Under a cloudy sky broken by intermittent sunshine, members of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania gathered for a peaceful rally on the steps of the State Capitol in Harrisburg in May. They were there to remind legislators that it is time to give them legal status as a recognized tribe.
The Rev. Bob Coombe, a member of the Eastern PA Conference’s Committee on Native American Ministries (CoNAM), attended the rally. “The spirit at the Capitol was uplifting, peaceful, powerful, fair and for justice,” he commented. Coombe was able to meet Pa. Rep. Joe Cerisi, District 146, who came to the steps to hear the calls for recognition and to speak supportively to Coombe and Adam DePaul.
Your gifts on Native American Ministries Sunday helps support the ministries of the Committee on Native American Ministries in their annual conferences. This offering serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society.
Dressed in regalia, carrying signs with their message and carefully lighting sweetgrass for ceremonial smudging, the members disregarded the rain as the Itchy Dog Singers opened the event with a drum circle.
Chief Chuck Gentlemoon Demund, Keeper of Ceremony, and Clan Mother Shelley DePaul, Language Keeper, kept the rally moving and focused on the goal of gaining tribal recognition. They were there to address the “Political Erasure and ‘Documentary Genocide’ of the Pennsylvania Lenape, Past to Present,” as described by Adam Waterbear DePaul, Director of Education and Tribal Storykeeper.
Supporters, both Native and non-Native allies, were passionate in their praise of the Lenape and their rich traditions, their culture of respect for the earth and their desire to be recognized as a people who have been here for centuries.
The Lenape have lived in the woodlands of eastern North America and are still here today, leading successful lives but without the recognition due them. The people of the Lenape nation are the indigenous people of the land now called Pennsylvania, but there is more to their story of survival and resilience. Learn more at https://www.lenape-nation.org. According to DePaul, lack of state recognition impacts their identity, especially for the youth.
Members of the Lenape Nation stepped forward to call for an end to the erasure and to recognize the tribe and help them regain their identity. A call and response, led by Demund, punctuated their demands: “We are . . . Still here.”
Other speakers—educators, environmentalists, faith leaders and preservationists—joined the array of speakers. A clan mother spoke sorrowfully of a relative who performed sacred ceremonies alone in a basement room, being ashamed to express his spirituality in the open. Another told of becoming aware of her Native heritage when she was older and the feeling it inspired her to realize her true identity. She wore a red, fringed shawl draped around her shoulders, as a turtle shell gathered her hair neatly at the base of her neck.
“Pennsylvania is the only state in the East that does not recognize its indigenous people,” Clan Mother Shelley DePaul asserted, and we believe that if they were made aware of us and our many partners and accomplishments as caretakers of the land and the Delaware River, they would take pride in the existence of our people.”
excerpt from a story by Verna Colliver, a member of Lansdale UMC, is Secretary of EPA’s CoNAM.
One of six churchwide Special Sundays with offerings of The United Methodist Church, Native American Ministries Sunday serves to remind United Methodists of the gifts and contributions made by Native Americans to our society. The special offering supports Native American outreach within annual conferences and across the United States and provides seminary scholarships for Native Americans.
When you give generously on Native American Ministries Sunday, you equip seminary students who will honor and celebrate Native American culture in their ministries. You empower congregations to find fresh, new ways to minister to their communities with Christ’s love. Give now.