The lands of Maryland and Washington, DC that Imagination Stage occupies have been cared for by First Nations People since as early as 9,500 BCE. First Nations People crossed the Allegheny Mountains and settled in the Potomac River valley due to the abundance of fish in the Potomac and Anacostia Rivers as well as wildlife in the surrounding woodlands. The land of present day Montgomery County and Washington, D.C. is most closely associated with the Nacotchtank Tribe who lived on the Maryland side of the Potomac River.
Deriving their characteristic name from an Algonquian term meaning “town of traders,” the Nacotchtank tribe used their proximity to the rivers to trade with other First Peoples near and far. Using their abundance of natural resources, the Nacotchtank traded (mainly in furs) with tribes as far away as the Iroquois of New York.
The Nacotchtank Tribe were part of a larger, loose confederation of tribes known as the Piscataway Chiefdom. The Nacotchtank people paid tribute to the Piscataway Chief or “Tayac,” and this association provided the Nacotchtank and surrounding tribes protection from the rival Powhatan Chiefdom in Eastern Virginia.
In 1608, English colonists set off from Jamestown to explore the regions along the Potomac River, bringing them in contact with the Nacotchtank People. While initial interactions were peaceful, tensions eventually increased, and due to increased land demand for cash crop farming, Europeans began to encroach on Nacotchtank tribal lands. This proximity introduced foreign diseases into tribal communities to which the Nacotchtank people had no immunity. Decreasing numbers forced the remaining tribal members to retreat to Anacostine Island (known today as Theodore Roosevelt Island). Eventually, tribal members sought the protection of the Piscataway Chiefdom. The remaining members of the Nacotchtank people were absorbed into the larger Piscataway Tribe.
Today, the Piscataway Tribe is active in the state of Maryland. There are two major groups that have formed to represent the Piscataway Tribe: the Piscataway Indian Nation and Tayac Territory, and the Piscataway Conoy Tribe (further subdivided into Piscataway Conoy Confederacy and Sub-Tribes and Cedarville Band of Piscataway Indians). On January 9, 2012, both the Piscataway Conoy Tribe and the Piscataway Tribe were recognized by the State of Maryland via executive order.
Imagination Stage acknowledges that the land on which our theatre home sits was, and is still, inhabited and cared for by the Piscataway Conoy and Piscataway tribes. We are grateful for their past and continued stewardship of this land. The Piscataway and Piscataway Conoy tribes, especially their children, have powerful voices that have often been silenced throughout history.
The influences of the Piscataway Chiefdom are felt today. The Anacostia River takes its name from the latinized name of the Nacotchtank people (mispronounced as “anacostine” by Jesuits from the Providence of Maryland). River Road and Wisconsin Avenue were created from trails woven into the land by First Nations People. Please connect with and learn more about the tribes and their current goals via their websites Piscataway Conoy Tribe and Cedarville Band Of Piscataway Indians.
What is a Land Acknowledgement?
A Land Acknowledgement is a formal statement that acknowledges and respects the stewardship of the First People who lived on this land many thousands of years before our organization. It brings to the forefront the continuing relationship between First Peoples and their traditional homelands. A relationship that continues despite the forced removal of First People from their ancestral homes.
Why acknowledge the Land?
A Land Acknowledgement decenters colonial history and brings to life a more complete story of a place. By highlighting the tribal history, we acknowledge the deep and perpetual relationship between the land and the First People who have cared for it since time immemorial.
A Land Acknowledgement is only a first step, and it marks an ongoing effort by Imagination Stage to make our events and our building a welcoming place to all. The Land Acknowledgement invites all to be mindful that colonialism is an ongoing process, one that requires concentrated action to work against.
What Can I Do?
If the Land Acknowledgement has inspired you, please visit the websites included above to learn more about the ongoing goals and initiatives of the tribes. Our Land Acknowledgement isn’t a complete source of information, and it is intended to spark respectful action in the Imagination Stage Community.
Hedgpeth, D. (2018, November 22). A Native American Tribe Once Called D.C. Home. It's Had No Living Members for Centuries. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/history/2018/11/22/native-american-tribe-once-called-dc-home-its-had-no-living-members-centuries/
Herman, D. (2018, July 3). American Indians of Washington, D.C. and the Chesapeake. American Association of Geographers. http://news.aag.org/2018/07/american-indians-of-washington-d-c-and-the-chesapeake/
Maryland Executive Branch. (2012, January 9). Maryland Code of Regulations 01.01.2012.01 [Executive Order]. CaseText. https://casetext.com/regulation/maryland-administrative-code/title-01-executive-department/subtitle-01-executive-orders/chapter-0101-executive-orders/section-0101201201-recognition-of-the-maryland-indian-status-of-the-piscataway-conoy-tribe
Maryland Executive Branch. (2012, January 9). Maryland Code of Regulations 01.01.2012.02 [Executive Order]. CaseText. https://casetext.com/regulation/maryland-administrative-code/title-01-executive-department/subtitle-01-executive-orders/chapter-0101-executive-orders/section-0101201202-recognition-of-the-maryland-indian-status-of-the-piscataway-indian-nation
Maryland State Archives. (2020, December 16). Maryland At A Glance. Maryland Manual On-Line. https://msa.maryland.gov/msa/mdmanual/01glance/native/html/01native.html#accohannock
Navarro, M. A. (2020, October 9). Early Indian Life on Analostan Island. Smithsonian National Postal Museum. https://postalmuseum.si.edu/indiansatthepostoffice/mural5.html
Nobleman, M. T. (2020, September 9). The Indigenous People of Montgomery County, Maryland. Noblemania. https://www.noblemania.com/2020/09/the-indigenous-people-of-montgomery.htmlWalston, M. (2016, April 11). History: The First Settlers in Montgomery County. Bethesda Magazine. https://bethesdamagazine.com/bethesda-magazine/march-april-2016/history-the-first-settlers-in-montgomery-county/