On the day after Thanksgiving in 2009, the Collegiate Church joined with people from the Lenape nations (Manhattan’s original residents) in an important commemoration in the 400th year since Henry Hudson landed in New York Harbor. Healing Turtle Island, as the event was called, acknowledged the Collegiate Church’s complicity in imposing an alien (and destructive) social and legal system upon the Lenape people. Five hundred attended the event at which Lenape representatives graciously accepted Collegiate’s acknowledgement and offered, in response, a word of forgiveness. You can watch a six minute video here.
On that day, both communities made the commitment to forge a new pathway of cooperation in the future that would lift up both the needs and the unique gifts of Native Americans in this city and beyond. New York is home to the largest urban Native American population in the United States.
Since then, this promise has been realized in several ways, including work with the Native American Children’s Museum on the Upper West side; delivering broadband service to Indian country; working with Nichen, a social service organization that concentrates on serving Native Americans; and collaborating with a group of tribal leaders to create a Lenape Cultural Center in Manhattan.
The latest example of this cooperation can be seen in the new play Manahatta, written by Cherokee playwright Mary Kathryn Nagle and commissioned by New York’s Public Theatre. The play will be performed publicly on March 27, 2013 and will serve as the centerpiece for several Native American activities here in the city. In support of this effort, Intersections hosted a private reading of the play in January.
Manahatta is based on historical accounts and interviews with current members of the Lenape tribes. It tells the story of the continent’s “first people” during its infamous "sale" in 1626 to Peter Minuit. Following the footsteps of a modern Delaware Lenape who returns to Manhattan to work for a Wall Street bank, Manahatta explores how concepts of indigenous identity, ownership, and the system of American capitalism “have made us who we are today--compared to who we were in the past.”
Ms. Nagle reported, “I am incredibly grateful to Intersections International for hosting a reading of my play Manahatta on January 14th. It was the first time I had ever heard the play read aloud by actors, and hearing and seeing the play has allowed me to think critically about what I need to revise before it is fully staged. The reading also gave me the opportunity to receive incredibly thoughtful feedback [which] has helped me move closer to my goal of telling a compelling story that accurately portrays the life and legacy of the Lenape people here in Manahatta today. W'anishi to Intersections International!”