The Native Beat of the Drum


There are times when people of a noble spirit cross our path. It is our responsibility to recognize and honor those who walk the path of respect of the circle of life. Such was the time when I had the unique opportunity to meet Mark Wild Turkey Tayac of the Piscataway Indian Nation and his son Naiche.


Their harmonious way of living between the ancient times of Mother Earth and modern society, these noble men travel the earth to honor and share their culture with others.  The Piscataway Indian Nation, is a state recognized tribe in Maryland based in the southern counties of Charles, Prince George’s and St. Mary’s. Inhabiting the waterways of Maryland for thousands of years, the era of colonization caused near full genocide of the Indian nation.

The Tayac tribe were the first to welcome Captain John Smith to their territory in 1608, and in the ensuing years the Indians had to disperse to more remote lands for survival. In spite of the odds, a number of Piscataway Indians managed to stay on their land and survived centuries of brutality, discrimination and even hatred from the colonists.


Then the time for renewal came to be in the beginning of the 1900’s. Chief Turkey Tayac (1895-1978) began the long journey in revitalizing and establishing the Piscataway tribe to stand on its own. This journey took nearly a century as it was only in 2012 when the State of Maryland recognized the three Piscataway groups in the area. The Federal Government still fails to recognize them officially, holding them to the Blood Quantam Laws.

With hard work and imagination, Mark Wild Turkey Tayac created The Tayac Territory Singers and Dancers.  A Native American cultural and educational music and dance group that have performed in venues that include the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Maintaining the music, beat of the drum, traditions, stories and dance, Mark Tayac carries the tradition of his past and shares it with future generations. A renowned feather worker, Mark painstakingly makes headdresses and other traditional costume decorations by finding what feathers Mother Nature makes available to him. This headdress is filled with feathers from Red Tail Hawks, and other raptors.

A federal offense for anyone who is not a Native American, Mark Tayac wears his headdress with pride. The yellow headdress is for the tribal chief.


Mark Wild Turkey Tayac and Naiche begin the presentation with a native song and drum beat. He then begins to share one of the dances of Stick Ball. (Don’t worry, the brief film will be upright when viewing.)

Creating a circle of onlookers with Bella included, Naiche dances in the center, only to suddenly stop by almost hitting one in the head with a feather.


The following dance was the Eagle Dance. With a distant but yet astute and alert eye, Naiche looks for his prey.


The final dance included all the children and with the sharing of cultures from the Chinese Lunar New Year to the Tayacs of the Piscataway Indians, it is the year of the Snake.


I was humbled and honored to be in the presence of these noble men. Men who embrace their heritage and culture and live their lives in harmony and joy. In the words of Mark Wild Turkey Tayac: We are all the same. We laugh the same way, dance the same way and hearts beat the same way.


19 replies »

  1. An elegant and profound post! What an honour to be in their presence. We have so much to learn from their history, beliefs and personal journeys. Chief Dan George was a chief of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, a Coast Salish band located on Burrard Inlet in North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. You may remember him from movie “The Outlaw Josey Wales.”

    “If you talk to the animals they will talk with you
    and you will know each other. If you do not talk to them
    you will not know them, and what you do not know
    you will fear. What one fears one destroys.”

    ― Chief Dan George

    • Thank you so much for sharing your Canadian counterpart of my Maryland native. I absolutely love the quote, and it is so true. I saw this quote come to life when I started working with that white mare. Those that feared her, she would attack. Since I didn’t fear her and showed her so, very quickly she began to show me kindness.

  2. They can dance and sign and drum. Listening to the stories of native Indians carries me to how nature unfolds. I love their stories. Thanks for the story. And Clanmother, thank you for quoting Chief Dan George for I am proud to part be part of his country, Canada.

    • I’m so happy to be able to share their story with you Drake. Even though they ruled this continent for so many generations, in our area one has to search them out to be in their presence. Their culture and beliefs are something we can all learn and benefit from.

    • Thank you so much Mary. You are absolutely right ! When I wrote this post I felt that I was sharing their story, but there is so much more behind the words written about the Piscataway Indians and their history.

      • Coincidently there is a story in today’s Myrtle Beach paper about the local Waccamaw Indians.
        Apparently they are upset because although the use of eagle feathers for religious purposes is allowed by law if the tribe is federally recognized, those that are state recognized such as the Waccamaws, are not lawfully allowed to have the eagle feathers.
        I can see both sides of this dilemma. One the one hand they should be allowed to pursue their religious practices, but on the other where are they getting these eagle feathers? Shooting bald eagles out of a tree does not sound too good to me. And you can’t usually just find eagle feathers laying around on the ground.

        • I asked Mark Tayac where he got the hawk feathers, and he said mainly in Arizona from road kill. They do not hunt the raptors for the feathers, but rather wait for mother nature to take its course.

  3. This is very elegant and touching! So much love seen within this post Emily.
    Great shots! The vivid colours are gorgeous 🙂

    • You are so sweet to share what you read and feel from this post. I remember hearing that writers need to find their ‘voice.’ Guess it’s finally starting to develop then. Thank you so much Judy ! I know you would have loved to see this presentation also.

  4. Growing up in rural Alaska, I was exposed to Native Alaskan traditions.
    I’ve come to the conclusion it isn’t easy for any native groups to maintain their heritages in our society.
    Thanks for the lovely pictoral and written history of this tribe. I found it to be interesting and informative.

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