- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2001

Sports teams with names that American Indians consider disparaging have caused a political firestorm in Maryland that continues to burn, yet overlooked are the many places with Indian names that are a part of Maryland's and the nation's past.
Half of U.S. states are names of Indian origin. Arkansas is Sioux for "downstream people." Massachussets is Algonquin for "great mountains."
Maryland and Virginia state maps each show more than 30 place names easily recognizable as Indian in origin. Rivers and other bodies of water commonly have Indian names — Anacostia, Chincoteague, Potomac and Chesapeake. Still more names appear on detailed local maps.
The federal Geographic Name Index Service shows "Redman" to be part of three Maryland place names, but, so far, its use seems not to have raised a ruckus among members of the state's Commission on Indian Affairs.
The commission got called on the carpet by fellow state officials recently for exceeding its authority — the commission had called for a boycott of businesses that sponsor Little League teams in Germantown that bore such names such as Braves and Warriors.
"We're very fortunate we don't have to deal with some of the derogatory names seen out West," said Julia Pierce, a lawyer and a member of the commission.
American Indian activists have particularly targeted the word "squaw," which they say means prostitute. That is a battle Maryland, Virginia and the District have escaped.
Other states have not.
Last year, Maine Gov. Angus King, an independent, reviewed the word's origin and agreed to join Minnesota and Montana in erasing "squaw" from the public domain. In Mr. King's case, that will mean coming up with a new name for Squaw Mountain, the site of a popular ski resort.
"Squaw" does not appear as the name of any place or geographic point in Maryland, Virginia or the District, according to the federal name Index.
Yet division does exist over one of the 68 places in Maryland where the word "Indian" is part of the name — that would be the town of Indian Head, located on a wide point of land jutting out between the Potomac River and Mattawoman Creek in Charles County.
White and Indian explanations of the origin of Indian Head differ significantly.
A local history on file at the Indian Head town hall states the peninsula's shape — it looks like the head of an Indian — seems to explain the matter, said Diane Campbell, the town's deputy finance officer.
Maybe. But its roots may be more gruesome, if there's truth in white and Indian folklore.
The prevailing explanation among white folklore is preserved in a poem written by the town's late unofficial historian, Dorothy Beecher Artes, called "The Legend of Indian Head," which claims the place is named for the first sight white settlers saw when they came near shore the head of an Indian brave mounted on a spear.
White legend says an Indian chief decapitated the young man and placed his head at the shore as a warning to other suitors who might be thinking of rowing across the river to steal his daughter.
Indian oral tradition tells a different story. Billy "Red Wing" Tayac, who traces his roots to the Piscataway tribes that dominated central Maryland, says the "real history" behind the name is that white settlers there chopped off the heads of two once-friendly Indians when the natives' attitudes toward them changed.
"That's the way I've always heard it," Mr. Tayac said.
Most Indian place names in the region are resonant reminders of languages and cultures that flourished before explorers and Colonists came from across the Atlantic.
With the exception of the more aggressive Susquehannocks to the north who were part of the Iroquois, the tribes of Maryland and Virginia were mostly peace-loving members of the Algonquian family and are related to such tribes as the Blackfeet, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Shawnee in the west and southwest, and to the Delaware, Cree and Ottawa tribes to the north.
Tens of thousands of Indians were estimated to be living in small bark or rush houses surrounded by stockades in the Chesapeake region when Captain John Smith sailed up the bay in 1608.
Piscataway and Conoy tribes lived along the Potomac River and on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay alongside the Patuxents.
The upper Eastern Shore was home to the Nanticoke, Ozinies and Choptank.
The lower Eastern Shore was the province of Pocomokes and of the Accohannocks, part of the Accomac confederation of the Powhatan nation along Virginia's western shore.
European diseases to which native Americans had no immunity killed many Indians.
By 1744 the Colonial General Assembly in Maryland owned all Indian lands, by treaty or sale, according to the Maryland State Archives. Most of the region's native Indians migrated north and west, but some remained, often intermarrying with white and black residents.
Accohannocks, who keep a tribal office near Crisfield, Md., say they managed to stay in place because European settlers took away more land on the western shore after Chief Powhatan died.


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