ENM VFD hosts Native American Artifact Exhibit by DCHS

MD-Native american artifact A large ever changing crowd

The Dorchester Banner/Susan Bautz
A large, ever-changing crowd added up to a big day for the 8th annual event sponsored by the Dorchester County Historical Society.

EAST NEW MARKET — On March 7, the East New Market Volunteer Fire Department morphed into the Native American Artifact Exhibit (formerly known as “Everything Oyster”). This was the 8th year of an event sponsored by the Dorchester County Historical Society to present over 50 artifact exhibits, vendors, and demonstrations. From 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. visitors steadily came and went. There was something for everybody – including oysters.

Daniel “Firehawk” Abbott held children spellbound and adults fascinated with his “Origins” presentation of Native American life skills. Exhibitors demonstrated many aspects of Native American life throughout the day, including flint knapping, fire starting, weaving, potting, and beading.

One display case held a particularly intriguing collection of pipes. Some colonial clay pipes were used for trade between the Native Americans and the white settlers; others used by Native Americans were considered “peace pipes.” The clays differ in color and may be white, red, umber, tan, and all shades in between. Many are decorated with designs stamped or incised into them depicting stars, animals, people, or symbols. Exhibitor Tom Phillips noted his collection of clay pipes and fragments is from the Hoopers Island area.

For detailed information about the Pocomoke Nation of the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia, one person to chat with was Norris Howard Jr. The Pocomoke originally occupied a large territory from the Chesapeake Bay to the Atlantic coast; from present day Chincoteague to Crisfield.

Culturally and politically, the Pocomoke were aligned with the Nanticoke and both were aligned with the Lenape, who are linked to Delaware and New Jersey. Mr. Howard descends from the Pocomoke through his father and says, “We have been fortunate enough to document that through a number of different records – church records, government records, etc. This is something that has been discussed in our family for generations but many of the records we now have were only recently fully found and understood.”

Visitors could listen to Mr. Howard explain how to transform a cypress log into a dugout canoe; or, how cattail mats and saplings are used to create a single family wigwam. He explained how the cattails are woven into 3’x6’ panels and layered on top of saplings that are pounded into the ground, bent over, and tied at the top. A “smoke hole” consists of a flap at the top supported by a pole to be opened or closed.

Creating a tool from a piece of flint requires great patience. Phillip Goldsborough and Samuel Dougherty demonstrated their “flint knapping” skills on shards of white flint. The time consuming process to transform a piece of flint, obsidian, jasper, and other stones into tools is not easy. Mr. Dougherty was making a drill bit. He noted it will look like an arrowhead but will be longer and narrower. By continuously chipping away until sharp and pointed, such drills were used to make holes in various materials. “The natives were much more skilled than we are and time was not as tightly pressed as it is today,” explained Mr. Howard.

Talbot County basket maker Jane Tolar uses local oyster shells, deer antler sheds, and grasses to create her artwork. Several coiled baskets are made with long leaf pine needles, 18”- 20” long, from Georgia, North Florida, and South Carolina. They are treated with glycerin to make them supple and can be dyed to various shades. The centers of her baskets may be jade, tiger’s eye, red creek jasper, other semi-precious stones or even black walnut or hickory slices.

She calls her baskets with antler handles, grasses, and Miles River oyster shells “Eastern Shore surf and turf.” A criminal defense and domestic relations lawyer, Ms. Tolar uses much of her non-working hours to create her art. She laughingly notes, “Don’t stand still or I’ll weave on you.”

Dorchester County Historical Society Executive Director Ann Phillips was thrilled with the turn-out of visitors and exhibitors noting, “That was the best darn day ever!” She specifically acknowledged the cooks who kept the fritters frying, the hot dogs heating, and the cupcakes coming. For a “foodie” the day was perfect. Actually, for anyone who attended, the day was an unqualified treat.

 

Susan Bautz is a freelance writer for the Dorchester Banner.

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