Welcome to Widoktadwen.
Nishnabe legend tells of seven prophets who visited the Nishnabek, each bringing word of a new fire, or prophecy. The first six fires foretold of great migrations and the eventual devastation wrought by colonization. Despite the bleak outlook for the Nishnabek, the seventh and final prophet left them with hope for the future. In the time of the seventh fire, a new generation of Nishnabek would rise up and reclaim the old ways, retracing the steps of their ancestors and picking up the pieces of what they left behind. This is the seventh fire.
Widoktadwen Center for Native Knowledge is headquartered on the traditional homelands of the Lenni Lenape.
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Widoktadwen partners with local schools, universities, public libraries, and other organizations to provide guidance in teaching about Native peoples, acknowledging both their histories and contemporary lives.
We endeavor to demonstrate Indigenous leadership through community service related to social justice initiatives and environmental advocacy in our local community. We want to set an example of how to steward the land we occupy.
Our Center promotes indigenous values through drawing attention to the unique challenges facing Native peoples and cultures and working to decolonize the spaces we occupy.
Invisibility in Pennsylvania
American Indians on the East Coast have seemingly disappeared into history, erased from memory for various reasons. In Berks County, those Lenape that avoided removal west assimilated.
Learn more about the history of the Lenape in Pennsylvania and the establishment of the Museum of Indian Culture in Allentown in this article from Taylor & Francis Online.
For decades, people with native background took pains to conceal their identities. As one woman of Lenape descent told us, ‘To be truthful, you only know what you hear from your parents or your relatives or the other people about your family. In those days, it was not cool to be Indian. Matter of fact, it was dangerous to be Indian. You lost your job if you were Indian. You couldn’t go to school, many times, if you were Indian. You certainly couldn’t practice your religion because it was disallowed. So the only way you got a feeling of who you were was by listening to the old ones talk, your family talk’. People told us about grandparents or great grandparents being taken away from their families to the Carlisle Indian School when they were identified as Indians. Twentieth century entertainments stereotyped Indians as blood-thirsty savages. A woman in her 60s told us, ‘I didn’t tell nobody I was an Indian even when I was that young. I never went out and said “Yeah, I’m an Indian” at school’. I never said that. I knew who I was and I left it at that. And when I would see these things on TV, I’d say, ‘Oh my God, I’m glad I didn’t say that because they’re really mean people, these Indians. Nasty and hurtful’. Read more.