Nov. 15 2018
The state of New Jersey officially recognized the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation as an American Indian tribe thirty-six years ago, in 1982. State recognition is important to tribes because it affirms that our people and culture are both part of the story of humanity’s shared past and that we are present and valued in the modern world. State recognition also provides opportunities for tribes to advance our communities’ wellbeing through access to essential federal grants for health, education, and workforce development, and by certifying our traditional arts and crafts as Indian-made.
In 2012, members of former New Jersey Governor’s Chris Christie’s administration acted to undermine our state recognition, causing our Tribe significant harm. State officials acted based on racial stereotypes about Indian tribes and gambling. Our Tribe is one of many that prohibits gambling as a source of our livelihood. We had no choice but to sue the state in federal and state courts alleging violations of the Tribe’s rights under the United States and New Jersey Constitutions.
We are pleased that after six years of litigation against his office the new Attorney General of New Jersey has agreed to settle our legal claims. He has reaffirmed, in no uncertain terms, that New Jersey has indeed formally recognized the Tribe since 1982 and that the state reaffirmed that official recognition in multiple independently valid ways throughout the subsequent thirty-six years. Further, the Attorney General withdraws and nullifies any prior statements questioning the Tribe’s recognition status. In addition, the state will compensate the Tribe for a portion of our significant economic losses suffered during this battle.
Beyond our Tribe, this outcome has significant implications throughout Indian Country. The two other state-recognized tribes in New Jersey whose status was undermined will have it reaffirmed. And tens of thousands of members of the more than sixty state-recognized tribes in other states may rest more easily. This settlement establishes that states may not retroactively undermine tribal recognition by violating a tribe’s rights to due process and equal protection of the laws.
We will immediately begin to reinvigorate cultural and community-building efforts for our people, hand-in-hand with partners old and new. We will be aided in this effort through the continuing assistance of our legal and policy counsel at Cultural Heritage Partners, PLLC, and with the prayers and support of neighbors near and far.
We hope and believe that this resolution will set the stage for the restoration of a positive, mutually respectful, and collaborative relationship between the Tribe, the State of New Jersey, and the government of the United States.
Read more at Indianz.com.