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Lenni-Lenape spirit alive in Bucks

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  • Robert Schmidt
    http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/83-10252007-1429649.html Lenni-Lenape spirit alive in Bucks By MEGAN MCCLURE Bucks County Courier Times Marge Custer,
    Message 1 of 1 , Oct 26, 2007

      Lenni-Lenape spirit alive in Bucks

      Bucks County Courier Times

      Marge Custer, director of Churchville Nature Center's Lenape Village, was
      given a very special nickname by her friends in the Lenni-Lenape Native
      American tribe, “Woman Who Changed the Custer Legend.”

      As director, Custer strives to extend and preserve the culture of the tens
      of thousands of Native Americans who inhabited Bucks County before they
      were driven west when the Europeans took over their land.

      In her presentation to village visitors, Custer explains that the Lenape
      tribe was known as the grandfather of all Native Americans because it was a
      peaceful tribe. Led by Chief Tammany — or Tamanend, as he is more popularly
      known — they tried to resolve conflict without force. They followed many of
      the same beliefs as the Irish and Quaker cultures, which Custer believes,
      is why the Lenape got along so well with William Penn, with whom they
      shared their land.

      As Custer explained, the Lenape believed life was a learning experience.
      Children were made to think for themselves and were seldom punished,
      especially if there was a lesson to be learned. The tribe learned to live
      in harmony with nature and maintain a balance with every living thing. One
      credo was, “Let the first three go by and take the fourth.” If the Lenape
      were gathering eggs, they would save one for the animals, one for the
      birds, the third for procreation and take the fourth for the tribe.

      Known also as the Delaware Indians, the Lenape inhabited a large territory
      from the New Jersey coast to the Kittatinny Mountains, which border the
      Delaware River along New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Kittatinny is Lenape for
      “endless hill” or “great mountain.” In what is now Bucks County, the Lenape
      settled along the Delaware in places such as Durham and Tinicum, as well as
      inland along the Neshaminy Creek in Upper Southampton and Wrightstown.

      Today, a few thousand Lenape remain in the area, but many are not
      recognized by the state or the federal government because it is difficult
      to prove lineage. The Native Americans that do remain live much like the
      average American. In Bucks County, many gather once yearly in July for a
      powwow. Native Americans from different tribes and from all over the United
      States gather at Core Creek Park in Middletown to share each other's
      cultures and traditions. Many make their living dancing and traveling from
      powwow to powwow, according to Custer.

      It was not until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978,
      however, that policy was enacted preserving the rights of Native Americans
      to practice rituals such as dance indigenous to their culture. They were
      not even allowed to speak or teach their native language. In fact, at that
      time there were only three people left who spoke the Lenape language, and
      one of them, Nora Dean Thompson, recorded the language for preservation
      before she died in 1984.


      Want to learn more?

      Visit the Churchville Nature Center, 501 Churchville Lane, Churchville.
      Lenni-Lenape Village tours are given every Sunday from April to October. In
      addition, there are Lenape stories, campfires, weekend village experiences,
      pottery workshops and a Native American festival in the spring. For more
      information on other Lenape activities at the nature center visit
      www.churchvillenaturecenter.org or call 215-357-4005.
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