The Smith shallop has landed

By Lynn R. Parks

Capt. John Smith's first couple encounters with the people of the Nanticoke nation were not easy ones. Arrows flew, muskets were fired. But soon, the Nanticoke people "came clustering about us," Smith wrote in his journal, "every one presenting us with something, that we became such friends they would contend who should fetch us waterÉand give us the best content." "The misunderstandings began with the first contact, and they have continued these many years," James "Tee" Norwood, chief of the Nanticoke, said at Tuesday's dedication of a marker at Phillips Landing, near Bethel, to commemorate 400 years since Smith explored the Nanticoke and other tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay. "But we were willing to share the bounty of the land and water." As part of the marker dedication ceremony, Norwood addressed the audience in the Nanticoke language. "I am chief of the Nanticoke people," he translated. "Peace." He then presented gifts to several dignitaries there, including Sen. Tom Carper, Congressman Mike Castle and John Hughes, secretary of the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control. The gifts, small turtles to symbolize the Nanticoke, the Turtle People, were "emblematic of a sympathetic and fair-minded people," Hughes said. "I suspect few Native Americans would have such grace." The hour-long dedication ceremony, attended by about 400 people, concluded with a traditional Nanticoke friendship dance. The large dance circle formed around the newly-revealed black granite monolith that bears a reproduction of the map Smith drew of the Chesapeake region as well as an illustration of Smith's shallop, or barge, accompanied by a Native American canoe. On the bottom of the monument are written the words Smith wrote in his journal about the Nanticoke: "Heaven and earth never adjoined better to form a place for man's habitation." Castle said that much of the Nanticoke, including the stretch along Phillip's Landing, is unchanged from when Smith and his crew explored it. "It is pretty much as it was 400 years ago, and that is really exceptional in the United States today," he said.

"It is unbelievable how unchanged some of the river stretches are," said Rebecca Pskowski, 24, Rockville, Md., one of 12 people who are sailing and rowing a replica of the Smith shallop on a tour of the Chesapeake. The shallop, in day 18 of its 121-day journey, was docked at Phillips Landing during the ceremony. Crewmate Forrest Richards, 24, St. White, Fla., said that the goal of the shallop's journey, and of the new Capt. John Smith Chesapeake National Historic Trail, is to draw attention to the Chesapeake. "The more people know about the history and ecology of the bay, the more likely it is that they will appreciate and care for it," he said. Many speakers at the ceremony spoke of the need to protect the bay. Patrick Noonan, chairman emeritus of the Conservation Fund, a sponsor of the Captain John Smith Four Hundred Project, and a member of the board of directors of the National Geographic Society, said that his work has taken him to all 50 states. "And it doesn't get any better than the Chesapeake Bay," he said. "It doesn't get any better than we have right here. We have been given a wonderful legacy and it is our responsibility to protect it." "I feel certain that the way you see this river now, it will be that way when we are dead and gone," said state Sen. Robert Venables (D - Laurel). Venables paid tribute to "Tootie" Phillips, who owned what is now Phillips Landing Recreational Area and who left the land to the state. "A lot of what you see today is still here because of Mr. Phillips," he said. Before the start of the ceremony, Charlie Kuhlman, Woodland, leaned against a tree, staring at the small, docked shallop and beyond to the confluence of Broad Creek and the Nanticoke River. "I've lived here all my life and I've done a lot of fishing and hunting on this river," said Kuhlman, 71. "I am just standing here, imaging what it was like when Smith came up here." Kuhlman said that in just the last 30 to 40 years, he has seen a dramatic decrease in wildlife on the river. "All the ducks that used to be here are pretty much gone," he said. "Four hundred years ago, Smith must have seen a beautiful river." "Europeans changed everything," Norwood said. "They changed our way of life, and we have had many trials and tribulations along the way. "But we are still here. We are still the first people of the First State."

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