Exhibition shows how native American tribe survived

Mon Dec 1, 2008 12:01pm EST
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By Jon Hurdle

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - A native American tribe that was thought to have disappeared is telling its story in a new exhibition that shows its culture has survived the ravages of European civilization.

The Lenape, which inhabited eastern Pennsylvania in their tens of thousands before European settlers arrived in the late 17th century, mostly scattered to western states including Oklahoma, Kansas and Wisconsin in the face of persecution by the colonists.

Those who remained were so few and so secretive that they were widely thought to have disappeared.

But the exhibition at the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology shows that they have sustained essential elements of their culture despite being marginalized for hundreds of years.

"Outward assimilation kept them from persecution," said Abigail Seldin, a University of Pennsylvania graduate student and a co-curator of the exhibition.

Seldin was doing research into the apparent disappearance of the tribe from Pennsylvania when some local Lenape asked the museum if they could borrow a maple canoe paddle in the university's collection for a tribal ceremony in spring 2007.

The incident led Seldin to suspect the tribe had

survived.   Continued...

<p>(L-R) Chief Robert Red Hawk Ruth, Shelley DePaul and Abigail Seldin take a look at some of the Lenape objects in Penn Museum&rsquo;s collections storage. All three are curators of the exhibition "Fulfilling a Prophecy: The Past and Present of the Lenape in Pennsylvania," opening at Penn Museum on September 13, 2008. REUTERS/Lauren Hansen-Flaschen/Handout</p>