Dorothy & Governor 1st Cultural Heritage AwardA Quest for State Recognition of the Lenape Coalition

In 1990 Dorothy S. Schiavone received the First Award for Conservation of Cultural Heritage Resources ever given in the state from Governor Casey for the Governor’s Pennsylvania Heritage Award.


Carla & group with GovernorCarla Messinger pictured here at the September 23, 1983 signing of Pennsylvania’s Native American Indian Heritage Day Resolution, was one of many people who worked toward this goal.

For over 25 long years, the Lenape Coalition, composed of surviving Lenape clan members indigenous to the state of Pennsylvania, USA, has petitioned the state Legislature to grant us recognition as descendants of the Lenni Lenape who were the original inhabitants of eastern Pennsylvania.  Our resolutions have not been acted upon, apparently because some lawmakers believe that our purpose is to establish gaming in Pennsylvania.

The fact is that only federally recognized Native people with a reservation in existence within their state before 1940 may apply to game with the state’s approval.  There is no federally recognized reservation in Pennsylvania.  Therefore, Indian gaming in this state is not possible.

The Lenape Coalition seeks state recognition NOT because it supports gaming but because it seeks a better way of life for Lenape descendants in Pennsylvania.

State recognition will give us….

1. Religious Freedom

NOT all Native Americans are completely protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  The Native American Religious Freedom Act (NARFA) only protects Native Americans who are federally and state recognized!  Because we have neither federal nor state recognition the original Lenape descendants of Pennsylvania are not protected by the Constitution and Bill of Rights.  Jail time and fines can be incurred for practicing our religion.

2. The Right To Rebury Our Ancestors

NAGPRA Act (Native American Graves Protection Repatriation Act, 1990) provides for the return of excavated Indian remains for proper burial by Native Americans.  This act applies only to federally and state recognized people.  We wish to re-inter our ancestors in the land they knew as “home”!

3. Educational Opportunities

Lenape descendants are being denied a better education and better employment opportunities by the state of Pennsylvania.  Native children from state recognized tribes can apply for and obtain special scholarships for college educations.  Lenape descendants do not have that right.  Moreover, those who do attend state funded universities are excluded from Native social organizations that use taxpayers dollars and meet on state supported campuses!

4. Protection Under the Federal Arts and Crafts Bill of 1990

Pennsylvania jails are filled with people who commit violent crime.  Without recognition Lenape descendants can face up to 15 years imprisonment and a million dollar fine only for saying their crafts are “Indian Made”.  Our only crime is NOT being recognized by the state of Pennsylvania.

Our most recent resolution never made it out of committee. We believe that by refusing to pass it Representatives and Senators are continuing to endorse racism and discrimination towards Pennsylvania residents!  They are allowing innocent people to face life in jail for religious beliefs and cultural traditions, and children to be denied educational opportunities and better jobs.  The state of New Jersey was able to pass a resolution for their original Native people within 9 months!  Pennsylvania has stonewalled us for 25 years!