Daniel Firehawk Abbott returns this Saturday to Handsell

VIENNA — Five years ago, the Nanticoke Historic Preservation Alliance initiated the Chicone Village Project, a commitment to honoring the pre-historic people of the Delmarva Peninsula. The NHPA had purchased “Handsell,” which is part of the site that was once the Chicacone town of the Nanticoke People, and later was set aside by the Maryland Colonies as the Chicone Indian Reservation.

By the time the reservation was dissolved, most of the native people had left this area centered on Indiantown Road north of Vienna. However, research and oral traditions have known for years that the Nanticokes never completely left the area, but assimilated by marriage into either the European or African communities who had begun to populate the Chesapeake region.

By the 1800 federal census only white men were listed, by 1850 census, all persons had to list themselves as W for white or B for black, only a few were listed as Mulatto, which meant any mixed race. This procedure effectively eliminated recognition of the native people, so that following ancestry for them today can be quite difficult if not impossible.

Daniel Firehawk Abbott is one of these many individuals, born in Dorchester County who count themselves as having native heritage, as traditions and oral history were passed down in their families. Firehawk became interested in the activity of the NHPA and as a board member, he designed and guided the construction of the Chicone Village at Handsell, completed in 2014. Today the village contains a replica native single family longhouse, garden and open work shelter along with two wayside interpretive signs. These structures are built of all native material using ancient methods, using no screws or nails. They are the only authentically built replica structures of their kind in Maryland.

Daniel Abbott joined the staff of Colonial Williamsburg, Inc. in 2016 as Coordinator of Native American Interpretation and moved to Virginia. As such, the majority of his time is spent doing demonstrations in Williamsburg and Historic Jamestown. However, his dedication to Handsell has not wavered and he is returning for an “encore presentation” on April 29, Chicone Village Day at Handsell. This is expected to be his only return to Dorchester this year. His well-herald presentation is a day-long immersion in the ancient culture and life skills of the Nanticoke People and includes discussion and demonstrations of shelter, gardening, tool making, clothing and hunting.

In honor of their ancestry, Daniel Firehawk Abbott will be joined this year by the Pocomoke Indian Nation from Crisfield, the Lenni Lenape Manetu, the Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, Philip Goldsborough, Mid-Atlantic Cherokee, Cheswald Lenape and representatives from the Maryland Commission of Indian Affairs. This annual gathering is the largest dedicated to ancient culture on the Eastern Shore.

Food tastings of native cuisine will be available and all groups will be discussing their history and cultures with visitors. Handsell house will be open for tours as well. The event will be held from 10 a.m. until 5 p.m. with a suggested minimum donation of $2 per person, proceeds of which support the Chicone Village Project and the maintenance of the structures.

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