VIENNA — A September tradition returned to Vienna over the weekend, as the 29th Annual Native American Festival once again took place on the banks of the Nanticoke River. The festival, hosted by Dorchester’s Nause-Waiwash Band of Indians, was canceled last year because of the pandemic.
“We’re trying to get back to normal,” Chief Donna Wolf Mother Abbott said Sunday as she gathered the honor guard and dancers for the entrance ceremony.
This was probably the festival’s year, she said, with attendance having been affected by the virus and all the changes that have come with it. “We’re going to bounce back.”
Master of Ceremonies Bruce McWilliams welcomed guests and the two drum groups, Namawochi and Medicine Horse. Randall Lee led a prayer, saying, “We thank you for the chance to come together to share our culture.”
The honor guard was composed of Jerry Fragile Bear Hughes, Zack Cole, Hugh Brohawn, Tom Bradshaw, Anthony Hughes and Matthew Tyler. Head dancers were Crystal Muntz of the Nanticoke Tribe, and Ray Clark of the Lumbees.
“This group of about 300 people are descendants of the original Nanticoke Indians, whose home was, and still is the Eastern Shore of Maryland,” their website says. Their name, Nause-Waiwash (nah-soo WAY-wash), is a reference to two Nanticoke ancestral villages.
“The Nause-Waiwash are the remnants of what Europeans call Nanticoke, Choptank and Pocomoke tribes who fled into the marshes in the 1700s. These ‘Indians’ or Native Americans were first ‘discovered’ by the famous Captain John Smith during his exploration of the Chesapeake Bay in 1609, and are well documented in his writings and history books everywhere.”
“We know we’re here. We’ve never left,” the late Chief Sewell Winter Hawk Fitzhugh said. “We want the state of Maryland and all to acknowledge they didn’t kill us all, that some of us managed to survive.”
Jerry Gentle Bear Hughes expressed the tribe’s gratitude in a post online, saying, “Thank you Mayor MacFarlane, Vienna Town Commissioners and the town of Vienna. Their hospitality has been most gracious and we are excited to be returning close to our ancestral grounds.”