Nanticoke Indians prepare for 40th Annual Powwow

Wooded grounds have special, spiritual meaning for tribe members
September 6, 2017

Story Location:
27073 John J Williams Highway
Millsboro  Delaware  19966
United States

Nanticoke Indian Chief Natosha Carmine said the wooded powwow grounds are the thing that sets the annual Nanticoke Indian Powwow apart from other powwows.

“The footprints of our ancestors are on these grounds,” she said proudly, during an interview at the Nanticoke Indian Museum outside of Millsboro. “There’s nothing like it on the East Coast. Most of the other powwows are held in open fields or on fairgrounds.”

This year marks the 40th annual Powwow which is set to take place Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10.

Carmine, in her second year of a two-year term as the tribe’s first woman chief, said the tribe is in the home stretch of preparations. A team of men and some prisoners on work release were hard at work preparing the wooded grounds for the thousands of visitors, she said Aug. 25.

“There’s something about parking in the field, taking the tram trail and then being dropped off behind the stage,” said Carmine. “You can hear the drums as you’re riding. There’s just something about those drums.”

Sterling Street, tribal elder and historian, chimes in, “It’s spiritual.”

Working the front desk of the museum the day of the interview was tribe member Morning Star. She has danced in the previous 39 powwows.

“You know you’re getting old, when you can say that,” said Star, 72.

Star, who has lived her whole life near Millsboro, said it’s important to keep tribal traditions like the powwow alive.

“If we lose it now, the youth will not know their history,” she said.

Star’s history with the powwow goes back further than the present-day celebration. In the first quarter of the 20th century, the Nanticoke’s held a powwow for nearly a decade. Her father is one of about two dozen dancers pictured on the front page of the Sunday, Dec. 7, 1930, edition of the Philadelphia-based Public Ledger.

“It’s a part of me. It brings great joy,” she said. “I think of all the people. There’s a crowd surrounding the circle, but it’s like a fog covers them when I’m out there. I don’t see any of them.”

How long will Star participate in the dancing?

“As long as my legs keep me going,” she said, rubbing her legs, shaking her head and laughing.

Powwow information

Powwow grounds, follow signs off Route 24 near Millsboro, open at 10 a.m., Saturday, Sept. 9, and Sunday, Sept. 10.

Grand entry will be at noon, Saturday, with a second dance session at 3:30 p.m. On Sunday, there will be a worship service at 10 a.m. and a grand entry at 1:30 p.m.

American Indian vendors will be on site with a variety of items for sale, including arts and crafts, clothing, jewelry, paintings, pottery, videos and more. Food vendors will have sandwiches, succotash, Indian tacos and Indian frybread. There will be face painting and storytelling for children. Attendees may bring lawn chairs.

Handicap parking is available off Mount Joy Road. For more information, call 302-945-3400 or 302-945-7022, or email