The Piscataway Indian Nation Rebuttal

Rebuttal of the Thomas Ford Brown Paper
Ethnic Identity Movements and the Legal Process: The Piscataway Renascence, 1974-2000

The following information is provided in rebuttal of statements made throughout Brown's paper, as posted on the Johns Hopkins University website:


Page 3, paragraph 7 - The Wesorts did not organize as Piscataway-Conoy Indians in the 1970's. Rather, that was the name of the non-profit organization that was incorporated in 1974 by Billy Tayac, Chief Turkey Tayac, and Avery Lewis, a Pima Indian. The title of the corporation was suggested by Claudia Newooski, an Indian woman who worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA). At a social in Avery Lewis' home, during a discussion about forming a non-profit organization called Piscataway Indians Incorporated, Claudia, knowing of some Indian land claims that Turkey had in Pennsylvania, where the Piscataway were known as the Conoy, suggested "Piscataway-Conoy Indians Incorporated". There were no Wesorts involved in this process.

Social Origins of the Contemporary Piscataway

Pages 3 - 4 - Here, Brown begins his theory of the Social Origins of the Contemporary Piscataway He begins to call the "Wesorts" Piscataway. The Wesorts never identified as Piscataway until 1974, and at that time there were only three families . Moreover, not everyone in those three families claimed to be Piscataway or even claimed to be Indian. They were never a part of the tribe, but were a part of the Indian Center and the non-profit organization "Piscataway-Conoy Indians Incorporated". They were never on the tribal rolls. In fact, when they asked to be enrolled, but could produce no documentation, a lot of fighting and arguing began which dissolved the incorporation. The whole project of resurrecting Indians in Maryland lasted only 3 years and included all Indians in Maryland. The Board of Directors was established because of a United Way grant. The Board had to be composed of members of the business community, the Indian community, and the non-Indian community. Hugh Proctor was president of the Board of Directors to administer the Indian Center and the grants. Proctor did not come on the scene until after the Center was opened and he came as a volunteer, not a tribal member or an Indian.

Page 4, paragraph 2 - Brown once again tries to confuse the reader with the use of the words "Piscataway/Wesort". As the rest of the paper deals only with the Wesorts, and neither Turkey Tayac nor any of his family identified themselves as Wesorts, we do not feel qualified to respond to their history or their claims of Wesort identity.

Pages 4 - 5 - Brown uses the outdated terminology of "interracial bastardy". In fact, on pages 4 and 5 he uses the word "bastard" in some form 18 times and the term "salt-water Negro" twice.

Genesis of the Piscataway Movement

Page 7, last paragraph; page 8, paragraphs 1;7 - Brown refers to Turkey's parents as the illegitimate children of white men and their mulatta mistresses, in an attempt to degrade the Collins women. The Collins women have more claim to Piscataway Indian status than any of the Wesorts, which is why the Wesorts a.k.a. Piscataway- Conoy Confederacy and Subtribes, Inc. (PCCS) are so quick to say they don't recognize the Collins women as Indians. Brown goes on to say that Turkey "grew up in a poor family with a heritage of interracial bastardy, during an era when the Jim Crow racist regime was at its apogee in Southern Maryland." First, Louis and Jenny, Turkey's parents owned their own farm, and had a clear title with no liens in 1900. Further, Brown presumes that the community Turkey lived in was aware of anybody's parentage not being legitimate. There was illegitimacy among the "white planter elite" as well as among people of color.

Page 8, paragraph 2 - Once again Mr. Brown tries to connect Turkey to the Wesorts. He states that Turkey "became the first vocally Indian leader among the Wesorts." In fact, Turkey became the Piscataway Chief, not the Wesort Chief. In paragraph 3 Brown goes on to state that Turkey had three wives. Once again, Brown did not do his research. Turkey had only two wives. When a third woman appeared to claim a part of his estate, it was proven that she was a fraud and had at least 23 other men's estates. Her claim was dismissed as a fraudulent claim. Neither of Turkey's two wives were Wesorts nor was Turkey.

Page 8, paragraph 5 - Brown notes that "one scholar observed wryly that Philip's reputation was such that 'one should count one's fingers after shaking hands with him'." Brown does not reveal the name of his so-called scholar, yet states the name and year of two others cited in the same paragraph.

Pages 8 -9, paragraph 1 - Brown is still trying to label Turkey a Wesort and still trying to diminish Turkey and to downplay his family's stature by calling him a person of low self esteem and by concluding that his family was of a low social status. Brown presents no documentation to substantiate these conclusions. In fact, the records reveal that Turkey's family was financially equal with their neighbors of all races. Brown states that "at least five of Turkey's own children appear to have married out of the Wesort deme." In fact, all of Turkey's children married non-Wesorts as did Turkey. Brown's attempts to link Turkey to the Wesorts is denied by them as well.

Piscataway Unity and Early Success

Page 9, paragraphs 6 - 7 - Brown again makes a totally false accusation about an event that occurred in Piscataway National Park, that public records (if he had bothered to check) would have substantiated. Brown alleges that in 1974, "Turkey and Billy were at an archeological site in the park, picking over pipe shards and other fragments." When they refused a park ranger's request to put down the pieces, "the ranger called for back up, and the Tayac's eventually agreed to leave upon the artifacts being impounded. With his characteristic bluster, Billy Tayac would later represent the dispute in the news media as an 90-minute armed stand-off pitting the Piscataway (Billy and his 81 year old father) against several patrol cars and an Army helicopter supposedly disgorging 'eight combat-armed soldiers'." Once again Mr. Brown did not check his facts. It is a blatant distortion of an event that would have been easily verified by public records which for some reason Brown totally ignores. There was an armed helicopter from Fort Belvoir, the state police, as well as county police, and park police - easy enough to check. He also has the number of people present incorrect. Billy Tayac had his son as well as Turkey with him and Avery Lewis, and his son Jeremy. So, once again Brown has misrepresented the facts.

Page 9, paragraph 2 - This is supposed to be an academic paper, yet Brown has consistently twisted the facts; has made statements he attributes to unnamed sources; he calls Billy Tayac "Billy" as if he knows him, yet Billy Tayac has never met him. For example on page 9, in paragraph 2, he states that "Billy had been radicalized by his participation in the American Indian Movement ." "Billy became involved in AIM. in 1969." "Billy's early public pronouncements...." All of these statements give the reader the impression that he personally knows Billy Tayac when, in fact, he has never personally met Billy Tayac.

Page 11, paragraph 6 - Turkey Tayac and Dr. William H. Gilbert, renowned expert on Eastern Native Americans worked with Native Americans in North Carolina and Virginia. They saw the success with Indian schools and tried to establish them in Maryland. However, Daniel Proctor's family said that they weren't Indians and told Chief Turkey and Dr. Gilbert to leave.

Page 11, paragraph 7 - Chief Turkey spoke at many meetings and one does not tell a Chief to sit down!

Page 11, paragraph 8 - The tribe was already established, but the Piscataway Indians, Inc. was established on June 25, 1974. Not one Wesort was involved in the endeavor.

Billy Tayac's family moved to Port Tobacco in 1987 and not in 1971. The Tayacs lived in Oxon Hill, Maryland from 1961 to 1987.

Page 10, paragraph 6 - The Wesorts and the Alice Ferguson Foundation vehemently opposed and lobbied against the bill for the burial of Chief Turkey in Moyoane. Turkey had a well-made and finished coffin, not a wooden box without a lid. He was carried to the grave site in that coffin. Once at the grave site, Turkey was laid to sleep in a body bag. The body bag had been cut open for verification, to ensure that it was in fact Turkey, before he was laid to sleep in the ground.

Many Indians have a Christian name and a Native name. Chief Bill Eagle Feather from the Lakota Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota also has a Christian name of Bill Schweigman. This is a very common practice among Indian people. Chief Eagle Feather was a respected Lakota Chief and medicine man, as well as a personal family friend. He was a Lakota not a Dakota as Brown erroneously asserts.

Page 10, paragraph 6 - Page 11, paragraph 3 - The Wesorts were not involved in the process. Turkey had selected Billy many years previously and stated so in his will and in newspaper interviews prior to 1975.

Page 11, paragraph 4 - Our blood ties are Piscataway and not Wesort. Chief Turkey signed affidavits that the Wesorts were not Piscataway and not one prior to 1974 can produce any proof of Piscataway descent. Father John Brady's affidavit confirms this fact.

Page 11, paragraph 2 - Billy Tayac selected Lilly Proctor as a candidate to be a clan mother because of physical defects inside their family due to in-breeding. However, she never took her final vows and neither did Regina Gray another clan mother candidate. These were not Piscataway clan mothers. Rather, the clan system was introduced to discourage the in-breeding, because the in-breeding causes very short teeth that are imbedded within the gums. (See Dr. Witkop's report in which Lilly Proctor and her daughter Mervin Savoy were involved.)

Page 12, paragraphs 1; 4 - Hugh Proctor stated in a divorce affidavit in the 1950's that he was a Negro. So, how does he know anything about Indian traditions?

Factionalism and Feuding

Page 12, paragraphs 3; 5 - A Prince George's County court signed validation of a settlement between the parties over the assets stated that the Piscataway name stayed with the Tayac group and that Hugh Proctor's group could not use the name, history of the Piscataway Indians or the Tayac family. Presently, an $8.5 million law suit is pending on this matter. The loophole is that the State of Maryland, through a recognition process, would over rule the court's previously held decisions.

Page 13, paragraph 2 - PIN has stated that Moyoane (the land across the Potomac from Mount Vernon) belongs to the tribe and not to the corporation Piscataway Indians, Inc. Hugh Proctor and Mervin Savoy have no ties to Moyoane and have stated many times publicly that it means nothing to them.

Page 13, paragraph 4 - The League of Indigenous Sovereign Nations (LISN) is an organization comprised of Native nations within this hemisphere and many Native individuals. LISN has met with United Nations representatives, as well as, ambassadors from Canada, El Salvador, Nicaragua, and Columbia on Native human rights issues that have occurred inside these countries. LISN has become the flash point for these international and domestic concerns. There are over 40 million Natives within the western hemisphere that do not have a voice in mankind. However, there are U.N. member countries that have only 50,000 people that do have a voice and a vote within the U.N. There have been many hemispheric Native conferences on this same issue.

The Fight for Recognition

Page 13, paragraph 6 - The Piscataway Indian Nation's sovereign right is to determine its own membership and the state cannot force any individuals onto the Nation's roles. For example, South Dakota cannot determine who is a Lakota. Only the Lakota people can do that, otherwise it is an illegal act. Mr. Brown sees Indians as belonging to tribes, but Indians see themselves as belonging to nations.

Page 13, paragraph 6; page 14, paragraph 1 - Ms. Savoy's petition, a.k.a. the Wesort's petition is riddled with untruths that have been pointed out to Maryland officials. Previously, Mr. Brown stated that the Wesorts ran Chief Turkey off their land in 1937 when he wanted to establish Indian schools, since there weren't any in the State of Maryland. Ms. Savoy, in the Wesort's petition, claimed there were Indian schools in the 20th century in Southern Maryland which is a lie that they can't prove.

Page 14, paragraph 2 - There are 103 tribally enrolled Piscataways that can prove their identity and the Tayac family has never lived in Accokeek. Their "facts", as usual, are untrue. Thomas Eagle Bear is an Apache Indian that was adopted into my family, but is not an enrolled Piscataway.

Page 14, paragraph 6 - 7 - Neither Mervin Savoy nor her family can produce any documents, newspaper clippings or anything else that states they identified as Piscataway Indians or Indians prior to 1974. Savoy's supporting affidavits start in 1976. See Father Brady's affidavit. Mervin Savoy and her family were at the St. Joseph's meetings.

"These people didn't even have a feather" meant that they did not have anything that identified them through the centuries as an Indian. Their parents, grandparents, and family never claimed Indian identity. Even Mervin's grandmother stated to Billy Tayac that she and her family did not know who or what they were racially.

Page 14, paragraph 7; page 15, paragraph 1 - The Tayac genealogy records do not show that all three factions are related. However, Mervin Savoy uses our records for legitimacy. None of her family, not even the grand parents, knew Chief Turkey or his family. Seems strange in this tight community that they did not know Chief Turkey.

Page 15, paragraph 3 - Chief Turkey never received his chiefdomship from any Indian from Montana - lie. Chief Bill Eagle Feather was one of the most prominent spiritual people of the 20th Century. Turkey and Bill made a pact that whoever died first, the other would come and bury him. When Chief Eagle Feather died, the Tayac family journeyed to South Dakota to help bury him.

Today many Native people practice the sacred Sun Dance in Canada and the U.S. It is not a Plains Indian rite, but is meant for all Indians. It is practiced by Navajos in Arizona; Crees, Mohawks, Ojibwa, Anishinabe in Canada and the U.S. Many South and Central American Natives travel to the U.S. to participate. However, we also practice the Awakening of Mother Earth, Green Corn, Feast of the Dead and Mid-Winter ceremonies, and have name giving, marriages and burial rites. Yet, these individuals who have no Native culture or spirituality criticize us. They are envious and are spiritually and culturally barren.

Page 15, paragraph 1 - Turkey's written language on pieces of scrap papers were affirmed by Algonquin scholars and his identity was confirmed by Dr. Speck in the 1920's , Dr. William H. Gilbert in the 1930's - 1940's and Yves Goddard, the noted Smithsonian scholar.

We were seeking people of Indian descent and when it came to proving this identity, the Proctor and Savoy groups could not do this when we were applying for state and federal recognition in the 1970's.

People in the Piscataway-Conoy Indians Incorporated (PCI) were made up of many different native and non-native peoples. Board member Manny and Romie Encines were Yaqui Indians from Arizona; the Al Lynch family was from Haliwa North Carolina; Rudy Hawk, a Seneca from upstate New York, Buddy Hunt and the Earl Brooks family were Lumbees from North Carolina; Henry Niesie, a white University of Maryland professor are a few examples. Many Powhatan Indians from Virginia attended classes and functions. The PCI was one of several organizations generated by the American Indian Movement Project of Resurrection of Indians in the East.

Page 15, paragraphs 2 - 3 - Many non-Indians posed as Indians on the Commission with no verification required e.g. George Foster, Joseph Strickle, his daughter Bobbie Little Bear and Rose Powhatan all of whom we proved were non-Indians. Why should "wannabe Indians" have the right to verify Native people?

George Foster is cited many times in Mr. Brown's report, but he is not an Indian. Billy Tayac exposed him to the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, the Maryland Senate and the Maryland House of Delegates. Foster's primary objective for being on the Commission was to certify himself as an American Indian in order to get a $1.5 million preferential minority grant to stock the Chesapeake Bay with Rock fish that were greatly endangered. Mr. Foster claimed Salish and then Squamish from Washington State. However, Salish is a language group and the Squamish people never heard of him. He did not get the minority preferential grant because he was exposed as a white, greedy man. Where is George now? He faded from the scene, but Tom Brown likes to cite him.

Mr. Brown cites Ms. Kemper on page 15, paragraph 2. Ms. Kemper was the attorney for Mervin Savoy's group that wanted a separate division of the assets from the Piscataway Indians, Inc. which was denied by the Prince George's County courts.

Page 16, paragraph 2 - If a member of the Piscataway Indian Nation (PIN) marries outside of the tribe, the spouse never becomes a Piscataway Indian, but the children, through the blood lines are, regardless of the race of the non-Piscataway parent. We do not endorse the governmental guidelines that are mentioned in the referenced paragraph of Brown's paper.

Page 16, paragraphs 2 - 3 - Many people in all areas of the United States, Canada, and Mexico may share common names with other races within the broader community e.g. the white Washingtons and the black Washingtons around the Mount Vernon area of Virginia;. the white Calverts and the black Calverts of St. Mary's County and the white Browns and the black Brown families of New Jersey.

Page 16, paragraph 4 - We were black listed by the MCIA and did not attend meetings for 3 - 5 years because of the back lash from the exposed non-Indians of the Commission.

Page 16, paragraph 5; page 17 - Ms. Savoy primarily represents her family and people to whom she promised gambling benefits.

Page 18, paragraph 2 - The Piscataway Indian Nation (PIN) was never interested in governmental grants, but took some in the 1970's to assist the needs. However, since 1978, the PIN has neither taken nor applied for one cent of government grants. Savoy's PCCS and the Maryland Indian Heritage Society (MIHS) are the ones that seek grant money.

Page 18, paragraph 3 - Billy Tayac never told Judson Garrett from the State's Attorney office secretly or otherwise that PIN was seeking grant money. Our records prove that. Neither have we sought any federal benefits.

Page 18, paragraph 4 - The MCIA at the time of passage of the PCCS petition was heavily laden with phoney Indians - Rose Powhatan, Bobbie Little Bear and others friendly to Savoy. Even the Housing Secretary had serious questions on this matter, as did the Recognition Advisory Committee on the PCCS petition. Their genealogist wouldn't approve the PCCS petition and wrote a dissenting opinion.

Discussion: Cultural Stereotyping and the Legal Process

Page 18, paragraphs 7 - 8; page 19 paragraphs 1 - 3 - The land issue has been an issue for over 50 years - prior to any land claims of the 1970s for the PIN.

Page 19, paragraphs 4 - 7 - Savoys group has always been after grants and gambling.

Page 19, paragraphs 8 - 10; page 20 paragraphs 1 - 6 - Many hobbyists (non-Indians) hold pow-wows and pretend to be Indians. So, real Indians are not the only ones to hold powwows. However, PIN conducts sacred ceremonies including the Sun Dance which was brought east by Chief Frank Fools Crow (Lakota), the most holy Native man of the 2nd half of the 20th century, and he brought it to Tayac Territory.