When a name change is something else
Off with their heads? Indian Head Highway fans, rejoice...
WASHINGTON — A name change surrounding an ignorant D.C. Indigenous landmark? What could go wrong?
Road ruckus: This time, it’s not about a multi-billion dollar, dictionary-defined racist NFL team franchise, but a well-traveled route in Maryland in the D.C. metro region long known as Indian Head Highway, or Route 210.
Tribal citizens in the area have been pushing for years for a change to Piscataway Highway, with reasoning similar to the rationale for changing Indian-themed federal monuments and landmarks currently in process by U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Deb Haaland.
Local officials have said Indian Head is meant to honor Natives, but tribal citizens of the region say that competing tribes historically chopped the heads off their peoples and placed them along the route — not an honor, in other words.
Piscataway is one of the tribes that have long been associated with and lived in the region where the road is located. Haaland, when making announcements while based in D.C., usually acknowledges that the lands she is speaking on are those of Piscataway and Anacostan peoples. She strongly believes that tribal land acknowledgments are important.
State momentum: Maryland state lawmakers — largely Democrats — took up the effort this session, and Republican Gov. Larry Hogan recently signed the state legislation into law, officially designating the road as Piscataway Highway.
Tribal citizens were celebrating, as were state lawmakers who thought they’d done a good thing.
The other shoe drops: However, as tribal officials have recently learned, there will be no official name change as a result of this law, at least.
The Maryland Transportation Department says that a designation is not the same as a name change, so signs are going to stay the same, as will GPS designations.
Democratic lawmakers — who expected a real name change — are now saying they want to know how the language of the bill was passed and signed into law without anyone ever telling them that a designation was not what they were aiming to acheive.
Piscataway tribal leaders are vowing to keep the pressure on, traveling down this winding road a bit longer.
“We were under the impression it was going to be renamed, so it was kind of a surprise to hear that they just want to designate Route 210 as Piscataway Highway,” Chief Jesse Swann of the Piscataway Conoy tribe told local NBC4.
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