Lenni-Lenape Tribe Enters Court Battle in New Jersey

July 7, 2001

Source: The New York Times

On July 7, 2001, The New York Times reported on a dispute over "35 acres of fertile flatland by the Black Creek in northwestern New Jersey." Due to a law suit over the land, "a state judge has been sorting out competing claims about the site's history and laying the foundation for a decision to either preserve the land as a sacred burial site or allow it to be transformed with 147 adjacent acres into a 21st-century recreation center... The rivals in the court fight are, on one side, the town officials in Vernon [NJ] and on the other, a 53-year-old local archaeologist, Rick Patterson, and his allies, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey." The Judge recently ordered "a full-scale archaeological study of the site to test Mr. Patterson's claims that the land was both a burial ground and a Lenni-Lenape village and manufacturing site... Mayor John Logan of Vernon... [and] Vernon officials take a dim view of the Lenapes' involvement... Mr. Logan said. 'Now we have Indians coming to our meetings trying to stop us from building ball fields'... Since joining the suit, the Lenapes have sponsored symposiums in Vernon in hopes of teaching residents about Indian customs and culture. 'We don't want the land... We just want it memorialized perpetually so nothing can be built there'... [said] Pat Rossello, a member of the Lenni-Lenape tribe who is now involved in the court fight... She said the Lenapes hope that one day a museum can be built nearby.