Native Languages of the Americas: Nanticoke (Southern Delaware)
Language: Nanticoke was an Algonkian language closely related to
Lenape and Munsee.
Some linguists class it as a dialect of Lenape. Unfortunately the point is moot, as the last of the Nanticoke speakers died in the mid-1800's.
People: The Nanticoke Indians are a southern offshoot of the Lenni Lenape, considering
that tribe their elder kin. Today most people of Nanticoke descent have either merged into Lenape groups or passed into American society, but
about 1000 people identifying as Nanticokes still remain today, primarily in Delaware.
History: The Nanticoke tribe originally occupied the area between the Delaware and Chesapeake bays, in what is today Maryland and Delaware.
After the British conquest of the east coast, the tribe was granted a reservation near the Nanticoke River, but the British soon disbanded it and
forced the Nanticokes off the land. Some Nanticoke people fled north to Pennsylvania or joined the Delawares on their westward migrations to Ohio,
Indiana, Oklahoma, and Ontario, Canada. Other Nanticokes remained behind in their traditional territories. Dispossessed and isolated, the Nanticoke tribe
became known for sheltering escaped slaves during the early days of American history--one
18th-century recording of "Nanticoke" vocabulary turned out to be Mandinka, a West African language! After emancipation many Nanticokes
passed as black, or sometimes as white if they were mixed-race, but despite losing their language and much of their culture, other
Nanticoke people have maintained their heritage to the present day.