Many people whose ancestors were from Native New York still call the area their homeland. Thousands of people belong to Native communities in New York state, while many others live among the non-Native population. Thousands more belong to tribal nations located in New Jersey, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Ontario, Canada. Today, many descendants of the Lenape call themselves Delaware. Native people and nations take pride in their cultural heritage and find ways to celebrate their rich histories.
Meet a tribal member from the Delaware Tribe of Indians, based in Oklahoma, and discover how he works to keep his nation’s cultural heritage alive.
My name is Curtis Zunigha. I am the director of cultural resources for the Delaware Tribe of Indians. I work to preserve and honor the culture and history that our ancestors have passed down over the generations.
Here, I am wearing traditional Lenape . Red and black are our ceremonial colors—two earthborn paints used in our ancient religious ceremonies. The hat is made of otter hide. The hat and moccasins have a beaded turtle (clan symbol). I am holding an eagle-tail fan and a beaded dance baton.
Here I am with my daughter, Erica Zunigha Magee, my son-in-law, Jamy Magee, and my grandchildren, Riley Magee (age seventeen) and Cayla Magee (age thirteen).
I try to connect the generations in all I do. Here, I am leading a group in the Bean Dance . It is a Lenape social dance meant to bring everyone together to celebrate the planting, cultivation, and harvest of the bean plant. The leader begins by shaking a rattle and calling dancers to join. The dance movements mimic the bean vine growing and chasing the sun across the sky.
We, the people of the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians, today live on tribal lands in Wisconsin as well as in other parts of the state, the United States, and the world.
Here is JoAnn Schedler at the dedication of a fountain in honor of Mohican Chief Popewannehah “John” Konkapot. JoAnn is a direct of Chief Konkapot.
Each year during the second week of August, tribal members gather for a powwow. This is our way of coming together. We dance, sing, and renew old friendships while making new ones. It is a way to celebrate and preserve our rich heritage.
Leikyn Winona Vele (age six) proudly wears her fancy-shawl regalia. This is the first time Leikyn has entered the circle to dance.
Sage Doxtator and Maleeya Peters (both age twelve) enjoy their Indian tacos, an important food of powwows.
Bonney Hartley (right), our tribal historic preservation manager, her husband, Namgyal Tsepak, and their son Norbu Sky Hartley enjoy the powwow.
Meet George Stonefish, a Native New Yorker and Lenape elder.
My name is George Stonefish. I am a Delaware [Lenape], on my mother’s side, from the Moravian of the Thames First Nation in southern Ontario. On my father’s side, I am Chippewa [Ottawa] from the St. Isabella/St. Rosa Reservation in Michigan. I was born in Chicago, Illinois and raised on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. I’m a native New Yorker in the truest sense.
In my youth, I spent summer vacations with my grandparents in Michigan and Canada learning traditional singing and dancing.
Today, I am a member of the SilverCloud Singers, a drum group that features singers from Native nations throughout the United States and Canada. The SilverCloud Singers are one of the most respected and sought-after drum groups on the East Coast and have appeared at numerous powwows throughout the United States.