Turkey Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Indian tribe, believed the white man who promised to grant him his dying wish, burial among is ancestors on the banks of the Potomac River in Piscataway Park.
So when the 83-year-old chief died last December of pneumonia after swimming in his beloved Potomac, his son asked the National Part Service, which operates the 3,885-acre park in Prince George's County, for permission to bury his father where his forefathers had been buried 300 years earlier.
Before dying the old chief had apparently received oral permission from an Interior Department official.
The Park Service said it would like to oblige, but it would take an Act of Congress to override a Department of Interior regulation that bans burials in national parks.
The son, William Augustus (Billy Redwing) Tayac, went to the elders of the white man's tribe, and this week one of them, Sen. Charles Mac Mathias (R-Md.) succeeded in persuading his colleagues to "rectify an injustice and a tragedy." By voice vote Monday, the Senate approved the chief's burial at Piscataway.
The action was attached to a House-passed bill, which established a memorial along the Appalachian Trail to the late Rep. Goodloe E. Byron (D-Md.) Byron, an avid hiker and outdoorsman, died last Oct. 11 while jogging on the towpath of the C&O Canal near his home in Frederick.
Byron, whose wife Beverly succeeded him as the 6th District representative from Maryland, is one of only three persons buried on national park land, which is in a Civil War cemetery at Antietam National Battlefield.
Sen. Paul S. Sarbanes (D-Md.) who sponsored a Senate version of the amendment in behalf of Chief Tayac, said the legislation "recognizes two outstanding Maryland citizens who, each in his own way, contributed so much to the preservation of our national parks."
The legislation must be agreed to by House conferees before going to the president for his signature but Rep. Gladys N. Spellman (D-Md.), who had introduced still another bill in behalf of the chief, said yesterday she expects the House conferees will approve the Senate version.
Sen. Dale Bumpers (D-Ark.), chairman of the Senate subcommittee on parks, recreation and renewable resources, said in a floor speech, "During much of his life, Turkey Tayac lived in Piscataway Park, and his intimate knowledge of its environs proved most useful to the development of the park as a historical resource where over 200,000 cultural artifacts have been located."
In the 1930s, Chief Tayac helped archeologists excavate skeletons of more than 1,000 Indians at the site where he asked to be buried.
Since his death last Dec. 8, the chief's body has been in an above-ground vault at a cemetery near the park.
A Park Service spokeswoman said yesterday that once the legislation is signed, the chief will be buried in a preselected location in the old Piscataway burial ground, which is at the mouth of Accokeek Creek, site of an Indian village visited by Capt. John Smith during his exploratory trip up the Potomac in 1968.
The park was authorized by Congress in 1961.