Visitors gathered in a circle in the pavilion at Historic London Town the day after Thanksgiving, officially American Indian Heritage Day in Maryland, to hear stories of the Cedarville Band of the Piscataway Indians.
Natalie Procter showed the audience models of artifacts while discussing the daily lives of the historic Piscataway.
“We spent most of our time outside,” she said. “Women were in charge of the gardens. Hunting was mostly men’s responsibility, but women hunted, too. During the spring and summer, we ate mostly vegetables and berries. Thanks to the number of ticks on animals in spring and summer — it was not good meat. In the fall, was the better time to hunt and eat meat.”
The Piscataway wasted nothing, Procter said. After the meat, the furs were used, bones were used as tools, weapons, jewelry, fish hooks and needles.
Tendons were used to make thread, and string bows or fish hooks. Antlers were used as rakes or fishing spears. Hooves were melted down and used as glue.
“Everything was made to be used — not just to sit on a shelf and look pretty,” she said.
Games were played for fun, but mostly for teaching. Popular today, lacrosse was first played by Native Americans as a test of endurance, to settle disputes, and to develop the hand-eye coordination needed for hunting.
Crystal Procter wants to dispel the stereotypes of Native Americans.
“We are stuck in peoples’ minds in the late 1700s. In 2018, unless we are in traditional dress, we are invisible.”
The Piscataway people have been influential, once encompassing a territory spanning Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., and parts of Pennsylvania. The Piscataway are believed to have been here as far back as 24,000 years ago.
Natalie Procter said Algonquin was the first language of this land.
“Name almost any body of water and you are speaking Algonquin — Potomac, Chesapeake and many more. Many state names are Algonquin — Illinois, Tennessee.”
Crystal Procter said the terms Indian, or Native, or Native American are not Algonquin — these politically correct terms are less than 400 years old.
“We are ‘the people who live where the waters blend,’ only known as the humans,” she said.
Many of the foods we enjoy today were cultivated by Native Americans, from the white potato to the orange (sweet) potato, to red and blue potatoes. Peanuts, popcorn, chocolate, tomatoes, cranberries, coffee, beets and artichokes all are indigenous to the Americas.
“Indian corn? It’s all Indian corn, whether it comes from a farmer’s field in south county or a Green Giant can,” Procter said.
At the end of the presentation, she invited everyone to join the Kentkatam dance, encouraging them to stand next to someone they didn’t know, to interact. Most did.
“This dance is about connection. How can we care (about each other) when we don’t interact?” Procter asked.
Other native dances performed included a courtship dance, the “Eastern Blanket Dance” led by Hope Butler, of the Piscataway tribe, and the Sneak Up dance, a hunting dance performed by Cherokee Frank Greene.
Greene, known also as Wolf Child, said the dance was about “hunting animals or enemies.”
Historic London Town has held a celebration of American Indian Heritage Day since 2010 as “a good antidote to Thanksgiving,” public programs administrator Kyle Dalton said.
The program was originally created in-house to honor the state holiday, but lacked an “authentic voice,” Dalton said.
“We were ready to move in a different direction,” he said. “We reached out to the Piscataway Indians, who then came for a site visit. They have been great partners, who were glad to see the corners we have turned.”
Friday’s program was received by more than 200 visitors. Some tried their hand at making clay pottery. Jessica Castro, of Severna Park, brought her daughter, Lilia Castro, “to supplement her knowledge and give her a hands-on experience with Native American culture.”
Lilia participated in the clay craft session taught by master potter Debora Littlewing Moore, of the Pamunkey nation.
Aurora Sanchez brought her young daughter, Maia Godinez, from Gaithersburg. “We try to attend as many Native American events as we can,” she said.
Kindness Club Event at Deale library
A new community group, the South County is Kind Kindness Club, is hosting a free event from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday at the Deale Community Library, 5940 Deale-Churchton Road.
The event will feature crafts, book readings and other activities, focusing on the themes of combating bullying, teaching tolerance and spreading kindness in the south county community.
Correction: In last week’s column, the participants of the Maryland Veterans Oral History Project were incorrectly identified. They project took place at Southern High School.
Email south county community news and events to Vicki Petersen at email@example.com.