Long before European contact in the 1600s, Tribes of the Confederacy established settlements along the River. The location of a village was determined by how conducive the area was to fishing, planting, gathering, hunting, and trading, which enabled tribes to sustain themselves. Over time, large semi-permanent villages developed. Each village was partially self-sufficient, however, still linked to others through marriage, trade, and politics. Several villages along the Patuxent River are shown on Captain John Smith's 1608 map of his explorations of the Chesapeake Region.
Woodland Tribes, like many people across the globe, became efficient care takers of their local natural resources. They knew the cycles of the rivers and lands, which provided abundant fish, shellfish, and edible plants to sustain their villages. Through trade and communication they cultivated and harvested many different types of plants and vegetables that included corn, beans, and squash. The development of pottery allowed the village to store and control their food and seed supply from season to season.