I am going to share a true NJ story. A story that encompasses over 400 years of tradition and rich history. A true story of New Jersey natives that have contributed so much to NJ history, NJ lore and our present successes too. They have been here in NJ for literally CENTURIES. Then I am going to share with you all how that rich history is unfortunately now being REWRITTEN by others and our own NJ state government for reasons that are not quite clear.
My hope is that when I am done with this tale – you will call your state legislators and tell them you want justice for your neighbors and the passage of two bills introduced by Senators Weinberg and Rice in the Senate and Assemblymembers Johnson and Huttle in the Assembly, that are currently stalled in Trenton.
The story begins in 1669, with the recorded presence in Monmouth county of what were known as the Delaware Indians. Many NJ children learn about the Lenape – one of the Delaware tribes – but they usually do not learn of the Cherokee of NJ. The Cherokee first visited the Lenape before 1700 at Brotherton Reservation near what is now Indian Mills in Burlington County. They came prior to 1700, and have been here since – after marrying into the Raritan Lenape Tribe at the Brotherton reservation as well as migrating here at least 4 times when forced to leave their homes in Georgia, Virginia, and elsewhere. The first major migration took place in 1711- 1713, when racism and religious intolerance in Georgia and Virginia drove the Keetoowah-Cherokee to NJ. Five treaties from 1768 to 1777 in Virginia and elsewhere contributed to more migrations, since they ceded all the land to the Colonists AND made the indigenous Cherokee virtual non-entities until 1924, (from 1924 – to 1984, the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Virginia considered them “Negro” and they were discriminated against as such). In 1779, the Keetoowah Cherokee from Georgia and Virginia and the Lenape renewed their common ties in NJ. They continued to contribute to the history here and by 1827, Benjamin Reevey, of the Sand Hill Band of Indians and Cherokee , had become a US Senator – representing New Jersey.
Up until the Trail of Tears in 1838, Chief John Ross, as a “Chief in Exile” came to New Jersey to fight against the removalof the Cherokee from Cherokee Territories with the then President, Andrew Jackson. It was during this time that Chief Ross validated the presence of the Cherokee in this state. He settled in Monmouth County and established Ross Landing which is still on the New Jersey maps today. He left New Jersey and returned to the Georgia Cherokee to fight against the removal of the Cherokee from their territories which encompassed eight states at that time.
From the 1870’s to the 1920’s the Lenape and Cherokee continued to intermarry and are now referred to as the Sand Hill Band of Indians. As the economy of our state grew, many of the Sand Hill Band of Indians worked building the Victorian homes in Asbury Park, Neptune, and even Bradley Beach. Others found work in the textile mills of Paterson and settled in the River Street section there. In the 1920’s other Sand Hill members settled in Passaic and Sussex counties as well.
The Keetoowah Cherokee here in NJ are traditional and to this very day take part in the rituals and customs of their tribes, speak their own language, as well as participate in NJ society and contribute as professionals and employees – to our lives here. They belong to a real Native American tribe with a real Chief and Tribal Council, and have retained their culture, their language AND their history to this day. The Sand Hill Band of Indians, consisting of Lenape and Cherokee, is the only tribe to be recognized by the Delaware Tribes of Oklahoma and the Keetoowah Society of the Cherokee Nation. The Sand Hill Band of Indians is recognized by the US Government and was – until recently – recognized by the State of NJ as residing in Lenapehoking (the Lenape word for NJ).
Following me so far?
Over time, another group of the Lenape Tuscarora and Cherokee hid in the mountains of Northern NJ and came to be known as the Ramapough Indians. They stayed hidden as much as possible from the world except to the Sand Hill Band of Indians. Once the Sand Hill group grew larger, another group called the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee) from Georgia and other areas formed.
In 1950, Chief James LongBear Reevey of the Sand Hill Band of Indians established the NJ Indian Office in Paterson. NJ has always been considered part of Indian Country. (Meaning that it is a State that is recognized as having a Native indigenous population). Chief Sam Beeler of the Sand Hill Band of Indians helped re-establish the Ramapough tribe and helped them become a 5013c – which is why we have heard of the Ramapough Indians today – they are no longer hidden. However, the Ramapough are now a non-profit corporation. The Ramapough individuals, if they are one eighth Lenape or Cherokee or Tuscarora, are considered Native American with individual sovereign rights. However, as a Tribal group, they no longer have sovereign status because they are a non profit corporation under NJ Laws.
Now, in the annals of “no good deed goes unpunished”, in the 1970’s, Chief Beeler of the Sand Hill Band of Indians, who helped re-establish the Ramapough Tribe, – in the longstanding tradition of being generous and welcoming, allowed the Powhatan Ranape (Rappahonock Tribe) of Virginia and the Nanticoke tribe of Delaware-Maryland to NJ. (There are documents to prove this, which I will put up on the blog as soon as I am able.) What happened next defies logic, fairness, and decency. The folks put on the NJ Commission for Indian Affairs by NJ did NOT include members of the two tribes of indigenous NJ natives – the Sand Hill Band of Indians, or the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee). However, the Powhatans and the Nanticokes ARE on the Commission even though they arrived in the 1970’s.
In fact, the Ramapough tribe rep, Nanticoke tribe rep, and the Powhatan rep on the NJ Commission of Indian Affairs have ERASED the history of the Sand Hill Band of Indians and the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee) from the story. They have mis-appropriated the history of these two tribes and prevented them from being represented and recognized by the State of NJ. Although, the Sand Hill Band of Indians has been recognized by previous NJ Governors, Governor Corzine currently refuses to recognize current Principle Chief Darius J. TwoBears Ross of the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee), descendent of Chief Ross – Principle Chief of the Cherokee Nation – (now if that doesn’t make you native American I don’t know what does!), and Principle Chief Dr. Carroll MedicineCrow Holloway of the Sand Hill Band of Indians, and will not permit them to be represented on the Commission. Also in danger are the historic artifacts on loan to museums in NJ that belong to the Sand Hill Band Of Indians that may fall into the wrong hands.
According to this report, which the Sand Hill Band of of Indians and the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee) had NO INPUT on, the NJ Commission on Indian Affairs states and has also somehow convinced Governor Corzine and the Secretary of State in NJ that the ONLY native American tribes in NJ with sovereign status are
1) The Ramapough
2) The Nanticokes
3) The Powhatans
My question, is:
What I find so upsetting about this story is the re-writing of people out of their rightful place in history and thus – their rights. It is estimated that 25 million Native Americans were killed since the Europeans first occupied America. This story is genocidal in its scope. How do we feel when the leader of Iran says that the Holocaust did not happen? I am outraged and offended that the State of NJ is aiding and abetting historical genocide by letting an entire group of people – 30,000 native Americans – most of them comprising Cherokee Lenape and Cherokee peoples living in NJ – RIGHT NOW, go uncounted and unrepresented, because a few with agendas want to erase them from the history books.
To that end, Senator Weinberg has sent 2 bills to the legislature. We need to pass these. The first would see that the Sand Hill Band of Indians and the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee) – the only two indigenous tribes STILL recognized by other tribes across the nation, would get seats and voices on the Commission representing their respective tribes, just like the other three tribes. The second would see to it that artifacts, historic sites, and burial grounds get preserved and protected. Unfortunately, as we speak, a group out of Lincroft, NJ calling themselves the Sand Hill Historical Society and the ‘Neptune Sand Hill Indians’ does not even include certified members of the NJ Sand Hill Band of Indians. This group is in possession of stolen artifacts which are being displayed at the State Museum without permission of the sovereign Sand Hill Band of Indians. This is a serious violation of the NAPGRA Laws and is a felony which has been reported to the State Police.
Let’s give our true indigenous New Jersey natives back their history AND their voice. Almost 20,000 of our friends and neighbors – the equivalent of several NJ towns – have been legally stripped of their rights when their history of the Sand Hill Band of Indians and the Ani Tsalagi Onaselagi Northeastern Band (Those Who Separated-Cherokee) were wiped off the map, along with perhaps 10,000 to 15,000 inter-tribal members. As someone whose 1st cousins are Native American, (from California), this story affects me deeply. Historical genocide is appalling anywhere it happens. We can stop it from happening here in NJ. Lets rectify this now. It’s the progressive thing to do.
Help Senator Weinberg pass these two bills.
But first let’s ask the Governor and the Secretary of State their justification for backing an inaccurate report condoning historical genocide. What is their agenda for ignoring a population the size of the City of Englewood? They refuse to address the concerns brought to their attention since January in numerous communications, letters, and phone calls by the two chiefs and Sen. Weinberg, herself, sent directly to the office of the Governor, the Secretary of State, Senate President Codey, and the NJ State Legislature?
Is this how we treat Sovereign Nations these days?
Call your legislators and ask why these bills are stalled in committee……..
UPDATE – Here are the Bills, Sponsors, and Commiitees
For Assembly Bill A205:
Sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Assembly Environment and Solid Waste Comm
John F. McKeon, 4 Sloan Street, Suite D & E, South Orange, NJ 07079
For Assembly Bill A206:
Sponsored by Assemblyman Gordon Johnson, Assemblywoman Valerie Vainieri Huttle
Assembly State Government Committee
Joan M. Quigley, Chair, 242 Tenth Street, Suite 101, Jersey City, NJ 07302
For Senate Bill: S108
For Senate Bill: S109:
Sponsored by Senator Loretta Weinberg and Senator Ronald Rice,
Wage, Tourism & Historic Preservation Committee
Jim Whelan, Chair, 511 Tilton road, Northfield, NJ 08225