Through first-person accounts, Long Journey Home presents the
stories of the Lenape, also known as the Delaware Tribe. These oral
histories, which span the post—Civil War era to the present, are
gathered into four sections and tell of personal and tribal events as
they unfold over time and place.
The IU Press blog recently interviewed Long Journey Home authors, James Brown and Rita Kohn, about their new book:
IU Press blog:Long
Journey Home grew out of another oral history project on the pan-Great Lakes
Woodland Indians called Always a People, which was published in 1997 by IU
Press (and will be reiussed in paperback later this spring). Explain how reader feedback on the Lenape Indians featured in Always a
People influenced you to dedicate a work solely to their history.
James Brown and Rita Kohn: Members of
the Delaware Tribe of Bartlesville, Oklahoma felt the need to relate their
White River Indiana connections. Many members of the Bartlesville tribe of
Delaware are direct descendants from Chief William Anderson whose Delaware name
was Kik-tha-we-nund. The Delaware influence remains with place names such as
Anderson, Muncie, and Strawtown and is a living presence at Conner Prairie Living History Museum.
Lenape Indians were forced from their original home on the east coast, and were
pushed further west in a series of forced displacements through Ohio, Indiana.
Missouri, Kansas, and the Indian Territory. How do the Lenapes define “home”
given that they were constantly uprooted from wherever they were living?
JB & RK: Doug Donnell,
who is the main singer and drum keeper of the Bartlesville, Oklahoma Delawares,
said, “Growing up I didn’t hear much of those stories about removal from
ancestral places. I had my own thoughts about it. I don’t think a lot of those
things were talked about. It was probably a bad time in their lives so it was
not talked about. Now I have heard people say that where we used to be, or we
have been there, and they felt good that we got to go back and visit some of
those places. When they arrived here in Oklahoma they stayed and didn’t get to
go back. Nora Dean went back and told me stories of when she went back with her
For the Delawares there is a circular feeling toward ancestral connections. Removal
from place does not mean severing relationship from people who lived 300 years
Doug Donnell describes how Nora Dean had some kind of feeling of that’s where she belonged. “It was like home being in New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana. And I’ve had that, when you’re there you know the history. That bloodline is in my veins, and I know that some of my ancestors had been there, that spirit is still there. It’s peaceful. When you’re there by yourself, and no one is around in the woods, you have that feeling. But things change. We moved, we blended in with society. Our tribe is Woodlands. When I went back and saw how huge the trees were, I was in awe. I loved it. If there is anything that I could have I’d want those huge trees down here in Oklahoma.”
These feelings are reflected in the oral histories of Annette Ketchum, Dee Ketchum, Michael Pace, Don
Secondine, and Jack Tatum.
IUP blog: In this book, you’ve chosen to let the Lenape
tell their own story without including any of your own explication on their
history. Why did you decide to present their stories in this manner? What
advantages does it provide for the reader?
JB & RK: The Delawares have historically been denied a voice. Here we experience how eloquently they speak and show the Lenape place in U.S. history as well as sharing their own
The reader becomes acquainted with real people not merely references embedded within an
historian's point of view.
IUP blog: Each person who was interviewed for this book has a unique story, but what common themes do you see running throughout these oral histories?
JB & RK: Common themes are remembrance, connections with ancestral traditions, loss and striving to retain culture despite U.S. policy to undermine tribal culture; the need to retain language and above all the sense of being the Grandfather People with an abiding destiny to bring
people together in harmony with the land and each other.
IUP blog: Some of the interviewees (for example, Dan Arnold and Beverly McLaughlin) discuss how their parents didn’t teach them about their Lenape heritage when they were
growing up. Later in life, both Dan and Beverly began researching their Lenape
roots and eventually became active members of the tribe. Why is it important
for the Lenape (and all of us in general) to study our heritage, and what can
we learn from it?
JB & RK: If we do not know from whence we came, we do not know fully who we are and how our lives can impact the present of the future in meaningful ways. This need to know is embedded in popular culture for example Alex Haley’s Roots and the current trend toward memoir even in fiction, for example Amy Tan’s books. And certainly now with Presidential candidate Barack Obama in his book Dreams From My Father.