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Brooklyn Law School examines the Lenapehoking Anthology

November 13, 2022 Rob Abruzzese
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DOWNTOWN BROOKLYN — Over the last few years, Brooklyn Law School has made an effort to develop its own living land and acknowledgement of the Indiginous people that formerly lived here.

Last week, the school welcomed members of the Lenape Center as a celebration of Native American Heritage Month and part of that effort to acknowledge the people who once shared the same land as the school.

Professor Susan Herman welcomed Hadrien Coumans, co-founder and co-director of the Lenape Center, and Joel Whitney to the school last Wednesday, November 2 for a program entitled, “The Land We’re On: A Lenapehoking Anthology.”

“Today we’re here to talk about the past and how you move from the past and present into the future,” said Prof. Herman.

The program was held in the student lounge and lasted approximately one hour. Students in attendance in person were also provided with a free copy of “A Lenapehoking Anthology.”

Coumans, and his co-founder and co-director, Joe Baker, have helped contribute to a pair of past BLS events on Lenape culture. Whitney has been hosting regular events at the Brooklyn Public Library’s Greenpoint branch.

“It wasn’t until the anthology actually came out that I realized the third editor was deeply involved but it is not a surprise to me,” said Prof. Herman. “Joel Whitney has done a number of programs at the BPL and the library has done an incredible job creating a whole series of events and programs including an exhibit on Lenape art and culture. And Joel was the driving force behind it.”

Prof. Susan Herman, former General Counsel to and president of the American Civil Liberties Union, teaches courses in Constitutional Law and Criminal Procedure, and seminars including Law and Literature, Terrorism and Civil Liberties, and the recent COVID-19 and the Constitution.
Eagle file photo by Robert Abruzzese

A Lenapehoking Anthology was recently published by the Lenape Center and the BPL. It explores Lenape history through personal journeys of people seeking welcome in their ancestral homeland and discusses subjects like the myth of the purchase of Manhattan.

“I was amazed at the contents of the book that is so wide ranging,” Prof. Herman said. “It tries to bust the myth of the purchase of Manhattan, tell stories, Joe tells stories of his own grandmother and his own journey back to the ancestral homeland. There is poetry, there is art, there is all sorts of stuff here.”

“In 2009, we began the Lenape Center out of a clear call to action because the feeling was that if we didn’t begin to do something the erasure and invisibility could be permanent,” Coumans said. “The Lenape Center has the mission of continuing the Lenapehoking, the homeland.”

The Lenape originally occupied all of Brooklyn and all of New Jersey. Their land extended to the foothills of the Catskills to the North, about a third of the way through Pennsylvania to the West, into Connecticut to the East, and stops in the Northern part of Delaware.

“It’s a vast geography, a vast homeland,” Coumans explained. “Still today there are many place names that reference Lanape villages that once stood — Hackensack, Poughkeepsie, Canarsie. These were not sub-tribes or sub-groups, they were the names of these communities.”


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