Members and friends of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania recently came ashore to the Penn Museum 13 days into their 17-day "Rising Nation" Delaware River canoe journey, inviting area neighbors, organizations, families, and friends to join in signing the Treaty of Renewed Friendship. Those who signed the treaty indicate their support of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania as partners and caretakers of a sacred homeland—the region of eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and southern New York.
Chief Shelley DePaul, Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, opened the ceremony by offering a prayer. She also led the audience in repeating the Lenape word wanishi.
"Wanishi means 'I am grateful,'" she explained. "We say it 12 times to bring it to the level of the Creator."
The treaty signing ceremony—a once-every-four-year tradition that began in 2002—included ceremonial songs, reflections from the canoe journey, and the passing of the wampum, an Eastern Woodlands ritual that seals bonds of trust and responsibility. Wampum shell beads are sacred, and made from the shells of local waters. A purple and white string of wampum the Penn Museum accepted in 2010 was passed to the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, an advocacy organization working throughout the Delaware River Watershed to defend the Delaware River, its tributaries, and communities against threats to clean water and healthy rivers. Then a line formed as more than 25 individuals and organizations signed the treaty.
"This is about people coming together in an agreement of honor," said Chief DePaul. "It's not a legally binding document, because we as Native Americans don't do legal—we do heart-to-heart."
Image captions, top to bottom: Chief Shelley DePaul, Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, second from left, and friends of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania look on as Dr. Ann Dapice, Chair, Association of Native Alumni of the University of Pennsylvania, greets the audience at the treaty signing ceremony (Photo: Penn Museum). Chief Shelley DePaul, Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, passes a string of wampum to Maya van Rossum of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network in recognition of the advocacy organization's work throughout the Delaware River Watershed (Photo: Penn Museum). Area neighbors, friends, organizations, and families lined up to sign the Treaty of Renewed Friendship in support of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania as caretakers of a sacred homeland (Photo: Penn Museum).