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Anonymous attack sends USET out on limb

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WALDORF, Md. - An anonymous letter, apparently inspired by a bitter intra-tribal dispute, lies behind an attempt by the United South and Eastern Tribes to intervene in workings of the National Museum of the American Indian.

USET adopted a resolution during its February Impact Week in Washington, D.C., protesting the museum's invitation to an elder of the Piscataway Nation of Maryland to give an invocation at its groundbreaking ceremony.

The resolution cited a report that the Piscataway elder "represented all Northeastern and Southeastern tribes at that event." Since "the so-called Piscataway Nation is a non-federally recognized group," read the resolution, "this action constitutes an egregious insult to the USET member tribes."

This resolution, it turns out, was inspired by an unsigned "Fact Sheet" attacking the Piscataway Nation and its leader "Billy Proctor, a.k.a. Tayac, whose niece holds a senior position at the NMAI."

Addressing the "Native American Tribes in the Eastern United States," this sheet said, "it is a bad idea to have this radical social Maryland group to represent your interests at the NMAI." It urged each tribe to appoint "a watchdog" for the museum. The unnamed writer claimed, "I am the NMAI watchdog for our tribe."

USET official Wanda James told Indian Country Today the resolution was prompted by an inquiry from Gov. Richard Doyle of Maine's Passamaquoddy Pleasant Point reservation. Doyle in turn said he had read a "story" about the "protest" against the invocation and asked the USET staff to look into it.

USET drafted the resolution without identifying the author of the so-called "Fact Sheet." It did preserve the envelope it came in, however.

It was postmarked Waldorf, Md., which happens to be the population center of the Piscataway tribe and headquarters of its museum and cultural center.

Contrary to the claim of the author to represent a federally recognized tribe, there are no federally recognized tribes in Maryland.