Carla Messinger’s long history of volunteerism and service in Lehigh County deserves to be recognized and celebrated. For 25 years she was the full-time unpaid Acting Executive Director and primary docent of Allentown’s small Lenape museum. There she presented programs and organized events on-and offsite for thousands of school children and the general public, including people of every age and ability level–all without receiving a paycheck, benefits, or health coverage.
Carla went on to found Native American Heritage Programs in 2002 and as its director presents programs at schools and colleges, social groups, businesses, government agencies, and festivals, often accepting such modest compensation that she is a de facto volunteer!! Moreover, for over 35 years she has regularly bought, gathered, and distributed clothing and personal care items to William Allen High School students, working with Donna Balascak until that teacher retired, then with others until the pandemic arrived. Carla also makes monthly contributions to food banks and donates supplies to Cedarbrook at Fountain Hill.
Her ongoing outreach and achievements in the local and regional community deserve all the positive adjectives named in this application. She is inspiring because she so completely embodies the spirit of volunteerism while tirelessly pursuing her life’s mission–sharing the contributions Native Americans have made to the culture now shared by those living where her Pennsylvania Lenape ancestors did at the time of Columbus.
Carla is also courageous, because she tirelessly advocates for a minority’s rights at a time when equality and inclusiveness are very controversial issues. Her work is unusual and to some extent innovative, because 40 percent of Americans believe Native Americans no longer exist, and no one else in this area is as committed as Carla to making them visible and describing their legacy.
Extraordinarily generous and kindhearted, she is a very supportive person who is always ready to respond helpfully to teachers and students consulting her information-packed 100+ page Native American Heritage Programs website, lenapeprograms.info. She’s a wonderful friend as well–volunteering often to do necessary shopping or driving, share information or home-cooked food, provide companionship when it’s needed, or perform other errands or favors. Deeply compassionate, she readily goes out of her way to help anyone in trouble. And while doing any of the above, she is unfailingly cheerful!
Carla’s pro-bono efforts as an educational consultant reach and impact many people in the community. She has donated copies of her prizewinning children’s book When the Shadbush Blooms to libraries and several schools in the Lehigh Valley, writes Opinion pieces for The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Morning Call, and recently did a half-hour appearance with John Pearce on Bethlehem’s WDIY NPR station (88.1 FM) and a 15-minute segment on the Sunrise Show on WFMZ Channel 69 TV.
Carla J S Messinger – Founder / Director of Native American Heritage Programs (2002-ongoing) As a descendant of the Lenape (Delaware) Indians (from Pennsylvania), who were the first inhabitants of eastern Pennsylvania, western New Jersey, and part of New York, she wished to present a true picture of early American Indian life, refuting stereotypes and developing an understanding of the Lenape peaceful, nature-centered lifestyle that could be of value to our competitive, ecologically troubled modern society. The mission is “to present, preserve, and perpetuate the history, lifeways, culture, and contributions of the Lenape and other Native American groups,” and as Director of Native American Heritage Programs she continues that commitment today. Speaker for Pennsylvania Humanities Council “Commonwealth Speakers Bureau”, (2004-2005) (2008-2009) (2010-2011) Author of the award-winning children’s book When the Shadbush Blooms (Fall 2007). Complete Count Census Committee 2009-2010, 2019-2020. Carla worked with the Bloomsburg Children’s Museum for their new exhibit room “Pennsylvania Indians: We Travel Their Paths” and presented programs for the opening exhibitions (2014). Carla appears in both Macmillan/McGraw-Hill & Scott Foresman Pennsylvania textbooks. See below for previous work resume. Had an interview with Chinese National Television on Native American plants (2015). Interviewed by BBC Northern Ireland for a documentary on Charles Thomson and the “Walking Purchase” (2017).
A highly knowledgeable docent, Allan, “Professor History,” is a veteran educator with 32 years experience as a History / Foreign Language and English teacher in the Allentown School District. He pioneered the Gifted Elementary Program and taught German to 4th Grade Gifted students for 20 years. Speaker for Pennsylvania Humanities Council “Commonwealth Speakers Bureau”, (2004-2005) (2008-2009) (2010-2011) Complete Count Census Committee 2009-2010. Consultant, Bloomsburg Children’s Museum (Spring – Fall 2014), providing expertise, items, resources, and programs for the Museum’s new Native People of Pennsylvania Room. Had an interview with Chinese National Television on Native American plants (2015). Interviewed by BBC Northern Ireland for a documentary on Charles Thomson and the “Walking Purchase” (2017).
In 2008 Carla worked with Kutztown University for their exhibit on the Lenape People for the Reading Public Museum.
Presented customized lectures and programs at universities in the US and abroad:
Cedar Crest College
Lehigh University Moravian College
Temple University, Philadelphia St Joseph’s University, Philadelphia
University of Massachusetts, Amherst, MA
Gottingen University, Germany
Glasgow University, Scotland
Trondheim University, Norway
Thiel College, Greenville Chatham University, Pittsburg
East Stroudsburg University
William Paterson University, delivered keynote address at William Patterson University COE Diversity Conference: Authentic Voices: The Native American Experience (2015).
See also Overseas and References links.
Substitute teacher in Lehigh, Berks, Carbon, and Northampton Counties (1971-1982) Founder & Executive Director of the Lenni Lenape Historical Society and Museum of Indian Culture (1978-2002). Retired.
While under her full time volunteer leadership the Lenni Lenape Historical Society / Museum of Indian Culture evolved into an all-volunteer organization described in a 2000 assessment funded by the Pennsylvania Council on the Arts as “a remarkable institution” that “offers rich and diverse programs, a host of activities, and resources for learning that reflect the best tradition of museum educational efforts.”
During her tenure as the sole administrator and primary educator at the Museum, she developed…
Regionally-unique educational and cultural programs, exhibits, and events attended by 185,000 visitors.
High-impact hands-on, interactive educational experiences that helped over 32,000 school children meet PA Academic Standards for History and Arts/Humanities.
A Speakers’ Bureau presenting 150-175 offsite programs and/or exhibits annually at schools, libraries, other organizations, and at well-attended public events.
The Native Treasures outreach program featuring a series of traveling learning boxes that take Native American technology and the history, lifeways, arts and crafts, games, dolls, etc. of various Native American groups into schools.
The most comprehensive Native American-centered library / resource center in PA. Presented customized lectures and programs at universities in the US and abroad.
Authored articles for U.S. and European newspapers and magazines such as Instructor (U.S.) and The Turtle Islander (UK).
Been interviewed by National Public Radio, USA Today, and the BBC as well as local TV and radio stations.
Selected awards, honors and leadership training I have received include …
President’s Volunteer Action Award Citation (1985)
Jefferson Award from KYW-TV3 (1987)
Allentown Human Relations Commission Award (1989)
Smithsonian Institution Award for Museum Leadership (1 of 20 selected from a field of 200 for a two-week leadership training program in Washington, D. C.) (1991)
U.S. Department of the Interior scholarship to attend two-week program on location in Arizona on “Archeology and Ethnography Collections Care and Maintenance” (1 of 20 selected from a field of 500) (1991)
Smithsonian Institution scholarship to attend the one-week “Exhibits for Small Tribal Museums” workshop in Oklahoma (1994) Yakima Nation scholarships to attend the American Association of State & Local Historical Societies/Native American Initiative Conferences in Colorado (1997) and California (1998)
Pennsylvania Council on the Arts scholarship to attend Native American Arts Association Conference in California (1998)
National Trust for Historic Preservation Conference scholarship to attend workshops in Washington, DC (1999)
PA Federation of Museums and Historical Societies Conference scholarship in State College(2000)
Smithsonian Institution scholarship to attend the one-week workshop on “Exhibitions and Research: Story and Substance” in Washington, DC (2000)
National Museum of the American Indian scholarship to attend the one-week “Preservation and Collection Methods” workshop in California (2002)
“Tribal Archives, Libraries and Museums: Preserving Our Languages, Memory and Lifeways” scholarship to attend conference in Arizona (2002)
Listing in …. International Leaders in Achievement, 1990, 1991, 1992 Editions and Who’s Who In International Women Leaders, 1990, 1991, 1992 Editions (International Biographical Center: London, England)
Reference Encyclopedia of the American Indian, 1990-1991, 1992-1993, 1994-1995, 2006-7 Editions (Todd Publications: Scottsdale, Arizona).
Resource for Newcastle on Tyne – Schools and Communities: The Enviro Schools Team 2001-2007 (Britain), with links and listed in school resource manual, page 12. The Enviro Schools Team 2009-20011 (Britain).