Delaware tribe celebrates heritage at annual powwow (VIDEO)

Members of the Nanticoke tribe dance at the 38th annual Pow Wow. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

Members of the Nanticoke tribe dance at the 38th annual Pow Wow. (Paul Parmelee/WHYY)

Traditional dancing and drumming punctuated the 38th annual Nanticoke Powwow this weekend in Millsboro.

Members of the Nanticoke tribe painted their faces and donned traditional garb to celebrate at the event which functions as a yearly family reunion for the tribe. “Nanticokes live all over the country now, and they make it a point of coming home,” said Nanticoke Chief William Daisey.

For years before the civil rights movement, Nanticoke tribe members held their annual powwow in private for fear of discrimination. “It was not safe to maintain a high profile, so we had to maintain a low profile, which means only Native Americans or very close friends were allowed to attend,” Daisey said.

That’s all changed now. “It’s better. Relationships are better now. Today, we’re mingling in fellowship, nobody’s worried about someone scalping them,” Daisey said, adding that it was Europeans who started the trend of scalping their enemies, “But we get a bad rap.”

For nearly 40 years, the powwow has become a time for reintroducing the Nanticoke heritage and history to others in the region. “A lot of folks in Delaware are not aware the Nanticoke still exist,” Daisey said. 

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