Monday, October 5, 2009

Returning From Sacred Ground

I just got back from a Powwow at Black Creek in New Jersey. It takes place on a 10,000 year old Native American site preserved by grassroots efforts by local Historians and the Nanticoke-Leni Lenape tribe of New Jersey, and celebrates their victory in preserving this historic and spiritually significant site of New Jersey's first peoples.

I've been hoping to get to know some of the local tribes of my region better, especially after discovering in my time here just how many non-Federally recognized tribes are out there and active in preserving their ways of life and community. Many of these groups have a hard time because they lack the leverage and programs of Federally recognized groups- and in many cases suffer more because they refused to the "deals" offered to be driven from their homelands.

The Leni Lenape people were made up of many distinct communities spread throughout Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Southern New York, including the people who probably inhabited the beautiful mountains I call home. The people from my area, likelyMunsee Lenapi, were driven west long ago, but my family and I have been doing some historical research and were excited to learn of this Powwow, as we've been hoping to get to know some regional communties and better represent the history of our own town and the beautiful land that has always been so significant to us as a family.

It was a beautiful day, smaller because of a rain-date but still a wonderful event. We were able to tour the trails and learn about the lives of the peoples here since the last Ice Age- rolling grassy hills, forests and the hauntingly beautiful Black Creek with its cattails, wild-birds, turtles and unique trade route with many of the Hudson tribes to the North. It was beautiful to get a sense of the home of one of several people's responsible one of the first, true names for this continent "Turtle Island." In addition to a research and educational site, Black Creek is increasingly place of pilgrimage and prayer for Native people around the continent. We were also able to meet a local archaeologist doing some work just next door to my friend (Historic District Comissioner Christopher Lotito), and learn of some more incredible pictographic sites in our own area.

Many dancers, drummers and members of the Nanticoke-Lenape Tribe were made a four hour trek to support the event. I was able to speak to the Red Blanket drum group, and learn a little more of their fascinating history- actually the union of two peoples, Lenape and Nanticoke, a people further to the South with ties to the tribes in Virginia and Maryland, who survived by coming together after many of their people were driven west. Their drum group has great energy and their first CD, and is unique for working hard to continue composing music in their language as a means of preserving it. They even honored us with a traditional story and dance not ussually shared at Powwows, which honors the "Three Sisters" (Corn, Beans and Squash) who have fed their people for millenia.

Their a great group of young people and doing good work for their people and traditions well worth supporting. You can find them on Myspace:

Some other Links:
More about the Black Creek Site:

Nanticoke-Lenape Tribe- they are now state recognized, which is thankfully helping them gain more programs for their people, including a Diabetes Program which tabled the Powwow.

The nearest nation to us, the Ramapough Lenape. They are NJ State recognized, and seeking it in New York. Turns out they were involved in some watershed protection work my mom was involved in as well, as one of the streams in our town reaches their community. Amazing how small our world can be.
Their present struggle to seek recognition in New York

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