Maryland American Indian Sites and Experiences
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—meet them at the events and sites listed below!
On the banks of the Nanticoke River, the Nanticoke Indians lived, hunted, and gathered food and materials from nature’s bounty. Imagine their alarm, intrigue and confusion when English explorer Captain John Smith sailed up the river in 1608 to explore and chart the territory. Exhibits inside the center depict this first interaction between the Nanticoke and European explorers and the lasting impacts to come.
Travel upriver to the replica family homestead built on the site of a prehistoric Chicone Indian village. Explore the authentically-constructed longhouse or the waddle-fenced native garden and work shelter. Outdoor exhibits and cultural presentations by the Pocomoke Indian Nation show how the native people once lived. Visit in April for the annual Chicone Village Day, which honors the culture of the Eastern Woodland Native People.
Experience pristine and placid waters while paddling the Nanticoke River as it meanders 64 miles from southern Delaware to the Tangier Sound in the Chesapeake Bay. Over 25 public launches allow you to customize your trip length. Native American tribes once used the river as a trade route and fishing ground. Scenery around the largely undeveloped river looks much like it did prior to English settlement. Spy one of the highest concentrations of bald eagles in the northeastern United States and tidal wetlands teeming with wild rice, cattail, waterfowl and largemouth bass.
Descendants of two Nanticoke ancestral villages formed the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians. Meet some of the 250 people who are rehabilitating the Longhouse to serve as a community center and meeting house. Make an appointment if you want to take a tour.
Explore the Tockwogh tribe’s native roots along the banks of the Sassafras River and Turner’s Creek. The Knock’s Folly Visitor Center here houses exhibits highlighting the tribe and its interactions with English explorer Captain John Smith. Walk a trail for scenic Chesapeake views and a chance to see local wildlife.
See American Indian interactive exhibits and displays of artifacts and historic native attire. Learn about the history, culture, identity and experiences of American Indians with a focus on indigenous Maryland tribes and the Lumbee who moved to this area from North Carolina. A gift shop offers authentic items.
Add a stop in Washington, D.C. to your Maryland adventure. A visit to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian will introduce you to the Native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region through photographs, maps, ceremonial and everyday objects.
Discover the origins of America’s oldest sport, lacrosse, which is also Maryland’s official state team sport. The game originated with Eastern Woodland Indians, and the museum includes rare artwork and sculptures of Native Americans playing lacrosse as well as vintage equipment, uniforms, trophies and memorabilia.
Artifacts such as 1,000-year-old American Indian petroglyphs and stone and wood tools provide glimpses of early civilizations in the Susquehanna River Valley. Stunning murals, a log canoe and other objects are touchstones to Susquehannock Indian life.
The land that is Piscataway Park today has been and continues to be special for the Piscataway. The park’s Accokeek Creek Boardwalk Trail visits landscapes at the confluence of Piscataway Creek and the Potomac River, where English explorer Captain John Smith found a fenced village at Mockley Point in 1608. Archaeology revealed prehistoric horticultural hamlets and hunting sites nearby. Today, the area is significant for contemporary Piscataway peoples who use the Moyoane Sacred Site and burial ground for ceremonies. The park’s Accokeek Foundation features exhibits such as oral histories and a garden that demonstrates practices that reflect the transition of native peoples of the Potomac from hunter-gatherers to farmers and seed-savers.
Walk the Potomac River Trail for sweeping views from Mount Aventine and head to the water's edge to see the former sites of a Piscataway short-term encampment and base camp. Archaeological surveys proved over 8,000 years of continuous inhabitance at over 80 locations, including a site with numerous aboriginal artifacts.
The Piscataway people accessed the Port Tobacco River here for fishing, oyster processing and hunting. They buried their loved ones along the shore, but most burials were relocated inland in the 19th century. Today, ceremonial events take place here. Fishing is wildly popular for park visitors who also enjoy hunting, primitive camping and hiking.
Many of the Piscataway converted to Catholicism after interacting with a missionary, Father Andrew White, who founded this parish in 1662. A stained glass window memorializes White’s baptism of the first Piscataway in 1640. Contemporary Piscataway belong to this church, and their ancestors are buried in its cemetery. A monument for Algonquin Mohawk laywoman Kateri Tekakwitha recognizes her as the Catholic Church’s first American Indian saint. The church is on a 120-foot bluff with stunning panoramic views of the Port Tobacco and Potomac rivers.
See a replica Woodland Indian Village at Jefferson Patterson Park and Museum. Explore longhouses where the Piscataway lived, see artifacts inside the museum, and visit on American Indian Heritage Day in November for cultural demonstrations. The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory Is also headquartered here.
This museum focuses on the maritime history of the Chesapeake Bay at the confluence of the Patuxent River and interprets the culture and natural history of Southern Maryland. An exhibit, “People of the Patuxent,” displays how tools were made and artifacts used in everyday life. Native watercraft are also displayed. A guided tour, John Smith and the Native Peoples of the Patuxent, describes the first interactions between English explorers and American Indians.
Take a ferry to the park where English ships the Ark and the Dove landed in the Potomac River in 1634, after a four-month transatlantic journey. The island was a base of operations for 150 settlers as they negotiated with Yaocomico Indians for land to permanently settle. Long before English occupation, though, the island was used for oystering and Native American encampments. Three recorded archaeological sites date to 1000 B.C. A museum at the Coltons Point dock includes artifacts such as arrow points.
Tour Maryland’s first capital, a 17th-century town built in an area occupied by Yeocomico groups. The replica complex now includes a Woodland Indian hamlet, the town center, State House, Brick Chapel, a tall ship and a tobacco plantation with heritage livestock. Guided tours are available.
Canoe or kayak Mattaponi Creek at this sanctuary, a wintering ground for Canada geese that was used continuously by American Indians from at least 1000 B.C. into the 1600s as the Indian town of Mattapanient. The site also held small short-term Indian camps and a base camp. Walk trails or take part in an educational guided tour. A history section of the visitor center highlights Patuxent and local American Indian heritage.
Visit the American Indian Village and American Indian Festival at Patuxent River Park. Tour the replica of an Eastern Woodland Indian Village and see Indian projectile points, axe heads and artifacts that have been uncovered throughout the sanctuary. Experience diverse Native American cultures at the American Indian Festival in late October; the event features live performances of traditional and contemporary music, dancing, drumming, singing and storytelling. A scenic Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Driving Tour through lush woodlands and wetlands begins here, meanders along the Patuxent River and ends at Merkle Wildlife Sanctuary.
Park programs focus on the heritage of American Indians, English Colonists and African Americans at Mount Calvert. The museum includes an exhibit about the area’s first inhabitants and outdoor waysides about Woodland Indians. A beautiful Patuxent River overlook, interpretive trail and kayak access are highlights here.
Maryland’s American Indian tribes display their culture and heritage at numerous festivals. See the fiery flash of colorful feathers on Native American ceremonial regalia, feel the reverberating beat of a drum and the rhythm of dancing feet. Hear chanting and songs from medicine men or tribal leaders, and taste savory food. On the Eastern Shore, don’t miss the Assateague Peoples Drums on the Pocomoke, the Nanticoke River Jamboree, or the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians Native American Festival. On the Chesapeake’s Western Shore, you’ll find the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians at the American Indian Heritage Day in Londontowne. Other festivals include the Baltimore American Indian Center Pow Wow, the Howard County Maryland Pow Wow and Show and the Morning Star Pow Wow in Belair.