MILLSBORO — The structure that served as a one-room schoolhouse to educate Nanticoke Indians for four decades up to the early 1960s is now officially marked for historic recognition.
On Monday, state officials will join Nanticoke Indian Chief Natosha Carmine, tribal members and others for the dedication of the Indian Mission School’s Delaware historical marker.
The dedication is set for 11 a.m. at the Nanticoke Heritage Center at 27073 John J. Williams Highway in Millsboro.
Among those on hand will be Dr. Bonnie Hall, a past Nanticoke Indian tribal council member and one of the last students to attend Indian Mission School.
“I was a student here first through third grade. So my academic educational journey did begin at the Indian Mission School,” said Dr. Hall. “This, of course, was a one-room schoolhouse with one teacher, teaching multiple grades.
“And to be quite honest, … I think the thing that I enjoyed most about being in this teaching/learning environment was the fact that, not only did we learn academics, but more importantly, we learned about our Nanticoke history, our culture and our traditions,” she said. “And those are things that I have taken with me from child- to adulthood.”
Established by the Nanticoke Indian Tribe in the 1920s, members operated Indian Mission School to educate tribal students in grades one to eight through the 1961-62 academic year.
After it closed, the building became the Nanticoke Indian Center — the administrative and cultural hub of the Nanticoke Indian Association.
Indian Mission School was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
“Upon recognizing that the property was actually on the national historic registry, we decided, after having a historic marker placed (in) Cupola Park, … that we should investigate further the possibility of having an historic marker placed at the Nanticoke Indian Center,” said Chief Carmine.
Collaboration began with the Delaware Public Archives, Sussex County’s historic preservation planner Dan Parsons, Dr. Hall, Nanticoke tribe member Herman Jackson, Chief Carmine and Sterling Street, tribe member and Nanticoke Indian Museum coordinator.
The marker has been in storage for over a year, with its dedication put off during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“After meetings, we were able to secure a historic marker. But we put it in storage until we came out of the pandemic enough that we could have a dedication where everyone could be comfortable,” said Chief Carmine. “Because of the pandemic and the governor’s mandate in March 2020, we did not want to chance anyone not being able to be there because of the pandemic.”
The marker was installed and covered Friday morning, with a “blessing of the ground” ceremony following.
“Brother Herman Jackson did the blessing of the grounds, and I did the prayer,” said Dr. Hall, who chairs the Nanticoke Indian Commemoration Committee and the Nanticoke Indian Scholarship Committee.
The dedication, which coincides with Native American Heritage Month, is open to the public. In addition, invitations have been sent to numerous schools, businesses, individuals and organizations.
Among the invited guests are state Senate President Pro Tempore Dave Sokola, Sen. Gerald Hocker, Rep. Richard G. Collins, Rep. Ruth Briggs King and Stephen M. Marz, state archivist and director of the Delaware Public Archives.
“We look forward to seeing everyone there,” Chief Carmine said.