Letters to the Editor
Reader upset with previous letter in Point
I was a bit surprised and maybe even a somewhat disappointed that a Letter to the Editor printed this week was a total political bashing of the president of the U.S.A. and Republicans. I would not have considered that the Coastal Point would publish something in this section of the paper that was so political, biased and not factual. Just never occurred to me that Letter to the Editor is the proper section of a newspaper for such a letter written by Ken Niehause.
The other letters were voicing concerns for local communities, local wildlife, local community service, letters of gratitude and praise, and then there, like a sore thumb, is a letter that was extremely offensive to a great many Americans and a great many citizens of Sussex County and Delaware who are Republicans, some who are not, who are supporters of President Trump.
I guess in today’s climate of division, it is acceptable to express nonsense, as was in that letter from Mr. Niehause. I was not a fan of the last president, but never once did I read a letter printed in the Coastal Point expressing such strong negative and ugly feelings. Never once did I ever read Republicans bashing folks of another party in a Letter to the Editor.
As the former president said a great many occasions: It’s not who we are.
Local author urges review of Native American sites
I invite you to walk the edge of Dirickson Creek and channel the spirit of native tribes. Spongy earth sinks under footsteps. Around trees, pools of water reflect the light of a full moon and cornrow stumps bisect farmland where rainwater takes days to absorb. A hoot owl calls a centuries old song.
For 11 years, I’ve been writing about the creek. I am wedded to it, its wildlife and environs. Lately, research for a book of narrative non-fiction before 1750 occupies my spare time. Colonial maps reveal it was once named Indian Town Creek.
First-contact settlement stories resonate in Plimouth Planttion, Jamestown, Va., and St. Mary’s City, Md. Initially, the peninsula saw steady settlement from the Maryland Colony as they claimed what became lower Sussex, their residents paying taxes in Old Somerset, then Worcester County.
Over 30 years ending with the American Revolution, our swath of land was claimed by Maryland, Pennsylvania and, ultimately, Delaware state. (Slavens, Indian Town Creeks; 2/16; peninsularoots.com). The state border wasn’t settled until the Transpeninsular Line was surveyed. It’s a confusing tale. But there is another first-contact story near the disputed area of Indian Town Creek that often goes unheard.
Sharon Himes writes in “A Cavalier’s Adventure” that in January of 1650, Henry Norwood sailed on the Virginia Merchant, a storm-tossed and de-masted ship bound for Jamestown and blown off-course. Norwood’s band of starving immigrants arrived on the barrier strip we call Fenwick Island or North Ocean City.
The landing party of 16 men and three women were abandoned as the ship limped south in a rising wind. Days later, five of the band succumbed, and in hunger, the rest resorted to cannibalism. A cruel existence promised death for all when merciful Algonquian natives, probably Assateagues, saved them from starvation. This tribe compassionately nursed them back to health over many months. Later, Norwood departed for Jamestown, leaving eight of his comrades behind.
A Dutch sloop may have rescued some. The provincial Maryland government allowed others to stay if they traded with area natives. Over the decades, white settlers, using colonial Maryland land patents, staked their claims on this aboriginal land hunted and farmed by the Assateague and Nanticoke for over a thousand years.
Their Woodland II culture was disappearing and, by 1705, Algonquian bands whose seasonal hunting grounds included Indian Town Creek were driven northward, carrying the bones of revered ancestors with them. Stressed and desperate, they stopped at these historic hunting grounds, a few hiding, assimilating into local colonial culture, and intermarrying.
The Norwood name was passed on. Bones were buried in ossuaries along their way. Maryland broke every treaty, and by 1743, most natives left for protection with the Iroquois, migrating to Canada or Oklahoma.
The Old Mill Bridge proposed development at Dirickson Creek is on this early Native land. The State PLUS (Preliminary Land Use Study) states there are 10 archeological sites on the property. Two are prehistoric; they admit, probably Assateague. The developer revealed to the Dirickson Creek Friends, an advocacy group for creek and land conservation, that there is a colonial settlement on the property as well.
The State Office of Historic & Cultural Affairs has responded to a request for information from Chief Quiet Bear Michael Morabito of the Assateague Nation with a three-page heavily redacted letter that reveals little information about these archeological sites but clearly outlines their expectations of his tribe.
When I asked why they didn’t share the information with him, the response was, “The Assateague are not a recognized tribe in Delaware.” Legal words, but missing the point that they were here first.
The PLUS report was shared with Sussex County Planning & Zoning but will not be shared with the public. We have to wonder what’s the big secret? It seems a true lack of transparency exists at all levels of state and local government.
The developer is completing Phase II of a required archeological study to be presented at the Planning & Zoning hearing (2 The Circle, Georgetown) for the Old Mill Bridge project on Jan. 9 at 6 p.m. Please attend or comment at https://sussexcountyde.gov/contact-planning-zoning-commission.
As proposed, the developer stated OML homes will line the water’s edge at 42 feet high and 20 feet apart, broken only by a recreational complex with an endless pool. It will bury any evidence of our collective heritage. There is no other community on the creek so congested, except Swann Keys, a former trailer park dug out of wetlands in the late ’60s.
The north side of the creek is largely the protected lands of Little Assawoman Wildlife Refuge. A DelDOT archeological report from 1998 discussed findings of seven native projectile points and 656 prehistoric ceramic fragments in the refuge that “were first used during the Woodland I period, most likely no earlier than 800 B.C. Extensive occupation of the area was not realized until after 100 A.D and was not intensive until European contact.” (Clark and Scholl, 1994:55). Presumably, “intensive” means during native migration out of the area.
Whose voice is the State protecting? Is it the property owner and the developer? It’s not current creek residents, and certainly not the Native Americans and their ancestors who are potentially buried on the property. I have to wonder if this land contains Delaware’s true origin story.
When the sun rises and I approach the southeast shore of OML by water, there is clearly a mound at forest’s edge, possibly two. I wonder what secrets they hold. Can they be preserved and protected? If the OML project is built as described, we will never know their meaning. Past voices, forever silenced and destroyed.