Earlier this month, the University of Maryland (UMD), in partnership with the Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives, kicked off Native American Indigenous Heritage Month with a ground blessing ceremony and an announcement of the name of its new dining hall: Yahentamitsi (Yah-hen-tuh-meet-c).
Yahentamitsi is the first dining hall built on campus in nearly 50 years, and will be the third building in the Heritage Community, joining two residence halls: Pyon-Chen Hall, which opened this fall, and Johnson-Whittle Hall, which will open in 2022. The Heritage Community is built on the foundation of honoring the people and cultures who represent the university’s important history, including the Piscataway, the Indigenous people of Maryland.
“The naming of our new dining hall in honor of the Piscataway people is a symbolic way in which we are ushering in a new era of inclusiveness at the University of Maryland. Acknowledging our storied past is one of the most important steps in creating a community that is TerrapinSTRONG,” said UMD President Darryll J. Pines. “I hope that whenever students, faculty and staff see the name Yahentamitsi, it inspires them to learn more about the incredible people who came before us and the communities they represent.”
The name Yahentamitsi is translated to “a place to go to eat,” from the extinct Algonquian language spoken by the Piscataway. The name was developed in a partnership between UMD students, faculty, and staff, including the American Indian Student Union, Piscataway elders, and tribal members.
“The rich history and culture of Native Americans and Indigenous peoples is something that we cherish and honor,” said Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives Director Steven McAdams. “Through our Maryland Commission on Indian Affairs, we have forged a strong bond with these communities to help tell their story. We encourage all Marylanders to learn about our history and keep the traditions of American Indian tribes in Maryland alive.”
The name was announced at a traditional ground blessing ceremony on campus in the presence of university officials, UMD students, representatives from the state of Maryland, and members of the Piscataway Tribe and other Indigenous peoples. The event also included traditional performances, including a calling song, honor song, and memorial song.
Representing the university and state’s joint commitment to serve Maryland’s Native communities, President Pines presented an official replica of a Wampum belt to E. Keith Colston, Director of Ethnic Commissions, Governor’s Office of Community Initiatives.
The more than 60,000-square-foot, 1,000-seat dining hall is the first building at UMD to honor the Native American heritage of its campus. Yahentamitsi will feature 11 major different food platforms and an outdoor dining balcony will overlook the practice fields and Maryland Stadium. The building will be LEED Silver Certified and include gender neutral restrooms and staff locker rooms. The dining hall will also feature a tribute to the Piscataway people throughout the building, using its interior as a way to educate the campus community about the Piscataway people through art, artifacts, and other educational materials.