Local historian searches for Native American past in Washington, DC

Armand Lione, an amateur historian who lives on Capitol Hill, believes very few Washingtonians stop to think about the Native Americans who once lived in what is now the nation’s capital. Sowams Heritage Area Project coordinator Dave Weed had a chance to meet with Armond on a recent trip to D.C. More than 400 years ago, there were clusters of Native American communities in the area of what is now the District, along the banks of the Anacostia River, by the Navy Yard and on what’s now Capitol Hill. Lione has pinpointed and researched at least a dozen spots within the District where Native Americans lived. The Anacostans were one of the tribes that lived on the land that eventually became the nation’s capital. The Anacostia River got its name from the tribe. The tribe’s original name was the Nacotchtanks, which comes from the word “anaquashatanik” and means “a town of traders.” In the late 1660s, the Anacostans relocated — or were more likely forced out, according to some historians — to what they called Anacostine Island, which is now Theodore Roosevelt Island. By the 1700s, they had merged mostly with the Piscataways and other tribes because of their shrinking population. Armand eventually launched his D.C. Native History Project and started a website that tracks his findings.