Celebrating Native American Heritage Month!
Honoring Lenape Land
We begin by acknowledging with respect that we gather today in Lenapehokink, traditional homeland of the Lenape people for tens of thousands of years. Sometimes translated as “Original People,” the Lenape were known as mediators and called “The Grandfathers'' by the entire Agonquian Family Tree of languages. Encompassing the Delaware River Basin, Lenapehokink includes present-day New Jersey, most of Delaware, the Eastern parts of New York and Pennsylvania, and was home to 20,000 Lenape in three clans: the Wolf Clan in the mountains speaking Musnee dialect, Turtle Clan along the Rivers speaking Unami, and Turkey Clan by the Big Waters speaking Unilatchigo.
Within the first hundred years of foreign contact, 80% of the Lenape had already died from violent conflict and disease. In spite of the famous peace treaty between William Penn and Lenape Chief Tamanend at Shackamaxon, Europeans forced the Lenape westward and northward to Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Ontario, where many Lenape descendants live today under the name of a British General, Thomas West, Lord De La Warr, now pronounced Delaware.
But some Lenape never left. Hiding in plain sight as “Keepers of the Land” the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware based in Cheswold, Delaware; Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribal Nation in Bridgeton, NJ; Ramapough Lenape Nation in Mahwah, NJ are three of the thriving Lenape communities today. Let us honor the historical and ongoing presence of the Lenape and the Nanticoke on this land where we now live, work and celebrate “All Our Relations.”
Written with Chief Dennis Coker Cheswold, Delaware Nov. 1, 2019
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