School Improvement in Maryland
Clarifications: Each clarification provides an explanation of an indicator/objective to help teachers better understand the skills and/or concepts.

Standard 5.0 History

Topic A. Individuals and Societies Change Over Time

Indicator 2. Compare Native American societies in Maryland before and after European colonization

Objective b. Describe Native American societies indigenous to Maryland after European contact


At the time of the arrival of Europeans, there were 8,000-10,000 Native Americans organized into about forty Indian tribes living in the area that became Maryland. Unfortunately, contact with Europeans proved to have disastrous consequences for the Native Americans.

The Woodland Indians living in Maryland at the time of European contact relied heavily on agriculture. Although they still hunted and gathered some of their food (including deer, rabbits, squirrels, nuts fish, and shellfish), cultivated corn, beans, and squash were staples of their diets. This innovation allowed them to settle in one place for extended periods, living in wigwams and longhouses made of saplings, bark, and grasses. Villages, comprising 10 to 30 wigwams, were usually established along rivers and streams, which provided water for drinking, cooking, and bathing, attracted animals for hunting, and made transportation easier. Maryland's Woodland Indians found most of the necessities of life in nature. In addition to using a deer's meat for food, for example, they also used its hide for clothing, its tendons for thread, and its bones for needles and fishing hooks. They made dugout canoes from logs and baskets from reeds and grasses. They made knives, arrows, and other tools from hard stones.

As their population swelled, Indian villages began to organize themselves into a number of different tribes, which in turn organized into loose federations dominated by the largest tribe. On the Eastern Shore, the largest tribe was the Nanticoke. In addition, the Wicommiss, Choptanks, Chicacones, Wicomicoes, Assateagues, and Annemessex lived on the Eastern Shore. On the Western Shore, the largest tribe was the Piscataway. Potomacs, Patuxents, Anacostans, Kittamaqundi, Mattawomans, Potopacs, Nanjemoys, Chopticans, and Yaocomicos also lived there. Shawnee Indians lived in Western Maryland at various times. All of these tribes spoke languages from the Algonquin family. At the head of the Chesapeake Bay in Northern Maryland lived the Susquehannock tribe, who were part of the Iroquois language group (although not the Iroquois nation). The tribes regularly traded among each other, and occasionally warred with each other. The Susquehannocks were known as especially fierce warriors who often conducted raids on the Piscataway and Nanticoke.

Unfortunately, all of these tribes suffered from contact with Europeans. Relations between the first Maryland colonists and the Yaocomico Indians they encountered were very friendly. The Yaocomico welcomed an alliance with the English as an additional protection against incessant raids by the Susquehannocks. They allowed the colonists to live in a village they were in the process of vacating and taught them many skills necessary to survival in the New World. Despite early friendly relations, the population of the Piscataways plummeted from about 8000 to about 80 by the end of the 1600s. Also, the Maryland colonists quickly turned their backs on the Piscataway. By 1668, they had confined the Piscataway to reservations, and they refused to aid the Piscataway in their ongoing wars with the Susquehannocks, which claimed many Piscataway lives. The few Piscataways who survived by the beginning of the eighteenth century joined other displaced Algonquin Indians in resettling along the Susquehanna River as the Conoy Indians. Soon, however, they were forced to move again. Many moved north to Canada or west to the Ohio Valley and were absorbed by larger tribes. A few Piscataway continued to live in remote areas of Southern Maryland, and their descendants form the basis of today's small Piscataway population.

The Nanticokes and Susquehannocks met similar fates. In the wake of disease and the disruption of their traditional ways of living, most of the Nanticoke moved north to live with the Iroquois, who had been their enemies. Other Nanticokes moved eastward and settled in Delaware. By 1700, only 300 Susquehannocks remained of the 5,000 to 7,000 that had existed a century earlier. In 1642, the Maryland colony had declared the tribe an enemy of the colony and ordered all Susquehannocks to be shot on sight. War with the Iroquois and several epidemics of smallpox decimated their numbers, and many Susquehannocks resettled with other tribes in New York and Ohio. In 1763, a mob of colonists murdered the twenty Susquehannocks still living along the Susquehanna River.

Resources for Objective 5.A.2.b: