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Maryland tribes criticize lack of official status 8-07

ST. LEONARD, Md. (AP) - Maryland's Indian tribes were critical of
state officials during a ceremony to welcome the crew of a boat
retracing Capt. John Smith's 1608 voyage on the Chesapeake Bay.

Tribal leaders said they were upset about not being officially
recognized by the state even though they were “exploited” for
state-endorsed events.

“As you can see, we're not very invisible when you need us to be an
attraction for an event through the state,” said Mervin Savoy,
tribal chairwoman for the Piscataway Conoy.

Savoy spoke to a crowd of about 100 people Sunday in Calvert County
for an event that featured American Indian demonstration booths,
music and dancing. At a welcoming ceremony later, various tribes
presented the crew with gifts of tobacco.

Several other Indian leaders echoed Savoy's sentiments as politicians
including state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr.,
D-Calvert, looked on from the stage they shared with tribal
representatives.

“I ask you, Maryland, why do you ask us to speak when you have
already determined that your ears will hear, but they will not
listen?” said Piscataway tribal chairwoman Natalie Proctor, also
known as Standing on the Rock, fighting back tears.

Miller later told The Washington Post he has not taken a definitive
stance on whether Maryland's tribes should receive government
recognition but that he believes that the state has had a good
relationship with them.

He noted that Maryland was one of the first states to create and fund
a commission on Indian affairs.

“We've come a long way,” he said. “We love them. We respect them.”

The John Smith Four Hundred Project is attempting to attract interest
in the captain's historic voyage by retracing his route in a replica
28-foot boat, called a shallop. The crew left Jamestown, Va., in May
and will stop at more than 20 spots in Virginia, Maryland, Delaware
and Washington before returning to Jamestown on Sept. 8.

Although the Indians took center stage Sunday, the sailors have been
treated like “rock stars and celebrities” on many of their 23
planned stops, said crew member John Mann.

Mann said the crew didn't mind being a bit of “a sideshow” to the
Indians. “It's well past time that they get their recognition,” he
said.

On the Net:
Capt. John Smith Four Hundred Project: http://www.johnsmith400.org
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