note by Pastor
John R. Norwood, author of "We Are Still Here!"
"This material expresses an opposing point of view, contradicted by the wealth of data available and posted on this website and elsewhere. It reflects an ill-informed approach, disregards the history of administrative racial reclassification of American Indians, and proposes erroneous conclusions. It shows a poor handling of the paucity of early records and misunderstanding of the manner in which the historic climate of racism sabotaged the ancestral history of the people we report on."
Folk Legacies Revisited
The Ramapoughs, the Powhatan-Renape,
David Steven Cohen
The pure products
of America go crazy -- mountain folk
from Kentucky or the ribbed
north end of Jersey
go crazy --
or the ribbed
north end of
So begins William Carlos Williams's poem
"To Elsie," which I quoted in my 1974 book The Ramapo Mountain People. I
noted that this poem was about one of the racially mixed people,
then called the "Jackson Whites," living in the Ramapo
Mountains on the New York-New Jersey border, because of the reference
in the poem to "marriage / perhaps / with a dash of Indian
blood." At the time I considered the poem to be a reflection
the Williams's class and racial prejudices against the mountain
people and his willingness uncritically to accept the legends about
Anthropologist James Clifford changed
my thinking about this poem. In
his 1988 book The Predicament
of Culture, Clifford cites the poem as an expression of what
he terms the predicament of native peoples in a modern age.
Call the predicament ethnographic modernity:
ethnographic because Williams finds himself of center among scattered
traditions; modernity since the condition of rootlessness and mobility
he confronts is an increasingly common fate. "Elsie" stands simultaneously for
a local cultural breakdown and a collective future.
a dichotomy that "Elsie is either the last all-but-assimilated
remnant of the Tuscaroras who, according to tradition, settled in
the Ramapough [sic] hills of northern New Jersey, or she represents
a Native American past that is being turned into an unexpected future."
The unexpected future to which he refers is the fact that
over the past decade the Ramapo Mountain People "have actively
asserted an Indian identity."
Citing my book as "debunking the story of a Tuscarora
offshoot," Clifford maintains that "whatever its real
historic roots, the tribe as presently constituted is a living impure
Clifford's book contains an essay about the 1977 land claims trial in Boston Federal Court of the so-called Mashpee Indians of Cape Cod. Clifford sees the trial of an example of modern Indians having to "convince a white Boston jury of their authenticity." It raises questions about who has the right to determine who is an Indian and what is authentic. Clifford compares the Mashpee to "several other eastern groups such as the Lumbee and Ramapough" that have intermarried with blacks and were therefore identified in the past by the census takers and other outsiders as "colored." Clifford argues that "twentieth century identities no longer presuppose continuous culture or traditions. Everywhere individuals and groups improvise local performances from (re)collected pasts, drawing in foreign media, symbols, and languages." In other words, the Maspee, the Ramapaughs, and other native peoples "reinvented tradition" in the twentieth century. As a modernist poet, Clifford maintains, Williams intuitively realized there was no such thing as authentic tradition.
Here, and throughout his writings, Williams avoids pastoral, folkloristic appeals of the sort common among other liberals in the twenties -- exhorting, preserving, collecting a true rural culture in endangered places like Appalachia. Such authenticities would be at best artificial aesthetic purifications . . .
Let this problematic figure with her "dash of Indian blood," her ungainly female form, her inarticulateness stand for groups marginalized or silenced in the bourgeois West: "natives," women, the poor. . . . She, Williams, all of us are caught in modernity's inescapable momentum. 
In this essay I want to take issue with
Clifford's deconstructionist approach which views history and tradition
as irrelevant to the ongoing process of reinvention. Rather than being "artificial aesthetic
purifications," history and folklore allow us to make distinctions
that Clifford glosses over -- distinctions, for example, between
groups like the Mashpees who can trace their genealogy to known
Indian tribes that intermarried with blacks and groups like the
Ramapo Mountain People who the genealogical record indicates descend
primarily from free blacks and who have only a legendary assertion
of early Indian ancestry.
The importance of such distinctions can be seen
in the three emergent Native-American groups in New Jersey that
have been granted state recognition.
In January 1980, the State of New Jersey
passed a concurrent resolution designating the Ramapough (an archaic
spelling) Mountain People as the Ramapough Indians and memorializing
the Congress of the United States to recognized them as an Indian
tribe. The resolution stated that the Ramapo Mountain
People "are direct descendants from pure blooded Indians of
the Iroquois and Algonquin (sic) nations," thereby broadening
the legendary Indian ancestry from Tuscarora (whose language was
part of the Iroquian language family) to include the Lenape or Delaware
Indians (the indigeneous Indians of New Jersey whose language has
been classified as part of the Algonquian language family).
The resolution was forthright in its motivation, indicating
that the Ramapo Mountain People were striving for Federal recognition
in order to qualify for funds earmarked for Indians.
Technically, a resolution such as this is merely a token
in that it requests Congress to recognize the group as an Indian
tribe, however, the statement attached to the resolution stated
that its purpose was for the State of New Jersey also to recognize
the mountain people as the Ramapough Indian Tribe.
This resolution was followed later the
same year by a bill designating the Powhatan Renape Nation and also
memorializing Congress to recognize them as an Indian tribe, and
in 1982 a similar resolution was passed for the Confederation of
Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Tribes. These bills, however, unlike the resolution for the
Ramapoughs did not use the term "recognize" either in
reference to the state or federal governments.
The term was not used in the statement section nor in the
text. Instead it memorialized Congress to acknowledge
them as tribes. The Powhatan
Renape resolution stated that "they are comprised of seven
surviving tribes of the Renape linguistic group of the Powhatan
alliance or confederation" and "in the nineteenth century
many Powhatan Renape People moved to New Jersey. . ."
The Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape resolution states that "it
is comprised of several surviving tribes of the Confederation of
Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape cultures" and that "these people
have an unbroken history of hundreds of years settlement in the
southern New Jersey area." It should be noted that tribes of the Powhatan
Confederation were indigeneous to Virginia and like the Lenape were
members of the Algonquian, not the Renape or Lenape, language family. In the Lenape language the "r" and
the "l" sounds were interchangeable according to Columbia
University linguist John Dyneley Prince.
The term lenni means "man" and lenape means "people," and current
anthropological thinking is that the use of the terms together is
The 1990 census lists 14,970 American
Indians in New Jersey, yet the Bureau of Indians Affairs in the
United States Department of Interior currently recognizes no tribal
entities in the state. This
disparity has several explanations.
First, there are individual Native Americans from tribes
outside the state who have migrated to New Jersey.
Second, since 1970 the census has used self-identification
as the rule for determining racial origin.
Between l980 and l990 the number of Indians by self-identification
increased 78.3 percent from 8,394 in l980.
This large increase is part of a national pattern and cannot
be explained by in-migration or natural increase alone.
A demographer for the Census Bureau told the New
York Times: "Apparently, people who did not call themselves
Indians in an earlier census are now doing so."
Anthropologists have noted that it is
not uncommon for ethnic groups to change their ethnic identity or
for new ethnic identities to emerge.
Certainly this has been the case with such groups as the
Ukrainians, who have been known at different times in their history
as Little Russians, Ruthenians, and only in the twentieth century
as Ukrainians. Among American
Indians, new tribes have been formed from remnants of old tribes.
Such was the case with the Seminoles and the Mashpees.
Furthermore, there is no one definition of what constitutes
a tribe, and there are conflicts between legal and anthropological
definitions. But this is
not simply a question of definition. It is a question of distinguishing between groups
of people that have existed at one time in their past as a tribal
entity versus groups that has only recently taken on a tribal identity.
In my book The Ramapo Mountain People I contrasted the legend of their origins
to a documented, genealogical history.
According to legend their ancestors were Tuscarora Indians
migrating from North Carolina to New York State in the seventeenth
century, escaped slaves, Hessian deserters from the British army
during the Revolutionary War, and prostitutes procured by a man
named Jackson for the British soldiers occupying New York City during
the Revolution. The name
Jackson White, according to the legend, came from the fact that
some of the women were black, hence "Jackson's blacks,"
and others were white, that is, "Jackson's Whites." More likely the name comes from the phrase
"jacks and whites," free jacks being a slang expression
for free blacks.
The genealogical record indicates that
the group descends from free blacks who were culturally Dutch. I traced the oldest families back to the late
seventeenth century to a community of free blacks living on the
outskirts of New York City. In
1687, three of these families were the original patentees in the
Tappan Patent in the Hackensack Valley on the disputed boundary
between New York and New Jersey. Throughout the eighteenth century these "colored
pioneers" lived in the Hackensack Valley as landowners. They were Afro-Dutch, having Dutch surnames,
attending the Dutch Reformed Church, and speaking a black variant
of the Jersey Dutch dialect. At
the turn of the nineteenth century, they began to sell their land
in the valley and buy land in the Ramapo Mountains.
The probable reason for this migration was the passage of
a slave code in New Jersey that required free blacks to have a pass
to cross state or county boundaries, and the boundary line between
New York and New Jersey had been run through the middle of the Tappan
Patent. Once they moved to
the mountains, the ancestors of the Ramapo Mountain People took
on a "hillbilly" cultural identity.
There has been an oral tradition of Indian
ancestry among the Ramapo Mountain People as early as the eighteenth
century. During the French
and Indian War, one of them signed up for the militia, listing his
race as "Indian." This
listing doesn't necessarily prove Indian ancestry, however.
It could mean that they were asserting a legendary Indian
ancestry in order to set themselves apart from blacks who were slaves. In the book I argued that there was no evidence
of early Indian ancestry among the Ramapo Mountain People. It is possible that one or more Indians may
have married into the group, which was not recorded in the church
records. But there is a difference between a possibility
and a historical fact based on evidence. The main ancestry of the group is explained
by the genealogical record. In
the twentieth century, the genealogical record shows that some Indians
from outside New Jersey did marry into the group.
However, the group never constituted a tribe until it was
incorporated as the Ramapough Indians, Inc. in the late l970s.
Throughout their history, the Ramapo Mountain
People have had a situational ethnic identity.
During the colonial period, they were Afro-Dutch, having
Dutch surnames, attending the Dutch Reformed Church, and speaking
a black variant of the Jersey Dutch dialect.
Once they moved to the Ramapo Mountains they took on a Appalachian
mountain cultural identity. At the time I did my fieldwork in the late l960s,
they jokingly referred to themselves as "hillbillies." Many of them preferred to listen to country
and western music. However,
they also had an alternative identity as Indians, referring to themselves
as "the tribe of the Ramapos."
At one point in their history, they were even willing to
adopt an African-American identity. In 1943 they solicited the help of the Harlem
Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored
People to integrate the Hillburn school system.
The NAACP sent their special counsel, Thurgood Marshall,
who later became the first black United States Supreme Court justice.
The Nanticoke-Lenape represent a somewhat
different situation. They
were incorporated in 1978 as the Nanticoke-Lenni Lenape Indians
of New Jersey, Inc., living in and around Bridgeton in southern
New Jersey. The surnames associated with this group include
Gould, Ridgeway, Pierce, and Harmon.
The surnames Gould and Pierce are common among
the free black community of Gouldtown located just east of Bridgeton.
According to legend, the Goulds descend from a free black
who married Elizabeth Adams, the granddaughter on John Fenwick,
a prominent Quaker proprietor of West New Jersey. The following clause from John Fenwick will
was cited as confirmation:
Item, I do except against Elizabeth Adams
of having any yet leaste part of my estate, unless the Lord open
her eyes to see her abominable transgression against him, me and
her good father by giving her true repentance, and forsaking that
Black that hath been ye ruin of her, and becoming penitent for her
sins; upon the condition only I do will and require my executors
to settle five hundred acres upon her.
In a 1908 article
on "Negro Communities in New Jersey" in the Southern Workman, Richard R. Wright, Jr.
argued that the black referred to in John Fenwick's will was Benjamin
Gould, who had three girls and two boys through his marriage to
Elizabeth Adams. One of the boys was supposedly also named Benjamin
This Benjamin Gould has been described as "the
founder of Gouldtown," and his existence can be documented
in written sources, because he left a will dated 1777, which indicates
that he owned 136 acres of land in Fairfield, Cumberland County.
The oral tradition that the man mentioned in
Fenwick's will was named Gould can be traced back to the mid-nineteenth
century, but the historical accuracy of this assertion remains unproven.
A history of Gouldtown written by two
members of the community in 1913 states that "tradition says"
that the Pierces descend from two mulatto brothers, named Richard
and Anthony Pierce, who came to South Jersey from the West Indies
in the early eighteenth century. They in turn paid the passage of two Dutch sisters
named Marie and Hannah Van Aca, whom they married. The same source indicates that the first Murray
in Gouldtown was named Othniel Murray.
"He claimed to be a Lenapee or Siconessee Indian, and
came from Cape May County."
Thus, the Lenape Indian ancestry was mentioned
in regard to only one of the founding families of Gouldtown, and
like the legend about John Fenwick's granddaughter it is based on
oral tradition, rather than written documents.
The surnames Harmon and Ridgeway entered
the group by way of intermarriage with the Moors and Nanticokes
of Delaware. The relationship
between the Moors and Nanticokes is unclear.
In 1915 anthropologist Frank G. Speck wrote about the Nanticoke
people consisting of "two bands, the nuclear band living in
Indian River Hundred, Sussex county, the other, supposedly an offshoot,
residing at Cheswold, Kent County."
In 1943 historian C. A. Weslager argued that
they were two distinct groups; the term Moor being used only in
Cheswold, on the outskirts of the state capital of Dover, and the
term Nanticoke being used fifty miles south at the Indian River
As with all of these groups, there are
multiple legends about their origins.
Speck collected the following legend that supposedly explains
the name Moors:
An interesting tradition current among
the members of the band is that they are descended from a crew of
Moorish sailors who were shipwrecked near Indian River inlet, escaped
to shore, and intermarried with the Indians who were living there. This story is well known in the region and repeated
with several variations. One
states that on board the wrecked vessel was an Irish princess; another
claims that the vessel was owned by a Moorish prince; another that
the Moors were pirates from the Spanish main, and to this they attribute
their local name of "Moors."
a more convincing etymology of the name.
He notes that the term "blackamoor" or sometimes
simply the shortened form "Moor" was often used in the
colonial period to refer to African-Americans, as opposed to the
more modern usage of the term to refer to natives of Morocco.
He cites a l639 reference to a blackman named Anthony, describes
as "an Angoler or Moor" being brought to the Delmarva
Peninsula, presumably by the Dutch.
Weslager recounts another origins legend
which appeared in the testimony given in an 1855 court case in Georgetown,
Delaware, in which Levin Sockum, the owner of a general store in
Indian River Hundred, was accused of selling a quarter-pound of
powder and shot to Isaiah Harmon in violation of a state law that
prohibited the sale of firearms to a Negro or mulatto.
The case hinged on Harmon's racial ancestry.
A key witness was one of Harmon's relatives, an eighty-seven-year
old woman named Lydia Clark. Weslager
quotes a paraphrase of her testimony from a newspaper article written
after the trial by the prosecutor in the case.
About fifteen or twenty years before the Revolutionary War, which she said broke out when she was a little girl some five or six years old, there was a lady of Irish birth living on a farm in Indian River Hundred, a few miles distant from Lewes, which she owned and carried on herself. . . . Her name she gave as Regua, and she was childless, but whether maid or widow, or a wife astray, she never disclosed to anyone. . . . After she had been living in Angola Neck quite a number of years, a slaver was driven into Lewes Creek . . .
Miss or Mrs. Regua, having heard of the
presence of the slaver in the harbor, and having lost one of her
men slaves, went to Lewes, and to replace him, purchased another
from the slave ship. She selected a very tall, shapely and muscular
young fellow of dark ginger-bread color, who claimed to be a prince
or chief of one of the tribes of the Congo River. . . This young man had been living with his mistress
but a few months when they were duly married, and as Lydia told
the court and the jury, they reared quite a large family of children,
who as they grew up were not permitted to associate and intermarry
with their neighbors of pure Caucasian blood, nor were they disposed
to seek associations or alliance with the Negro race; so that they
were so necessarily compelled to associate and intermarry with the
remnant of the Nanticoke tribe of Indians who still lingered in
their old habitations for many greats after the great body of the
tribe had been removed further towards the setting sun.
On the basis of
this testimony, Sockum was convicted of selling powder and shot
to a mulatto. After the trial,
he closed his store and moved to Gloucester, New Jersey.
In 1865 some members of the Harmon family moved to Blackwood
Town, New Jersey. Weslager
cites a local historian who believes that the Ridgeway family are
the descendants of the lady named Regua and the Congo slave.
The Nanticokes were a documented tribe
residing on the Chesapeake Bay side of the Delmarva Peninsula. There was a tradition among the Nanticoke that
they were once part of the Lenape, but current thinking is that
they were culturally distinct.
In the 1740s under the pressure of European
encroachment most of them left the Delmarva Peninsula seeking the
protection of the Iroquois in the Susquehanna Valley of Pennsylvania,
and finally settling on a reservation in Ontario, Canada.
There is evidence that some of them remained in Delaware
and intermarried with blacks. Weslager
notes that the surname and Indian named John Coursey was was on
the signators of a 1742 treaty, and the surname Coursey is one of
those among the Nanticokes at Indian River Hundred.
Furthermore, he indicates that the leader of the Choptank
Indians residing at Locust Neck, Maryland, in the 1790s was an Indian
woman named Weningominsk, whose white name was Mary Mulberry.
And the surname Street occurs both among the Nanticoke descendants
in Canada and among the Indian River group.
Thus, unlike the Ramapough Indians who
have only legendary claims to Indian ancestry, there is genealogical
evidence of some early Indian ancestry for the Nanticokes of Delaware. However, this documented Indian ancestry is
limited to only a few individuals.
The so-called Nanticoke-Lenape in New Jersey, however, stem
from intermarriage between some Nanticoke who moved to New Jersey
and people from the free black community of Gouldtown outside of
Bridgeton. While there is
a legend about Lenape ancestry for at least one of the Gouldtown
families, this legend is unsupported by historical documents.
The Powhatan-Renape represent yet a third
situation. The Powhatan Indians
is a collective term for the Algonquian-speaking chiefdoms of Virginia's
coastal plain. The name Powhatan
refers both to one of the chiefdoms and to its leader at the time
of the English settlement. Powhatan,
who was the father of Pocahontas, inherited six of these chiefdoms
(the Powhatan, Arrohateck, Appamattuck, Pamunkey, Mattaponi, and
Chiskiack) and then added more into what one anthropologist has
described as an empire, rather than a confederacy. This empire was short-lived, breaking apart
after a war with the English in the mid-1640s.
Unike the Indians in New Jersey and the northern Delmarva
Penninsular, the Indians of Virginia's coastal plain and eastern
shore (the lower Delmarva) remained, but they broke up into smaller
and smaller groups occupying smaller and smaller territories.
They also began to intermarry with blacks.
In 1785, in his Notes
on the State of Virginia, Thomas Jefferson described the state
of the remaining Powhatan groups as follows:
The Chickahominies removed about the year
1661, to Mattapony River. Their
chief, with one from each of the Pamunkies and Mattaponies, attended
the treaty of Albany in 1685. This
seems to have been the last chapter in their history.
They retained, however, their separate name so late as 1705,
and were at length blended with the Pamunkies and Mattaponies, and
exist at present only under their name.
There remain of the Mattaponies three or four men only, and
have more negro than Indian blood in them. They have lost their language, have reduced
themselves, by voluntary sales, to about fifty acres of land, which
lie on the river of their own name, and have from time to time,
been joining the Pamunkies from whom they are distant but ten miles.
The Pamunkies are reduced to about ten or twelve men, tolerably
pure from mixture with other colors. The older ones among them preserve
their language in a small
degree, which are the last vestiges on earth, as far as we know,
of the Powhatan language. They have about three hundred acres of very
fertile land, on Pamunkey River. . . .
Of the Nottoways, not a male is left.
A few women constitute the remains of that tribe . . . . At
a very early period, certain lands were marked out and appropriated
to these tribes, and were kept from encroachment by the authority
of the laws. They have usually
had trustees appointed, whose duty was to watch over their interests,
and guard them from insult and injury.
But the trustees
did not watch over their interests so well, because in the early
nineteenth century they participated in the actions on the part
of the State of Virginia to terminate the reservations and detribalize
the Indian descendants on the grounds that reservations were becoming
havens for free blacks, which was feared might lead to slave insurrections.
The termination of tribal status was reinforced by the developing
white racial attitudes in Virginia that any amount of black ancestry
qualified a person as black.
The New Jersey Powhatan-Renape acknowledge
that the Powhatan Indians were located primarily in Virginia, but
they claim that some of their number migrated to New Jersey in the
eighteenth century. Their
current leader, Chief Roy Crazy Horse, wrote in his A
Brief History of the Powhatan Renape Nation: "The majority
of our people are still concentrated in the tidewater region of
Virginia, although a sizable population (approximately 1,200) survives
in the Delaware Valley region as a result of a migration to the
North in the 1700's to escape racism and in search of jobs."
There is, however, no historical documentation for this migration.
Chief Crazy Horse explains the Powhatan-Renape name as follows:
In ancient times we called ourselves Renape
(human beings -- the people -- our people). Renape has the same meaning and origin as Lenape,
the name originally known by the Delaware people. The letter L gradually replaced R in the Lenni
Lenape language. All these
people were not united in one tribe.
There were many independent republics.
Sometimes they came together in alliances or confederations.
So Powhatan refers to a political alliance, while Renape
refers to an ethnic group -- a people speaking a common language.
In 1983 his group
reached an agreement with the state of New Jersey for the use of
a part of Rancocas State Park in Burlington County, where they have
reconstructed an Indian village and museum.
Thus, the Powhatan-Renape represent a third situation, as
distinct from the Ramapough and Nanticoke-Lenape.
They claim to be descended not from a remnant group left
behind when the main group migrated elsewhere, but from individuals
who migrated to New Jersey after the main group was detribalized
because of intermarriage with blacks.
During the 1920s the Powhatan Indians
in Virginia and the Nanticoke in Delaware underwent a revitalization
movement, under the influence of University of Pennsylvania anthropologist
Frank G. Speck. A crisis
in Virginia was precipitated when in 1924 the state legislature
passed its Racial Integrity Law requiring the listing of racial
ancestry on certificates issued by the state Vital Statistics Bureau.
Speck, who was working on a book about the Rappahannocks
and another on the Powhatan tribes, actively helped the racially
mixed Indians in Virginia fight the arbitrary designation of them
as being black. He also encouraged
them to revitalize their crafts. Under his guidance, a new Powhatan Confederacy
was formed and intertribal gatherings took place, but this effort
Speck also visited the Nanticoke Indians
at the Indian River Hundred beginning in 1911. He was instrumental in the incorporation of
the Nanticoke Indian Association of Delaware in 1922. He also was active in encouraging the revitalization
of Indian culture among them. According
In a further effort to sharpen interest in old Indian traditions, the Association voted to hold an annual festival at Thanksgiving, reminiscent of native campfire powwows. Under the guidance of their benefactor, Dr. Speck, they made costumes, strings of beads, and feather headdresses. He taught them the steps of simple Indian dances and the words to Indian songs. There was no intent to hold up these things as direct survivals of their Nanticoke Indian forbears. 
In a later book
Weslager defended Speck's actions in becoming an advocate for the
people he studied:
One might question the appropriateness
of Speck directly involving himself in the process of change of
his study group. He may have
been one of the first anthropologists studying the Indians east
of the Mississippi to become so involved, but participant intervention
has recently become more common. In this nontraditional method, the investigator
becomes a vital part in the process he is studying while it is taking
place. Be that as it may,
Speck did not consider the songs and dances as direct survivals
handed down from ancient Nanticoke Indian forbears.
Speck, as well as the Indians themselves, knew that the original
Nanticoke ceremonies, like the native language, had not been preserved.
In the l970s and 80s during what has been
termed the Ethnic Revival, there was another movement to revitalize
Indian traditions, this time among the emergent Indian groups in
New Jersey -- the Ramapough, the Nanticoke-Renape, and the Powhatan-Renape. The Powhatan-Renape especially have been effective
in obtaining state arts council funds for many of their activities.
These groups tapped into a growing pow-wow movement among
tribal Indians, nontribal Indians, and non-Indians across the country.
The presentation of Indian culture was pan-Indian, that is,
a composite of Indian traditions from many different parts of the
country. While there are some that may question the "authenticity"
of these pow-wows as a stereotype of Indian culture, the fact remains
that many Indians have participated in this events and similar composite
cultural identities have been formed among other ethnic groups.
The stakes in the cultural politics of
obtaining tribal recognition from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs
were increased tremendously in 1988, when the Indian Gaming Act
was passed. This act allowed tribes recognized by the BIA
to run gambling operations if the state allows such gambling for
any other group. However,
to be recognized by the BIA the group must prove continuous existence
as a tribe, which is difficult to define and hard to prove for these
eastern nontribal groups. This law has been especially controversial in
New Jersey, where since 1976 casino gambling has been legal in Atlantic
City. In November 1993 the
Bureau of Indian Affairs recommended to the Secretary of the Interior
that the Ramapough's petition for recognition be denied because
they did not meet the criteria established by the BIA, most importantly,
continuous existence as a tribe. The ruling was hailed by some members of the
New Jersey Congressional delegation, some newspapers, and Donald
Trump as a victory for Atlantic City.
Trump, the owner of several Atlantic City casinos, suggested
that the only reason the Ramapoughs sought Indian recognition was
to gain a casino permit. In fairness to the Ramapoughs, their application
for recognition antedated the Indian Gaming Law by eight years.
I believe that it is a mistake to view
the Ramapough's assertion of Indian identity and that of the other
emergent Indian groups in New Jersey as a cynical attempt to gain
economic advantages through a bogus claim of being a tribe.
Most of the members of these groups honestly believe that
their claims are valid. The
problem is reconciling different ways of validating statements about
the past, that is, oral tradition versus historical documentation.
The Ramapough Indians understandably put more stock in what
they have been told by their parents and grandparents than in footnotes
in a book written by an outsider.
Certainly, there are difficulties in determining
the legal definition of a tribe.
Perhaps it is arbitrary for the Bureau of Indian Affairs
to require the continuous existence as a tribe in order to qualify
for federal recognition. And
it is true that very few folk traditions survive from the distant
past, rather than being revitalized and re-invented.
Notwithstanding all of the above, there is still a need to
keep the historical record separate from oral tradition and to make
distinctions between different kinds of emergent Native-American
groups. Otherwise, we are
unwittingly providing a new meaning to the closing lines of William
Carlos Williams's poem:
It is only in isolate flocks that something is given off No one to witness and adjust, no one to drive the
is given off
and adjust, no one to drive the
 William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems, 1909-1939, vol. I. Copyright, 1938. New Directions Publishing Company. Reprinted by permission of New Directions.
. James Clifford,
The Predicament of Culture:
Twentieth- Century Ethnography, Literature, and Art (Cambridge:
Harvard University Press, 1988), pp.3-11, 14. 17.
. For two other views of the Mashpee
trial, see Jack Campisi, The
Maspee Indians: Tribe on Trial (Syracuse: Syracuse University
Press, 1991) and Paul Brodeur, Restitution:
The Land Claims of the Maspee, Passamaquoddy, and Penobscot Indians
of New England (Boston: Northeastern University Press, 1985).
For the genealogical record on the Ramapo Mountain People,
see David Steven Cohen, The
Ramapo Mountain People (1974, Reprint, New Brunswick: Rutgers
University Press, 1986).
. Helen C. Rountree, Pocahontas's People: The Pohatan Indians of
Virginia Through Four Centuries (Norman and London: University
of Oklahoma Press, 1990), p.3; J. Dyneley Prince, "An Ancient
New Jersey Indian Jargon," American
Anthropologist 14 (1912): 510; Herbert C. Kraft, The
Lenape: Archaeology, History, and Ethnography (Newark: New
Jersey Historical Society, 1986), pp. xvii-xviii.
 . U.S. Census. Population. New Jersey. l990; "Census Finds Many Claiming New Identity: Indian." New York Times, March 5, 1991, p. A16.
. Fredrik Barth, Ethnic Groups and Boundaries: The Social Organization
of Culture Difference (Bergen-Oslo and London: Universitets
Forlaget and George Allen & Unwin, 1969), pp. 17-18, 22-24;
Paul Robert Magocsi, "Ukrainians," in Stephen Thernstrom,
ed. Harvard Encyclopedia of American Ethnic Groups
(Cambridge and London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press,
1980), pp. 200-10; Clifford, The
Predicament of Culture, pp. 278, 289, 294-295.
. Cohen, The Ramapo Mountain People, pp. 25-59, 97-101, 111-116.
. C. A. Weslager, The Nanticoke Indians -- Past and Present
(Newark and London & Toronto: University of Delaware Press
and Associated University Press, p. 1983), pp. 254-5.
. Richard R. Wright, Jr., "The
Economic Condition of Negroes in the North: III. Negro Communities
in New Jersey," Southern
Workman (1908): 385-6.
. William Steward and Rev. Theophilus
G. Steward, Gouldtown: A
Very Remarkable Settlement of Ancient Date (Philadelphia:
J. B. Lippincott, 1913), pp. 52-54.
. Robert G. Johnson, "Memoir
of John Fenwick, Chief Proprietor of Salem Tenth, New Jersey,"
Proceedings of the New Jersey Historical Society
4 (1849): 53-89.
. Ibid., pp. 62-3.
. Frank G. Speck, "The Nanticoke
Community of Delaware," Museum of the American Indian, Heye
2 (1915): 2.
. C. A. Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk: The Story of the
Moors and Nanticokes (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania
Press, 1943), pp. 16, 17.
. Speck, "The Nanticoke Community,"
. Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk, pp. 3-4.
. Quoted in ibid., pp. 34-5.
. Ibid., pp. 36, 78; Speck, "Nanticoke
Community," p. 9n.
. Christian F. Feest, "Nanticoke
and Neighboring Tribes," in Willliam Sturvesant, gen. ed.,
Handbook of the North American
Indian, vol. 15, Bruce G. Trigger, ed. Northeast
(Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution, 1978), p. 240; Weslager,
Delaware's Forgotten Folk, p. 43.
. Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk, pp. 58, 69, 74-5.
. Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia (1785; Reprint,
New York: Harper Torchbooks, 1964), pp. 91-92.
. Rountree, Pocahontas's People, pp. 187-96.
. Chief Roy Crazy Horse, A Brief History of the Powhatan Renape Nation
(Rancocas, N.J.: Powhatan Renape Nation, 1986), pp. 3, 25.
. Roundtree, Pocohantas's People, pp. 218-224.
. Weslager, Delaware's Forgotten Folk, p. 95.
. Weslager, The Nanticoke Indians, pp. 223-4.
 . Vanessa Brown and Barre Toelken, "American Indian Powwow," Folklife Annual (1988): 46-68; Gertrude Prokosch Kurath, "Pan-Indianism in the Great Lakes Tribal Festivals," Journal of American Folklore 70 (1957): 179-182; Weslager, Nanticoke Indians, pp. 13-20; Hazel W. Hertzberg, The Search for an American Indian Identity: Modern Pan-Indian Movements (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1971).