Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford Presents Executive Order Granting Accohannock Tribe Maryland Indian Status
Third Indian Tribe in Maryland to Receive Designation
ANNAPOLIS, MD – Lt. Governor Boyd Rutherford today presented Executive Order 01.01.2017.31, which officially establishes the Accohannock Native American Tribe of Maryland with Maryland Indian Status, to members of the Accohannock Tribal Council and tribal leaders. The Accohannock Tribe is the third in Maryland to receive the designation.
“As some of the first watermen, hunters, and farmers on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, the Accohannock Tribe helped the first settlers in the state learn to survive off of the land,” said Lt. Governor Rutherford. “Today, the Accohannock community continues to serve an important role in our state, and we hope they will continue to thrive in Maryland for years to come.”
The Accohannock Tribe predominantly resides on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, with their Tribal Office located in Marion Station. Among other community-building initiatives, the tribe currently oversees, manages, and maintains Bending Water Park in Somerset County, Maryland, and hosts an annual “Healing of All Nations” pow-wow at the park, which provides educational programs and cultural demonstrations.
“It was important for the Accohannock Indians not to become a lost and forgotten people,” said Mike Hinman, Tribal Chairman of the Accohannock tribe. “Today we can say with more meaning than ever, we are still here, where we have always been, and where we will go into the future until the creator tells us we are no more.”
Maryland Indian Status is granted by Executive Order by the Governor of Maryland following a rigorous petition process is overseen by the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs. Tribes granted Maryland Indian Status qualify for certain federal, state, and non-profit assistance to provide resources to tribal members and to be used towards cultural education. Maryland Indian Status has also been granted to the Piscataway-Canoy Tribe and the Piscataway Indian Nation.
The executive order will be effective in 30 days, following review by the Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review Committee of the General Assembly (AELR).
Hidden in Plain Sight
The Accohannock Indian Tribe is one of the oldest historical tribes in Maryland. The Tribal Office is located in Marion, a small town just north of Crisfield. The Accohannocks originally inhabited the territory they called Accomack which, after colonization, became the Eastern Shore of Old Virginia and is presently the Eastern Shore of Maryland and Virginia. The territory included the Chesapeake Bay home villages on the Annemessex River at present-day Crisfield, villages on Accohannock Creek in Virginia, and on the islands in the Chesapeake Bay. The Accohannock Indian Tribe was an Algonquian-speaking sub-tribe of the Powhatan nation. The bands of the Accohannock were part of the Accomac Confederation. They were the first watermen, hunters, farmers, and trappers along Chesapeake Bay waters and wetlands. They harvested food from the Chesapeake Bay and its many tributaries. They grew squash, maize (corn), and other Native American foods. The Accohannocks were also great hunters of waterfowl, deer, rabbit, squirrels, raccoons, bear and elk.
Rapid changes in colonial policy beginning in the sixteen forties, caused much dispersion and assimilation, which weakened, then dismantled and prohibited the culture. The Chief and the government were forced to cede all authority and lands to the King of England and Colonial powers representing him. Part of the assimiliation process was the granting of land, creating European-style homesteads & farms. As landowners, families were separated, disrupting the communal way of life that was familiar to our people. Politics, according to our cultural mores, were forever changed. Although we could no longer (legally) assemble ourselves for purposes of self-governance, we did maintain contact, continued our culture through story-telling and the remembered ways of doing things. This determination of our ancestors has made it possible for our people to re-emerge at this time.
According to oral tradition, the Clan Mothers prayed for peace and survival and received a vision to follow Pocahontas, to marry their daughters to the white colonists in order to hide in plain sight, survive and preserve the tribal bloodlines until in the fullness of time the tribe could be reborn
The Eastern Shore tribes, including the Accohannocks, built a strong relationship with the settlers in our area. After Powhatan died, his brother, Opechancanough, took over his chiefdom. He hated the white man and decided to rid his land of the intruders. He developed a plan to poison their food and wells to kill them. The Accohannock Indian Tribe was encouraged to participate in the plan but refused. The Accohannock people actually warned the colonists of Opechancanough’s plan. The plan failed. As a result, Opechancanough decided to reject the Accohannock Indian Tribe.
Local colonial people referred to our people by the name Annemessex, the name of the river where they lived, but we always retained our Accohannock identity. Some of the Tribe left the land but a remnant remains even today. According to oral tradition, the Clan Mothers prayed for peace and survival and received a vision to follow Pocahontas, to marry their daughters to the white colonists in order to hide in plain sight, survive and preserve the tribal bloodlines until in the fullness of time the tribe could be reborn. Clan names survive today and many of the tribe’s people live in the same areas as those who originally inhabited Maryland.