Piscataway Voices; Part 2 of 3
written by Cryz Nkechehosi Proctor; Wild Turkey Clan, Cedarville Band of the Piscatawy Conoy
Growing up as an active member of the Wild Turkey Clan, Cedarville Band of the Piscataway Conoy, I have witnessed and participated in decades of petitioning the state of Maryland to be validated in saying we are who we have always known ourselves to be; the descendants of the Piscataway. Piscataway, in existence by some archaeological estimates for 24,000 years, is the largest Native Nation and head of the 2nd largest confederacy of the Chesapeake region. Within these years I internalized the dedication of our Elders in their efforts to right the wrongs for our people. After many attempts, in 2012 we finally received the state recognition to claim who we have been – long before the English traveled up the Potomac to discover us. Thus, 2012 ushered in a new wave of opportunities as well as exploitation of my people.
As a young child, I watched and was coached in a resurgence of our culture and philosophies. Tight-knit families (bonded together by ancestral exclusivity and historic traumas) created councils, built a museum and cultural center and filled these spaces with programming to build our community up. These efforts were Piscataway community-funded and maintained. Then, I watched helplessly, as a beautiful, strong and knowledgeable people succumbed to internal and public struggle, emotional turmoil and collusion. It would have been a blessing, a relief, a revitalization and proper for us to have received the support of local nonprofits, culture, education and preservation organizations, and government officials who benefited from our history and lives. Many organizations still today benefit from the name, struggles, bones, artifacts, lands, waters and stories of our ancestors. Many want to benefit from the mystique of an ancient people while failing to create reciprocal relationships with those descendants who are still living and rightfully representing Eastern Woodland Native communities. As the inherited 5th generation clan mother, two-spirit healer, and co-chair of the Cedarville Band of the Piscataway, Inc., my life’s work has been and will remain to see my ancestors raised back to their rightful place, to be an advocate for Earth Mother and to be a culture bearer. Mostly, I want to leave a legacy (with actual benefits) that the next generations can prosper from. We are still here and we will continue to share our own stories to rebuild what was lost. To reclaim what we have allowed to be exploited will not be an easy task but it is one that I am willing to spend my lifetime to change.
I am the Executive Producer of a Piscataway designed and facilitated mobile program: Living the American Indian Experience (LAIE). Via several public program models under the LAIE umbrella, we reach young children, students, professionals and the general public as well as partner with existing museums, parks, education systems, governmental agencies and nonprofits to share our culture and history. We do this with emphasis on culturally appropriate and historically accurate ways which employ and benefit tribal members while helping to eradicate long-withstanding stereotypes about Native peoples. In our first season of operation this year, we have reached over 10,000 people and are repairing long-strained relationships. If you are interested in reserving our services or partnering with us in a reciprocal and mutually respectful way, please inquire via our website at: www.piscatawayindians.com.