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Old 07-15-2004, 04:06 PM   #1
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Delaware River sojourn pays tribute to New Jersey’s Indians

Delaware River sojourn pays tribute to New Jersey’s Indians

Posted: July 14, 2004 - 2:16pm EST
by: Christine Graef / Correspondent / Indian Country Today

VERNON, N.J. - The group of river travelers pulled their boats onto the launch under a rainy overcast sky. It was day three of a 17-day journey down the Delaware River, a trip sponsored by the New Jersey Department of State together with the Department of Environmental Protection, the Commission on American Indian Affairs, the Commission on National and Community Service, the Delaware & Raritan Greenway and the Bayshore Foundation.

"I hope at the end of this, there will be a better understanding of the lessons, legacies and contributions of our past generations," Secretary of State Regina Thomas said in an earlier interview.

History Along the Delaware Celebrating New Jersey’s Resources, Cultures and American Indian Heritage was the third in a string of programs the Department of State initiated to bring awareness to the state’s multitude of cultures. Last year Thomas initiated education about the Underground Railroad and the Battlefield of Monmouth. History of the river and its first people will spread to libraries throughout the state in summer programs and into a few schools during the end of the school year.

The journey began on June 3 at High Point, Sussex County, where the planning committee joined in a circle to be smudged in preparation for the experience. Tobacco was given to everyone to hold in their left hand before being offered in the fire as prayer.

Urie Ridgeway of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribe sang a prayer. After prayer ties were placed in a bundle that was carried throughout the trip with pieces of red cloth from each participant, the circle was released to a flotilla of kayaks and canoes.

Daily stops were made along the way to highlight New Jersey’s historical, cultural and environmental resources. The landing in Vernon recognized the successful four-year effort of the state DAG, DOS, DEP, local historical societies and individuals to list Black Creek on the N.J. Register of Historic Places and the National Register of Historic Places in 2002.

As the last glacier retreated north 13,000 years ago, it spilled a 200-foot lake into the area before it eventually dissipated. The post-glacial lake was surrounded by hardwood forest and provided a valley of water lilies, cattails, edible roots and other plants where 500 generations of people lived and thrived drinking from the Delaware’s clear sweet river water before their culture collapsed into silence. When it was discovered last decade, previously disconnected groups of Lenape in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Oklahoma, Canada and Delaware rallied to protect the site. The case was represented by attorney Greg Werkheiser of Piper Rudnick in Washington, D.C. who was brought in by Lenape Nation Inc. of Pennsylvania, then under Chief Bob Red Hawk Ruth. Werkheiser gave $748,000 in pro-bono work to the cause.

In the following days, the travelers poured through the Delaware Water Gap’s stony ridges, south to the river’s reception of its second largest tributary, the Lehigh River making its way through Pennsylvania’s suburbs. The rushing waters grind over Reading Prong’s four miles of hard granite, quartz and gneiss, over the hard shale where dinosaur footprints still lie beneath the moving waters. Below Easton the river widens and becomes shallow as it spreads around dots of islands built by materials the glaciers left half a million years ago. Passing Trenton, the river turns to rapids as it cascades over 50 million year old sand, clay and gravel sediments then the landscape flattens for another 134 miles.

The event traveled 280 miles through 10 counties and 41 municipalities bringing together people from throughout the region. Stops along the way recognized and shared feasting and dance with the Ramapo, the Rankokus Powhatan and the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape who celebrated the reaffirmation of the Pact of Friendship between the Swedes and the Lenape with a representative of the Swedish government.

The Delaware’s waters flow south, mixing with salt water in estuaries as it meets the Atlantic Ocean at Cape May. The sojourn concluded at the Cape May Lighthouse as it began, with a prayer circle.

"When I came on board as secretary, I met with each of the divisions," said Thomas. "I saw the rich diversity of the state and wanted to take each of the cultures and promote awareness. It brings us into the communities, promotes contacts and helps us understand the issues and concerns."
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This article can be found at http://www.indiancountry.com/?1089829026
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