By Stella Katsipoutis-Varkanis

Since its establishment two years ago thanks to the efforts of a dedicated group of students, faculty, and staff, Native American Heritage Week has now been expanded into a monthlong recognition of Indigenous peoples, their history, and the social issues affecting their tribes. For the first annual Indigenous Heritage Month, a series of events will be hosted in acknowledgement and celebration of the Lenape tribes of Pennsylvania and the Delaware Nation throughout November.

This year’s events were organized and directed by Robert Young ’14, director of intercultural development at Lafayette’s Office of Intercultural Development (OID), in partnership with Sharon Engel ’22; Abigail Schaus ’24; the students of Alternative School Break (ASB); and their adviser, Melissa Ash, assistant director of student engagement and civic leadership at the Landis Center. 

“We’re celebrating Indigenous Heritage Month because we want to bring awareness to where the Indigenous community is today; how they’ve navigated federal, state, and institutional boundaries; and the contributions they’ve made to American society at large,” Young says. “Indigenous history and culture is American history and culture. And, in my opinion, this is a robbed and forgotten community that hasn’t been given its due. We want to be change agents, to support and uplift this community, and to help others develop a new stream of consciousness and empathy for a community that’s not their own. Because how can you navigate in a global world without knowing anything beyond your own back door?” 

 “It is critical that, as a community, we commit to recognizing the impact of colonialism and dispossession that continues to shape the oppression of Indigenous peoples,” Engel adds.

Scheduled events include:

group of young people hold banner that says The Delaware Nation

Image from The Water Gap: Return to the Homeland, a documentary about the youth of three Lenape tribes

  • Nov. 9, 7 p.m. EST: Discussion with Daniel Strong Walker Thomas
    Lenape tribal leader, hereditary chief of Delaware Nation, and representative combating CPAIN will discuss lost language, migration west, boarding schools, and blood quantum in this virtual event.
  • Nov. 10, 7 p.m. EST: Lenape Tribal Leader Panel Discussion
    Deborah Dotson, president of Delaware Nation; Daniel Strong Walker Thomas, hereditary chief of Delaware Nation and representative combating CPAIN; and Katelyn Lucas, tribal historic preservation assistant for Delaware Nation, will come together for a hybrid virtual and in-person panel to talk about the Lenape Nations today and current issues affecting Indian Country.

“Working with the Lenape people and the Delaware Nation at large has been nothing short of transformative,” Young says. “I’m a firm believer that you can’t speak for a community that you’re not a part of, so having members of their community come and speak to us is exciting. My hope is that this is the start of an ongoing relationship and that we can continue to build this sense of community.”

Young recommends the following educational resources for those who want to learn more about the Indigenous community. Copies of these publications are also available at Skillman Library for Lafayette community use.

Cultural Programming at Lafayette

Office of Intercultural Development

Lafayette has a commitment to diversity and inclusion, which prepares students to be leaders in a globalized world. The Office of Intercultural Development promotes a welcoming, inclusive, and equitable campus community.

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