Nanticoke Indians look to double the size of community center

Capital campaign ongoing, construction expected to begin in about six months. Article & photo by Chris Flood – Cape Gazette – August 26, 2023

Nanticoke Indian Association members may be in the thick of things planning the group’s 45th annual Powwow in just a couple weeks, but a recent public notice issued by the state suggests the group is also making progress on the long-range goal of expanding its community center.

As part of the permit approval process, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control issued a notice Aug. 6 saying a federal consistency determination has been submitted to its Delaware Coastal Management Program because the NIA is seeking to utilize U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development funding to renovate, restore and expand the cultural community center off Route 24 east of Millsboro.

According to the application found online as part of the notice, the building is about 75 years old; it’s been about 40 years since any extensive work has been completed on the structure.

The proposed renovation and upgrades would include updating the façade and replacing the roof, siding, windows, fascia, soffits, trim and doors on the exterior. Interior work would comprise replacing and upgrading all lighting, electrical, plumbing, restrooms, floors, HVAC and furnishings while also including repairs to ceilings, walls and any other hidden defects.

The current structure would be redesigned with a commercial kitchen, a renovated office area, additional storage space, a wi-fi-enabled computer workspace, an ample gathering space and a cultural lounge.

The proposed project also includes an addition to the existing structure that would more than double its size – from about 2,300 square feet to about 4,900 square feet. The application says the expansion would house new restrooms, a food bank, flex space to include a children’s area/classroom, and an additional meeting/arts and crafts room.

The addition would also include exterior landscaping with native plants, walkways, native artwork, lighting, a parking lot addition and fencing.

NIA Chief Avery Johnson said the tribe is working its way through the planning and zoning process, and the goal is to start construction within the next six months. The estimated timeline for completion is 15 months once construction commences, he said.

As part of the proposed design and improvements, Johnson said the parking capacity will significantly increase from the original 12 spaces to about 35 spaces. The association is thinking about leasing a large construction trailer as a temporary administrative office and gathering space during construction, he said.

Johnson said the objective of the expansion is to create a supportive atmosphere where every tribal member can reach their full potential, take pride in their individuality and ancestral background, and be recognized and valued for their exceptional qualities.

“As a tribal nation, we hold our cultural heritage in high regard and take pride in how we have persevered through difficult times,” said Johnson. “Our main priorities include fostering relationships with others, embracing and celebrating diversity, and thriving as a community.”

The capital campaign for the project was first launched in 2020, with an initial estimated cost of about $1.9 million. Those costs have risen by 30% since the launch and the estimate now comes in at $2.5 million.

“Our tribal community is grateful for the overwhelming support shown to our project over the past few years,” said Johnson, adding that donations are still being accepted and can be made through the association’s website, by mail or over the phone.

Blog at

%d bloggers like this: