Historically, we were a Confederacy of Tribes under the premier authority of the Tayac or Emperor. Our Confederacy extended between the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay to the watershed of the Potomac River in the area now known as Virginia, and all land from the southern tip of St Mary’s County, MD, north to include Baltimore, Montgomery and Anne Arundel Counties MD to include Washington DC.
Our first European contact was in 1608 with John Smith and William Claiborne and first contact with the colonist occurred in 1634 upon the arrival of the Ark and Dove which carried passengers, Leonard Calvert and a Jesuit priest, Father Andrew White. It was Mr. Calvert who began colonizing our ancestral homelands and Father White who converted the tribe to Catholicism.
Conflict began to grow in the 1660’s when the English began encroaching upon our villages; this colonial expansion led to the first established treaty in 1666 between Lord Baltimore, and out Tribal Leadership. The treaty called for the establishment of a reservation, resulting in Piscataway Manor in 1669. Several other treaties and reservations were established throughout the years; however, they would all eventually be broken by encroachment of the settlers and lead to our ancestors losing their homelands.
Out of frustration and anger, to escape from further encroachment, some tribal members chose to migrate into Northern Virginia and then even further north into Pennsylvania. It was in Pennsylvania where the Piscataway people then became known as the Conoy, a name given by the Iroquois. Although, not all of the Piscataway Conoy Confederacy chose to migrate, many of our ancestors chose to continue to reside within the remote areas of our traditional homeland. Our Ancestors who remained in Maryland were placed under the authority of local mediators. Those who remained established communities throughout Calvert, Prince Georges and Charles Counties. Maintaining separation from the settlers and internally retaining the cultural values, traditions and legacy. Throughout the 19th and 20th century endogamous marriage patterns demonstrated the continuation of well-defined, tight knit Piscataway communities. By the end of the 1800’s the Piscataway people began exerting their identity as Native Americans again and demanded separate schools for Piscataway children. The first school was Swann School located in Lothair in Charles County that operated up to 1928 and second in Prince George County that operated up to 1920. It was through those experiences and other segregation policies within the Catholic Church that strengthened our people to unite and maintain our distinct heritage.
The Piscataway people were farmers, many who owned large tracts of land. They also were employed as tenant farmers, farm foremen, field laborers, guides, fishermen and domestic servants. The men were revered for their expert hunting and fishing skills and the money they earned bought land and expanded their community and property holding. The Piscataway people rarely took part in public life, staying separate from the mainstream of society with little visibility to the world.
Numerous studies have been conducted concerning the Piscataway people. In the 1960’s, researchers concluded that the core surnames within the Piscataway community were of Indian ancestry derived from the ancient Piscataway Confederacy. Today the Piscataway Conoy people live throughout Southern Maryland in modern day communities once occupied by our ancestors: LaPlata, Bel Alton, Pomfret, Indian Head, Accokeek, Oxon Hill, Cedarville, Clinton, Brandywine, Rosaryville, Upper Marlboro, Mitchellville, Glen Arden, Forestville, Port Tobacco, Camp Springs, Temple Hills, Fort Washington, Davidsonville and Croom.
The Piscataway people incorporated the Piscataway Conoy Indians Inc., a non-profit organization, on March 31, 1974. In 1976, our Piscataway elders led the way to lobby the Maryland government to pass the legislation to form The Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs. This legislation also led to the initiation of the process to assist native communities in the state State Recognition status. In 1995, our Tribal leadership submitted a petition for formal State Recognition status to Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs.
After the persistence and hard work of many of our elders and supporters, on January 9th, 2012, Governor Martin O’Malley granted by Executive Order, “State Recognition to the Piscataway Conoy Tribe”. Thus reestablishing the historic government-to-government relationship that had been dormant in Maryland since the 1700’s .