Politics | Federal Recognition

Lenape and Nanticoke tribes gain formal recognition in Delaware






The Nanticoke Indian Association of Delaware gathered in January 2016 to inaugurate a new tribal council. Photo by NIA

The state of Delaware now recognizes two tribes within its borders.

Gov. Jack Markell (D) signed HS 1 into law on Tuesday. The bill recognizes the Nanticoke Indian Association although that status was made retroactive to 1881.

On Thursday, Markell signed HB 345 into law. The bill recognizes the Lenape Indian Tribe, whose leaders and members traveled to Dover, the state capital, to celebrate.

“I’m just very happy,” Chief Dennis J. Coker told Delaware State News. “This is a major, major milestone for us as a community, so our people can stand up and be very proud of who they are and their ancestry and not have to worry about the naysayers who may argue otherwise.”

Neither group is recognized by the federal government. The Nanticoke Indian Association was one of the first to file a petition with the Bureau of Indian Affairs but it has been on hold since 1989, according to a 2013 document from the agency's Office of Federal Acknowledgment.

The Lenape Indian Tribe does not appear to have submitted a petition but Chief Coker sent a letter to the BIA in 2013 to support the Part 83 reforms to streamline the federal recognition process. The agency finalized the reforms in June 2015 but Republican lawmakers are trying to halt the new rule through a funding bill.

More on the Story:
Lenape Indians get historic recognition by state (Delaware State News 8/4)
AUDIO: Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware is now state recognized (Delaware 105.9 8/4)

Bureau of Indian Affairs Final Part 83 Documents:
Final Rule | Policy Guidance | Fact Sheet

Federal Register Notices:
Hearing Process Concerning Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes (August 13, 2015)
Requests for Administrative Acknowledgment of Federal Indian Tribes (July 1, 2015)
Federal Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes (July 1, 2015)
Hearing and Re-Petition Authorization Processes Concerning Acknowledgment of American Indian Tribes (June 19, 2014)

Related Stories:
Lenape Tribe finally wins formal recognition in state of Delaware (8/4)