Several members of the Nanticoke community in southern Delaware attended the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington D.C. last week.
Nanticoke tribal member and educator Herman Jackson was among them.
He says he heard speakers raise awareness about issues more prevalent on reservations— including Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. “I didn’t know there were that many young women getting taken away from their families and all, and some showing up dead when they found them. And even boys. It’s more than we ever hear about,” said Jackson.
But he says the important issues the march raised have been obscured by media coverage of viral videos of the interaction between Covington Catholic High School student Nick Sandmann and Omaha elder and activist Nathan Phillips.
“It’s a shame that that took front seat like that, because it didn’t express nothing,” said Jackson. “That’s all they remember. The march was overshadowed by one little incident.”
Jackson says he saw Phillips earlier in the march. “He was singing the whole way through it and all. I paid attention to the singing, because in our mind singing will calm you down," he said. "So I imagine that was his whole intent when he just walked up there and started singing.”
Jackson says the most meaningful part of the march for him was meeting fluent speakers of indigenous languages.“The biggest thing that’s really touched me was to hear so many speak in their own language. Because we’re losing so much of that even today,” he said. “It’s shameful because you take away the language, you take away the culture, you take away the people.”
He adds that the last fluent speaker of the Nanticoke dialect died around 1840— but that the Nanticoke community is currently working on language restoration efforts.
Jackson says if there is an Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. next year, he plans to go.
The Nanticoke Indian Tribe is one of two state-recognized Native American tribes in Delaware.