Pis­cat­away Na­tion teaches tribal dances

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By TIF­FANY WAT­SON twat­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @Tif­fIndyNews

The Pis­cat­away In­dian Na­tion are a ma­jor part of Charles County’s his­tory and now they are shar­ing their dance pro­gram with lo­cal chil­dren all over the Wash­ing­ton, D.C., metropoli­tan re­gion.

On June 29, the Pis­cat­away In­dian Mu­seum & Cul­tural Cen­ter, specif­i­cally the Cedarville Band of Pis­cat­away Conoy In­di­ans, hosted a Ken­tkatám pro­gram through its “Liv­ing the Amer­i­can In­dian Ex­pe­ri­ence” mo­bile pro­gram for chil­dren ages 6-11. The in­ter­ac­tive mu­si­cal dance pro­gram in­cluded an hour of song, dance and ed­u­ca­tion about the Pis­cat­away cul­ture deeply rooted in the county.

“We taught the chil­dren how to re­late to our cul­ture through dance and that the Pis­cat­away are here, we’re fun and lively,” said Crys­tal Proc­tor, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the “Liv­ing the Amer­i­can In­dian Ex­pe­ri­ence.” “Be­ing mo­bile and com­ing out to the com­mu­nity is not some­thing that we have done since we have been here. For us it’s been sad that we haven’t been able to reach out to our com­mu­ni­ties and give them some­thing that is free. Danc­ing should be in­ter­ac­tive and cul­ture is a way of life that should be free for ev­ery­one.”

Dur­ing the Ken­tkatám, mean­ing “let’s dance,” chil­dren were led in songs and dances such as the robin dance, snake dance, friend­ship dance and a freestyle dance por­tion by Natalie “Stand­ing on the rock” Proc­tor, tribal chair­woman of the Cedarville Band of Pis­cat­away Conoy, and Crys­tal Proc­tor, both from the Pis­cat­away In­dian Mu­seum & Cul­tural Cen­ter in Wal­dorf.

The Pis­cat­away’s mo­bile pro­gram also di­min­ished many of the tribe’s stereo­types with facts about its cul­ture. They said all peo­ple are hands-on learn­ers and re­tain­ers, so it is im­por­tant to make the in­for­ma­tion come to life in or­der to bet­ter help oth­ers learn about the Pis­cat­away.

“It’s im­por­tant for us to have that first im­pres­sion with chil­dren so that they don’t grow up think­ing that we look a cer­tain way or we sing a cer­tain way,” Natalie said. “Peo­ple tend to clump us to­gether. We are not In­di­ans, we are Pis­cat­away. Not all of us do the rain dance, be­cause each group does their own so­cial dances.”

The Proc­tors, or “Wild Turkey Fam­ily,” shared valu­able in­for­ma­tion about the Pis­cat­away Conoy In­di­ans, such as the Pis­cat­away hav­ing been around for more than 24,000 years. The Pis­cat­away In­dian Mu­seum & Cul­tural Cen­ter has been open since 1995 in or­der to raise aware­ness about the Pis­cat­away In­dian Na­tion.

“We are here to show the chil­dren some of our tra­di­tional so­cial dances that were done al­most 24,000 years ago,” Crys­tal said. “They may have evolved a lit­tle bit but we shared the mod­ern parts of those dances. Th­ese are so­cial dances, not cer­e­mo­nial dances that are sa­cred and done amongst our own fam­i­lies, but Pis­cat­away so­cial dances that ev­ery­one can par­tic­i­pate in and get some ex­er­cise while be­ing out­doors.”

“The Pis­cat­away are part of our lo­cal cul­ture and we are bring­ing that to our fu­ture gen­er­a­tions liv­ing right here in Charles County,” said Mar­i­ana Sprouse, P.D. Brown Me­mo­rial Li­brary branch man­ager. “How cool is it that now th­ese chil­dren are able to learn about a dif­fer­ent cul­ture and given the op­por­tu­nity to ex­press their own iden­tity and bring their own cul­ture into the mix. They are mak­ing the­ses con­nec­tions with the com­mu­nity and see sim­i­lar­i­ties in their own cul­tures as well. You’re break­ing those bar­ri­ers by mak­ing chil­dren un­der­stand dif­fer­ent cul­tures they can learn and take from other ar­eas of life.”

Crys­tal spoke to the chil­dren about the ori­gin of the Pis­cat­away dances such as “the robin dance,” a dance that was typ­i­cally done dur­ing the spring­time, when the birds are chirp­ing, flow­ers are in bloom and mother earth comes back to life, and the Pis­cat­away be­gin plant­ing seeds to have food for the year. The Pis­cat­away chose to cel­e­brate those changes through the robin dance.

“The Pis­cat­away had a very re­laxed ap­proach along with a very wel­com­ing at­ti­tude about this pro­gram, which ev­ery­one seemed to adopt dur­ing the event,” said Bar­bara Thorp, P.D. Brown Me­mo­rial Li­brary chil­dren su­per­vi­sor. “All of the chil­dren were danc­ing, es­pe­cially dur­ing the friend­ship dance and it got re­ally silly and fun be­cause the moves were more com­plex and we weren’t do­ing it right. But I en­joyed watch­ing the chil­dren, as well as the moms, bust a move. It was very com­fort­able and they were open to try it.”

The Pis­cat­away are an in­dige­nous peo­ple who hope that teach­ing their dances to lo­cal chil­dren in Charles County will also en­cour­age them to learn more about their own cul­ture. They said their goal is to al­ways demon­strate har­mony, love and not dis­dain dur­ing their “Liv­ing the Amer­i­can In­dian Ex­pe­ri­ence” mo­bile pro­gram.

The Cedarville Band of Pis­cat­away In­di­ans will be com­ing back to the Charles County Pub­lic Li­brary in July with ex­am­ples of Pis­cat­away archery and craft mak­ing for all of the lo­cal chil­dren.


On June 29, lo­cal chil­dren and their par­ents were taught the snake dance by Natalie “Standin­gonthe­rock” Proc­tor, tribal chair­woman of the Cedarville Band of Pis­cat­away Conoy, while at the P.D. Brown Me­mo­rial Li­brary in Wal­dorf.

Crys­tal Proc­tor, left, ex­ec­u­tive pro­ducer of the “Liv­ing the Amer­i­can In­dian Ex­pe­ri­ence” mo­bile pro­gram, led Wed­nes­day’s Ken­tkatám pro­gram in Wal­dorf.

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