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For their tireless work to preserve their culture and gain recognition, members of the Piscataway Indian Nation and Piscataway-Conoy tribe Saturday will accept an award honoring their homelands.

The Piscataway homelands are receiving recognition in the place category during the Maryland State Arts Council’s Achievement in Living Tradition and Art Awards in Silver Spring.

The ALTA awards honor “a place ... that [embodies] outstanding stewardship of living traditions and help to preserve Maryland’s cultural heritage,” a news release announcing the award states. Awards also are given for traditions, along with a prize for either an individual or a group working toward this end.

Gov. Martin O’Malley’s (D) January 2012 recognition of the two groups played a role in them receiving the award, according to the release.

Natalie Proctor, a member of the Cedarville Band of Piscataway, said they have a 32-year history of hosting the only powwow in Southern Maryland, which is just one way they use land to honor their roots. With the land, Proctor said, they also see “a tremendous amount of children every year and educate them on Maryland’s indigenous history.”

“We have been here for more than 10,000 years,” Proctor said. “These government-imposed laws took away our identity. What I’m trying to do is regain that, and it’s hard for people here to wrap their heads around. There has to be an education ... and that’s a process.”

The award is a triumph for all involved, she said.

“Recognition is monumental. It brings more validity. It brings validity, and it brings history to life,” Proctor said. “It’s been 300 years of trouble and, of course, very few people can relate to something that far back. This organization has been moving right along ... and I believe if not for that push, what we’ve done all these years has brought us where we are today. It shows the determination of the people to get there. I think a lot would have just given up.”

Mervin Savoy, tribal chair of the Piscataway-Conoy tribe, was equally pleased with the recognition.

“It’s a recognition of our connection to the land. It’s a recognition of our homelands,” Savoy said. “It’s an honor to get an award in recognition of our homelands ... and how important it is to us as a people.”

lrenner@somdnews.com