There are times when people of a noble spirit cross our path. It is our responsibility to recognize and honor those who walk the path of respect of the circle of life. Such was the time when I had the unique opportunity to meet Mark Wild Turkey Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation and his son Naiche.
Their harmonious way of living between the ancient times of Mother Earth and modern society, these noble men travel the earth to honor and share their culture with others. The Piscataway Indian Nation, is a state recognized tribe in Maryland based in the southern counties of Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s. Inhabiting the waterways of Maryland for thousands of years, the era of colonization caused near full genocide of the Indian nation.
The Tayac tribe were the first to welcome Captain John Smith to their territory in 1608, and in the ensuing years the Indians had to disperse to more remote lands for survival. In spite of the odds, a number of Piscataway Indians managed to stay on their land and survived centuries of brutality, discrimination and even hatred from the colonists.
Then the time for renewal came to be in the beginning of the 1900’s. Chief Turkey Tayac (1895-1978) began the long journey in revitalizing and establishing the Piscataway tribe to stand on its own. This journey took nearly a century as it was only in 2012 when the State of Maryland recognized the three Piscataway groups in the area. The Federal Government still fails to recognize them officially, holding them to the Blood Quantam Laws.
With hard work and imagination, Mark Wild Turkey Tayac created The Tayac Territory Singers and Dancers. A Native American cultural and educational music and dance group that have performed in venues that include the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.
Maintaining the music, beat of the drum, traditions, stories and dance, Mark Tayac carries the tradition of his past and shares it with future generations. A renowned feather worker, Mark painstakingly makes headdresses and other traditional costume decorations by finding what feathers Mother Nature makes available to him. This headdress is filled with feathers from Red Tail Hawks, and other raptors.
A federal offense for anyone who is not a Native American, Mark Tayac wears his headdress with pride. The yellow headdress is for the tribal chief.
Mark Wild Turkey Tayac and Naiche begin the presentation with a native song and drum beat. He then begins to share one of the dances of Stick Ball. (Don’t worry, the brief film will be upright when viewing.)
Creating a circle of onlookers with Bella included, Naiche dances in the center, only to suddenly stop by almost hitting one in the head with a feather.
The following dance was the Eagle Dance. With a distant but yet astute and alert eye, Naiche looks for his prey.
The final dance included all the children and with the sharing of cultures from the Chinese Lunar New Year to the Tayacs of the Piscataway Indians, it is the year of the Snake.
I was humbled and honored to be in the presence of these noble men. Men who embrace their heritage and culture and live their lives in harmony and joy. In the words of Mark Wild Turkey Tayac: We are all the same. We laugh the same way, dance the same way and hearts beat the same way.