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Ursinus, PVSD Partnership Brings Delaware Tribe of Indians Home

The school district and the college will help acknowledge history, culture, and legacy of Lenape people.

The Perkiomen Valley region is saying “welcome home” to Lenape tribal elder and indigenous peoples advocate John Thomas and his wife, Faye.

Ursinus College and the Perkiomen Valley School District (PVSD) are partnering with the Thomas family to acknowledge and honor the history, culture, and legacy of the Lenape people at their respective institutions and in the surrounding Montgomery County, Pa., community. The Thomases are members of the Delaware Tribe of Indians, one of three federally recognized Lenape tribes whose name means “original people.” They were the original inhabitants of what is now eastern Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, and southern New York.

At the center of the partnership is a focus on education and the creation of opportunities for students of the district and college to interact with the Lenape people. PVSD and Ursinus have also engaged local government officials and representatives from parks and conservancy groups in this effort. The group is discussing support for future visits from tribal members; logistics for a repository for cultural materials; and the establishment of a site dedicated to reflection on our shared history.

Additionally, PVSD recently established the Lenape Arboretum and Muhlenberg Woods on two of its campuses for environmental education and conservation.

“For the Thomases, this is not simply a labor of love; it is also a calling. They have returned to their ancestral homeland in Perkiomen Valley, and we are honored to welcome them home,” said Ursinus College Vice President for College and Community Engagement Heather Lobban-Viravong.

The Lenape was the first tribe to sign a treaty with the United States, but over a period of 250 years, they were removed, dispersed, and driven westward by colonizers.

“The Lenape people have endured trauma and pain,” Lobban-Viravong said. “The Thomases are hopeful to share a message of healing. They see their presence in Collegeville as an opportunity to plant seeds of understanding which will take root as they partner with the Perkiomen Valley School District and Ursinus College to bring greater visibility and recognition of the Lenape people.”

PVSD Principal Seamus Clune said, “This work is still in its early stages, yet all parties share a vision for developing projects that will bring greater visibility and awareness of indigenous peoples and to those causes for which they advocate, such as sovereignty.”

About the Perkiomen Valley School District

One of the area’s premiere school districts, PVSD serves 5,100 students in the townships of Perkiomen, Skippack, and Lower Frederick, and the boroughs of Trappe, Collegeville, and Schwenksville. The district has a total of seven schools: a high school (grades 9-12), two middle schools (grades 6-8); and four elementary schools (grades K-5).

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