Philadelphia Delegation Meets with Members of the Nanticoke Tribe

After decades of faithful ministry off of White Stone Corner Road and Beech Street in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, the presbytery made the difficult decision to close Kirkwood Camp and Conference Center and sell the property. With wisdom and insight, the Administrative Commission sought to honor the land in an intentional way, understanding that before this special place was a Christian camp, it belonged to the Native Americans in that region. After purposeful research and collaboration with one of the co-moderators of the 224th General Assembly, Elona Street-Stewart, we were connected with the Nanticoke Indian Tribe, which, along with the Lenape Tribe, has roots in the Pocono area.

On Saturday, June 4, seven representatives from the presbytery gathered with several members of the Nanticoke Indian Tribe at their museum and community center located in Millsboro, Delaware. We were greeted by Chief Natosha Carmine, the first woman elected to serve in this esteemed role. After touring their museum, we were blessed by the profound storytelling of Nanticoke member, Ragghi Rain, who shared one of their ancient stories of the Earth, along with a reminder of the atrocities committed to the Indigenous children during colonization. She began by proclaiming, “It’s a great day to be Indigenous!” and filled us with both reminders of the harsh realities of the past coupled with hopeful possibilities for the future.

At the community center down the road, we were shown such remarkable hospitality with a delicious lunch made and served by members of their community. With the wonders of technology, Street-Stewart joined our festivities via Zoom. Our Executive Presbyter, Rev. Ruth Santana-Grace, Stated Clerk, Rev. Kevin Porter, and chair of the Kirkwood Administrative Commission, Rev. Lori Kosinski presented Chief Carmine with a $50,000 check as a token of acknowledgement of the land that belonged to their people. These funds will be used to teach their heritage to the next generation of Indigenous Americans.

As a sign of gratitude and the budding of a new relationship, Chief Carmine presented Rev. Santana-Grace with a Pendleton blanket with their representative sign, a turtle, in the middle. As she was ceremonially wrapped in the blanket, we experienced a precious moment filled with resurrection possibilities. After dancing from their youth which led to our own participation, our delegation left deeply moved by the hospitality of the Nanticoke members and hope that the wrongs of the past may indeed be transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit at work in the world. While that day will remain a treasured memory for those who could attend, it has sparked a new relationship which will continue to be a blessing as we move forward, seeking to be peace-makers and justice-seekers, hearing the voices of those who have been long-silenced. We are grateful that the spirit of Kirkwood will continue with the ancestors of that land for generations to come.

Click below to view out our photo album commemorating the day!