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Honor Native Land

Updated: Apr 11, 2021

Artist: Marlena Myles (Insagram: @mylesdesigns)

I live in Brooklyn, New York. I teach yoga in Manhattan. The Native People of this land are the Lenape. Pronounced "len Ah pay." Lenape means "The People" in their language. The Lenape are an offspring of the Algonquin civilization.

The “Lenapehoking” or the Land of the Lenape, includes present day New Jersey, New York and Delaware.

The island of Manhattan was originally Manahatta, which means “hilly island.”

While researching the Lenape, I came across a teaching tool for children which paints a beautiful picture of the Lenape of Manhattan.

Lenape families lived in bark-covered houses shaped like a dome. They could extend their houses as families grew. Men tied sapling trees together to form the rounded shape, wrapped the structures with layers of bark, and covered the doorways with animal skins. Each home had an opening on the roof to allow smoke from the cooking fire inside to escape. They used pieces of bark to cover the opening during bad weather. Lenape people spent most of their time working outdoors, except in cold winter months when people visited one another and worked on indoor chores such as repairing clothing and tools.

Source: Manahatta to Manhattan: Native Americans in Lower Manhattan. Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian.

There is so much more to learn about.

As I honor the land, air and water I live on now, I must also honor the land, air and water I grew up with.

I grew up in Kansas. When I graduated from college, I chose to change my last name to Kansas. Why? Well, that would be a whole other blog post. In a nutshell, I wanted to choose a name for myself as a rite of passage, and I wanted to separate myself from my father's side of the family. I chose the last name of Kansas because I wanted to remember my roots--- no matter where I roamed. In my mind I was honoring the Native Americans of Kansas. Kansas owes its name to the Kanza People, known as "People of the South Wind." I definitely felt the winds of Kansas, where I was born. I imagined the winds that caressed my cheek were also felt by the land's ancestors. I felt a connection to the land. I wanted to honor that part of me.

In retrospect, I know I should have learned more about the Indigenous Peoples of Kansas. I know I should do so now. To begin, let me name them: The land we now call Kansas was home to the Arapaho, Cheyenne, Comanche, Kansa, Kiowa, Osage, Pawnee, and Wichita tribes. The area has also been inhabited by many emigrant tribes.

Being a good human is a work in progress. I am still moving forward.

Today, I stand here and connect to this earth. I bow to the ancestors, past and present, who care for this land. I am renewing my commitment to "walk softly on Mother Earth." (Lenape tenet.)

By recognizing indigenous stewardship of the land, air and water we live in and call home, we combat the invisibility and erasure faced by Native Peoples. I am grateful for Indigenous Nations' continues stewardship of the places of power.

More Information/Stories, Sources:

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