March 5, 2010
By Kellie Patrick Gates
Two hundred years ago today, at what is now Fishtown’s Penn Treaty Park, a storm felled a huge tree that witnessed a promise of peace and friendship between leaders of two governments: one ancient, one newly born.
Thursday evening at the Pennsylvania Historical Society, descendents of Lenni-Lenape Chief Tamenend opened a multi-day commemoration of the fall of the Great Elm with drum beats and traditional dances, a swirl of colorful clothing and a message:
“We're still here, and we are moving forward,” said Lenape Tribe of Delaware Chief Dennis Coker.
It's been anything but easy, Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Chief Mark Gould told the crowd of about 200 who crowded the upstairs Center City lecture hall to learn more about the pact made by Tamenend and William Penn.
Schaaf also spoke of the influence Native American systems of government had on establishing the United States government. He helped prove this to Congress, which passed legislation recognizing the impact. But much more work needs to be done, he said. Most school children are still not learning this history in school, he said.
From his satchel, Schaaf removed an object and unwrapped it. It was a carved wooden rattle, used in a ceremony in which Lenape sung their dreams. He asked a young girl from the audience to come take a closer look. “She is our future. She is our hope,” he said.
If that little girl learned the teachings of Gould and the Lenape, her descendents would have respect for Gould’s descendents, Schaaf said. And the message of the treaty reached at the place Native Americans called Shackamaxon would continue with future generations.
View more dancing and the entire lecture via the following links:
Tanya Norwood introduces Chief Mark Gould, who speaks about fighting to have his culture recognized.
Native American scholar Gregory Schaaf on the treaty, wampum belts, and Native American history.