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Date: Tue, 13 Apr 1999 13:24:16 -0400

From: Ish <ishgooda@tdi.net>

Subject: NATIVE_NEWS: MARYLAND: State Recognition, Panel to Meet Secretly

And now:Ish <ishgooda@tdi.net> writes:

info posted by Wendy via the FN list...thanks, Ish

Maryland Section of the Baltimore Sun

Originally published on Apr 13 1999

Indian panel to meet in secret despite protest

Commission to discuss tribe's request for state recognition; "I have no

underlying motives here, no hidden agenda." Leland A. McGee,chairman of

Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs

- ------------------------------------------------------------------------

By Greg Garland

Sun Staff

The Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs plans to meet behind closed doors

tonight to discuss an Indian tribe's request for state recognition and the

panel's recommendation to grant it.

The commission intends to meet in private, despite protests from The Sun

and against the wishes of two tribal groups and others who have an interest

in the recognition issue.

Commission Chairman Leland A. McGee said the group has to meet in private

because members will be discussing questions posed in a March 28, 1998,

letter that former Maryland Housing Secretary Patricia J. Payne wrote to

the commission. The state housing department oversees the commission and

Indian recognition issues.

The letter raised questions about how the commission arrived at its

decision to recommend that the state recognize the Piscataway-Conoy

Confederacy and Subtribes, known as PCCS. McGee said the commission's

attorney advised that the letter was confidential and could not be publicly

discussed.

"I have no underlying motives here, no hidden agenda," McGee said. "I'm

just doing what our counsel from the assistant attorney general's office

has advised us to do."

Mary R. Craig, an attorney for The Sun, sent a letter to Gov. Parris N.

Glendening yesterday asking him to intervene in the dispute over the

closed-door meeting because he appoints members of the commission and the

housing secretary.

"The issue of whether a group is entitled to certification as a Maryland

tribe is newsworthy to The Sun and its readers," Craig wrote. "The Sun

firmly believes that, except in rare instances, government institutions

should operate in public."

The refusal to release Payne's letter and the decision to hold closed-door

meetings have "stifled public debate on this issue," Craig wrote. She urged

the governor "to direct the housing secretary to release [Payne's letter]

to the public and to recommend that the MCIA deliberate in public unless

required to do otherwise by law."

A spokesman for Glendening said the governor was busy with legislative

matters yesterday and would not have time to consider the issue or comment

on it.

Others said the meeting should be open and that Payne's letter should be

made public.

Mervin Savoy, the PCCS tribal chairwoman, said she sees no reason for the

commission to meet privately to discuss the tribe's petition and does not

understand why state officials won't release Payne's letter.

Billy Red Wing Tayac, chief of the Piscataway Indian Nation, a rival group

that has fought the PCCS's efforts to gain recognition, also said the Payne

letter should be public and that the meeting tonight should be open.

"These people are so secretive it's funny," said Tayac, whose group also is

seeking state recognition. "They use words like `in-house memos' and say it

can't be released. They have secret meetings and nobody knows what's going

on. It's like you're dealing with the CIA. I've never seen nothing like it

in my life."

State officials refused to release the Payne letter in their response to a

request filed by The Sun last week under the public records act. They

previously had refused to release it to a PCCS attorney.

Marge Wolf, deputy secretary of the housing department, wrote that the

letter "is protected from disclosure as pre-decisional and deliberative,"

one of the exceptions to the state's public records law.

"I want to know what's in the letter," Savoy said. "If you are asking for

information about us, we would like to know what you're asking. We've said

that from Day 1, that it shouldn't be a secret letter."

Tayac disputes the Savoy group's claims of Piscataway ancestry and said the

group's real aim is to use state recognition as a steppingstone toward

federal recognition, which is necessary to pursue casino gambling ventures

in Maryland.

Savoy said her group has carefully documented its Piscataway ancestry and

wants state recognition as a matter of pride. She said her group has no

interest in casino gambling. Tribal officials have acknowledged that

developers with an interest in gambling have put up some of the money the

tribe used to research its ancestry.

Barbara Knickelbein of Glen Burnie, who heads a statewide anti-gambling

group in Maryland, said she is "very suspicious" of the PCCS's intentions

and of the secrecy around the recognition process.

"I'm planning to be there [at tonight's meeting] because I want to object

publicly to that letter being kept a secret and that meeting being in

secret," she said. "It's too important an issue."

The decision on whether to recognize the PCCS rests with Glendening. The

tribe's petition has not reached the governor's desk because the commission

has yet to respond to the questions raised in Payne's March 1998 letter.

The commission voted in August 1996 to recommend recognition of the PCCS.

Members of the Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs are Leland A. McGee,

Rose Powhatan, Norris C. Howard Sr., Bobby A. Little Bear, James M.

Proctor, Doris Richardson, Gabrielle Tayac and Hankie Poafybitty.

Proctor and Tayac are recused from dealing with matters relating to the

petitions because Proctor is PCCS vice chairman and Tayac is a member of

the Piscataway Indian Nation and the niece of Billy Red Wing Tayac. The

meeting is scheduled for 8 p.m. at the housing department's office in

Crownsville.

Maryland Section of the Baltimore Sun

Originally published on Apr 13 1999

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