CEI is committed to understanding and sharing the social and ecological history of the land in which we are rooted. Into the 1600s, the land that is now called the United States was home to a great diversity of flourishing indigenous cultures, estimated to be comprised of 100 million people. In Howard County, we are primarily on the traditional land of both the Algonquin and Iroquois. The Piscataway tribe of the Algonquin and the Susquehannock tribe of the Iroquois both have particularly long and rich history in this area. In 1634 the colonization of tribal lands was initiated by Maryland’s first colonial governor and conflict began to rise as colonists continued to encroach on tribal lands. In 1652, the Susquehannock tribe signed a peace treaty with Maryland, giving up their provenance over the territory that is now Howard County and effectively ending their presence in Maryland. In 1966, a treaty was established to create a Piscataway reservation. This was followed by subsequent treaties, all of which would be broken in the coming years, resulting in the local loss of native homelands. For hundred of years now Native communities across the Americas have demonstrated resilience and resistance in the face of violent efforts to separate them from their land, culture, and each other. They remain at the forefront of movements to protect the Earth and the life it sustains. Today, Piscataway people still reside in many Maryland counties. According to the most recent census data, there are approximately 40,000 Native Americans in Maryland and 1,300 living in Howard County.
This year, Howard County became one of more than 140 state and local governments across the country to make the switch to Indigenous Peoples Day from Columbus Day. As we all were taught in primary school, Christopher Columbus first landed in the Americas on October 12, 1492, a date that was honored with a federal holiday 83 years ago. In recent decades, Native Americans and other groups have justly protested the celebration of an event that resulted in the colonization of the Americas, the beginnings of the transatlantic slave trade and the deaths of millions from murder and disease. It is long past time be honest about the true history of this country and the Native peoples that have always called this land home. This acknowledgment is a necessary step toward honoring Native communities and enacting the much larger project of decolonization and reconciliation.
CEI is following the guidance of the 'Honor Native Lands Guide' created by the U.S. Department of Arts and Culture in partnership with Native allies and organizations. The guide explains that the practice of land acknowledgement is important because it: