"[This was an] irrevocable moment of change on both sides... Place-based history is so different. You are in the place where those people stood, lived, had lives, and the moment when their lives changed forever and many of those lives were lost."
- Dr. Gabrielle Tayac, Associate Professor of History, George Mason University, and member
of the Piscataway Indian Nation
People to People: Exploring Native-Colonial Interactions in Early Maryland is a project unparalleled in its scope and scale, one that has great potential to reveal new information about Maryland’s roots.
A collaborative initiative between Historic St. Mary’s City and members of the Piscataway community, People to People will bring communities together to excavate and interpret two archaeological site areas: Native sites spanning nearly 8,000 years of occupation and St. Mary’s Fort, the 1634 palisaded fort erected by the first wave of European colonists who founded Maryland. Together with Piscataway tribal participants, HSMC will design public interpretation and exhibits of native and colonial cultures on adjacent significant archaeological sites, bringing the heritage of these two groups into conversation in new ways and highlighting their earliest interactions that set the stage for Maryland’s history.
The People to People project emerged following collaborative efforts between HSMC, members of the Piscataway community, and other community stakeholders to redesign the flagship exhibit for HSMC's new visitor center (scheduled for construction beginning in 2022). The exhibit redesign efforts focused on telling a more complete version of St. Mary's City's rich history, one that reaches more than 10,000 years into the past and ends with the present day. Following the discovery of St. Mary's Fort in 2019, discussions between HSMC and Piscataway tribal participants revealed a shared desire to examine the state's early past in a new way, one that placed emphasis on the archaeological study of both the generations of Native peoples who developed complex societies while living in the region and the European colonists whose arrival disrupted life in southern Maryland, forever altering the trajectory of our state's history.
Over the course of the next decade, the People to People project will situate archaeological excavations at St. Mary's Fort and nearby Native sites, providing the material evidence of the long history of Native occupation in St. Mary's City and the first moments of colonial encounters. Exhibits (traditional gallery exhibits and/or historical reconstructions) and other interpretive elements will be informed by the results of the archaeological studies. Public programming will be designed to bring the sites into conversation, highlighting the depth of history represented in the area and the critical moments of the first years of interactions between Native peoples and European colonists.