There are five tribes of Lenape still in the existence in the United States. The Delaware in Oklahoma, The Delaware of Wisconsin, The Munsee in Canada, The Shinnecock of Long Island, and the Sand Hills of NJ.
This is the official web site of the New Jersey Sand Hill Band of the Lenape and Cherokee Indians. The Sand Hill is the only Lenape tribe that has not left their ancestral homeland, known as Lenapehoking, which includes New Jersey and parts of New York and Pennsylvania.
Archeological records and books written by noted Historians indicate that the Lenape have lived in New Jersey at least for 12,000 years. Human remains dating over 1500 years ago were discovered at an archeological dig in the State of New Jersey. The DNA of these remains was directly linked to Sam Beeler, a former Principal Chief of the Sand Hills and to his first cousins, Carroll MedicineCrow Holloway and his son, the current Principal Chief, Ronald Yonaguska Holloway of the Sand Hills. They are the direct descendants of the original Lenape who lived here for thousands of years.
During the late 1600s to mid 1800s, there were numerous migrations of Cherokee into the New Jersey area. During the late 1600s to very early 1700s, these Cherokee were welcomed by the Lenape of that time period. It has been noted that after a few interactions between the two Tribes over a short period of years, some of the Cherokee stayed behind and married into the Lenape Tribe. New Jersey records indicate Cherokee migration in the early 1700’s from the southeastern United States to Monmouth County.
The relationship between the Lenape and the Cherokee continues today because of the interaction between the two tribes in the very early 1700s. The aforementioned relationship is well documented and an example can be found explaining that in the year of 1779 the Cherokee Nation (called “Kittuwa” by the Lenape) sent a delegation of “condolence” to their grandfather, the Lenape, on the death of the Lenape Principal Chief, White Eyes.
The ancestors of the present day Sand Hill had lived in what is now known as Monmouth and Burlington Counties in New Jersey. In the 1700s these areas were known as Old Monmouth and Edge Pillock in Burlington.
The Sand Hill were Unami speaking and were known as the Raritan Lenape by the Colonists. These Raritan Lenape were in essence forced by the Treaty of Easton to settle on what was to be known as the Brotherton Indian Reservation in Indian Mills in the year 1759 by the Colonial government at that time. Not all of the Raritan Lenape moved to the Brotherton Reservation. Some stayed behind in Monmouth County.
Some of the tribal members who had moved to the reservation later returned to Monmouth County because conditions on the reservation were dire and starvation was a constant threat. Tax records from 1780 show that these Tribal members had re-established themselves and were living in Freehold and Shrewsbury Townships
In 1803 the Lenape living on what was known to have been the Brotherton Reservation were faced with having to choose to move either to the Stockbridge Indian Reservation in New York State or to return to Monmouth County and join with the Lenape already settled and established in that area, later to be known as the Sand Hill. The majority of the members of those Lenape decided to move to Monmouth to join with their relatives and other tribal members, thereby increasing the number of Sand Hill who would remain living in the State of New Jersey.
In 1840s some members settled on a sand hill in Neptune NJ and because of that fact, the Lenape were nicknamed the “Sand Hills” by their white neighbors. The Sand Hills have always been called the Unami or Lenape and their name is based on a geographical location.
By the1860s, the remaining Lenape who had managed to escape the forced relocations to Oklahoma were hiding in neighboring towns. Based upon their skin tone, if they were light skinned they moved to white areas. If they were of a darker color, they moved into what was called the “colored” areas, thereby melting into the woodwork and hiding in plain sight to the present day.
By the 1860s a few hundred Lenape were scattered in communities located in Monmouth County on the Shark River and in Passaic County on the Passaic River.
During the heyday of the New Jersey Shore building boom of the 1800s, the Sand Hill became known as expert carpenters and builders contributing to the building of the historic Victorian homes in the Asbury Park, Ocean Grove (located in Neptune) area, of which many still exist today. To the north, the Sand Hills settled in the Paterson area and helped build the City of Paterson. Today many of the historic buildings in Paterson were built by the Sand Hill as well as the factories.
In the 1920s, a large number of Sand Hill relocated to the Passaic and Sussex Counties, and by the 1940s only a very small remnant remained in the Neptune area. The rest of the tribe had relocated to Warren, Morris, and Sussex Counties, leaving behind a few family members in Neptune.
In the Smithsonian Annual Report of 1948, the Sand Hill are listed as the only Lenape Tribe still left in New Jersey with their skills, crafts, traditions and language intact. It goes on to further state that the tribe “relocated from the Monmouth area within the last 30 years…” In fact the State of New Jersey recognized the Tribe and documentation and photographs exist of Governor Driscoll of New Jersey with Chief Reyers Crummel of the Sand Hills at the Trenton State Fair.
In 1950, former Chief Sam Beeler of the Sand Hills is born in Paterson, NJ. His birth is recorded by Chief James “Lone Bear” Revey from the NJ Indian Office in Orange, NJ which he had established and which is noted in the book “The Lenape” by Herbert Kraft as being run by the direct descendants of the Lenape still residing in New Jersey to this day.
In 1998, Chief Lone Bear Revey died and Sam Beeler was appointed Chief by the Tribal Council of the Sand Hills. He was then succeeded by Dr. Carroll MedicineCrow Holloway, who was succeeded by his son, Dr. Ronald Yonaguska Holloway.
In 2009, Dr. Ronald Holloway was asked by the Dutch Collegiate Church to accept the Dutch apology for the genocide against the Lenape at the hands of the Dutch for all present day Lenape. The Oklahoma and Munsee Lenape delegations were also on stage for the apology. It had been agreed by the Federally recognized Lenape Tribes, that Dr. Ronald Holloway would accept the apology in front of the Museum of the American Indian on November 27th, 2009, the day after Thanksgiving of that year. The Ceremony was called “Healing Turtle Island”.
In April, 2010. Dr. Ronald Yonaguska Holloway addressed the General Assembly of the Indigenous Forum at the United Nations, representing his Tribe.
In February of 2011, Dr. Ronald Yonaguska Holloway of the Sand Hills was appointed to the NGO Committee to the Indigenous Forum of the United Nations.
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