By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
ONE FEATHER STAFF
In an historic move, Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed two executive orders on Monday, Jan. 9 giving state recognition as American Indian tribes to two groups including The Piscataway Indian Nation, based in Port Tobacco, and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe, based in Waldorf.
Billy Redwing Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation, thanked Gov. O’Malley and said his values are aligned with that of the Piscataway. “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.”
Gov. O’Malley commented, “Today is a day 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.”
Mervin Savoy, tribal chair of the Piscataway Conoy, said, “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 the BIA Office of Acknowledgment, the Piscataway Conoy submitted a letter of intent to petition for federal acknowledgment on Feb. 22, 1978. They are currently #28 on the waiting list for petition review.
Cara Cowan Watts, District 5 representative for the Cherokee Nation and a member of the Cherokee Identity Protection Committee, opposes all state recognition of tribes.
She points to federal law for her reasoning.
Section 8 of federal law states the powers of Congress are “To regulate Commerce with foreign nations, and among the several states, and with the Indian Tribes.”
Amendment 10 which deals with the powers of the States and the People states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”
Watts commented, “Recognition of Tribal Nations is an exclusive federal right. To my knowledge, Congress has not conveyed this right and ability to any state. Sovereignty is about nation-to-nation acknowledgment. States are not a nation.”
The Cherokee Nation has requested several actions take place in dealing with state recognition of tribes including: a total federal ban on the state recognition of groups claiming to be Cherokee, no more federal funds for non-federally recognized tribes and new IRS regulations that will prevent ‘pseudo tribes’.
The 2010 Census states that Maryland recorded an American Indian population of 20,420 or 0.4 percent.