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Official Recognition of Piscataway Tribes


Maryland Statehouse
Annapolis, Maryland

What a humbling honor it is to be able to stand before all of you here, at this podium made from the wood of the Wye Oak.

To Chief Billy Tayac and the people of the Piscataway Indian Nation;

To Tribal Chair Mervin Savoy and the people of the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and Sub-Tribes;

To Tribal Chair Natalie Proctor and the people of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians;

To Auriel Fenwick, and the Maryland Commission on Indian American Affairs; to Rico Newman, and Gabrielle Tayac;

To Father Clifford from the Society of Jesus, a latter day brother of Father Andrew White. We thank you for making the time to be with us today.

To Charles County Commission President Kelly, and Charles County Commissioner Robinson;

To Delegate Branch, Senator Middleton, Delegate Murphy, Delegate Jameson, and Delegate Wilson,… and all of the other members of the Maryland General Assembly;

And to my fellow citizens:

Within the heart of every individual is a spirit that yearns to be recognized.

Today is a day of recognition,… it is a day of reconciliation,… and it is a day of arrival,… a day 380 years in the making;

A day made possible only by the kindness, the forgiveness, and the goodness of the Piscataway people of this beautiful place that we now call Maryland.

380 years ago, when the Ark and Dove first brought European settlers to these shores, Fr. Andrew White, a Jesuit priest among those early travelers, recorded his own recognition of the essential kindness and generosity of the Piscataway peoples he encountered upon arrival here. “They are,” he wrote, “a people of a frank and cheerful disposition,… who offer us what they have taken in hunting or fishing,… In sum, they have generous natures, and (return) any kindness shown (to) them.”

Sadly we know from the tragic aspects of our history, this generous spirit, this deep instinctive sense of human brotherhood was most often betrayed by the cruelty and the misery brought by a stranger’s hand.

At a treaty meeting in 1777, Piscataway Conoy Chief Wilakuko said that, “We demand no more of you than the right which God and nature has given us, our identity.”

We are here, together, to reclaim for all of our children – in the 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.

In legal terms, our state government has never before taken the official action of recognizing a petition for Maryland Indian Status.

In a few moments, we will officially recognize two.

To all the Piscataway peoples, we know that you did not need an Executive Order to tell you who you are. I thank you for persistence, for your courage, and for your capacity for forgiveness so that, in this recognition, we might see the good people that we are meant by our One Creator to be.

In these days of global environmental challenge, in these times of division, disconnection, and estrangement from one another and the other sacred living systems of our earth, we recognize today how much we need your wisdom – the wisdom of wholeness, the wisdom of healing, the wisdom of Oneness, the wisdom of balance, the wisdom of respect for all of God’s living creation as a reflection of our respect for one another,…

Chief Turkey Tayac (of the Piscataway Tribe) was known to say of Maryland: “God gave us this land, plenty of game and fish, and a mild climate. It is the best place in the world.”

And so it is – not only because of our game, our fish, and our weather – but because of the strong and beautiful diversity of Maryland’s people, especially our Native People: the men and women of the Piscataway Indian Nation, the men and women of the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and Sub-Tribes and the men and women of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians.

At this threshold of new arrival, may the loving souls of our ancestors bless this day of recognition.

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