Debunking the Myth: Natives Never ‘Sold’ Manhattan!

“The squat clapboard house overlooking the Hudson River in the West Village might not seem like an obvious place for a Native American prayer center. Its graffiti-strewn facade faces the busy West Side Highway, with a city bus stop out front…The house’s ground floor now sits directly on Manhattan soil, said Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois, 76, a wealthy activist who bought the property in 2006. He says he is essentially donating it back to its original owners: the Lenape Indians…Mr. Bourgeois said he had always been troubled by the well-known and not quite accurate legend that, four centuries ago, the Lenape sold Manhattan to Dutch settlers for the equivalent of $24 worth of goods.‘It’s quite offensive,’ he said. It’s a form of conquest.” C. Kilgannon, The New York Times

Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois, right, wants to turn a house in the West Village into a prayer center. Anthony Jay Van Dunk, left, a former chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation.Sam Hodgson NYT

Excerpt: Giving Back a ‘Stolen’ Property to the Original Manhattanites, By Corey Kilgannon, The New York Times

“Mr. Bourgeois pointed to a hole recently jackhammered through the thick concrete flooring of the house, which left black soil exposed underneath. You can actually touch Manhattan soil — the idea is to be in touch with Mother Earth, he said, adding that the plan was to remove the concrete and simply have a dirt floor. Anthony Jay Van Dunk, a former chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, a tribe based in Mahwah, N.J., is Mr. Bourgeois’s choice to start a prayer house, or a Pahtamawiikan, as it is known in one of the languages spoken by the Lenape.

A hole in the house’s concrete floor exposes soil underneath. You can actually touch Manhattan soil — the idea is to be in touch with Mother Earth. CreditSam Hodgson for The New York Times

Mr. Van Dunk, 54, a Brooklyn woodworker who is active in Native American issues, pointed out that, if such a transaction had taken place, the Lenape might have meant it as a good-will exchange for sharing the land, and not as transferring ownership, especially because the tribe did not believe anyone could own land or water. The Lenape tried to embrace and share, Mr. Van Dunk said. And in return, they got everything taken, even their lives.

Mr. Bourgeois said he bought the squat clapboard house, at 392 West Street, in 2006 for $2.2 million. Credit Sam Hodgson for The New York Times

Now, of course, Manhattan — whose name comes from the Lenape tongue, meaning roughly ‘the land of many hills’ — has been developed to the hilt into a center of global commerce…Mr. Bourgeois said that he bought the building, 392 West Street, in 2006 for $2.2 million, and that it had probably appreciated in value to about $4 million. With three floors and less than 3,000 square feet, it is one of the last wood-frame buildings along the Hudson waterfront.

Ramapough indians enter the powwow by john st john photography

Though some documentation describes the house as being built in the 1830s, Mr. Bourgeois said he believed it may actually date to the 1770s. Over the centuries, it has been home to a saloon, a gambling parlor, an oyster house and a pool hall, Mr. Bourgeois said, and in recent decades it housed bars. He said that when he bought it, there were peep show machines inside, which he had removed. He said he initially hoped to turn the house into a museum dedicated to clean water issues that would include a seven-story waterfall installation designed by his mother.

If Lapowinsa, the Lenape chief (seen here in a 1735 portrait by Gustavus Hesselius), were alive today, he could look forward to hanging out on Weehawken St. at the future Lenape West Village H.Q.

It would also have a waterless composting toilet restricted to people who ate only organic food. He admits now that the plan was ‘a bit too utopian. Mr. Bourgeois lives half a block from the house in an apartment filled with files and books related to his activism. He recently returned from several weeks in North Dakota protesting a proposed oil pipeline near the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

The Ramapough-Lenape gathering is the bridge that guides us back to our bond to the earth. Photo Credit- Marire Longo

He said that he donated about $1 million to the campaign against the pipeline, and that he hoped the prayer house would be a way to celebrate and promote Native American ideals and political empowerment.”

Category: History

President Obama’s Last Gift to Natives and Others

“President Obama has designated two areas in the deserts of southern Nevada and Utah as national monuments, after years of fighting and debate over the management of both areas. The newly created Bears Ears National Monument will protect roughly 1.35 million acres of land in southeast Utah from future development. Gold Butte National Monument will give federal protections to roughly 300,000 acres in southwest Nevada…The designation is a win for a number of groups. Environmental activists and Native American tribes have been fighting for protection of both areas for years and are applauding the decision.” N. Rott, NPR

Obama at Tribal Nations Conference

Bear’s Ears. photo- hear2heal

Map of proposed Bears Ears National monument in southeastern Utah. St George News

Excerpt:  Obama Designates Two New National Monuments In Nevada And Utah–By Nathan Rott, NPR

“In a statement, Obama said the designations protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archaeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes. Those protections begin immediately, but how long they’ll last is uncertain.

State and local politicians in Utah and Nevada have vowed to fight any federal designations on state land, calling them land grabs and executive overreach — arguments heard in many parts of the rural West…Obama has used executive power to establish or expand national monuments 29 times during his tenure, most recently in California, Hawaii and the Atlantic Ocean. But the designations in Nevada and Utah, two largely rural, Republican-held states, could prove to be the most contentious.

The Navajo, Hopi, Uintah & Ouray Ute, Ute Mountain Ute and Zuni all have ancestral ties to Bears Ears. Under the new designation, they’ll co-manage the national monument with the federal government and will still be allowed to access the land for tribal ceremonies, firewood and herb collection, hunting, grazing and outdoor recreation.

Gold Butte. photo- Friends of Nevada Wilderness

As a coalition of five sovereign Native American tribes in the region, we are confident that today’s announcement of collaborative management will protect a cultural landscape that we have known since time immemorial said Alfred Lomahquahu, vice chairman of Hope Tribe.

Gold Butte is home to the Moapa Band of Paiutes and has a number of archaeological sites, which have seen a recent rise in vandalism as anti-federal-government sentiments have simmered in Nevada.”

President Barak Obama

Today, I am designating two new national monuments in the desert landscapes of southeastern Utah and southern Nevada to protect some of our country’s most important cultural treasures, including abundant rock art, archeological sites, and lands considered sacred by Native American tribes… Importantly, today I have also established a Bears Ears Commission to ensure that tribal expertise and traditional knowledge help inform the management of the Bears Ears National Monument and help us to best care for its remarkable national treasures.

Thank you all for your partnership. Thank you for this journey.

I’ll see you on the other side. May God bless you. God bless the United States of America. ~President Barack Obama~December 28, 2016

Category: Culture

Natives Celebrate the Winter Solstice for the New Year

“The start of the New Year is honored by many Native Americans, although many tribes have selected different dates as the last day of the year. In North American Indigenous cultures, the New Year is at the end of January or first part of February, based on constellations and moon phases. The timing of the New Year is usually in conjunction with Winter Solstice commemorations.”

Winter Soltice celebration-Lakota Sioux. image warpaths2peacepipes


Excerpt: Native American New Year Commemorations

“Native Americans of the North, Central, and South Americas have a fire ceremony to bring in the New Year. Some of the Native American traditional New Year observances include annual planting festivals, like that of the Hopi and Iroquois. In the Northwest, some Native American tribes celebrate New Year earlier than the rest of the western world.

For instance, the Umatilla tribes of eastern Oregon hold their ceremony just before the Winter Solstice on December 20. The people of the Hopi pueblos observe nine major religious ceremonies throughout the year that symbolize the changing of the seasons and the nature of the Hopi sacred universe. The Hopi believed that on the Summer Solstice, when the days are the longest, that the Sun God is closest to Earth.

The Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony, called the “Haudeshaune,” is in either January or February depending on the moon cycle.  When the new moon appears the spiritual year begins.

Image of Iroquois Midwinter Ceremony.

Again, many Indian tribes celebrate the New Year as part of their great Winter Solstice ceremonies. According to one First Nation spiritual leader from Canada, Blue Eagle, this is also the time of the Winter Solstice and for those who do not celebrate Christmas.

Aztec calendar.

Today, many Native American tribes celebrate the New Year with Pow Wows. In Mexico last year, Aztecas, Mayans and Huichols, on behalf of the United Nations, celebrated the New Year dawn by dancing humanity back into the ancient earth-honoring way of being.”

Category: Holidays

Amazing and Beautiful Pueblo Gingerbread Houses!

“The annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest is a favorite holiday tradition at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Children and adults are invited to enter a gingerbread house inspired by a Pueblo village, house, community, church, or historic building with prizes awarded in children’s and adult categories. This annual holiday event is a unique way to share and enjoy Pueblo culture with your family.” IPCC

Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest submission (courtesy IPCC)

Excerpt: 8th Annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest

“The 8th Annual Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest is just one of many events at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center this holiday season… Children can listen to tales told by Pueblo elders and community members while gathered around the fire in the courtyard. The IPCC’s Pueblo Harvest Cafe will offer hot chocolate for sale.

(courtesy IPCC)

(courtesy IPCC)

The Indian Pueblo Cultural Center is a world-class museum and cultural center located in Albuquerque’s historic Indian School District. Founded in 1976 by the 19 Pueblo Indian Tribes of New Mexico, the IPCC’s stated mission is to preserve and perpetuate Pueblo culture and to advance understand by presenting the accomplishments and evolving history of the Pueblo people of New Mexico with dignity and respect.” ICTMN

The show is up for visitors to enjoy December 5, 2016 – January 8, 2017

(courtesy IPCC)

Pueblo Gingerbread House Contest submission (courtesy IPCC)



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Category: Culture

Some Great Pow Wow Pics From 2016!

“It is a sad fact that pow wow season has come and gone, but the memories and celebratory feelings experienced over 2016 are sure to last a lifetime. As we make our way into the holiday season, we won’t have to leave our memories too far behind because of some beautiful images here.” V. Schilling, ICTMN



Excerpt: Miss Pow Wow Season? Snack on These Tasty Pics– By Vincent Schilling,ICTMN

“The first set of images are from the Richmond American Indian Pow Wow, which was held on November 11 – 13, 2016 at the Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, VA. According to event organizer Barry Richardson (Haliwa Saponi,) the pow wow has been running strong for 35 years.

The second set of images are from the Native American Heritage Month Celebration held in Pembroke Mall in Virginia Beach. The event was in its seventh year in 2016 and hosted Native dancers from West Virginia, Virginia, New York and North Carolina.”










Great Images from additional Pow Wows at various locations:





pow-wows-bring-singers, story tellers and secrets culturalbeacon

pow-wows-bring-singers, story tellers and secrets–culturalbeacon

Category: Pow Wows

Is All Fur Bad?

“When PETA pops up, you know it’s that time of year, with temperatures dropping, gift guides proliferating and fur once again becoming a topic of debate, setting activists against enthusiasts, man against nature, indulgence against ethics. But as the holiday season begins, it may be worth pausing to consider another idea, courtesy of a designer who exists far outside mainstream fashion… to say that Peter Paul Kawagaelg Williams, the founder of Shaman Furs, is not a fashion person would be putting it mildly.”V. Friedman, The New York Times

Peter Paul Kawagaelg Williams, the founder of Shaman Furs, performs a smudging ceremony for his hunting rifle outside his home in Sitka, Alaska. Credit James Poulson for The New York Times.

Peter Paul Kawagaelg Williams, the founder of Shaman Furs, performs a smudging ceremony for his hunting rifle outside his home in Sitka, Alaska. Credit James Poulson for The New York Times.

“He is, rather, a somewhat scruffy 34-year-old Alaska Native with long hair and no formal design education who identifies as an environmental activist and member of the Yup’ik tribe, and who has made it his mission to reintroduce style to the allure of sea otter. Not to mention the idea of traditional subsistence hunting, and the value of knowing your clothes.

On the one hand, there is the popular (and justifiable) distaste for anything that involves the killing of cute, cuddly creatures. On the other is Mr. Williams’s homegrown but broadly resonant and deeply felt theory about ‘mis-consumption’ and the way we have become disconnected from what goes in our closets — and on our bodies.

PETA ad.

PETA ad.

‘We don’t want to think about the plants we are wearing when we wear cotton, and we don’t want to think about life and death,’ he said in phone interview from Alaska. He thinks it should be the opposite.



Mr. Williams comes to this belief as part of his birthright, and he expresses it in the form of a pencil skirt. He calls hand-sewing a “prayer” and says that for him, hunting equals environmentalism equals spirituality. For him, the universal language of fashion is the best vehicle for amplifying the heritage and legacy of his people while at the same time ensuring the future of those people — in part because his staple material is one of the most precious pelts no longer widely available.



Mr. Williams walks with a model wearing his pencil skirt made from sealskin.

Mr. Williams walks with a model wearing his pencil skirt made from sealskin.

Shaman Furs, a one-man operation run out of a 900-square-foot trailer that doubles as atelier and apartment, specializes in hats, vests, earrings and pencil skirts made from sea otter and sealskin, pelts that Mr. Williams harvests, designs and sews himself (the only part of the process he outsources is the tanning) in an elaborate combination of traditional ritual and modern basics.



It involves an aluminum skiff, “smudging” (ritualistically cleansing the body and spirit with Labrador tea smoke), a .223 Ruger bolt-action rifle, a skinning knife, thanking each animal for the gift of its life, and the rite of giving the otter or seal a last drink of water after its death. The ritual doesn’t obviate the visceral nature of the hunt, even for Mr. Williams, but that is part of the point.



It’s not that he expects to convince PETA. His clothes don’t make that kind of statement and probably couldn’t if they tried. He’s just trying to unpick assumptions, one stitch or pair of earmuffs at a time.”

“I want to maintain the individual relationship I have with the animals, and create an intimate experience for those wearing my work.” ~ Peter Paul Kawagaelg Williams~ Yup’ik tribe, Alaska

Category: Alaskan Natives