Chief Billy Red Wing Tayac of The Piscataway-Conoy Indians of Maryland said he longs to give up the white man's pursuit of "the god, money," and return to the simple life of his forebears.
With a little help from the Maryland General Assembly, Tayac told a House committee today, he and his family might be able to "return to the wilderness." All that has to happen is for the legislature to wipe out a $2,000 tax debt the Piscataways inherited when they were given a 285-acre tract in Harford County last year.
But in the meantime, in the absence of tribal land, Tayac, a practical man, has allowed himself to be assimilated. A native of the District and graduate of Eastern High School, Tayac, 40, owns and operates the Budget Furniture Store in Suitland.
"Hey, I've got to live in the world," explained Tayac, who said two of the four employees in his store are also Piscataways.
About 40 Piscataways, many wearing red head-bands, bead bracelets and braided hair, attended the hearing before the House Environmental Matters Committee.
Del. Charles E. Blumental (D-Prince George's), who sponsored the bill, told the committee the tribe is exempt from all future real estate taxes, but unless the legislature approves his bill, it is responsible for the $2,000 owed on the land by previous owner Joseph M. Kaspar.
Blumenthal said Kaspar "couldn't bear the tax burden" on the land so he "gave it back to the Indians" June 22 and moved to Miami.
Del. Judith Toth (D-Montgomery) wondered if the tribe would be subject to local zoning laws on the land. "We're part of the system." Tayac responded.
The tribe plans to use the Harford County site as a religious retreat and arts and crafts center. Tayac said Indian religious leaders Franks Fools Crow of the Oglala Sioux and Philip Pear of the Creeks have promised t come to the center to instruct the Piscataways in Traditional Indian religions.
About 1,200 Piscataways live in Maryland, mostly in Prince George's, Montgomery, Charles and St. Mary's countries.
Blumenthal noted the Piscataways once owned most of what now is Prince George's. Committee Chairman John S. Arnick (D-Baltimore County) wondered if the Piscataways would like to take it back.
"Not with their wisdom," said Blumenthal.
In other action, the Senate gave final approval to a bill authorizing the telephone company to charge residential customers who make more than 12 directory assistance calls in a month.
The bill is an amended version of a measure that would have prohibited the telephone company from imposing additional charges for 411 calls. The amendment was offered by the senator who sponsored the original bill, Sen. Arthur Dorman (D-Prince George's).
Person with physical or visual handicaps are exempt from provisions of the bill, which passed 44 to 0, with no debate. It now goes to the House for action.