People holding hands while participating in the “round dance” or the “friendship dance” as the performer Opalanietet, a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation, bangs on a drum. DANI MAZARIEGOS)

On Sunday, November 5, Montclair Art Museum, together with the Montclair Public Library, hosted a Native American Heritage Celebration at the new Judy Weston Garden in Watchung Park, in honor of Native American Heritage Month. The Judy Weston Garden was once the home for the indigenous Lenape people in New Jersey.

Guests enjoyed a leaf painting activity led by Renelle White Buffalo, a Native American artist who works with acrylic and printmaking from the Rosebud Indian Reservation, and a performance and land acknowledgment by Ryan Victor Pierce or “Opalanietet,”  a member of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribal nation of New Jersey. 

Renelle White Buffalo shared that these events benefit the community because Native people are contemporary. “We live among everyone else, and sometimes people do not know or are not aware. It just shows we are here, and we want to share the culture and the right history.”

Montclair Public Library brought books that focus on Indigenous Americans for attendees to borrow or to read as part of a storytelling segment, including “Tasunka: A Lakota Horse Legend,” a story about the wild adventure of a young Native American warrior tracking down horses. 

Opalanietet of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape tribal nation of New Jersey performing Lenape songs. (DANI MAZARIEGOS)

Following the painting activity and the storytelling segment was a performance of Lenape songs and a land acknowledgment performed by Opalanietet, who is the founder and artistic director of the Eagle project. 

Opalanietet, who dedicated his life to performing Lenape music and stories, shared his reasoning for performing at the event: “It is important to know the history of the land where you are on.”

Leave a comment