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The Choptank Indians: Maryland's Native American Tribes

Did you know the Choptank Indian once lived in Oxford and the surrounding Eastern Shore of Maryland? Artifacts from the Choptank Indians have been found next to Sandaway Suites & Beach. Welcome to our latest blog post, a captivating exploration of the Choptank Indians and their profound legacy along Maryland's Eastern Shore. As you embark on this entrancing journey with us, you'll uncover the rich cultural heritage and enduring spirit of the Choptank Indians, a tribe that has thrived in harmony with nature's bounty for generations. Nestled along the scenic banks of the Choptank River, the Choptank Indians have woven a fascinating story that spans thousands of years, leaving an indelible mark on the region. From their intricate basketry craftsmanship to their spiritual practices and deep connection to the land, their traditions continue to inspire and influence the local community in myriad ways. As we delve deeper into their history, traditions, and the significant contributions they've made to Maryland’s cultural tapestry, we invite you to join us in appreciating and celebrating the vibrant culture and enduring legacy of the Choptank Indians. Their story is not merely a chapter of the past; it's a living, breathing testament to resilience, adaptability, and the importance of preserving our world’s cultural diversity.

The Choptank Indians: Unveiling the Rich Cultural Heritage of Maryland's Native Tribes

Welcome to a journey of discovery into the rich cultural heritage of Maryland's native tribes, specifically the Choptank Indians. Nestled along the picturesque Choptank River, this ancient tribe has a fascinating history that spans thousands of years. Unveiling their story allows us to appreciate the enduring legacy they have left on the region.

With their deep connection to the land and water, the Choptank Indians have thrived in harmony with nature for generations. Their traditions, customs, and beliefs continue to shape and inspire the local community today.

In this article, we will delve into the captivating history of the Choptank Indians, exploring their vibrant traditions, spiritual practices, and profound contributions to Maryland's cultural tapestry. Join us as we uncover the hidden gems of Choptank Indian culture, from their renowned basketry craftsmanship to their unique perspectives on the natural world.

Prepare to be enchanted by the tales of yesteryear and gain a deeper appreciation for the enduring cultural heritage of the Choptank Indians. Let's celebrate their past, present, and future together.

History and Origins of the Choptank Indians

The history of the Choptank Indians stretches back thousands of years, with evidence of their presence in the region dating as far back as 8000 BCE. They were part of the Algonquian-speaking tribes and were one of the many Native American groups inhabiting the Chesapeake Bay area.

The Choptank Indians were primarily a hunter-gatherer society, relying on the abundant natural resources of the Chesapeake Bay and surrounding forests for sustenance. They lived in small, semi-permanent villages along the Choptank River, where they built longhouses and cultivated crops such as corn, beans, and squash.

The arrival of European settlers in the 17th century brought significant changes to the Choptank Indians' way of life. The introduction of new diseases, conflicts over land, and forced assimilation practices led to a decline in their population and cultural practices. Despite these challenges, the Choptank Indians have persevered, maintaining their cultural identity and adapting to the changing times.

Cultural Practices and Traditions of the Choptank Indians

The Choptank Indians had a rich and vibrant culture, characterized by a deep reverence for the natural world and a strong sense of community. Their cultural practices and traditions centered around their close connection to the land and water, with a focus on sustainable living and spiritual harmony.

One of the most notable aspects of Choptank Indian culture is their intricate basketry craftsmanship. The art of basket weaving has been passed down through generations, with each basket telling a unique story. The Choptank Indians utilized natural materials such as river cane, sweetgrass, and cattail to create beautiful baskets that were both functional and decorative. These baskets served a variety of purposes, including storage, transportation, and ceremonial use.

Spirituality played a significant role in the lives of the Choptank Indians. They believed in the presence of spiritual beings in all aspects of nature and practiced rituals to maintain balance and harmony. The Choptank Indians held a deep respect for the land and water, viewing them as sacred entities. They performed ceremonies to honor the changing seasons, offer gratitude for bountiful harvests, and seek guidance from their ancestors.

Language and Communication of the Choptank Indians

The Choptank Indians had their own unique language, known as Nanticoke or Eastern Algonquian. Like many Native American languages, it is an oral tradition that has been passed down through generations. Sadly, due to the decline in the Choptank Indian population and the impact of colonization, the language is now critically endangered.

Efforts are being made to revitalize and preserve the Nanticoke language. Language revitalization programs and collaborations with linguists and tribal elders aim to document and teach the language to future generations. These initiatives are crucial in ensuring the survival of this important aspect of Choptank Indian culture.

Choptank Indian Vocabulary

Air ayewash
Arm nickpitq
Arrows allontz
Arrowhead ik ke hek (see spear)
Ash paw-kawque
Autumn wee saw panu (weesawpanu, little or short light)
Axe tummehek
Back daduck quack
Back creek pomamato
Back woods ah payw wagh
Bad mattitt
Banks lemoack coi um
Basket munnole
Bear winquipim
Beard nee weeghtoniwash
Beaver nataque
Beech pah l scanemintz
Bees aamook
Belly nut ah!
Belt uekq shit lawk
To bend ne wawk kaw quin nimon
Berry mee eents
Bed dapp in
Bird piss seeques
Bitter wee suck un
Black oaskag u
Blackberry munck qui suck
Blackbird husquinock
Blood puck cuchque
Blue puh squai loau
Body no waw auh
Bone whis scan
Bone house man to kump
A bow kullahlow
Boy wahocki a wauntit
Brave matt whee saw so
Bread applow
To break ne poick shitt own
Broad manckapah sai u
Brother ne ee mat
Bubby noo naque (the mamma)
Buck i e ape
Butterfly aumaun co hunt
Cedar weensquaaquah
Channel an da timp
Chesnut tree eh! qua mintz
Chin unt tampquet
Child awauntet
Cloud matchkatquot
Cold tagh! quiow
Cowardly wee saw so ak (see Brave)
Crab tah! quah
Crane ah! secque
Creek pamptuckquaskque (see River)
Crow kuh! hos
to Cry num moam
to Dance zdocumb
a Day nucotucquon
Day break wawpaney
Darkness samp oo somow
Daughter hun tawn
place for the Dead mutz uck zumpq
Death ungue lack
Deep timmoh
Deer attque, youcat (four legs)
Devil matt ann tote
Dew quesuppost
Distance wah!sow et.
Doe noose at q
Dog al!um
Dogwood ah!laawhunnimints
Dove weetah tomps
to Drink minnih
Dry kow kitt ow a
Duck quah!quamps
Eagle ah!whap pawn top
my Ear nuch tow huck
Earth ahkee
to Eat meetsee
Eel pall!in
Egg waawhq (with a whiff)
Evening weaku
my Eye nucks skencequah
Face assung gui
to Fall ah kinnitsish
Falsehood e kitt co
Far wachschuit
Fat pim
my Father nowoze
Fear quischa-asch
Finger na mishah!qu ulgamz
Fire tunt
Fish wammass
a Fly pootzah
Fog howewen
Food mettsah (to Eat)
Foolish cuip shee in quo
my Foot nist
Fox waaks
Frog clacqu iss
Frost togh!puh!
Girl pukquah
God mann! itt
Good wee ee
Grass mass que quise
Grave wawskowko
Green ah!skaah tuck qui a
Gum pook sacq in ment
Guts walah kiss sisk
Hail ah!sinlipwo
Hair nee eesquat
Hand nut untz
Hard mais kai u
a Hare timihawque
to Hate ne man nin now
Hawk mah!squallen
Head neelahammon
to Hear no oan tum
Heart wea!scheu
Heat nip(ow)kiss
Hickory tree psee cun
High wha sa neep ai u
Hill lemuckquickse
Hot app et taaw!
House youck huck
my Husband nups soh!soh!
I nee
Ice hah!laggu quutz
Joy ne moo ye ow wass
to Jump ni s poicksh
to Kill nepoickt tow
King tall!ak
Large mang ai u
to Laugh wei aih e mitt a ha
Lean moosow wak
Leg much cat
to Lie down cow si nee
Life ne quee quaaawk
Light wassaquitayw
Lightning ton que ah
Lip nussihecque
Lizzard oh! kaush kiss
Locust tree kla one nahq
Long quah!!nah!!!qut
to Love n!wummoi
Low tah!quah!quah! su
Maize cawl na woop
Man wohacki
Maple tree waw see ke me
Marsh nah!squuh!
Mocking bird ahmittonqha
a Mat yawskg
Meat pumantah (hog's meat)
Milk noo oo nack
Mole alvmob schkim nits
a Month nuquoluc quaquoa
Moon atupquonihanque
Morning weschpa
Mother nicque
Mountain pomat tinike
Mouth huntowey
Mud piss sucqua
Mulberry tree whie in guaque
Muskrat weak keh!
finger Nails nuck can sump
Narrow tsipais u
Near pechtschtschu
Neck nissi kip puchqh!
New (young) whuis kai u
Night toopquow
No mattah!
my Nose nick kee u
Oak wee seek e mintz
Old (he is old) kutt a nai u
Opossum nah!simini
Owl quoo waant
Oysters kaw sheh!
Oyster shells tsee ko mack
Partridge kittycawndipqua
Peas pee wah!sh quist
Peace e wee ne tu
Pheasant us!quas capitz
Perch kosk kike nesuc
Persimmon tree law wacq (see Mints)
Pigeon nont siminisuk
Pine tree quaat
Point of land alla maa wampk
Pole cat tzuckquaakq
Pond nippiss (nip water)
Poplar tree wee saa quack
Pretty wee e eat
Queen talla!kesk (see King)
Raccoon anasup
Rain winieow
Rainbow quenuck quenuck
Rattlesnake eeh!seekq
Raven uckquak
Red psquai u
Red Bird pishquiss eeps
Religion Lapp! poi o wees (a coming together)
River pamptuckquah
Rock koshcup
to Run un to mho waish
Salt tzee e oose
Sand loh! ki
Sea mank nippint
to See naa m m
Shark witt ameek
Shallow tacq e timps oh
Shame katt ak katts
Shoes meckhisins
Shore saumps a mu
Sick huntoi miss
Side pmeetempquat
to Sing nuck und oh
older Sister nimpz
younger Sister neighsum
to Sit qui ah quup
Skin nowas sium
Sky moosecaquit
to Sleep n upp
Small lamaisu
to Smell ne quees sum un
I Smoke niponguot tai
to Smoke p simoi (to smoke a pipe)
Snake ash quoke
Snakeroot pah!scho hook quick
Snakebite ah!sckok kas sipekoke
Snow quoono
Soft patt ah ki u
my Son nucks quah
Sorry dah qua a nee (I am sorry)
Sour tchee ee wun
to Speak ne kitt o was
Spear ne poikee hek (see Arrow head)
Soul tsee e p
the Spring see qui no
a Spring moo nip pque
Squirrel mowck key
flying Squirrel ah!sappaneques
ground Squirrel muck quissah
to Stand dogh kinch
Star poomolasuque
a Stone kawscup (see Rock)
Straight lemat tah quot
to Strike ne pack come
Strong miss ki u
Summer mashaquapau u
Sun ah quak
Sweet wee ing on
Sweat nip oo kiss
There ennuk
Thick kee puck an
Thigh hunts sunque
Thin ah shee penz o
This, that you kan nah
Thou kee
Thunder awah! shuck
Tobacco oh pucque
Today ewapawgup
my Toe nicks see equanumps
Tomorrow allappahwee
my Tongue neeannow ah!
my Tooth neeput tumps
Tree petuicque
Truth ko o lam
Turkey pah!quun
Turkey Buzzard moh waas
Ugly matt it (= bad)
Valley qualliquawkimuck
a Vine mallaw cominamintz
Viper apo tass sees a
Walnut tree ah!sin ni mintz
to Walk n gutt o was
War matt ah kass on
Warrior matt ah ki ween
Water nip
Wet kiss ep pai u
to Whistle ne queezkso uh quitt um
White waap pay u
Whore amattz e no
Wild cat laa!waa!quepuss
Wild goose qua haw quunt
Winding apaas suc tucqut
Winter pooponu
Wife nee eeswah!
Wise wee sauce
Woman acquahique
Wood meeh shiz
Woods pamp tuck koisk
a Year nuquolacutquomai
Yes a a mch
Yesterday holacquow
Yellow wee sa way u
You kee (= thou)
Young laimaisu (see Small)
1 nukquit
2 na eez
3 nis
4 yaguh
5 nup pai a
6 noputtah
7 my yay wah
8 tzah
9 passa conque
10 millah!
11 ah!tzickquit
12 ahtz naeez
13 ahiz whus
14 ahiz yough
15 ahtzup pay ah
16 ahtzaquutah
17 ahtz mayaway
18 ahtz wah
19 ahtz passa conque
20 nee es mittah
21 neequa nichquit
30 su pooks kay
40 yow pookay
50 nuppay a poosquah
60 nequttah e poosquah
70 may ah wa e poosquah
80 tzaw e poosquah
90 passaconque e poosquah
100 weemba kissana
200 needa kissana
300 nuisswa kissana
400 you wah!kissana
500 nuppaia tashakissana
1000 muttah taska kissana


Art and Craftsmanship of the Choptank Indians

The Choptank Indians were skilled artisans, creating a wide range of art and crafts that showcased their creativity and mastery of various techniques. In addition to their renowned basketry, they also excelled in beadwork, pottery, and wood carving.

Beadwork held great significance in Choptank Indian culture, with intricate beadwork being used to adorn clothing, accessories, and ceremonial regalia. The use of vibrant colors and intricate patterns reflected the rich symbolism embedded within Choptank Indian traditions.

Pottery was another important artistic expression for the Choptank Indians. They created clay vessels using traditional hand-building techniques, shaping and decorating them with intricate designs. These vessels served practical purposes, such as storage and cooking, but also held spiritual significance, often being used in ceremonial rituals.

Wood carving was yet another art form practiced by the Choptank Indians. They would carve intricate designs into wood, creating functional items such as spoons, bowls, and weapons. These carvings often depicted animals, plants, and spiritual symbols, further connecting the Choptank Indians to their natural surroundings.

Important Historical Events Involving the Choptank Indians

Throughout history, the Choptank Indians have been involved in significant events that have shaped the region and impacted their cultural heritage. One such event was the arrival of European settlers in the 17th century, which brought about profound changes for the Choptank Indians.

As European settlers encroached on Choptank Indian lands, conflicts arose over territory and resources. The Choptank Indians were forced to cede their ancestral lands through treaties, resulting in the loss of their traditional way of life. European diseases also devastated the Choptank Indian population, further contributing to their decline.

Despite these challenges, the Choptank Indians continued to resist and adapt. They formed alliances with other tribes, such as the Nanticoke and Conoy, to protect their interests and preserve their cultural heritage. Today, the Choptank Indians continue to face challenges such as land disputes and the loss of cultural practices, but their resilience and determination ensure the survival of their rich heritage.

Preservation Efforts and Current Challenges Faced by the Choptank Indians

Preserving the cultural heritage of the Choptank Indians is of utmost importance to ensure their legacy continues to thrive. Various organizations, tribal councils, and community initiatives are working tirelessly to protect and promote Choptank Indian culture.

Efforts are being made to document and preserve traditional knowledge, such as language, art, and cultural practices. Tribal museums and cultural centers provide a space for the Choptank Indians to showcase their heritage and educate the public about their rich history.

Despite these preservation efforts, the Choptank Indians still face significant challenges. Land disputes and encroachment on their ancestral lands continue to threaten their cultural identity. Additionally, the loss of fluent Nanticoke speakers poses a risk to the survival of the language.

To address these challenges, collaboration between tribal communities, government agencies, and the wider public is crucial. By supporting and respecting the rights and cultural practices of the Choptank Indians, we can help ensure the preservation of their cultural heritage for future generations.

Places to Visit and Learn More about the Choptank Indians

For those interested in delving deeper into Choptank Indian culture, there are several places to visit and learn more about their rich heritage. The Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad State Park and Visitor Center, located near the Choptank River, offers insights into the history and culture of the Choptank Indians.

The Nanticoke Indian Museum in Delaware, just a short distance from Maryland, provides a comprehensive look into the Nanticoke and Choptank Indian tribes. The museum features exhibits on traditional crafts, historical artifacts, and the cultural significance of the tribes in the region.

Attending cultural events, powwows, and gatherings hosted by the Choptank Indian community is another great way to learn more about their traditions and connect with their vibrant culture. These events often showcase traditional dances, music, storytelling, and arts and crafts.

Contributions of the Choptank Indians to Maryland's Cultural Heritage

The Choptank Indians have made significant contributions to Maryland's cultural heritage, enriching the region with their deep understanding of the land and water. Their sustainable practices, spiritual beliefs, and artistic expressions have left an indelible mark on the cultural tapestry of Maryland.

The Choptank Indians' deep connection to the natural environment has inspired environmental stewardship and a greater appreciation for the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem. Their sustainable fishing and farming practices serve as a reminder of the importance of living in harmony with nature.

Furthermore, the art and craftsmanship of the Choptank Indians have influenced and inspired contemporary artists and artisans. Their intricate beadwork, basketry, and wood carvings continue to be admired and replicated, ensuring their legacy lives on in modern interpretations.


The Choptank Indians are an integral part of Maryland's rich cultural heritage. Their history, traditions, and contributions have shaped the region for thousands of years. By delving into their captivating story, we gain a deeper appreciation for the enduring legacy they have left behind.

From their sustainable practices and spiritual beliefs to their exquisite craftsmanship, the Choptank Indians have much to teach us about living in harmony with nature and respecting the cultural diversity of our world. As we celebrate their past, present, and future, let us honor and support the efforts to preserve and promote Choptank Indian culture, ensuring that their remarkable heritage continues to thrive for generations to come.


Sources for Choptank Indian information and additional reading on Native American tribes of Maryland found at - 

Choptank Indian Vocabulary (

Tags: Chesapeake-Bay, Eastern-Shore-of-Maryland, history, Native Americans, Choptank Indians

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