New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R). Photo: GovChrisChristie
Law | Opinion | Federal Recognition

Editorial: New Jersey governor quietly obliterates three tribes





New Jersey newspaper compares Gov. Chris Christie (R) to president Andrew Jackson for denying status to three tribes previously recognized by state lawmakers:
President Andrew Jackson would have loved Gov. Chris Christie. Christie didn't need bloodshed or an Indian Removal Act to obliterate three tribes in New Jersey. He just quietly told the federal government none exist, contrary to a legislative resolution.

But today, as for the past 400 years, native people don't take kindly to their cultural identities being wiped away with pens.

The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation of about 3,000 members based in Bridgeton this week filed a civil-rights lawsuit in federal court against the state and Christie administration for saying in a federal filing in 2012 that New Jersey doesn't recognize a native N.J. tribe.

Nonetheless, a state Legislature resolution in the early 1980s recognized the Lenni-Lenape nation. A bill to formally recognize the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape, Ramapough Lenape and the Powhatan Renape tribes of New Jersey passed the Assembly in 2011 but failed to clear the Senate.

It's not Christie's first disrespect to the tribes. Soon after he took office in 2010, his administration booted the Powhatan Renape off what had been the Rankokus Indian Reservation for decades and annexed the land back to Rancocas State Park in Burlington County. It didn't just spell a financial loss to that tribe from its annual powwows, museum and cultural center, but also a cultural loss to the public.

The administration's 2012 assertion that no state-recognized tribe exists came from the state Division of Gaming Enforcement, in reply to the federal Indian Arts and Crafts Board's standard inquiry to the state Commission on American Indian Affairs for any additions to the state's list of recognized tribes.

Get the Story:
Editorial: Obscure filing and lawsuit aren't ways to change status of N.J. tribes (The Atlantic City Press 7/26)

Related Stories:
Editorial: Respect the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation (7/24)
Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation sues in New Jersey (7/21)