The wind was whipping at a sustained 12 mph, and the temperatures dropped noticeably on Monday, Nov. 15, as the State of Delaware archivist and public officials honored the Nanticoke Indian Tribe with a historical highway-marker plaque. The marker recognizes the National Register of Historic Places site (first identified in 1979) of the Nanticoke Indian School near Millsboro — which now serves as the tribal association headquarters.
The wind blowing over the nearby fields and farms seemed to suggest a new spirit of life was rushing-in to remind those present that the Nanticoke are still here in Sussex County, and still making history. The Nature Conservancy of Delaware will donate and deed 31 acres of land in Millsboro to expand the Indian School and the Nanticoke Museum with a visitor center. This is what they mean by the word “reparations,” and TNC’s land gift makes the marker the more meaningful.
Nanticoke Chief Natosha Norwood Carmine said, “It’s a beautiful day today for the Nanticoke to have this school placed on the national historic register officially. We have a rich history and a legacy, but we also are creating history today.”
Delaware Director of Public Archives Steven M. Marz did the honors of unveiling the highway marker on John J. Williams Highway (Route 24). The history of the Indian School is that between 1921, when the Nanticoke formed a tribal association, and 1930, the Nanticoke families in the area withdrew their children from Harmon School in Millsboro and moved them to the one-room schoolhouse.
“This is an exciting day for us,” said Bonnie Hall, chair of the Southern Delaware Tourism board in Georgetown and of the Nanticoke Indian Commemoration Committee, “especially for those who attended this Indian school” — as Hall herself did from first through third grades.
“We built the school, and the families agreed to an assessment,” said Hall.
State Sen. Ernesto “Ernie” Lopez (R-6th) noted the important lessons of history.
“Nothing is more important for us in the legislature than to be doing this dedication in these divisive times. It is so important to focus on our shared history. By honoring the Nanticoke today with this dedication and marker, we have done so.”
Millsboro Mayor Michelle Truitt added, “Bonnie Hall has been providing the leadership on this dedication and marker. She and many others want to carry the Nanticoke into the 21st century. The tribe needs to be recognized, with all of their wonderful history.”
Truitt noted that she is a social studies teacher at Millsboro Middle School. She said she has made sure to teach indigenous history to her students and share the local traditions with her own children.
“I have one in college and one who is a junior in high school,” said Truitt. “They should know about our history here. And I used to take my kids to powwows, too.”
Sussex County Councilman Douglas B. Hudson (R-4th) also provided a tribute to the Nanticoke and framed ceremonial letter that was brought into the schoolhouse by Carmine for display there.
The Nanticoke — literally the “people of the tidewaters” — once occupied all of the lands around the Indian River. They were known for building longhouses, as well as more traditional dwellings.