Lenape Indian Tribe land in Dover added to Del.’s Open Space Program
DOVER, Del. – In an effort to preserve Native land, and maintain a crucial habitat for plants and animals, state and tribal leaders are working together in several different areas across Delaware. One of those areas in particular is found in the heart of Dover at Fork Branch Nature Preserve.
Land And Culture
“Native spirituality emanates from their place, their land. So, that connection between the land and culture is inseparable,” said Principal Chief of the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware, Dennis Coker.
It’s for that reason that Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC), Governor John Carney, and Chief Coker are teaming up to revitalize a piece of land with tribal history stretching back more than 160 years. Fork Branch Nature Preserve was once home to a one room school house and a church. The church was not owned by the Lenape Tribe. However, it sat next to half-acre plot, which is the only land the Tribe owns.
Restoring and Preserving History
Today, all that’s left is the Fork Branch Cemetery, and land full of historical significance and possibilities. “That church and that school absolutely root us in this area. This is a little bit of a satellite community for the much larger Lenape population, which centers around the town of Cheswold,” said Chief Coker.
The area also holds a gravel pit, and was formerly used as a firing range. DNREC Secretary Shawn Garvin says those former activities have left a clean-up job on their hands.
“Where the old school was that was used as a shooting range. So, there’s contamination that’s been left behind. We’re working on a mitigation plan for that,” said Secretary Garvin.
Governor John Carney admits that the relationship between Native tribes and state and federal government has not always been positive. But, he hopes that with this partnership, and land easement allowing its preservation, that relationship can grow and thrive.
“We take an oath of office that we promise to preserve the right of future generations to respect this heritage,” said Gov. Carney. “To have somebody like the Chief and his Tribe, that know the history of these lands, is important for the rest of Delawareans.”