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UMD Honors Piscataway Heritage at Yahentamitsi Dining Hall Dedication

Tribal Elders, Campus Community Partnered to Develop Name of New Building

By Maryland Today Staff

Pines presents scarf to Piscataway

University President Darryll J. Pines drapes a Maryland scarf on Piscataway Tribal Chairman Francis Gray at today’s dedication ceremony, attended by Jeremy Harley ’23, a member of the tribe. Below, the Piscataway Singers perform the Honoring Song and Unity Song on the Heritage Community Plaza.

Photos by John T. Consoli

The University of Maryland marked the start of Native American Heritage Month today by dedicating Yahentamitsi Dining Hall, the first building on campus to honor Maryland’s Native American Indian heritage.

Meaning “a place to go to eat,” the dining hall’s name honors the Piscataway People, the ancestral stewards of the land on which the university stands. The name Yahentamitsi translates to “a place to go to eat” from the extinct Algonquian language spoken by the Piscataway and was developed in partnership between UMD students, faculty and staff, including the American Indian Student Union, Piscataway elders and tribal citizens.

“This new landmark on our campus is a continuation of what I believe will be a long and fruitful friendship and collaboration with the Piscataway People, and an important acknowledgement that we are working and learning on sacred land,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “We are thrilled to welcome our campus community to Yahentamitsi.”

Piscataway Singers perform

Opened at the start of the fall semester, the 60,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art dining hall is one of three buildings in the university’s new Heritage Community. It is accompanied by the Pyon-Chen and Johnson-Whittle residence halls, which are named for Terps who broke barriers and contributed to the university’s diversity and culture.

“Food is essential for our very existence and has served as a means of survival and sustainability for our ancestors and culture,” said Piscataway Tribal Chairman Francis Gray. “The sharing of food provides interaction and socialization, which are also considered necessary elements of a full and prosperous life. With the dedication of Yahentamitsi Dining Hall, our historical Piscataway beliefs on this concept and culture are shared for all to enjoy.”

The dining hall seats 1,000 guests in a comfortable environment that includes a Maryland Terrapin-themed micro-restaurant, 10 food service stations and menus that rely heavily on locally sourced, seasonal ingredients. Seating options include communal tables, a quiet room and an outdoor area that overlooks Maryland Athletics practice fields. Design elements, art and a timeline tell the history of the Piscataway throughout the building.

“We did not just want to name Yahentamitsi Dining Hall in honor of native people, but we also wanted to use the interior space to tell the story of the Piscataway Conoy tribal community through their voices, eyes and hearts,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Patty Perillo. “And as part of our Heritage Community, it is named for the fearless trailblazers who came before us, whose resolve and determination, in the face of adversity, will inspire generations of future Terps. ”

The largest living-learning program in UMD’s Honors College, University Honors, calls the Heritage Community home. The ground floor of Yanhentamitsi features the University Honors Commons, featuring individual and collaborative work areas, state-of-the-art instructional technology, and two seminar rooms that open into a dynamic event space.

The honorary namings in the Heritage Community are one of the initiatives Pines announced on his first day in office. They directly reflect the university’s collective TerrapinSTRONG values to celebrate UMD traditions, advance diversity and inclusion, honor trailblazers and communities, and acknowledge the role the university has played throughout its history in denying access and full participation.

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