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Kittimaquund, Tapac of the Piscataways
Early 1600's




St. Mary's map


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It is uncertain exactly where the original Piscataway settlement was. There is a town today with the name Piscataway whose location on the map above would be about 5 miles south of Fort Foote. The river adjacent to this town would then be the Piscataway River. St. Mary's, toward the end of the peninsula where the Route 4 symbol is, was built on the site of Yaocomoco, where one of the first Jesuit missions was established.




Kittamaquund





At the time English explorers first reached Maryland, the Piscataways were the primary Native Americans that they encountered. In 1608, when Captain John Smith of Virginia sailed up the Potomac, he touched on several Piscataway villages, including Nacochtank, where "the people did their best to content us." In 1622 the same town was destroyed by a band of plunderers from Virginia but afterward rebuilt. There is additional information about Piscataway Villages at the Prince Georges County history site, which states, "They lived in small villages and camps along the rivers and streams, where they hunted, fished, and raised a variety of crops. The Indians of Southern Maryland -- where the first colonists settled -- were united in a loose confederation known to the English as the Piscataway Confederacy. Their chief-whom the colonists grandly styled an emperor-lived in a village along Piscataway Creek, now part of Prince George's County. Another important village was on the Anacostia River, near the present site of Saint Elizabeth's Hospital."

Kittamaquund ("Big Beaver") was a tapac or great chief of the Piscataways at the time the first English settlers arrived in Maryland. When Lord Baltimore's settlers arrived on the Ark and the Dove on March 25, 1634, they landed on St. Clement's Island and established friendly relations with the Piscataways at Yaocomoco. The Piscataways being under threat from the powerful Susquehannas at the north end of the Chesapeake Bay, and about to leave Yaocomoco, the settlers negotiated with them for the location and renamed it St. Mary's.

Among the first Engish arrivals were two Jesuit priests and two lay brothers, who set at work at once to study the Piscataway language and customs and to teach them Christianity. By 1639 Father Andrew White, superior of the mission, had established a mission at the tribal capital, Piscataway, also known as Kittamaquindi, from the name of Kittamaquund, its tapac. On July 5, 1640, Father White in a public ceremony baptized and gave Christian names to the great chief, his wife, and daughter, afterward uniting the chief and his wife in Christian marriage. The governor and several of the colonial officers attended this ceremony. (1)

In addition to the religious motivations which were part of the decision to seek baptism, it is possible that the Piscataways were looking for an alliance with the English to protect them from the Susquehannas. Conversion to Christianity would have been seen as part of that alliance. In addition, Kittamaquund sent his daughter, newly named Mary, to live in Governor Calvert's household and learn English ways. If Mary was entering adolescence in 1640, then her date of birth might have been in the period 1625-1630.

What happened to the Piscataways?

The fortunes of the Piscataways began to decline in 1644 when Puritan Claiborne with the help of Puritan refugees from Virginia who had been accorded a safe shelter in Catholic Maryland, seized the government, deposed the governor, and sent the Jesuit missionaries as prisoners to England. Returning in 1648, the missionary work was interrupted by England's civil war until in 1652 England's new Puritan government under dictator Oliver Cromwell outlawed Catholicism in Maryland. The Piscataways were "driven from their best lands by legal and illegal means, demoralized by liquor dealers, hunted by slave-catchers, wasted by smallpox, constantly raided by the powerful Susquehanna while forbidden the possession of guns for their own defense, their plantations destroyed by the cattle and hogs of the settlers and their pride broken by oppressive restrictions. After the Susquehanna were conquered by the Iriquois, they faced an even more powerful enemy, who massacred an entire town in 1680. In 1697 most Piscataways, numbering under 400, fled into the backwoods of Virginia, where, under the protection of other tribes, they migrated west and then north. In 1765 they were living with other remnant tribes near Chenango, now Binghamton, New York. Drifting west with the Delawares, they made their last appearance in history at a council at Detroit in 1793. A small remnant remained in Maryland.(1)

In 1968, the new town of Columbia, Maryland was formed in Howard County. The first of its man-made lakes was named Lake Kittimaqundi. Sometimes the travel brochures now refer to it as a reference to an Indian settlement in the Howard County area, which is not true. It has also been termed an Indian word for "meeting place." Only occasionally, does one see a reference to the Piscataway tapac who was among the very first converts to Christianity in the English-speaking new world.

In New Jersey, there is a town called Piscataway, where new houses are being built in the $200,000 - $250,000 range, and whose High School team is called the "Chieftains." Its School Board is engaged in Supreme Court litigation over an affirmative action hiring case.

In Waldorf, Southern Maryland, there is a Piscataway Indian Museum dedicated to preserving the culture of the Piscataways and educating the public about them. For information about modern Piscataway people, one site suggests contacting Peter Lowe of the Maryland Indian Commission at (410) 740-1416.




NOTES:



1. "Piscataway Indians" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, © 1913 by The Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version © 1998 by New Advent, Inc.

2. Professor James Henretta, "Margaret Brent: A Woman of Property", in James A. Henretta, Elliot Brownlee, David Brody, Susan Ware, and Marilynn Johnson, America's History, Third Edition, Worth Publishers, Inc., 1997. © Worth Publishers, Inc.

3. Francis Michael Walsh, "Resurrection: The Story of the St. Inigoes Mission 1634-1934", 1997.

4. Professor James Henretta, "Margaret Brent: A Woman of Property", in James A. Henretta, Elliot Brownlee, David Brody, Susan Ware, and Marilynn Johnson, America's History, Third Edition, Worth Publishers, Inc., 1997. © Worth Publishers, Inc.

5. Francis Michael Walsh, "Resurrection: The Story of the St. Inigoes Mission 1634-1934", 1997.

6. Professor James Henretta, "Margaret Brent: A Woman of Property", in James A. Henretta, Elliot Brownlee, David Brody, Susan Ware, and Marilynn Johnson, America's History, Third Edition, Worth Publishers, Inc., 1997. © Worth Publishers, Inc.

7. Research of Mollie King, who has a web site for The King Family in Maryland. Note that there is a possible break in the line to Kittimaquund if Katherine Brent is not a child of Giles Brent and Mary Kittamaquund

8. Research of Mollie King, who has a web site for The King Family in Maryland.

9. "Piscataway Indians" in The Catholic Encyclopedia, © 1913 by The Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version © 1998 by New Advent, Inc.






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Updated January 30, 2005