Perkiomen Valley School District and Ursinus College are ‘Welcoming Home’ the Lenape people to the Perkiomen Valley community. The Lenape people are the indigenous inhabitants of this region who were forcibly removed and dispersed over 250 years ago. This resulted in them being divided into five separate tribes that are currently located in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, and Canada.
In 2021, the United Nations called upon all communities worldwide to partner with their local indigenous people in order to develop environmental projects that support conservation and ecosystem restoration. It aims to prevent, halt and reverse the degradation of ecosystems on every continent and in every ocean. PVSD reached out to the Delaware Tribe of Indians (Oklahoma) and Ursinus College. We envisioned the creation of two arboretums; Lenape Arboretum (Main Campus) and Muhlenberg Woods (West Campus). Together they are known as ‘PV Woods’ and these two sites cover 76 acres; Lenape Arboretum is 30 acres and Muhlenberg Woods is 46 acres. Our vision is to inspire students to care for the earth and be leaders in environmental action, social equity, and inclusion. As an irreplaceable watershed and forest, Lenape Arboretum and Muhlenberg Woods, provides a place for wonder, exploration, relaxation, learning, and joy that promotes environmental stewardship and conservation by enabling ALL students to explore the roots of our community.
Lenape Arboretum (Main Campus) is named in honor of the Lenape people who have been stewards of this land for over 10,000 years. The Lenape history, language, and culture are directly connected to this particular region that they refer to as ‘Lenapehoking’ (Homeland). As a living memorial it seeks to honor the Lenape people’s past, present and future by focusing on the lives and culture of these indigenous people. Muhlenberg Woods (West Campus) is named in honor of Gotthilf Heinrich ‘Henry’ Ernst Muhlenberg (1753-1815) who was born in Trappe, PA and became America’s first botanist. Besides writing several authoritative botany texts on our region, there is a bog turtle, oak tree, and sweet grass that are all named in his honor. Additionally, he was the first president of Franklin College which was the first co-educational institution as well as the first bilingual institution in our nation. His father, Heinrich Melchoir Muhlenberg, emigrated from Germany and established the first Lutheran congregation in North America. Muhlenberg’s maternal grandfather, Conrad Weiser, was the chief interpreter and negotiator between the Pennsylvania colony and local indigenous nations. Both Lenape Arboretum and Muhlenberg Woods share a joint mission to educate the community about the Lenape people who are the indigenous inhabitants as well as immigrants with a particular focus on women and children and additionally the stories of enslaved and free Africans in Montgomery County.
For many years, individuals and institutions of learning would dig up indigenous burial grounds to take sacred objects and place the human remains on display. This gruesome and despicable practice was ended in 1990 when the US Congress passed NAGPRA. This legislation recognized that ‘human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony’ belong to the indigenous tribal descendants. The Lenape people will finally start the healing process of re-burying their ancestors this April 11, 2022 with the re-burial of 200 Lenape ancestors at Pennsbury Manor in Bucks County. There are still thousands more ancestral remains and objects that still need to be reburied. For this sacred occasion, the largest gathering in Pennsylvania of Lenape people in over 250 years will be arriving this April. This will also be the first time that all five chiefs will be together. During this solemn time, the Lenape people will also be honoring us with their presence at our Lenape Arboretum Dedication and Community Day event on April 10, 2022. The entire Perkiomen Valley community are invited to join us in welcoming home the Lenape people at our community day and celebratory feast. This will be a truly historic event for our entire community.
Muhlenberg Woods was dedicated on May 7, 2022 with our first annual ‘Love Your Mother’ 5K Run/Walk. (This is the day before Mother’s Day). As the Lenape people are a matrilineal society with a culture deeply connected to loving mother earth this theme is very appropriate. There will be many celebratory events and activities for the entire community at West campus.
All of the tree identification labels will provide the English name, scientific name, and Lenape name. Tree identification is a key step in gaining Level 1 certification as an arboretum. Both Lenape Arboretum and Muhlenberg Woods aspire to become the FIRST two public school arboretums in the nation!