ANNAPOLIS, MD (January 9, 2012) – Today, Governor Martin O’Malley signed two historic Executive Orders recognizing Maryland Indian status of two groups indigenous to the State of Maryland. With the signing of the Executive Orders, Governor O’Malley officially made the Piscataway Indian Nation and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe the first state recognized tribes in Maryland history. The Piscataway Conoy petition for recognition includes the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and subtribes, and the Cedarville Band of Piscataway.
“Within the heart of every individual, is a spirit that yearns to be recognized,” said Governor O’Malley. “Today is a day of recognition 380 years in the making. These Executive Orders formally reclaim for all of our children, and for generations to come, the human dignity, the common humanity, and the unity of spirit that we lacked the loving capacity to fully recognize seven generations ago.”
“I am of the belief that Governor O’Malley was our best hope to have the centuries of oppressive denial reversed. His values for civil and human rights, environmental recovery, cultural diversity, history, and community health are truly in accord with our perspectives,” said Billy Redwing Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation. “This is righteousness in action. I would like to congratulate the Governor and the citizens of Maryland as well for making the choice to acknowledge the indigenous heritage and communities of our state.”
Recognizing the important contributions made by American Indians, the Maryland General Assembly enacted a law establishing a process under which an American Indian tribe, band, or clan could be formally recognized by the State. Any tribe that wishes to receive State recognition must submit a petition to the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs (MCIA). State law requires that petitioners must show through this documentation that the group has been identified as Native American from before 1790 until the present, part of a continuous Native American community from before 1790 until the present, and is indigenous to Maryland.
Through state recognition, over $17 million in potential funding sources may now become available to the State of Maryland and the Piscataway. The funding will be available in the areas of education, minority business contracting, housing and public health. Also through recognition, the MCIA will be able to assist in the acquisition of federal funding for the re-establishment of the Title VII Indian Education program in Southern Maryland.
“Gaining Maryland Indian Status has specific meaning to the Piscataway,” said Mervin Savoy, tribal chair of the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and Sub-tribes. “Central to motivating our young people is the sense of identity and pride that will encourage and provide motivation to achieve. Education is the key that unlocks doors that have served to bar progress for our people for decades. Our work now begins to insure this opportunity is infused in our students and our young adults looking to incubate a business and those looking to further their education to make a better life for their families.”
According to 2010 U.S. Census data, there are 23,162 Native Americans living in Maryland and a total of 58,000 people who claim Native American ancestry and another ethnicity.
The MCIA coordinates programs and projects to further the cultural, educational, economic and social development of Maryland’s diverse Indian communities. The Commission also works to promote public awareness and appreciation of the rich contributions American Indians have made to life in Maryland.
Copies of the Executive Orders can be found here: