Who Are The Native Americans Indigenous To New Jersey?

DISCLAIMER: This article was originally posted on Odyssey.

 

They are named the Lenape and existed for thousands of years. Not only in New Jersey proper but also Pennsylvania and New York. There is debate as to what the land of New Jersey itself would be referred to by the Lenape, but “Lenapehoking” seems to be agreed upon by even the Lenape themselves.

Prior to British colonization, the Lenape Nation dealt with the short-lived colonies of the Dutch and the Swedish. The well-known presence of the Lenape in pre-American history was when they were the nation that engaged in treaties with William Penn, who would become the governor of Pennsylvania (which is where the state received its name). In the Lenape village of Shackamaxon, Chief Tamanend granted Penn ownership of land in their treaty. The site where this happened became part of the Penn Treaty Park which can be visited today.

The Lenape were among the first Christianized Native Americans. The church essentially became the pillar of Lenape community to this very day.

However, as more whites encroached upon native lands, the Lenape were relocated to the Ohio Country. Under Chief Killbuck, along with two other Lenape leaders White Eyes and Pipe, sided with the Americans in what would become the first treaty between the United States and the Indian Nations until later in the Revolution. Afterwards, the Lenape have been relocated along with many other Native American nations to the Oklahoma Territory, which is today the State of Oklahoma, as well as Wisconsin.

Although, some of the Lenape Nation do continue to live in reservations in New Jersey, however it was only quite recently in American history that they had to reclaim their indigenous identity, since they would have been labeled as either “white,” “black,” or “mixed.” In northern New Jersey, there is the Ramapough Lenape Nation, who have struggled with the same problems that many other Native American communities have with giant corporations, which is the intrusion into their indigenous lands, specifically from the not-so-ironically named Pilgrim Pipelines who proposes a pipeline through environmentally fragile lands in northern New Jersey. In southern New Jersey, there is the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation.

I felt that it was important for other New Jersey residents to learn about the Lenape Nation, primarily because a lot of place-names have origins in the Lenape languages. Place-names include Cohansey Point which was named after a chief, Manasquan means “island-door,” Manalapan means “edible roots within a covered swamp,” and Hoboken means “a smoke for piping.” There are also Lenape place-names in Pennsylvania, such as Kittitanny, Catasauqua, Minisink, and Pocono.

Although there are two Lenape languages, they do have similarities. Unami was spoken in southern New Jersey and Pennsylvania and Munsee is spoken in northern New Jersey and New York. The last speaker of Unami, Edward Thompson, died in 2002 which led to endeavors to resurrect the language, while the Munsee language is spoken by a handful of speakers left along with dedicated language instructors.

I definitely think that awareness of the Lenape Nation in New Jersey itself would help this tribe to educate New Jersey residents more than I ever could.

Just as I began this article, I will end it with the Lenape translation.

Wanìshi

Who Really Owns Land? Us Or The People Native To It?

There is this interesting website called Native Land which pinpoints any indigenous nation that held original claim to any land where an address or city is typed in. This map also includes information about indigenous claims in Australia, New Zealand, Greenland, Canada, Central America, and South America.

As I can see in the featured photo, my entire state belongs to the Lenape nation. I would say that it belongs to them because there are plenty of place-names that are derived from their language. It does shame me that New Jersey is known less as Lenapehoking and more as America’s embarrassment.

It should be noted that this app was invented by a Canadian programmer named Victor Temprano who learned about Indigenous land ownership in British Columbia. The juxtapositions of Indigenous studies and programming really do show that this interdisciplinary track really can create unique results. In this unique result, it raised the very question I addressed in this blog, which is the fact that indigenous people deserve more credit than already given, since they are tied to the land, in such a way that their own language and ways of living are encoded by it.

Although the website itself claims that it is not for use in legal matters, such as tribal and governmental disputes, there are mentions of the treaties involved. So, it really does bring into question whether we (as in descendants of the original colonizers and the immigrants) really hold claim to land and whether we truly know about it. When Temprano was creating this app, the indigenous maps of Indigenous territories became sources more important than the written and oral histories (which are only referenced when there is no map). To be indigenous to a land means to be the original dwellers on it and to have lived on it for thousands of years. Compare that to the (at most) 500 years that the colonizers have lived and thrived off the land. It is a blip compared to the intrinsic connection indigenous peoples have to their land.

The concept of land ownership itself is different among native peoples. In their cultures, they are not entitled to the land, but beholden to the land. In other words, they do not abuse it, rather they depend on it. This is the exact case of the Lakota nation, who were known to have made every use of a single buffalo. So this symbiotic relationship, as Professor Patricia A. Shaw described, would have been established since their hides were used for tipis, clothing, and moccasins; bones for needle and awl; and meat for sustenance.

If there is not any legal controversies that would exist, then the purpose of Native Land would be for educational purposes, letting tourists and non-natives in general know that the area they are visiting originally belongs to the tribe that dwelled on it. This was a point raised by journalist Leena Minifie, who is one of Temprano’s collaborators and is from the Gitxaala Nation in Tsimshian land.

The fact that indigenous peoples are made to publicly acknowledge their land, whether it is in an empty stretch of land or a metropolitan area, can lead to further inquiry about how those people lived on that land before colonization. Since the Australian city Adelaide acknowledged the Kaurna nation’s indigenous status, this lead to their website posting the original Kaurna names and pronunciations of parks, squares, and bridges.

There is this word that I see used a lot, which is “decolonization.” It does not necessarily mean non-natives emigrating from lands that were settled, rather it means an incremental inclusion of Indigenous knowledge, in such a way that it has authority in places wherever it exists, such as academia. This definitely has to do with the use of rivers. There was a case in British Columbia where an agreement was reached between the BC government and the indigenous tribes of the Broughton archipelago that there would need to be consent given by the tribes in order to farm salmon. That case has been part of an ongoing debate about the term “consent” and how much power the indigenous community has to determine whether a company is to set its designs on the rivers or the landscape. That word alone would provide a discussion about indigenous ownership of the land, whether they were already recognized or if they are making claims of recognition. It would also uncover the jurisdiction over land that either the national government or the tribal government has.

There is definitely a case to be made about land ownership as it applies to the native population. It would definitely make non-natives more educated about the land they are living in and not take it for granted. Doing so would make the indigenous community more relevant and no longer as a forgotten part of history and would provide them more jurisdiction over the lands they originally came from.