Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Visitation - Lene Lenape Woman: Part I

Perhaps it was from the celebration of the Henry Hudson's arrival in Manhattan 400 years ago that inspired me to imagine the original inhabitants. In the spirit of the celebration, there has been a lot attention to the Mannahatta project which explores what the island looked like before it was developed and built up. The Lene Lenape who lived there were sort of rambling groups rather than tribes living in villages. They wandered from one campsite to another depending on the time of year, living in accord with nature, never taking more than was needed. The women tended the crops and the men hunted. Everything was in balance. The Europeans did not approve, of course, thinking everyone was lacking in the proper entrepreneurial zeal. I remember learning about the Lene Lenape and how they were lazy drunks. I think the woman who taught this had never seen a Native American of any tribe so how would she know anyway. But I am guessing that the original impression of the colonists had filtered down. They did not understand why the men did nothing but hunt, which they considered to be a leisure activity, hence the laziness.

The Lene Lenape were chased west and finally ended up in Kansas and points west, mingling with other tribes. There are really no images of the original inhabitants of Mannahatta. I found this image at the Library of Congress. She was from the area that might have welcomed the Lene Lenape.

It made me feel sad to go through the pictures on the Library of Congress site. The people in the portraits are staring directly into the camera like most pictures from those times. But there is something else in the eyes of the Native Americans. I feel deeply ashamed by our history with the people who were here first. It is hard to meet their gaze.

I will post the pictures of the visitation very soon.

1 comment:

Jess Ruliffson said...

She's my favorite, i love the palette you chose for her, and the places you chose to take her. She has a mona-lisa sort of feel and looks very wise. At the Morgan Ave L train entrance near Bogart and Harrison the Manhattan-bound sign was (street art?) modified to read "Mannahatta" with an arrow pointing down the stairwell. I just noticed it this weekend.