: the principal band Pocomoke, and the bands Acquintica, Annemessex, Gingoteague, Manoakin, Morumsco, Nuswattux, and Quindocqua)/ Traditional Lands: Eastern Shore, Maryland Counties: Somerset, Worcester, Eastern Wicomico; Delaware Counties: Southern Sussex; Virginia Counties: Accomac

Susquehanna and Shawnee Indians (Indigenous nations of the Susquehanna River and Chesapeake Bay)/ Traditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Baltimore, Carroll, Cecil, Harford, Howard, Montgomery

Youghiogheny River Band of Shawnee/ Traditional Lands: Maryland Counties: Garrett


Nanticoke Indian Association. Tribal Community Center and Museum is in Millsboro Delaware. 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.  The Nanticoke enjoyed the best of native lifestyles. They were proficient farmers. By this time, Eastern Shore Indians were planting corn and beans, and drying them for later use. Women and children cared for lush gardens of corn, beans, squash, pumpkins, sunflowers, and tobacco. They gathered nuts, berries, birds' eggs, and edible plants in season. As they lived close to the rivers, in warmer months, they dined on delicious seafood, including clams, oysters, mussels, crabs, eels, and fish. Nets, snares, baskets, and spears were fashioned by the men to harvest the water's bounty. The men hunted the forests and meadows of the Eastern Shore for squirrels, turkeys, deer, opossums, rabbits, bears, partridges, ducks, and geese. Food was roasted over open fires or boiled in clay pots as a stew. Bows, arrows, and spears were used for larger game, and snares or traps were set for smaller animals. All parts of the animals and sea creatures were utilized. Shells were used for spoons, bowls, wampum, and ornate decorations. Porcupine quills, furs, skins, sinew, and bones were used for clothing and tool implements.

Busby, V. (2010) Transformation and Persistence: The Nanticoke Indians and Chicone Indian Town in the Context of European Contact and Colonization. Dissertation, University of Virginia.  This dissertation examines transformations in, and the persistence of, a North American Chesapeake Indian group, the Nanticoke, from immediately prior to and through a protracted period of European contact and colonization. To accomplish this, both historical anthropological and archaeological research focused on a particular Nanticoke settlement is employed.  Unlike many of their indigenous Chesapeake counterparts, the Nanticoke maintained a viable, albeit dynamic, leadership structure and group identity vis-à-vis European colonizers during this time. Furthermore, the Nanticoke were able to maintain viable settlement within their pre-contact core territories, thus presenting a unique opportunity to study the impacts of culture contact and colonization over the longue durée.   

Library and Archival Resources

Mayis: Indigenous Records.  State of Maryland Archives.  Mayis, “path,” “to go on,” is a database of records related to the Chesapeake region’s Indigenous Peoples found in Maryland government documents.  Phase I is now available and covers records in the years, 1632-1800.

Native Americans in Maryland: A Resource Guide. By Joni Floyd, PhD. Curator of UMD Libraries' Maryland & Historical Collections. This guide is a selective list of resources on Native Americans in Maryland. It is intended as a starting point to research and not as an exhaustive list of sources.

Maryland at a Glance: Native Americans Maryland Manual Online, Maryland State Archives
Guide to Ethnic Research in Maryland: Native American, Maryland State Archives

Once As It Was: Map of Washington D.C. The D.C. Native History Project is a growing volunteer group working with the Piscataway/Conoy tribe members to get a modicum of recognition for the Anacostan Heritage of Washington, D.C. See the blog for up to date information.