Pandora’s Box – The Sand Hills Respond

UPDATE – I added a summary of the timeline which is no longer available on Garden State Politics.

The following documents were just filed yesterday by the Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians.

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To get everyone up to speed here, in February, the tribe filed a major lawsuit charging the Corzine Administration with acts of genocide because of a pattern of actions on the part of the NJ Commission on Indian Affairs that appear designed to remove all mention of the Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians from existence.  This is despite the fact that historians and even Smithsonian reports from the 1940’s prove the existence of the Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians as the oldest indigenous tribe in the state.

Although the lawsuit was filed in February against the state and all 21 counties in NJ, many of the defendants blew it off and ignored it – missing the deadline to respond. The judge in Newark gave the defendants an extension to respond.  She also gave the Sand Hills a chance to amend their first complaint, which was done in May. The State and the Counties then filed motions to dismiss.  The filing on August 21, is the tribe’s response to the Motions to Dismiss.    

This epic tale of stolen identity reminds me of that movie The Net. NOBODY else is covering this story.

For more on the whole story, see below:  

TIMELINE

1600 – Estimated 8,000 Population of Delaware Indians – an Algonquin Tribe, located in what is now NJ, NY, PA, DE (American Indian Almanac)

1609 – Henry Hudson sails up the River and meets the “Indians” here.

Approx. 1700 – First Cherokee migrations occur into New Jersey

August 12, 1758 – the NJ Colonial Legislature and Governor Bernard, under direction of British Crown, passes a law setting aside 3,044 acres of land for Brotherton Reservation – the first and only Indian Reservation in New Jersey, for the Raritan-Lenape  (now known as the Sand Hill Band) to be held for them in perpetuity.

1802 – The Lenape-Cherokee of NJ, later known as the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians, have to leave Brotherton reservation.  They relocate to other locations inside the state but remain inside NJ.

1844 – State of NJ FINALLY ratifies its constitution.

1900 – Chief Beeler’s grandmother, Sarah Holloway is born in Monmouth County into the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians.

1920’s – A significant segment of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians community relocates to Passaic and Sussex Counties. This includes Chief Beeler’s grandmother, Sarah Holloway.

1930 – Sam Beeler’s mother, Roemena Ali, is born to Sarah Holloway of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians.

1948 – The Smithsonian Annual Report page 414, specifically mentions “The Sand Hill Indians” as an INDIGENOUS tribe to NJ (“settled before the Revolutionary War”) and that the tribe relocated from the Monmouth area within the last 30 years and that their “Indian traditions and arts  have survived among this group to the present time.”

1949 – Chief Ryers Crummel with New Jersey Governor Alfred Driscoll recognize the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians at the Trenton State Fair.

1950 – Sam Beeler is born in Paterson into the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians.  He is the Grandson of Sarah Holloway and son of Roemena Alli.  The birth certification is signed by James “Lone Bear” Revey from the New Jersey Indian Office in Orange, NJ.

1990 – Native American Grave and Repatriation Act.

1998 – Chief Lone Bear Revey dies, Dr. Sam Beeler becomes Chief of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians.

June 21, 2006 – The Neptune Sand Hill Indian Historical Association Newsletter describes Dr. Sam Beeler’s work as Chairman of the Tribal Council of the Sand Hill Band of Indians in Paterson and references a permanent exhibit of artifacts to be on display in Paterson, narrated by Chief Revey.  At a Nov 2007 Commission meeting and again in Sept, 2008, the Director of the Association will deny even knowing who Sam Beeler is despite photos to the contrary.

September 14, 2006 – In a letter to Sam Beeler, Chief/Chairman of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians, Governor Jon Corzine states he doesn’t have the ability to “verify any entity’s American Indian Tribe claim.”

December 28, 2006 – Chief Beeler of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians writes to Chairman Pierce of the Commission requesting a meeting with the Commission to rectify their exclusion from representation on the Commission.

August 2007 – Chief Darius TwoBears Ross of the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi (the Cherokee tribe which had established itself in NJ in 1830, just before the Trail of Tears) tries to make an appointment to discuss issues with Corzine that could possibly have ramifications for the State. Corzine’s office is non-responsive.

November, 2007 – Chief Ross of the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi meets with Secretary of State Nina Wells, to rectify the situation that his tribe has been left off the Indian Commission.  Chief Ross learns that a report has been written regarding Native Americans. Neither the Ani Tsalagi nor the Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians, who are the Grandfather Tribe of all tribes in NJ, were ever asked for input.  Chief Ross further learns that the report leaves out more than 50,000 Indians.  Secretary of State Wells Chief Ross not to go to the press until he sees the report.  Chief Ross agrees not to go to the Press but put contacted the Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians.

December 10, 2007 – Chief Holloway, as Director of the NJ Indian Office, writes to Chairman Pierce of the Commission threatening legal action if the Commission continues to ignore the pleas of the New Jersey Indian Office.

January, 2008 – The official report is published, and it completely omits mention of the Sand Hill and Ani Tsalagi. It inaccurately lets the Nanticoke (who came from MD/PA in 1975) and the Powhatan (who came from VA in 1975) claim pieces of these two tribes’ history for their own.

January 10, 2008 – Chief Ross writes a letter to Corzine, because the Corzine administration is denying the tribe’s existence and their history.

February 9, 2008 – Chief Ross writes a letter to Secretary of State Nina Wells, explaining that a statement will be read into the record at the February 20, 2008 meeting of the Commission.

February 13, 2008 – Governor Corzine writes to Chief Ross, brushing off Chief Ross’s concerns.

February 27, 2008 – Commission Chairman Pierce, of the Nanticokes, writes a letter to Chief Ross on Nanticoke letterhead acknowledging that Chief Ross’s statement had been read at the Commission meeting. However, no record of that statement ever appeared in the minutes.

March 6, 2008 – Chief Ross writes to Chairman Pierce because Pierce appears to be shifting blame for the treatment of the tribe to the Commission rather than himself.  Chief Ross points out that Pierce’s letter is on Nanticoke letterhead. Chief Ross is uncertain as to whether Chief Pierce is speaking as Chief of the Nanticoke or as Chairman of the Commission and asks for clarification.

May 6, 2008 – Chief Ross of the Ani-Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band, and Chief Holloway of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians, write a joint letter from the NJ Indian Office to Senate President Codey, explaining their complaints and demanding action.

June 17, 2008 – NJ Native American historian John T. Kraft writes a letter to verify former Chief Sam Beeler’s claim.

July 1, 2008 – NJ Native American Historian Raymond Whritenour writes a letter to verify former Chief Sam Beeler’s claim.

July 31, 2008 – Doreen Scott of the NJ Commission on American Indian Affairs writes letter inviting the Sand Hill Band to give a presentation.

Sept 17, 2008 – When many members of the Ani Tsalagi and the Sand Hill tribes appear at the Commission meeting for the presentation, it is no longer on the agenda.  The Commission then spends ten minutes objecting to former Chief Sam Beeler (closest living descendant of the oldest Lenape remains yet found in NJ) and Chairman Yonaguska Holloway giving the presentation they had been invited for.

Sept 26, 2008 – Chief Ross and Chief Holloway write to Governor Corzine, requesting seats on the Commission, after two members of the NJ Commission on American Indian Affairs resign.

October 5 – 2008 – Chief Holloway requests the presentation with the Commission, which had been prevented earlier.

February 17, 2009 – the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians files a lawsuit in Trenton.  The charge is genocide: a pattern of actions designed to eradicate the existence of the oldest indigenous tribe in NJ.

Diaries about Pandora’s Box:

An Interview with Chairman Ronald Yonaguska Holloway:

http://www.bluejersey.com/diar…

Here is my diary leading up to the lawsuit. I had been blogging about the situation since last year.  But here is a good diary with a lot of video clips that lay out how this all went down.

http://www.bluejersey.com/diar…

Here is my diary from February:

http://www.bluejersey.com/diar…

In the meantime, funding was cut for the museum and Indian office that the Sand Hill had operated since the 1950’s, and veteran’s and retirement benefits for tribe members who had been in the Military or worked for the government were also  mysteriously cut.  It appears to be an act of retribution against the tribe for speaking up about their mistreatment and the lawsuit.

For more about the apparent retaliation against the tribe see:

http://www.bluejersey.com/diar…

For information about the tribe appealing to the UN:

http://www.bluejersey.com/diar…

The August 21, 2009 filings from yesterday:

The First Document concerns the case against the State, the second set of documents – the case against the Counties.

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