Fire celebrated at annual Nanticoke River Jamboree

MD-Nanticoke River Jamboree_3x Firehawk

Daniel Firehawk Abbott demonstrates one way to make fire to a group of visitors at the Nanticoke River Jamboree in Vienna.

VIENNA — The theme of the Nanticoke River Jamboree this year was Fire, and its impact on the life of native cultures. Fire was used in boat making, brick making, and blacksmithing, as well as heating dwellings and cooking. All of these activities were demonstrated on Saturday at the event at Handsell.

Always interesting and informative are the demonstrations given by Daniel Firehawk Abbott of the Nanticokes. He talked about fire as a friend and as an enemy, and demonstrated how to light a fire using various methods. His talks ramble off in interesting directions, illustrating the connections between early native American life and life as we know it now. As part of one of his talks he showed how he could light his pipe using a flint and striker, and a piece of charred cloth.

Talks and performances were also given by a variety of speakers in the “History Tent.” Chief Norris Howard of the Pocomoke Indian tribe talked abut the native people of the Pocomoke River region of Delmarva, and Margaret Ingersoll performed as Ann Ogle Buchanan Steele of Indiantown in 1838. Bill Jarmon delivered his tribute to John Creighton, along with a reading of Creighton’s poetry. Also, Eric Cook talked about the threat and effect of wildfires in history.

Handsell is the name of an 18-century brick house on the property, which was originally built on the site of a Native American Chicone village. The Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance (NHPA) has been working to restore the Handsell house, and has also built a Native American longhouse on the property. The longhouse and garden area is known as Chicone Village on the property, and this area was the center of a number of demonstrations. Using fire, members of the Pokomoke tribe worked at building a traditional cypress log dug-out canoe, and also demonstrated open-fire cooking techniques. Daniel Firehawk Abbott was also busy demonstrating and explaining stone tool making, use of a bow and arrow, and the construction techniques used to build the longhouse.

Many other colonial skills were displayed, including blacksmithing, wood turning, wood carving, broom making, and basket weaving. A full slate of vendors were there displaying and selling Native American art and jewelry, and displaying Indian artifacts.

Sadly missed this year was the Native American lunch that was offered last year. The food in 2014 was unusual but very good, and hopefully one of the groups can bring back the Native American food in future jamborees.

It was a beautiful day for the event, and a great afternoon at Handsell.

Paul Clipper is the editor of the Dorchester Banner. He can be reached at

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