Program Explores Native American Commitment to Environmental Sustainability – Posted 3/31/15

The County College of Morris (CCM) environmental club, the Green Student League, will host a seminar, “Lenape and the Land,” on Thursday, April 16, at 12:30 p.m. in the Learning Resource Center multipurpose room. Michael Dennis, of Traditional Earth Skills, will give a presentation on Native Americans through the environmental lens.

“We can learn how to be good stewards of our environment by learning and understanding the customs, norms, habits and traditions of our Native American brethren,” says Charles Lamb, adviser of the Green Student League and director of operations at CCM’s Morristown location.

The program is free and open to the public.

Dennis will give an interactive presentation that involves artifacts, a question-and-answer session and hands-on wilderness skills practice outside the CCM Student Community Center. The seminar will discuss various aspects of Lenape life but hone in on their treatment of the land and possibly offer solutions for some of today’s most prevalent environmental issues, notes Benjamin Muller, of Sparta, president of the Green Student League.

“The Lenape tribe is the definition of sustainable living because everything they had was biodegradable,” says Muller. “They didn’t have factories to produce their materials, they would harvest it organically. Nothing was synthetic like in today’s world.”

The Lenape’s sustainable mentality was necessary for survival and for the prosperity of their tribe, notes Dennis.

“The fact is, a lot of times they didn’t have food,” adds Dennis. “If you grow up in a culture that understands hunger, you tend to not waste, and that is just a way of life. People will gain that understanding of the Lenape people and how they looked at their resources.”

Dennis founded Traditional Earth Skills in 2006, shortly after he spent eight months living in a tipi in the Oregon wilderness. He also has spent years researching historical, ecological, geological and botanical issues in conjunction with his acquired empirical survival skills. Traditional Earth Skills offers living history programs and native wilderness skills workshops.

“I am looking forward to everyone having a fun learning experience,” says Dennis. “I think even people who are perhaps very well educated in the ways of the native peoples will learn some new things.”

Don Phelps, associate director of Campus Life, said “Lenape and the Land” will differ from other Campus Life events due to its “hands-on” nature. Phelps says he “can’t think of a better program in recognition of Earth Day.”

“Native-Americans were the first to implement proper environmental sustainability practices in the use of land, water and other natural resources to accommodate the needs of today’s populaces, while ensuring their availability for generations to come,” says Lamb. “I am excited to learn how their past and present practices could inform our environmental sustainability knowledge today.”

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