Long before the first Swedish settlers, before William Penn’s arrival, before there was a United States of America, the Lenape people lived and thrived in Philadelphia and a wide region that included what is now eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware and southern New York. The history and culture of the Lenape Indians is an integral part of this region.
On Wednesday, August 13 at 1 p.m., members and friends of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, who will be 13 days into a 17 day “Rising Nation” Delaware River journey by canoe, and will take a slight detour to visit the Penn Museum, at 3260 South Street in Philadelphia, inviting area neighbors, friends, organizations and families to participate at the signing of the Treaty of Renewed Friendship. Participants who choose to sign indicate their support of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania as partners and caretakers of their sacred homeland.
The treaty signing program—a once-every-four-year tradition that began in 2002—begins with an opening prayer and the passing of the wampum, an Eastern Woodlands ritual that seals bonds of trust and responsibility. Wampum shell beads are sacred, and made from the shells of local waters. Strings and woven belts of wampum have been made for centuries to commemorate treaties or historical events.
In 2010, the Penn Museum accepted a string of wampum in recognition of its collaborative work with Lenape peoples, including the 2008 exhibition Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania (2008-2011) curated by then-University of Pennsylvania anthropology student Abigail Seldin with curators Robert Red Hawk Ruth and Shelley DePaul of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania. On August 13, the wampum will be passed again to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an advocacy organization working throughout the Delaware River Watershed.
Native American Voices: The People—Here and Now, a new five-year exhibition that opened at the Penn Museum March 1, 2014, features voices and artifacts from Native Americans throughout North America. The Nanticoke Lenni Lenape community of Bridgeton, New Jersey is featured in the new exhibition, which challenges visitors to leave preconceptions behind, and explore issues and concerns of Native Americans living today.
An Invitation to All
The public is invited to attend the ceremony, and sign the Treaty, available online and at the event, if they so choose. In honor of the Treaty signing, the Museum’s Pepper Mill Café features a Native American-inspired lunch menu (entrees $7). The program is FREE with Penn Museum discounted summer admission: just $10 per person, and free to Penn Museum members, PennCard holders, U.S. military and their families, and children 5 and under.