This week marks Indigenous Peoples’ day in many communities. It’s a good time to remember that the Delaware River and surrounding lands have been home to the Lenape People for thousands of years. The Lenape Sipu (river of the Lenape People) and Lenapehoking (Lenape homelands) have long been a source of sustenance, spirituality and pride.
Conventional histories end when the Lenape were forced off their lands in the 1700’s. While colonial expansion pushed many westward, where they established new communities in places like Oklahoma and Ohio, some Lenape remained, marrying European and Black Americans. Their descendants live on today and are active stewards of the Delaware River watershed.
Late in the summer, Lenape leaders signed a “Treaty of Renewed Brotherhood” in Lackawaxen, and used that signing as an opportunity to renew their commitment, and their request to all of us living in the basin, to honor the sacred nature of the land and water that sustains us all. Ceremonial Chief Chuck Gentlemoon signed the treaty after a river trip from the headwaters in New York all the way to Cape May, New Jersey.
Officials from the Delaware River Watershed Initiative were present at the August signing, including Diane Rosencrance of the Delaware Highlands Conservancy, who connected the dots between land preservation and clean water for communities. Chief Gentlemoon spoke to the need for greater community and collaboration among native and non-native residents alike to address the environmental challenges of our day.
To learn more about the work of Lenape communities in our region, visit:
Featured image credit: Lauren Hansen-Flaschen for the University of Pennsylvania