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Transcript: Mayor Adams Hosts First-Ever Mayoral Reception Celebrating Native American and Indigenous Heritage

November 14, 2023

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Joe Baker, Executive Director and Co-Founder, Lenape Center: [Speaks in Munsee.] My name is Joe Baker. I'm a member of the Simon Whiteturkey family, one of the families of the main body of Lenape who were displaced and removed to Indian territory in 1869. I recognize my family as through their sacrifice and generosity and love, I'm able to stand before you this evening.

I recognize my third great-grandfather, Captain Anderson Sarcoxie, who signed the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. My fourth great grandfather, White Eyes, who negotiated the first treaty with the U.S. government, the Treaty of Fort Pitt, which was to secure and guarantee an all Lenape state with representation in Congress. He was assassinated by the U.S. militia that same year.

My fifth great-grandfather, Netawatwees, the Treaty of Conestoga, 1768. My sixth great grandfather, Chief Nutimus, who was a consignor of the Walking Purchase with William Penn's sons in 1787. And my seventh great-grandfather, Tamanend, who signed the Treaty of Shackamaxon with William Penn in 1682.

In my right to speak for my ancestors and my descendants, I declare that we exist and live and work today in Lenapehoking, our homeland and territory that still holds the spirits and voices of our Lenape ancestors, both Munsee and Unami speaking.

We are the grandfathers and the peacemakers having survived hundreds of years of genocide. Please welcome me now… Welcome. Please join me in welcoming Mayor Eric Adams, the Mayor of New York City.

Mayor Eric Adams: Thank you very much. Thank you. Thank you. And for all of you who are here of our indigenous people ancestry, I want to thank you for allowing us to be here on your land.

I cannot say welcome to the People's House, because this is your house. We are clearly guests here and we should show the level of respect for your ancestors that provided the natural environment that we admire today. This is such a significant moment for us. And if…


Mayor Adams: You know, the beauty of New York City is that we have 8.3 million people, but we have 35 million opinions. Everyone has a belief, and it took 110 mayors before this place we call Gracie Mansion was open to the indigenous people.

And I remember my days as the Brooklyn borough president doing and watching the powwow at Prospect Park. There is a long, rich tradition I have from my days as state senator, the borough president and now as the mayor to identify all groups in this city in general, but specifically, those of the indigenous people of this city. This is the first ever Native American Heritage Month here at Gracie Mansion, and I thank you for participating in it.

Indigenous history is America's history. It's New York City history. Indigenous tribes were the first New Yorkers, and Broadway was one of the longest streets in the world, were once a Native American trail that ran the entire length of Manhattan. And when you look at the Lenape contribution to the city and to the great things that the Mohawk New Yorkers who built our skyscrapers, that is something that I remember as a child going through school, realizing the role that the Mohawks played.

When you look at the skyline and the symbol of our city is by the New York City skyline. That is the clear contribution of the Mohawk people and what they accomplished.

There are nearly 200,000 Native Americans who live in New York City. I am proud to be the mayor of the city with one of the largest Native American, rich history right here in this city. It's one of the largest urban populations of Native Americans. And today we celebrate Native Americans, brothers and sisters in all our immigrant indigenous communities. If you look closely, you can see the resemblance. My mother, grandmother come from Native American ancestry. That is the rich tradition that I understand and respect.

And I look at the diversity of those who are in this room here, the different contributions from law enforcement to other parts of government that the Native Americans have played in this great country. That includes our brothers and sisters from Mexico, Peru, Ecuador and all who identify as the Taíno heritage across the globe.

And those contributions are real. From going through Mexico and Chichen Itza and other places, going to Peru. Gladys Miranda, who was here earlier, Peruvian background as part of my administration for my days of borough president, going through different parts of the South and Central America, parts of this hemisphere, you see the rich contribution from the indigenous people, as well as the indigenous people from Latin America all the way through this hemisphere, the contributions are real.

And my administration reflects the pride and legacy of our Native American brothers and sisters. My special counsel, Ama Dwimoh has been with me throughout this entire political journey and she will continue to steadfast and represent the indigenous people.

And while today is a celebration, it's also a day of reflection. We pause, reflect on the injustices visited against the indigenous people upon whose ancestral land we live on. And we commit to mending our broken history in so many ways and to embracing our indigenous brothers and sisters and Native Americans, brothers and sisters that's here.

We commit to honest teaching of our history and to building a more inclusive and just future for all. And I'll always be champion of all of the various groups that comprise this amazing city in general, but specifically, as I stated, the Native American indigenous communities. And today and every day we celebrate all these communities and your contribution.

And you are here in your house, your energy will remain in your house. The connectivity that the indigenous people understood how we're connected to the land, something that my grandmother always shared with me, they understood that the physical transition does not mean the spiritual transition is gone. We need to reignite that energy once again. We need to bring back the methodologies that were part of the indigenous population and indigenous people.

And as I look at your faces, we need to smile again. We are blessed. We're blessed to be here in the midst of our ancestors. I say over and over again, I don't know of many people who are not connected to the universal energy, we are in a dark place globally. And the reflection of that darkness is in how we present ourselves.

People are hurting and hurt. People hurt themselves and they hurt others. But your ancestors and my ancestors, they come from a place of healing. They don't come from a place of hurting. And that's reflected in us every day. And no matter what we go through, no matter what we are enduring, we come from a great people and we should live that out every day.

I thank you for allowing me to host this event for the first time in this city's history. 110 mayors later, never too late to do it right. Thank you so much.

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