Publisher’s Note: Christopher Paul Moore, the Brooklyn-based distinguished historian of Native American and African descent, is an elder of the Ramapough-Lenape tribe and an elder of the Collegiate Church of New York. Here, Mr. Moore shares his thoughts on Thanksgiving and his timeless remarks on Thanksgiving Day 2009 when Collegiate publicly acknowledged its ancestral congregation’s complicity in purporting the myth of the Lenape “sale” of Manhattan to the Pilgrims.
Part 2 of Three: “Purchase of Manhattan: an Opera about Justice, Forgiveness, Healing, Returning Home and More”
Pilgrims or Pearl Street?
By Christopher Paul Moore
Thanksgiving is the oldest American celebration! Celebrated every life-filled day by Native Americans, we now (traditionally) observe Thanksgiving on the Fourth Thursday of November.
Pearl Streets in Manhattan and Brooklyn are Lenape Landmarks, identifying locations where festivals celebrating the lives of children, women, men, ancestors, animals and the earth were held for thousands of years before Europeans arrived in the 1600s.
Shells of oysters and clams, eaten at seasonal festivals of Thanksgiving, were left on shorelines to honor and reflect back on the life-giving rays of the sun, moon and stars which were enjoyed each day.
So many shell mounds were found when the Dutch arrived in the 1600s that they named the street which was later built, Pearl Street.
To the Lenape, shells were gold used as gifts and trade currency. Gifts made from white shells were called wampum. Gifts made from dark shells, purple, red and black, considered most valuable, were called sewan. Long Island is still known to the Lenape as Sewanhaka, land of shells.
Lenape is an Algonquin word meaning the people.
In its Lenape form, Thanksgiving was held within the Four Winds: Ramapough (North Wind) to Rockaway (South Wind), Raritan (West Wind) to Rippiwan (East Wind).
According to paleontologists, the first people arrived in the New York City area about 12,000 years ago at the end of the Ice Age.
From Africa, according to scientists, 130,000 years ago, at the beginning of the Ice Age, early humans began their lengthy treks around the globe. Some went north to Europe. Others went east to Asia. In the final stages of the Ice Age, when ice, more than 1,000 feet high, covered much of North America, from Bering Strait to Brooklyn or Boston, our human ancestors, following woolly elephants, arrived. To our earliest residents, the region became known as Helape Chen Kwalas, place where the sun is born.
Over the next few thousand years the ice melted, exposing an essentially new land which the natives called Turtle Island because the ice and water had somehow disappeared allowing a huge turtle to rise up with land across her back.
In November 2009, along with the Collegiate Church of New York, I welcomed Lenape who had been in exile in Canada, Oklahoma and other places away from Manhattan since European arrival 400 years ago.
A New Day
(Spoken by Mr. Moore on Thanksgiving Day 2009
and entered into Collegiate Church records)
Going forward, we have learned today that this is not a New World. It is an ancient world. And it is a New Day.
The four winds are still here.
From the east, again we feel the Rippowam; from the south the Rockaway.
West, we feel the Raritan. From the north, we feel the Ramapough. It is a New Day.
The sun is still here.
Again, we are upon the Helape Chen Kwalas – the place where the sun is born.
Before you leave today, walk with me to Pearl Street, the shells that our ancestors left to honor the sun, are still here. They are beneath the sidewalks, but they are still here.
If you have a shell, like this one, at home, put one in your window to give back the light. Give back to the sun, which has given us so much. It is time we give back to the earth, and to the sun, and to our waters, and to the sky. It is a New Day.
We see (clearly) the trails of Turtle Island. The one we call Broadway, we now call the Trail of Hope and it goes north to the Mohawk, Haudenosaunee and Inuit.
East to the Shinnecock, Pequot, Wampanoag, Narragansett, Micmac.
South the trail goes to Powhattan, Mexico, Carib, Taino, Arawak, Inca.
West to Delaware, Munsi, Cherokee, Osage, Sioux, Apache and to all our brothers and sisters of Turtle Island.
The trail goes to South America, the Caribbean and to all of our brothers and sisters of these United States of America. It is a New Day.
Going forward, the Collegiate Church will promote the cultural awareness of Native Americans. The Collegiate Church will promote the learning, the understanding and the appreciation of Native American culture in our churches and within private and public schools in New York City. Native American arts, music, dance and stories will be part of the Collegiate emphasis on understanding our history and learning from our neighbors. The Collegiate Church will partner with the Native American Children’s Museum.
We stand today in the place of the ancient council fires.
We stand today in the place of the first Collegiate Church.
Our thanks go to all those who have gone before;
Our thanks on the trail goes this day to Mothers of the Lenape.
To all Mothers, Daughters, Fathers, Sons.
Glory upon all Turtle Island!
Glory to Gitchi Manito!
Glory to our Great Creator!
Wanisi, Anuiik! Thank you from All people. (CPM)