Commissioners Must Do Right by the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians
WALDORF, MD – Calling on Charles County leaders to immediately stop the eviction of Indigenous people, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Maryland and the Public Justice Center (PJC) have written to County Commissioners, in partnership with the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians (CBPI), with grave concerns about the County’s decision to evict the Cedarville Band from their land, which they have tended for more than 40 years and which was inhabited by their ancestors for thousands of years.
Tribal Chairwoman of her Clan and Band Natalie Standingontherock Proctor, CBPI executive director, said: “Behind Closed Doors. This was my first thought when everything happened. There were no calls or emails. The decision to kick us out was all done so abruptly, secretively, behind closed doors. Your word should be worth its weight in precise gold. They did not keep their word and they were not transparent about ending the month-to-month lease. But a closed mind is like a closed door. It can be opened when the right amount of pressure is applied to the handle. And that’s what we plan to do. Apply pressure to the County and we hope you all join this movement.”
In the immediate term, the groups call for the Charles County Commission to immediately halt the eviction. Then, in the long term, they call for the Commission to give back the land to the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians.
Two-Spirit Advisor to their Clan and Band, Piscataway Scholar Kikeokàn, CBPI vice president, said: “This is a time of mourning but also fighting for our bodies (land and water); a very sacred time and space in American history. Those who join us should act accordingly.”
Shamefully, Charles County is moving to dispossess CBPI of their land on Sunday, April 9 – land that includes their cultural center, sacred artifacts, and religious and ceremonial items. Because the County intends to evict the Cedarville Band this weekend, members have had to rush to pack up and ensure the safe and proper storage for their invaluable cultural artifacts, some of which they will be forced to leave behind if the County Commission does not halt the eviction. The Cedarville Band has a unique legacy, culture, and expertise in Maryland that should be supported and protected, not forcibly removed once again.
Tribal Member Adam Proctor said: “We’re here to stay, you can’t push us away!”
Today, the Wild Turkey Clan of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians occupy a roughly 16-acre tract within their ancestral winter hunting grounds, bordering Charles and Prince George’s counties. There, they have held, helped restore, and reestablished their connection to the land. They’ve built a cultural center that houses many of their sacred and cultural artifacts. They have provided services and resources to Piscataway people at the site for 40 years. They have also hosted biannual Pow-Wows, school trips, museum events, and more.
Dana Vickers Shelley, executive director of the ACLU of Maryland, said: “We are calling on the Charles County Commissioners to lean into their morality and respect the humanity of the descendants of the first inhabitants of Maryland. This is basic. Return the land. Ultimately, they must respect the land and the people who settled on it and take care of it.”
Once Europeans landed in Maryland in the 17th century, they physically displaced, killed, culturally disrupted, and denied sovereignty to “the People where the rivers bend,” who called themselves the Piscataway. The Cedarville Band is a survivor of our Nation’s shameful history of genocide, dispossession, and discrimination committed by European colonizers, and continued throughout history by those in power. Today, as a Maryland State-recognized tribe, the Cedarville Band should not be driven from their own lands, which would continue this oppressive legacy.
Nick Taichi Steiner, staff attorney with the ACLU of Maryland said: “The immediate goal is to stop the eviction, but this is a broad, #LandBack movement that all Marylanders must take part in. It is an absolute shame the hurdles our colonizer government and legal system place on Indigenous peoples to reclaim the land they have deep ancestral ties to.”
Debra Gardner, legal director with the Public Justice Center said: “This is the opportunity for Charles County to help reverse our collective wrongs against those whose land we built this country on. Give the Land Back.”