Our Soul Matters theme for April is Awakening. Our UU Principles of respect for all people and for the natural world of which we are a part as well as the value we put on justice, truth and democracy should make us receptive to an awakening to truth and reconciliation with the Lenape people who for some 10,000 years occupied what is now New Jersey, Delaware, eastern Pennsylvania and southern New York. For 300 years, war, disease, deceit and violence forced the Lenape out of their homeland and west, first to Ohio, then Indiana, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma. They left behind ancestral burial grounds that were excavated and desecrated by colonial archaeologists, grave robbers and curiosity hunters. Remains and funerary items were dispersed to universities, museums, and private collectors. The Lenape and their allies have spent years repatriating just a small fraction of these remains and objects of cultural patrimony. On April 11, remains of 200 individuals will be returned to Lenape land near Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County. There is hope that this will be a small step on a path toward eventual justice, truth and reconciliation with this land’s original inhabitants.
John Thomas is an Elder and a Goodwill Ambassador for the Delaware Tribe of Indians in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. Mr. Thomas was at Wounded Knee in 1973. Several years later, he was at a conference in Tehran during the hostage crisis, and he served as an ambassador exchanging mail between the hostages and their families. He has been a seeker of truth and reconciliation in human relations for his people and for all people. May his message be an awakening for us all.