It was an epic event. 400 years after the Dutch arrived here, the Lenape finally got, if not justice, at least a formal apology from the decendents of the very first families to settle what had been known as Manahatta and Lenapehoking. This apology to the very people who graciously welcomed the first immigrants to what is now New York is literally 400 years in the making.
It is November 27, 2009. 400 years after Henry Hudson first met the Lenape on these shores, the descendants of the very first Dutch families to arrive here, met face to face with one of the last remaining Lenape tribes to inhabit New York and New Jersey – the NJ Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians. In attendance were the Sand Hill tribe’s cousins and allies – the Ani~Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band, the oldest Cherokee Tribe in NJ, the Delaware tribe of Oklahoma, and the Munsee of Ontario, Canada, who are also descendents of the original Lenape.
In a humbling and eloquent apology, NY’s first Dutch settler families recounted in detail the history that changed all of our lives forever. It was a tragic history that resulted in riches for the occupiers and heartbreak for the people who were here thousands of years before the Half Moon sailed up the “River that Runs Both Ways”.
The Lenape were a friendly people and welcomed the Dutch. It wasn’t long before war broke out from disputes over land. What had been a peaceful existence of hunting and fishing in a land of plenty for the Lenape became a struggle to survive. The subsequent wars decimated the Lenape people, first from violence, then after the British treaties, from isolation and starvation, then from forcible removal by the government.
The only way to survive to the present day was to literally hide in plain sight. To melt into the melting pots that became New Jersey and New York. The Lenape managed to stay here while practicing their arts and religion in secret, and keeping their traditions alive, but to themselves. In New Jersey, the tribe continued as the Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians and in New York as the Shinnecock. The third remaining Lenape tribe resides in Oklahoma, and the fourth, the Munsee, now live in Ontario, Canada.
After all the years of persecution and suffering, the Lenape can once again proudly be publicly recognized for contributing quietly for centuries to the building of a nation that wouldn’t even give them the right to vote until years after women had secured it. A nation based on freedom of religion that would not recognize their religion until the 1970’s.
That chance meeting in 1609, was the beginning of a long period of suffering for the Lenape and Cherokee. While the Indians suffered, the Dutch families of the first settlers and then the British, became rich off of the resources of the land they now occupied.
The families who profited for centuries from land walked for thousands of years by the Lenape are finally saying something the Lenape have waited hundreds of years to hear. “We are sorry.”
Chairman Ronald Yonaguska Holloway of the oldest Lenape tribe in New Jersey – the NJ Sand Hill Band of Lenape and Cherokee Indians, was there to accept the apology on behalf of the Lenape. The Delaware tribe from Oklahoma were also present, as well as the Munsee from Canada, along with the oldest Cherokee tribe in NJ there to witness – the Ani~Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band. It was an emotional event. 400 years in the making. Too late to save the many who have died, but a watershed moment for a still young nation that hasn’t yet lived up to its promise of equality for all.
Here is the AP article of the event:
I will soon have video and a more detailed blog of the days events. It was an incredible day….