Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Annual Nanticoke powwow cancelled due to coronavirus

Sophia Schmidt, Delaware Public Media
Several generations dance at the 2019 Nanticoke Indian Powwow in Millsboro

The Nanticoke Indian Association Tribal Council decided to cancel what would have been the 43rd annual powwow this September because of the pandemic. It’s the second powwow to be cancelled in the last three years, after 2018’s was rained out.

Nanticoke Chief Natosha Norwood Carmine says with the event usually drawing thousands of attendees, the idea of enforcing social distancing was daunting. 

“We didn’t feel that it was healthy or safe for our tribal members, our elders, our youth or anyone in between, or the public,” she said. 

Carmine says the decision was difficult but necessary, and reached after months of deliberation. 

The cancellation will be a loss to the community. The annual powwow, usually held in a wooded area in Millsboro, features traditional food, music, dancing, storytelling and craft vendors. 

The event serves as a family reunion for members of the Nanticoke community and helps them pass traditions down to young people. It draws members of tribes from across the country, as well as non-Native visitors who come to learn about Nanticoke culture. 

The powwow is also a key source of revenue supporting the tribe’s nonprofit Nanticoke Indian Association and its museum in Millsboro. 

Carmine says the tribe hopes to continue spreading awareness of its presence in the state through virtual tours and videos of dances and storytelling. The tribe also plans to add a donate button to its website

“For those who may have the heart and mind to donate for us, that would help us substantially,” said Carmine.


Tribal leadership is still working on how to bring members of the Nanticoke community together safely. “We’re taking our time to process this, and we’re taking our time to try to weigh the benefit and the burden,” said Carmine. 

The 2021 powwow is planned for the weekend after Labor Day (Sept. 10-12) at Hudson Fields in Milton. The new location was chosen to give the event more exposure and allow it to grow, Carmine says.

The Nanticoke tribe is one of two state-recognized Native American tribes in Delaware. The other is the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, based in Cheswold.


Sophia Schmidt is a Delaware native. She comes to Delaware Public Media from NPR’s Weekend Edition in Washington, DC, where she produced arts, politics, science and culture interviews. She previously wrote about education and environment for The Berkshire Eagle in Pittsfield, MA. She graduated from Williams College, where she studied environmental policy and biology, and covered environmental events and local renewable energy for the college paper.