Temple’s Main Campus celebrates Indigenous Peoples Day

Monday also marked the opening of a Lenape art exhibit at the Center for Humanities.

Members of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania perform a traditional dance at an Indigenous Peoples Day celebration at the Bell Tower on Oct. 14. | JEREMY ELVAS / THE TEMPLE NEWS

Ceremonial Chief Gentlemoon DeMund burned sage, sweetgrass, tobacco and cedar, wafting the smoke over performers to rid them of negativity before a traditional Lenape celebration. 

Then, the Itchy Dog Singers, led by DeMund, sang in Lenape and English as members of the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania performed a traditional dance. 

The ceremony at the Bell Tower marked the LNPA’s celebration of Indigenous Peoples Day, a celebration of the original inhabitants of North America, on Monday. It coincided with the opening of a contemporary Lenape art exhibit at the Center for the Humanities at Temple in Gladfelter Hall. 

Adam DePaul, a member of the LNPA’s council and president of the Native American and Indigenous Studies at Temple, a student organization that raises awareness for the indigenous community, approached the Center for the Humanities about organizing Monday’s event, which was sponsored by the university’s anthropology and religion departments.

“We thought, ‘Why not see if they want to focus this year’s art exhibit on something indigenous to celebrate Indigenous Peoples Day,” DePaul said. “[The center] just loved the idea, and they ran with it.” 

Dozens of students attended the celebration at the Bell Tower, several of whom members of the LNPA pulled into a snake dance. 

“It’s a really enriching experience, especially on days like Indigenous Peoples Day. It’s a great opportunity to learn about Native American traditions,” said Michael Farrington, a Beasley School of Law student who attended the event.

“We have a habit of pushing indigenous cultures under the rug,” said Lauren Nolan, a sophomore linguistics major. “In a place like Temple, we can embrace diversity and make others aware of it.” 

“There’s a consciousness [at Temple] now that wasn’t here 50 years ago,” DeMund said. “My father and my grandfather would never have been here because of the things they suffered through.”

In 2018, Temple signed the Treaty of Renewed Friendship for the first time, which recognizes the Lenape Nation as the original inhabitants of Pennsylvania and spiritual keepers of the Delaware River. The treaty signing represented the nation’s efforts to build connections with local universities and historical societies to preserve their culture.

Through the exhibit, called “Everyday Artistry, Enduring Presence: the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania,” Temple wants to move away from the classic depictions of Native Americans and show that the Lenape are “a living culture,” said Kim Williams, the center’s director.

About 300 families make up the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania, DeMund said. 

The Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania donated artifacts and photographs from its cultural center, and the University of Pennsylvania curated other items, Williams said. It will remain at Temple until the end of the 2019-20 academic year. 

DePaul, who is also a teaching assistant in the English department’s Ph.D. program, co-curated the exhibit with Becky DePaul, his wife, whose photos are featured in the exhibit.

“You’re not going to walk through these halls and look at artifacts, history, or a study of people that used to be. The focus of this exhibit is on the Lenape Nation of Pennsylvania today,” Adam DePaul said.

“It’s not your typical art exhibit,” he added. “It’s not your typical history exhibit. It’s not your typical cultural exhibit. It brings all these things together.” 

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