November is Indigenous Heritage Month. While land acknowledgments are important, we can definitely invest more into our local Indigenous communities by educating ourselves and interacting with local Native groups. What we now refer to as New Jersey is but a small part of a larger area that tribes refer to as Lenapehoking, which means “land of the Lenape”—Lenape means “the people” or “true people.” Read to learn about Lenape tribes based in NJ and local Indigenous-focused events happening this month.
Tribes in NJ
Ramapo Munsee Lenape
Native to North Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, Southern New York, and Western Connecticut, the Ramapo-Munsee currently reside in the Ramapo Mountains, now inhabiting a seven-mile radius surrounding the Ramapo Pass. Ramapo, which is also sometimes spelled as Ramapough or Ramapoo, translates to “sweet water” in the Munsee language.
Farther south, there are the Powhatan Renape—Powhatan means “at the falls.” The roots of the Powhatan lie in the Rappahannock of Virginia and the Nanticoke of Delaware, but descendents continue to embrace their heritage in and around Pennsauken, NJ. The State of New Jersey also ceded Rancocas State Park to the tribe, which is now the Rankokas Reservation.
Near the Powhatan are the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape, which means tidewater people. The Nanticoke are the state’s largest Indigenous tribe. They are native to South Jersey and Delaware and are headquartered in Bridgeton, NJ.
Events and Exhibits
Native American Heritage Month Celebration | Secaucus, NJ
Next Thursday, November 16, make your way to Secaucus—the name itself derives from the Algonquin word for “black snake” or “place of snakes”—for the Native American Heritage Month Celebration at the Secaucus Recreation Center. The event, which starts at 6:30 p.m., will showcase Indigenous-American culture, including cuisine, performances, jewelry, and crafts. This event is free to attend—don’t miss out!
Marie Watt at the Hunterdon Art Museum | Clinton, NJ
Marie Watt is a Seneca artist whose work utilizes textiles, glass beading, woodcarving, and printmaking to discuss themes surrounding her Indigenous identity and its intersections with other identities. She has been featured at the Whitney Museum of Art, the National Museum of the American Indian, the Rockwell Museum, and now, the Hunterdon Art Museum.
About the Author/s
Alex Kenney is a third-year Journalism and Media Studies student at Rutgers University - New Brunswick. Having lived in Bergen, Essex, and briefly Hudson County, she calls anything north of Newark home. She is a big fan of NJ Transit and knows most major highways in her area like the back of her hand, even though she doesn’t drive.