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Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania

 

 

Header image Courtesy of the University of Pennsylvania     

     Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania is a fully collaborative exhibition, organized by the University of Pennsylvania's Penn Museum and the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania. The exhibition draws from oral histories, family heirlooms, and photographs, as well as archaeology, historical and ethnographic research. Following the exhibit's long run at the Penn Museum, it is now housed at our Cultural Center and Trading Post in Easton, PA.

 

On this page you will find information about the Exhibit, the Lenape People, and the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania. Come see the exhibit and speak to one of our curators at our Cultural Center & Trading Post.

 
For the most detailed information about the exhibit, Click Here to visit Penn Museum's Prophecy Exhibit page, which includes information about the creation and contents of the exhibit, as well as photographs, curator information, and more!
Videos from the Penn Museum:
 

Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania

Penn Museum

Published on Mar 4, 2014

Conventional histories of Pennsylvania declare that all but a few elderly Lenape people left the state by the opening of the 19th century. Many Lenape were indeed driven westward, and ultimately created communities in Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio, Indiana, Wisconsin, and in other parts of the United States and Canada. Yet, some Lenape people remained here in secret. Children of the little known Lenape-European marriages of the 1700s stayed on the Lenape homelands (New Jersey, Pennsylvania, northern Delaware and southern New York) and continued to practice their traditions covertly. Hiding their heritage, they avoided discovery by both the government and their neighbors for more than two hundred years. Now, the descendants of these people have come forward to tell their story.

(From the Penn Museum YouTube Channel)

The Prophesy

Penn Museum

Published on Sep 19, 2008

The Prophecy poetically recounts the Prophecy of the Fourth Crow, which is understood to parallel the history of Pennsylvanias hidden Lenape people. The film opens with the beat of a drum, the heartbeat of a Nation, as the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvanias flag dances on the wind. As the Prophecy unfolds, spoken first in Lenape and then in English, impressionistic images of earth, water, fire and air suggest a dream-like state and recall the Lenapes close connection to the land and all of its creatures. A male figure in a red ribbon shirt and a female spirit figure serve as guides through the emotional landscape that connects the Lenape people to their lost land and hidden heritage. A montage of faces provokes a series of questions: How can a people emerge from decades in hiding? How do we determine identity? What is heritage? Perhaps best compared to Latin American literary testimonios of the 1970s, the film exists in a liminal space between truth and fiction. Unlike many documentaries, it does not provide a litany of facts, but rather seeks to express the emotional presence of a community in the form of a prophetic poem. Tinged with both sorrow and the hope, The Prophecy pays tribute to the past and looks forward to a more hopeful future. Shot over a period of five months, "The Prophecy" emerges from the warmth, kindness, and graciousness shown to the filmmakers by the members of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania. For that, and for their friendship, the filmmakers wish to express their gratitude.

(From the Penn Museum YouTube Channel)

 
Curators' Message

Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania tells the long-hidden story of the survival of the Lenape in their homelands. For centuries, the Lenape families who remained in Pennsylvania hid their identities, fearing the persecutions suffered by their contemporaries in the American Indian community would be visited upon them. Fulfilling a Prophecy is a story of the endurance of culture, and the faith of a people waiting for a better time, for the Time of the Fourth Crow.

The time is now.

For the first time, members of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania have offered to share their family histories with you, and with the public at large. With the help of their oral histories, family heirlooms, and photographs, we have created the first history of the Lenape people who stayed in Pennsylvania. Our exhibit also draws from conventional historical sources, archaeology and ethnographic research. Fulfilling a Prophecy relates the unique history of the Lenape people's struggle to survive. Yet, it also presents an unknown chapter of the common history of each and every person from this land, a land that was once called Lenapehocking.

We conceived of this exhibit as an educational tool, for Lenape and non-Lenape people alike. We deliberately organized the exhibition in a way that acknowledges and respects both Western and Native American approaches to learning and storytelling. Perhaps the most obvious examples of this approach in action are our choices to use "The Prophecy of the Fourth Crow" to frame our timeline and the inclusion of the Lenape terms for artifacts or concepts wherever possible. For the people of the Pennsylvania area, the exhibit provides an exciting reintroduction to their Lenape neighbors and an opportunity to learn about a missing chapter in Pennsylvania history. For the Lenape people, especially for Lenape children, we hope this exhibit will both educate and empower them to take pride in their identities.

--Chief Robert Red Hawk Ruth, Shelley DePaul, and Abigail Seldin

 
Click Here to listen to free podcasts of four Exhibit-Featured stories told by co-curator and L.N.P.A. Chief Emeritus Robert Redhawk Ruth.
 
Media Coverage and Academic Articles:
For more Articles covering the Treaty of renewed Friendship, visit
the Rising Nation River Journey page.