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 in 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.
In the mid-twentieth century, thousands of Lumbee Indians and members of other tribal nations migrated to Baltimore City seeking jobs and a better quality of life. They created a vibrant, intertribal American Indian community, which they affectionately referred to as “The Reservation.” Use the East Baltimore Historic American Indian “Reservation” website to explore the community or pick up a printed visitor guide at the Baltimore American Indian Center.
See interactive American Indian exhibits, artifact displays and historic native attire. Learn about American Indian history, culture, identity and experiences, with a focus on Maryland's indigenous tribes and the Lumbee who moved to this area from North Carolina. A gift shop offers authentic items.
Baltimore is part of the ancestral homelands of the Piscataway and the Susquehannock, and a diverse host of American Indians from other nations have passed through or lived here at different times — and still do. Use the cell phone tour app to explore places and spaces significant to the lives and history of Baltimore’s American Indians.
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, and interactive exhibits. The exhibit gallery Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake provides an overview of the history and events that have impacted the lives of the Nanticoke, Powhatan, and Piscataway tribes.
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 oral history exhibits and a garden that demonstrates the native peoples of the Potomac's transition 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 constructed like those in which the Piscataway lived, and see artifacts inside the museum. Visit on American Indian Heritage Day in November for cultural demonstrations. The Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory is also headquartered here.
This museum at the confluence of the Patuxent River and the Chesapeake Bay focuses on maritime history and interprets the culture and natural history of Southern Maryland. An exhibit, “People of the Patuxent,” displays how tools were made and used in the everyday life of American Indians. Native watercraft and other artifacts are on display. 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 the 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 to get 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 Yaocomico 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. You’ll also find the Piscataway at the American Indian Festival at Patuxent River Park. Other festivals include the Baltimore American Indian Center Pow Wow in mid-November, the Whispering Winds Howard County, Maryland Pow-Wow in mid-July, the Bowie State University Native American Heritage Month Pow Wow in November, and the Morning Star Pow Wow in Belair in January.