Piscataway Indian Nation and Tayac Territory
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The Piscataway Indian Nation is a state-recognized tribe in Maryland that claims descent from the historic Piscataway tribe. At the time of European encounter, the Piscataway was one of the most populous and powerful Native polities of the Chesapeake Bay region, with a territory on the north side of the Potomac River. By the early seventeenth century, the Piscataway had come to exercise hegemony over other Algonquian-speaking Native American groups on the north bank of the river. The Piscataway nation declined dramatically before the nineteenth century, under the influence of colonization, infectious disease, and intertribal and colonial warfare.
The Piscataway Indian Nation organized out of a 20th-century revival of its people and culture. Its peoples are committed to indigenous and human rights. It is one of three contemporary organized groups of the Piscataway people. On January 12, 2012 Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley issued an Executive Order recognizing both the Piscataway Indian Nation and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe.
The Piscataway Indian Nation inhabits traditional homelands in the areas of Charles County, Prince George's County, and St. Mary's County; all in Maryland. Its people live near two major metropolitan areas, Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
The current hereditary chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation is Billy Redwing Tayac, prominent in the movement for indigenous and human rights. He is the son of the late Chief Turkey Tayac, a leader in the Native American revitalization movements of the twentieth century.
Since Turkey Tayac's death in 1978, two other organized tribal groups have emerged that represent Piscataway people: these are the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, led by Mrs. Mervin Savoy; and the Cedarville Band of Piscataways, led by Natalie Proctor. The different tribes have varying perspectives on tribal membership, development, and other issues.
While indigenous peoples inhabited areas along the waterways of Maryland for thousands of years, the historic Piscataway coalesced as a tribe comprising numerous settlements sometime in the fourteenth or fifteenth century. The women were developed agriculturalists, growing varieties of maize, beans and squash that supported population and a hierarchical society. The men also hunted and fished. A hierarchy of places and rulers emerged: hamlets without hereditary rulers paid tribute to a nearby village. Its chief, or werowance, appointed a "lesser king" to each dependent settlement. With political change came changes in social structure and religious development that exalted the hierarchy. By the end of the sixteenth century, each werowance on the north bank of the Potomac was subject to a single paramount chief: the ruler of the Piscataway, known as the Tayac.
English colonization 
The English explorer Captain John Smith first visited the upper Potomac River in 1608. When the English began to colonize what is now Maryland, the Tayac made allies of the newcomers. He granted the English a former Indian settlement which they renamed St. Mary's City, after their own monarch. The Tayac intended the new colonial outpost to serve as a buffer against Susquehannock incursions from the north. The Tayac Chitimachen converted to Christianity in 1634. His daughter Mary, who also had converted and taken a Christian name, married the colonist Giles Brent of Maryland. They crossed the Potomac to live at Aquia Creek, Virginia.
Any benefits to having the English as allies and buffers were short-lived. The Maryland Colony was initially too weak to pose a significant threat. But, as the English persisted and developed a more successful colony, they turned against the Piscataway over competition for land and resources.
By 1668 western shore Algonquians were confined to two reservations: one on the Wicomico River; the other, on those settlements that comprised a portion of the Piscataway homeland. Refugees from dispossessed Algonquian nations coalesced with the Piscataway. In 1697, the Piscataway relocated across the Potomac and camped near what is now Plains, Virginia in Fauquier County. This alarmed the Virginia settlers, who tried to persuade the Piscataway to return to Maryland. Finally in 1699, the tribe moved on its own accord to what is now called Conoy Island in the Potomac River near Point of Rocks, Maryland. They settled there until after 1722.
In the eighteenth century, some Piscataway, as well as other fleeing Algonquian groups, migrated north of the Susquehanna River seeking relief from the European settlers. Then known as the "Conoy", they sought the protection of the powerful Haudenosaunee, their former enemies. The Pennsylvania Colony also proved unsafe. Some Conoy continued to migrate north, finally settling in New France. Today, their descendants live with the Six Nations at Grand River First Nation, Ontario, Canada.
Present day 
According to numerous historians and archaeologists, including William H. Gilbert, Frank G. Speck, Helen Rountree, Lucille St. Hoyme, Paul Cissna, T. Dale Stewart, Christopher Goodwin, Christian Feest, James Rice, and Gabrielle Tayac, a small group of Piscataway families continued to live in their homeland. Though destroyed as an independent, sovereign polity, the Piscataway survived, and resettled into rural farm life. In those times, they were classified as free people of color, over time marrying members of other ethnic groups, but incorporating them into some Piscataway traditions.
In the late nineteenth century, archaeologists, journalists, and anthropologists interviewed a number of Piscataway who claimed descent from tribes associated with the old Piscataway chiefdom. Unlike other institutions, the Catholic Church continued to identify a core group of families as Indian in its parish records. Anthropologists and sociologists classified many as a tri-racial folk community, who were commonly called "Wesorts."
Phillip Sheridan Proctor, later known as Turkey Tayac, was born in 1895 in Charles County, Maryland. Proctor revived the use of the title, tayac, a hereditary office which he claimed had been handed down through his family. Turkey Tayac was instrumental in the revival of American Indian cultures in the Mid-Atlantic and Southeast.
Although by the early twentieth century, a few families identified themselves as Piscataway Indians, the prevailing racial attitudes during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and Jim Crow policies of the twentieth century were based on a binary society. With slavery developed as a racial caste and the early 20th-century passage of a law enforcing the "one-drop rule", anyone with a discernible amount of African ancestry was commonly classified as "negro", "mulatto", or "black", regardless of tehir self-identification. This made standing American Indian treaty rights that much easier to abrogate for multi-racial people.
Thus, together with dramatic decreases in population due to disease, when American Indian reservations were dissolved by the Maryland Colony in the eighteenth century, and when the Piscataway were reclassified as "free people of color", "Free Negro" or "mulatto" on state and federal census records in the nineteenth century, a process of detribalization was happening. While the Piscataway were enumerated as "mulattos" in state and federal census records, by contrast Catholic parish records and ethnographic reports continued to identify Piscataway individuals and families as Indians.
Piscataway revival 
Chief Turkey Tayac was a prominent figure in the early and mid-twentieth century cultural revitalization movements. He influenced the Piscataway, but also other remnant southeastern American Indian communities, such as the Lumbee of North Carolina, and the Nanticoke, and Powhatan of Virginia and Maryland. With a third-grade formal education, Chief Turkey Tayac began the process of cultural revitalization and self-determination. He emphasized a movement based on American Indians choosing self-identification, during an era when the United States Indian Reorganization Act required individuals to prove blood quantum to claim their ancestry.
Today, the Piscataway Indian Nation is an emergent sovereign indigenous presence in its Chesapeake homeland. The Piscataway Indian tribal nation is enjoying a renaissance. According to Helen C. Rountree, et al., in their book John Smith's Chesapeake Voyages (2007):
"There are still Indian people in southern Maryland, living without a reservation in the vicinity of US 301 between La Plata and Brandywine. They are formally organized into several groups, all bearing the Piscataway name."
The Piscataway Indian Nation members are among the 25,000 self-identified Native Americans in Maryland.
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- The Piscataway Conoy Tribe of Maryland
- Indian Nation
- The Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians
- "Piscataway Indians", The Catholic Encyclopedia
- "Competing claim about Piscataway and Tayac history", Eskimo