Founded in 1984, The Nanticoke Indian Museum in Millsboro is home to hundreds of the Eastern Shore tribe’s fascinating artifacts and history. It is also the only Native American museum in Delaware, and one of only 13 Nanticoke sites in the country to be listed as a historical landmark. Delaware Living sat down with museum coordinator Sterling Street and technical coordinator June Robbins to discuss the history of the museum and its significance to the Nanticoke tribe.
Q: Can you tell us a little about the history of the museum?
Street: The museum is a converted, two-room school that was opened in 1984, and it was opened to house the things of the Nanticoke community; artifacts and craftwork of the Nanticoke tribe. And also it’s used to house things, to be a repository for things from other tribes. Our elders wanted us to have a place where people could see the things from our ancestors and to keep our history going.
Q: What kind of artifacts do you have on display?
Street: We have stone artifacts, we have ceramics, we have animal skins. We have taxidermy animals. Some of our stone artifacts date back to 9500 B.C. And a lot of our artifacts that are on display were found right here on our family farms.
Q: How does it feel to be the only Native American museum in the state of Delaware?
Robbins: It’s a great honor to give the past to the future — our things, and what our forefathers left us — and that we can go on and let our seventh generation know about the Nanticoke Indians. It’s an honor.
Q: What would you say makes coming to the museum a unique experience?
Street: It’s special because when people come here, they have no idea what to expect or they only know what they’ve seen on TV, and they have no idea about the culture, about the different language groups and how the tribes are related — or not related — to each other. It lets people know there were Native Americans and there still are Native Americans in the state of Delaware.
Q: What is your favorite part about working at the museum?
Street: Well, I love history. I’ve always liked history, and I like telling people about our history. I’ve studied a lot, I’ve talked to our elders, I’ve visited, I would say, 99 percent of the cemeteries that our people are buried in, in Delaware and Maryland and Virginia. And I’ve contributed to a couple of websites that have the history of our people. So my being able to talk to people, telling people what I know about our history is my favorite thing.
Q: Why is the museum so important to you?
Street: It’s important because this is where you can come to find out information about the Nanticoke and where our relatives can come and find out information about their relatives. It is a safe deposit box for our history. And it will remain here as long as this building is here.
The Nanticoke Indian Museum is located in Millsboro, at 27073 John J. Williams Hwy.
Hours of Operation:
Tues. – Sat.: 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday: 12 p.m. – 4 p.m.