Lenape Indian Tribe to be honored by state Public Archives

DOVER — The Delaware Public Archives will commemorate Native American Heritage month with a presentation by Dennis J. Coker, Principal Chief of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, on Saturday, Nov. 2, at 10:30 a.m.

Representing the “First People of the First State,” the Lenape Indian Tribe is located in northern Kent County in and around the town of Cheswold. Its people, who are ethnically distinct, have been known historically as the Delaware Moors.

For hundreds of years the Cheswold Lenape community has coexisted with their neighbors of European and African descent largely through attending separate churches and schools. Their separate schools closed in the mid-1960s as a result of Delaware’s desegregation efforts.

During the early 1990s, in response to a resurgence of Native awareness and pressures from the outside, elders of the Cheswold Lenape community decided to celebrate their unique history and formed the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware. On Aug. 3, 2016, Delaware’s Governor Jack Markell signed legislation officially recognizing the Lenape Community in Cheswold as a Sovereign Indigenous Nation.

A lifelong resident of Kent County, Mr. Coker has been honored to serve as the elected Principal Chief of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware since 1996. During his term, Chief Coker has established successful collaborations with the Delaware State Historic Preservation Office and the Federal Census Bureau.

Through his efforts, the Tribe was awarded a Census Designation Area allowing Tribal members to include their ethnicity as Lenape on the 2010 Census for the first time in history.
Chief Coker’s service as a past Chairman of the Confederation of Sovereign Nanticoke-Lenape Tribes of the Delaware Bay has allowed him to effect progress towards recognition of the Indigenous human rights of all member Tribes.

His membership in the National Congress of the American Indian (NCIA) and founding membership in the Alliance of Colonial Era Tribes (ACET) has brought recognition, furthered understandings and developed collaborations for the betterment of Delaware’s Indigenous population.

The program is free to the public and will last around one hour. No reservations are required. For more information, contact Tom Summers (302) 744-5047 or e-mail thomas.summers@delaware.gov.

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