The longtime curator of the Nanticoke Indian Museum in Millsboro, Delaware’s only museum of its kind, retired last week on a low note, without fanfare, leaving the position he assumed in 2011 in the hands of June “Morningstar” Robbins.
“I’m 80 now and my blood pressure is high. It’s not going to be a weekend. It’s going to be better for my health. It’s going to seem ridiculous not to come back here, but I’ve gotten to the point where I can’t talk like I used to when I’m on tour. I’m hoarse. I’m doing a lot of presentations,” Village told Coastal. Point on the afternoon of Friday, March 31, when he was sitting at the front desk, greeting guests and awaiting the arrival of Nanticoke Teacher Avery Johnson.
“Today I’m collecting the files I’ve done over the years. I collect them and bring them home. I still work the Harbeson family farm, which we have had for over 100 years. It’s my second passion,” said Street, a Millsboro resident whose Indian name is Earth Keeper because of his love of gardening.
The Nanticoke elders explained that the names of the Indians were given in special ceremonies.
It will require talking to visitors who have come to the museum from all over the world, as far as India, Greece and Turkey.
“They read about it in the travel magazine and they come to Delaware and they want to see it,” Village said.
“What interested me was that indigenous people from other countries could find the same things that we have here, indigenous people from Indonesia, Australia, New Zealand, the same grains and wood. The same utensils. They had to use natural things, like we did, to drink, to sail, and so on, to be the same,” he said.
It’s important to keep Nanticoke’s history alive, he said.
“All people need a place to store their history and this museum is a storehouse for the people of Nanticoke,” he said.
In retirement, he will be around but as a citizen, not a museum employee. Mary is planning a trip with his wife. Together they have four children and four grandchildren.
The building, which houses the Museum in 1921, will be preserved as a National Historic Landmark structure during recent renovations and expansion.
In February, Sen. Tom Carper visited the museum and the nearby Indian Center, met Chief Johnson and heard about plans to upgrade both buildings.
Johnson told him the food bank will open as part of the upgrade, as staff partners with the Delaware Food Bank.
“With the challenges in today’s economy, we are trying to do everything we can to help our people and the community as a whole. It will open to our Nanticoke Indian Community and we’ll see how we can support the entire community and the logistics of everything once it’s done,” he said, adding that it’s expected to open in about a year.
About $3 million in funding comes from the federal and state governments, plus grants from local agencies.
“To the Indian Center, overall, we’re adding 2,800 square feet and the building is 22,000 square feet. It’s going to be a one-acre property. In a museum, I like to do this more like a virtual reality, where when the kids come in, they can almost be immersed in that time, that place , when it presents immersive presentations, so they’re almost like being part of that era. The addition will double the size of the museum,” Johnson said.
Also on offer are a media center, theater area, gift shop and concession stand.
“There is a large population, many new residents, moving around the museum and the center, not only people visiting the beach, but people who like the arts, those kinds of things that we want to bring them to the center of culture and to our center. Our museum to experience our life, ” Johnson said.
There are about 15,000 members of the Nanticoke community in the Millsboro area, Johnson said.
Former Chief Natosha Carmine said the sea point and neither the museum nor the center will be demolished and rebuilt amid renovations and upgrades.
“These buildings were built by our ancestors, and the bones of those structures are strong bones.” they are the heartbeat of the people. There many of the people came to school. It is our history. Nanticoke has a rich tribal history. we have a story to tell. The Creator blessed us … and now we have money for renovations,” he said, adding that the Nanticoke Tribe is also holding a capital campaign to raise money for new classrooms, an office, a cultural lounge, a children’s area and an Indian kitchen. The center is accepting donations.
“The museum … was a two-room school at the time of segregation. It was closed and, in 1984, it was revived becoming a museum,” Carmine explained.
Artifacts have been handed down by elders and include thousands of arrows, pottery, hammers and other handicrafts.
The village’s favorite item is a basket that belonged to his great uncle Joseph Street. It became the Gardner Drain and all the sons of Elder Vic slept in it.
The street is also fond of pamphlets, on display behind glass, containing Indian recipes and superstitions. Soon, the books will be for sale, he said, recalling hearing that years ago a live chicken was thrown over a boy because it was believed to be a cure.
Among the superstitions in the book are “The doors of darkness never turn up dirt.” It’s bad luck, “If you come in one door, you go out the same, or bad luck,” and “Never sweep a man’s feet while you’re sweeping or they’ll go to jail.”
After retiring from Delmarva Power in 1998, he worked at Street Ace Hardware for 10 years, but was tired of being on his feet all day. He had a wealth of knowledge about Nanticoke’s history, and therefore joined the staff of the museum.
He has done a lot of research and studies, the gifts for the scalpel of young Indian women and Indians have been suspended for no reason other than heritage.
“So much injustice in the late 1880s, early 1900s. It makes me sad, but I’m not angry about what happened to our people,” he said.
“I am not angry with you.”