Explore the first Lenape curated exhibition of Lenape cultural arts, both historic and contemporary, in New York City

By Lenape Center

With the Brooklyn Public Library

Lenapehoking is the Lenape name for Lenape homeland, which spans from Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and the Hudson Valley to Delaware, with New York City at its center. Due to centuries of colonialism perpetuated by genocide, forced displacement, and systemic oppression, today the Lenape Diaspora is dispersed throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Historically, the Lenape were forcefully removed in a diaspora into Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Canada. Lenape language dialects Munsee, Unami and Mohican language were traditionally spoken in present day New York City. Heard in present-day New York are countless other languages. Manhattan as indigenous land remains an open secret rendered invisible by society, and that awareness applies to the distant past, this immediate moment, and what lies ahead, all rolled into one understanding.

Lenapehoking, An Anthem for Lenape Center by Brent Michael DavidsLenape Center

This anthem for Lenape Center by Brent Michael Davids evokes the meaning of the homeland as a cultural space, and how it is experienced internally.

Lenapehoking Exhibition (2022-02-12) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

Lenapehoking is the first-ever Lenape-curated exhibition in New York City, featuring a collection of masterworks by Lenape artists and educational programs that teach visitors the story of the Lenape community.

Lenapehoking Exhibition (2022-02-12) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

Museum institutions have historically overlooked the Lenape genocide in favor of a trade and commerce narrative. Lenape Center has placed this exhibition at the Greenpoint Library exploring the library as a site for the intersection of beauty, knowledge, and diverse publics.

Lenapehoking Exhibition (2022-02-12) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

At a time when society is constantly asking more from traditional museums, the library offers a democratic space free of the hierarchies of museum practice to experience Lenape art and culture within a community setting.

Turkey Feather Cape (2022-02-12) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

The exhibition features masterworks by Lenape artists past and present (beadwork, a turkey feather cape, and a culinary tapestry from the seed rematriation project) as examples of the survivance and beauty of Lenape culture. 

Rebecca Haff Lowry (Delaware Tribe of Indians) responded to Lenape Center’s challenge by creating this contemporary Turkey Feather Cape. Worn by both men and women in Lenapehoking, it provides not only a dramatic flourish to traditional dress but provides warmth and protection from seasonal weather.

Lowry who has spent much of her adult life immersed in the culture of her husband’s Yurok culture, collaborated with her mother-in-law, Sandra Lowry, to create this cape. Note the addition of the dentalium shell collar (shells used as adornment by Tribes of the Pacific Northwest Coast to Alaska and Tribes of the Great Plains through trade) reflecting the cross influence of cultures that have always inspired traditional design.

Lenapehoking Exhibition (2022-02-12) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

Bandolier bags from 1830 to 1850 are examples of the determination of our Lenape ancestors to continue their culture in a tumultuous time of forced removal and dispossession.

The Delaware Bandolier Bag is defined by its wide shoulder strap terminating in three tabs, bold abstract floral design, and bi-lateral symmetry. Once an important element of men’s attire it had all but disappeared from our Lenape communities by the early 20th century. The historic bags presented here were made during 1830 -1850 and serve as testaments to the survivance of the Lenape during a time of chaos and upheaval as a result of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. One cannot imagine what sacrifices were made to hold fast to Lenape art and culture during this treacherous time.

The contemporary Delaware Bandolier Bags were made by Joe Baker (Delaware Tribe of Indians) over the last 20 years in direct response to the absence of these important beaded items in our community. They are meant to inspire others to continue this tradition into present times, acting as passports to things both seen and unseen. By celebrating beauty we honor our ancestors and acknowledge the miraculous gifts they have given to our present and future Lenape communities.

Historic Delaware Bandolier Bag, Unknown, 2022-02-12, From the collection of: Lenape Center
Contemporary Delaware Bandolier Bag, Gregg Richards, Photo by: Gregg Richards, Joe Baker, 2022-02-12, From the collection of: Lenape Center
Contemporary Delaware Bandolier Bag, Joe Baker, Photo by: Gregg Richards, 2022-02-12, From the collection of: Lenape Center
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Three tapestries consisting of ancestral Lenape seeds, Purple Kingsessing, Blue Shackamaxon, and Hannah Freeman beans, are included in the collection as well. These seeds represent the rematriation of Lenape seeds to their native soil after hundreds of years.

Lenape Center partnered two years ago with Farm Hub in the upper Hudson Valley for a seed rematriation program that would return ancestral Lenape seeds to their native soil. The results of this partnership have been nothing short of miraculous. Together we have created a way of return for seeds that were displaced by hundreds of years of forced removal. We have witnessed the power and generosity of the seeds and how each Spring they through song and prayer are awakened and find expression in soil of Lenapehoking. Lenape Center is grateful for the ongoing care and nurturance provided by Farm Hub and their workers.

Below, Joe Baker, executive director and co-founder of The Lenape Center, and K Greene from Hudson Valley Farm Hub discusses the cultural significance and history of indigenous seeds and the art created by Joe.

Beads & Seeds by Brooklyn Public LibraryLenape Center

Lenapehoking Exhibition (2022-02-12) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

As part of the exhibition, Greenpoint Library’s rooftop teaching garden features Indigenous fruit trees that were cultivated by the Lenape in Manhattan, creating much needed continuity between ecological past and present.

"The exhibition site is a library branch, a public space, a very democratic space, a place where grandmas gather, and children gather; it is in many ways kind of messy and noisy and it’s a part of a community and it is really alive." —Curator Joe Baker, an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, and co-founder and executive director of the Lenape Center.

"That to us was very important in terms of disrupting the historical hierarchal museum model and placing this work at the very ground level of human experience."

Lenapehoking: An Anthology reading (2022-10) by Gregg RichardsLenape Center

This presentation complements Lenapehoking, an exhibition organized by The Lenape Center with Brooklyn Public Library, BPL Presents, and Greenpoint Library (January 20, 2022–April 30, 2022).

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The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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