The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation is the northernmost of three interrelated tribes of the area of the Delaware Bay. We are a made up of the American Indian families from southern New Jersey and the Delmarva Peninsula who remained in our ancestral homeland after many of our relations were removed to the west and to the north as far as Oklahoma and Canada. Centuries ago, our Lenape and Nanticoke ancestors were among those locally referred to as “Cohansies,” “The Indians of Cohansey Bridge,” Alloways,” “Little Siconese,” among other names.
The Lenni-Lenape (or simply “Lenape”) are the ancient root of many other American Indian nations. The Lenape homeland included all of New Jersey, northern Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania, and southeastern New York. The Nanticoke are the people of the Delmarva between the Chesapeake and Delaware Bays. Our tribal nation of Nanticoke and Lenape people are the result of the coalescing of these two interrelated tribes, beginning as far back as the 1600’s.
Our ancestors never surrender their tribal identity or inherent sovereignty. From the mid 1600’s through to the establishment of the United States, we shared our homeland with the Swedes and Finns, Dutch and British… but, always kept our tribal community alive and well. Throughout much of the 1800s and 1900s, our tribal governance continued as a self isolating family-clan style leadership operating in conjunction with our tribal churches. By the 1970’s, a new generation of leaders began to advocate for our people in a more open manner among the non-native public and government agencies, reorganizing the tribe with an elected chief and council which no longer functioned solely within the traditional tribal church.
Our tribe is governed by a constitutional government, which provides for executive, legislative, and judicial branches. Our community services are administered through a tribally controlled 501(c)3 social services / community development organization called, “The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey,” which is subordinate to our tribal government.
Our main headquarters is in Bridgeton, Cumberland County, New Jersey, where we also operate a tribal store, the “Turtle Trading Post.” The tribal headquarters and store is open to the public. Artifacts are on display 24 hours a day in our shop window. Arts and crafts from among our own tribe and other American Indian nations are on sale in the store, as well as interesting souvenirs and unique gifts, books and music.
We also have tribal grounds, called “Cohanzick,” in Fairfied Township, New Jersey. This is the location of our tribal community center and ceremonial ground… and is where many of our tribal families have lived for hundreds of years.
Sadly, there is a modern stereotype that all American Indians want are casinos. The truth is that the majority of American Indian Nations do not participate in casino gaming, and those which do have chose it as a method for economic development of their tribe and to enable their tribal governments to provide services to their people.
The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation supports the rights of American Indian Nations to determine their own methods for economic development. However, our tribe stands out as an American Indian Nation that passed tribal law forbidding the tribe’s participation in casino gaming.
In keeping with the guidance of the almighty Creator, the admonishment of our tribal elders, the standing policies of our tribal leaders and the spiritual legacy left for future generations of our people, our tribal law requires that the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indian Tribe shall not own, manage, operate or sponsor any business which profits from the promotion of vice. This law applies to the Tribe itself and to all of its current or future subsidiaries. While we affirm the rights of other legitimate tribal governments to determine their own position in regard to the issue, our tribe has exercised its own sovereign right of self-determination by pursuing economic development opportunities which do not involve the promotion of vice.
The tribe’s opposition to gaming is the reason that tribal citizens are quick to point out the difference between the historic Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe and a recently formed smaller group from the same area in southern New Jersey which called itself the “Unalachtigo Band of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation” and was subsequently renamed the “Brotherton Delaware Nation of Indians” which advocates gaming. By applying nomenclature that implies an official connection with the historic Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribal government, the band’s various names suggest a relationship that is non-existent, benefiting from the implication while still rejecting the duly elected leadership and official policies of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape. A disclaimer appears on many of our tribal materials stating that we are NOT AFFILIATED in any way with the “Unalachtigo Band” or “Brotherton Delaware Nation of Indians.”