Report of Meeting with Paramount Chief Norris Howard Sr. and other representatives from the Pocomoke Indian Nation at Third Haven Friends Meeting, Wednesday, May 31, 2023
In attendance: Paramount Chief Norris Howard, Sr., Cheryl Doughty (daughter and representative of Chief Norris Howard), Norris "Buddy" Howard, Jr., Philip L. Goldsborough, Molly B. Bryan (Clerk of Third Haven Monthly Meeting), Priscilla Sener, Lorraine Claggett, Mary Yancey.
As a part of our planning process, we at Third Haven reached out to representatives of Native American tribes in Maryland asking for their assistance in discerning a path forward in exploring the history of the Native peoples of this region and how our Quaker history intersects with those stories. This is in an effort for us to develop a fuller understanding of our own history and the history of other people who have occupied the lands where we currently live, work and worship.
Molly Brian started the meeting with a welcoming statement, stating that we would like to have a fuller understanding of this history and to be able to tell it truthfully. There ensued a long and rich discussion of the history of the Pocomoke people, how and why much of their history has been lost and what these researchers and others have been able to reconstruct from various recorded sources.
The Pocomoke Nation encompassed an area including parts of Somerset, Wicomico and Worcester Counties in Maryland, Sussex County in Delaware, and Accomack County in Virginia. The tribes in this Nation were Algonquin speaking, and occupied villages along the creeks and rivers throughout the region. They were initially and throughout their history friendly and accommodating to European colonists. Native Americans served as guides and provided transport for George Fox on his two visits to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake. The pressures of European-style grazing, fishing and agricultural practices, along with aggression and diseases imported from Europe, weakened and reduced the numbers of Native tribes. Maryland's proprietors and provincial government relegated them to increasingly small and less desirable lands despite multiple treaties signed to preserve their hunting and fishing rights. Cultural and religious practices were similarly eroded through systematic efforts of the many churches to convert the Indians to their beliefs. Eventually most of the remaining Pocomoke people migrated north with other Indian tribes and nations to slightly more friendly areas in what is now Pennsylvania, New York and Canada. Some members of the Pocomoke Indian Nation who live on the Eastern Shore today are descended from Indians who resisted or were left behind during the migration due to their inability to travel. Many of the remaining Pocomoke people eventually intermarried with Europeans, further diluting the Native language and culture. It was noted that tribes along the East Coast, because of their earlier and longer exposure time to colonists, had more of their history erased than tribes farther west, which had more of an opportunity to proactively preserve and document their culture before European dominance occurred.
Our discussions included a recognition that it's important to verify the story of Native peoples that is being told, from multiple sources ideally, as misinformation is sometimes promulgated as the truth.
The meeting progressed with a long walk around the Third Haven grounds, including visiting both Meetinghouses, the burial grounds, and a walk around the whole perimeter of the property. We viewed the stream restoration project conducted by the town of Easton adjacent to our property, and discussed our own efforts to preserve and promote native species on our land. As we passed by Annie's Cottage we mentioned our tentative plans to restore that building as a welcome/ interpretive center.
In concluding the meeting our guests asked how they could assist us going forward. We acknowledged that we have a lot of work to do to learn and understand more fully the histories of Native Americans and others who have occupied these lands, and that we don't expect others to do that work for us.
We agreed that we would all like to continue to share a dialog and share information and historical references where our stories intersect. We asked if, prior to our disseminating any public information about Native Americans as it relates to our own history, we could submit it to them for review and verification. We are invited to learn more about the Pocomoke Indian Nation through their website at their website www.pocomokeindiannation.org and to keep abreast of and to join activities on their online calendar.
Mary M Yancey