Piscataway tribe awaits Hogan’s signature on bill renaming Indian Head Highway

A major D.C. region highway will likely get a name change, and the Native American tribe it will be named after is eagerly awaiting a single signature on a new bill passed by the Maryland General Assembly.

The bill needs Gov. Larry Hogan’s signature to change Md. 210/Indian Head Highway to Piscataway Highway.

“I believe he will,” Piscataway Conoy Chief Jesse Swann said. “Right now, it’s his signature and then it’s a done deal. We are elated that this is happening, and it’ll be changing history.”

Swann said his tribe was one of the first to meet colonists that came to Maryland and even saw the Ark and Dove sail up the Potomac.

“We feel that it should be called something other than Indian Head, and we were pushing for Piscataway Highway, which would represent both of the state-recognized tribes, the Piscataway Conoy tribe and Piscataway Indian Nation,” said Swann.

Swann told WTOP they have been waiting for the name change for years.

“It does bother us culturally,” Swann said. “We don’t want to see ‘Indian Head’ on the signs displaying the area.”

Though it’s disputed where the name Indian Head is derived from, Chief Swann said it has a violent past.

“Before the actual highway was there, it was a part of their war strategy with the native to remove the heads of Indians as a tactic to scare away the enemies,” Swann told WTOP.

The town of Indian Head, which sits at the end of the highway, said the origin for their name is not specifically known, but that it most likely stems from the term Indian Headlands, which references the beginning of a peninsula that was inhabited by Native Americans.

Hogan has until May to sign it. If signed, the road would be renamed on Oct. 1.

“We can’t wait until this is passed. We have a large celebration planned for Oct. 1 with thousands of tribal members, family, friends and stakeholders. We plan to bring millions of dollars of investments to this area for cultural tourism, and this is the start of it,” Swann added.

Luke Lukert

Since joining WTOP Luke Lukert has held just about every job in the newsroom from producer to web writer and now he works as a full-time reporter. He is an avid fan of UGA football. Go Dawgs!

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