Native American Heritage
"They Passed This Way"The history of the lower Eastern Shore of Maryland begins with the arrival of the first natives during the late Paleo period (8500 B.C.). As technology and food resources changed, their numbers expanded leading into the Archaic period (1500 B.C.). They lived in semi-nomadic groups, periodically migrating to follow large wild game. The final phase, known as the Woodland period (1500 A.D.), led up to colonial contact. The Woodland period of Indian life was characterized by sedentary living in permanent camps taking advantage of abundant wild game and shellfish found throughout the region. In this phase, tribes established distinct cultural context and tribal dialects.
The native tribes of this region were polygamous, held firm to the concept of extended family and respected their elders. Tribal clans seasonally located villages on high ground near river mouths, bays or freshwater creeks along both sides of the peninsula. They successfully cultivated corn, squash and other field crops, and gathered forest nuts and berries. Eventually disease and aggressive colonial settlement patters decimated tribes. Remaining groups moved to the north and west. Others stayed and married local freed black slaves or whites. Today there are descendants of Native Americans living in this area, including those of the Occohonnock and Pocomoke groups.
As you tour the Lower Eastern Shore and explore some of the many remote natural areas, imagine how the Native American lived. On many of the hiking trails you will most likely be walking right through an area that was once an Indian village.
Annual Tribal Pow-wow held each spring at Janes Island State Park in Crisfield. Music, ceremony, dance and food highlight this colorful event.
Also visit Furnace Town Historic Site outside Snow Hill, which hosts seasonal archaeology digs that are open to the public.
Beach to Bay Indian Trail
Local Native American names are evident in this region. The various tribes frequently moved from upland permanent villages to seasonal camps each year. Following natural and land contours to facilitate walking or canoeing, they would move to coastal sites from the Atlantic Ocean to the Chesapeake Bay area each Spring. They traveled well-used trails to attend regional clan or tribal meetings, ceremonies or big game hunts.
Today, the Beach to Bay Indian Trail is a self-guided driving trail designated in 1993 as a National Recreation Trail by the U.S. Department of Interior. It recognizes the patterns established by the American Indians and followed by the first European immigrants. Many of these routes became the very roads we drive on today.
Visit all the sites on the Beach To Bay Indian Trail
Adventure seekers bike the Beach to Bay Indian Trail (cheat and use a car if you like). Stay at a charming B&B along the route, dine at local restaurants and take breaks on the steps of small town grocery stores. Explore the several small museums, parks and nature trails and chat with the locals about their family ancestry.
Find where Askiminokonson once stood, the old Native American Indian Reservation and village straddling the Pocomoke River along Route 12 near Snow Hill. Established for several clans and tribes of Eastern Shore Indians in the late 1600s, it is one of the oldest Indian reservations in the United States. While in the area, visit historic Furnace Town to learn about early settlement patterns. Walk or bike Snow Hill's historic streets. Compare various Georgian, Federal, and Colonial Revival architecture.