Celebrating, Honoring Area Connections to Piscataway Tribe

October 30, 2014

CSM Diversity Institute Hosts Events during Native American Heritage Month


The Diversity Institute at the College of Southern Maryland is hosting a week of cultural and educational events on the Piscataway Conoy Tribe Nov. 10-14 to celebrate Native American Heritage Month in November. This year’s theme nationally is “Native Pride and Spirit: Yesterday, Today and Forever.”

Southern Maryland has been home to Native Americans for over 400 generations and continues to this day to be the cherished homeland of the Piscataway Conoy people, according to the Accokeek Foundation, a co-sponsor of the college’s event. In the 1600s, principal Piscataway villages were located all along the major river systems. From the western bank of the Chesapeake, north towards Baltimore, across Maryland to what is now Washington, D.C., the region has a vibrant native population. Recent discoveries at Zekiah Fort indicate the Native population was larger than colonial reports let on, according to Mario Harley, member of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe.

The week-long celebration of Piscataway culture and tradition begins at the college with an opening ceremony at 6 p.m. Nov. 10 at the Center for Business and Industry (BI) Building, Chaney Enterprises Conference Room (BI-113). The ceremony will include tribal song, music and dance to honor the state’s only recognized tribe and descendants of the state’s original inhabitants, and remarks from CSM President Dr. Brad Gottfried, Institutional Equity and Diversity Office Associate Vice President Makeba L. Clay, Tribal Chair of the Piscataway Conoy Mervin Savoy, Accokeek Foundation at Piscataway Park President Lisa Hayes and Charles County Public Schools Executive Director of School Administration Marvin Jones.

An exhibit, “Piscataway Connections,” on loan from the Accokeek Foundation and enhanced with local tribal artwork and artifacts, will be open following the opening ceremony from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m., Nov. 10; and noon to 7:30 p.m., Nov. 11-13 and 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., Nov. 14 in the Besche Oil Conference Room (BI-124). The exhibit includes information about Piscataway life and unique crafts, artifacts and archaeological finds from Piscataway Conoy Tribe and the collection of St. Mary’s College of Maryland Professor Dr. Julia King. In addition, the exhibit will include a touch/feel table with turtle shell beaded bag, finger woven belts, moccasins, red fox hide, raccoon hide, beaver hide, deer hide and tanned deer skin objects.

“In the 1970s our Piscataway Conoy people made a conscious decision to publicly celebrate our culture. We possess a deep attachment to these lands now known as Southern Maryland in which our ancestors have lived for generations and in which we believe our future generations will continue to call home,” said Harley.

“The college relishes the opportunity to bring together people of diverse cultures so that we can learn from each other. The Piscataway Conoy Tribe has been generous and open in sharing their long history and culture with the Southern Maryland community and we are grateful,” said Clay.

“Over the recent decades, we have witnessed the growth of Southern Maryland. As the Washington, D.C. suburbs expanded outward, Southern Maryland populations and businesses have grown. Many of these new residents do not have an awareness of the long and vibrant history of Southern Maryland. Such local words as Accokeek, Patuxent, Wicomico, Nanjemoy, Mattawoman and Port Tobacco have their origin source in the Piscataway Conoy language—with Accokeek the name of a traditional village site and the others as names of historical tribes that were a part of the Piscataway Conoy Confederation. Recent archeological discoveries such as Fort Zekiah reminds all Southern Maryland citizens about local historical events and sites that they may live near, or drive by on a daily basis without having an awareness,” said Harley.

Discussing the Conoy in the Traditional Era at 6 p.m. Nov. 11 will be Brenda Harley, a member of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe who serves on the Tribe’s Indian Education Committee. Brenda Harley assists in the development of programs to encourage Piscataway Conoy students to broaden their understanding of both their culture and history. She has been a strong advocate in promoting education to Native American youth living in Southern Maryland.

At 6 p.m. Nov. 12, Diana Harley of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe will provide an overview of the Post-European Contact. Diana Harley is a member of the Piscataway Conoy Tribal Council and is well versed in the tribe’s culture and history. Since her recent retirement from the U.S. Census Bureau, Diana Harley has dedicated herself to serving her people and promoting Piscataway Conoy awareness to the general public. One of her areas of expertise is working with federal and state authorities to assist in the interpretation of historical Piscataway Conoy sites as part of regional tourism initiatives.

King will discuss recent Piscataway Conoy archaeological evidence at 2:30 p.m. Nov. 13. A professor within the Archeology Department at SMCM, King has researched the history and culture of the Chesapeake region, especially Maryland, and how the Chesapeake both shaped and was shaped by an emerging Atlantic World. Since 2007, King and her students have focused on the lower Potomac River valley, where they have identified and documented a number of important archaeological sites, including a late 17th-century fortified Piscataway Indian settlement, Indian hamlets, a colonial court house, manor houses, and quarters for indentured and enslaved laborers.

All lectures will take place in the CSM Center for Business and Industry (BI) Building, Room BI-104, on the La Plata Campus.

“Events like the CSM celebration of Native American Month provides an opportunity for the citizens of Southern Maryland to meet the indigenous People of this land, and learn about our Tribal values and experiences. We will display and present some elements of our history, arts, dances and songs that we have cherished internally throughout the centuries and hope that our Southern Maryland community may have a greater understanding of their Piscataway Conoy neighbors,” said Mario Harley.

The exhibit and events are co-sponsored by the Diversity Institute at the College of Southern Maryland, Accokeek Foundation, Charles County Public Schools and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe.

For information on upcoming Diversity Institute events, visit www.csmd.edu/diversity .

For information on discovery of Piscataway artifacts at Zekiah Fort, visit www.csmd.edu/news/archive/2011/c02a74433e8c3b20c2d3d358414e54db1a6fd10b.html.

Members of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe in traditional regalia.

Members of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe in traditional regalia.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland Archaeology Professor Julia King will discuss archaeological findings of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe during a lecture Nov. 13 at CSM’s La Plata Campus.

St. Mary’s College of Maryland Archaeology Professor Julia King will discuss archaeological findings of the Piscataway Conoy Tribe during a lecture Nov. 13 at CSM’s La Plata Campus.

2 Responses to Celebrating, Honoring Area Connections to Piscataway Tribe

  1. Carlos Danger on October 31, 2014 at 8:13 am

    Hail to the Redskins

    • Anonymous on November 3, 2014 at 7:59 am

      well now i’m just all offended and stuff