Time to do right by Maryland's indigenous peoples

It's fitting that onMartin Luther King Jr. Day, Maryland's Piscataway Indians were recognized as a legitimate Native American tribe by Gov.Martin O'Malley("For Md. Piscataways, vindication at last," Jan. 17).

If there is one group deserving support, it is the indigenous peoples of our continent. It was heartbreaking to learn that Mervin Savoy, chairwoman of the Piscataway-Conoy Confederacy, was never allowed to write "American Indian" when school officials asked about her race. Talk about discrimination!

Another American Indian tribe in Maryland, the Lumbee, is also seeking state recognition, and our governor should consider granting it the same rights and privileges as the Piscataway. When I think of the effort this nation has made since its inception to stamp out Native Americans' identity, language and culture while appropriating their ancestral lands, I feel sick. It is not a heritage to be proud of.

President Barack Obama celebrated Martin Luther King Day by noting that service and diversity make America the strongest, most extraordinary country on Earth, and he went on to quote King's plea that "the time is always right to do what is right."

It's time America does what is right by the American Indians who have been so marginalized, separated and oppressed throughout our history. It's the right thing to do.

Rosalind Ellis Heid, Baltimore

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