This was originally written by RuthAnn Purchase for the Southwest Globe Times on June 15, 2022.
One huge change that has come to our region recently is the increasing desire to honor ancient ways of living together well. Land acknowledgements are one of many ways to do this and improve our relationships with all living things, including plants, animals, and people, a group that some, like the Lenape, call “All Our Relations”.
Indigenous protocol on every continent requires the acknowledgement of one another’s ancestors, their ancestral rivers, and their sacred lands.
This protocol sounds a lot like equity or equal rights. We need trees to breathe; we relate to trees even if we forget to thank them; therefore, trees are our relations and deserve our respect. If trees are our relations, do local Indigenous trees have the right to live? Do local rivers have the right to thrive? If humans need trees and clean water for Life on Earth, humans must re-learn honor for “All Our Relations.”
Naming is part of that honor. If I call you by a name that insults you, you might not want to live with me. So it is for our relations. The term “Delaware” comes from De La Warre, a military title given to General Thomas West from the British Army, who decimated the lands and peoples he was sent to colonize.
Before Thomas West named them after himself, the Tribes were not called “Delaware Indians”. They were Lenape, grouped in three Tribes: Wolf, Turkey and Turtle, each with their own dialect.
In the Philadelphia region, Unami was the prevalent dialect. In Unami dialect of Lenape, this river valley we live in is called Hakesena Sipu Pahseyunk – the Mother River Valley. And Wawa was not a store on a highway, but the name of the geese who sang many songs as they migrated together.
Philadelphia Mural Arts’ Climate Justice Initiative has begun to include local Native “American Indian” voices to unify their land and water advocacy work. To learn more, I invite you to visit the Climate Justice Initiative’s Land Circle Teach-In website page.
Wanishi ta! (thank you)
RuthAnn Purchase is the Co-founder, GreenBridge CDC & Lenape Union Land Trust and the Village of Fork Branch Cultural Mapping Program Manager.
For more information on changing our ways see www.LULT.org