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​This discussion, presented in connection with the 2022 Lenapehoking exhibition at Brooklyn Public Library, brings together the Lenape Center’s Joe Baker and Hadrien Coumans with contemporary artist Sam Van Aken.

From the Lenape’s first contact with Europeans, there were beach plums in Lenapehoking. Crews on European ships sailed into NY Harbor and reported seeing these plums on the shores. If left uncultivated, the beach plum will become a shrub. So the record suggests there were extensive agricultural practices, and a likely trade network between the Lenape and Indigenous nations to the south. Lenape were also growing peaches within ten years of Europeans’ arrival, bolstering the idea of an Indigenous agricultural network. This all got artist Sam Van Aken more and more interested, as he sought to place the fruit varieties back in their context, which led him to Lenape Center.

As Lenapehoking curator Joe Baker sees it, the beach plum was assumed to be part of the diets of “wild” Indians out foraging, too naïve to cultivate orchards or other agriculture. But the evidence of a sophisticated agricultural system suggests that orchards weren't just European. They were Lenape, and indigenous. Join this one-of-a-kind culminating discussion of the Lenapehoking exhibition at Brooklyn Public Library’s Greenpoint Branch.

This program is presented in partnership with the Lenape Center.


Joe Baker is an artist, educator, curator and activist who has been working in the field of Native Arts for the past thirty years. He is an enrolled member of the Delaware Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma and co-founder executive director of Lenape Center in Manhattan. Baker is an adjunct professor at Columbia University’s School of Social Work in New York and was recently Visiting Professor of Museum Studies at Colorado College, Colorado Springs, Colorado. He serves as a board member for The Endangered Language Fund, Yale University and on the Advisory Committee for the National Public Art Consortium, New York and cultural advisor for the new CBS Series, “Ghosts.”

Baker has guided in his capacity as executive director for Lenape Center partnerships with the Metropolitan Museum of Art (his work is currently on exhibit there), Brooklyn Museum of Art, American Ballet Theater, Moulin Rouge on Broadway, The Whitney Museum of Art, and others. In partnership with Farm Hub in the Hudson River Valley, Baker and Lenape Center are championing the return of ancestral seeds in the homeland through a seed rematriation project.  This seed saving project, now in its second year, has done much to contribute to the cultural foodways of the Lenape diaspora.  In partnership with the Brooklyn Public Library, Baker is the curator of the first ever Lenape exhibition of cultural arts in the City of New York, opening January 2021.  Baker graduated from the University of Tulsa with a BFA degree in Design and an MFA in painting and drawing, and completed postgraduate study, Harvard University, Graduate School of Education, MDP Program.

Hadrien Coumans is Co-founder & co-Director of Lenape Center, and an adopted member of the WhiteTurkey-Fugate family.





Sam Van Aken is a contemporary artist who works beyond traditional modes of artmaking, crossing artistic genres and disciplines to develop new perspectives on such themes as agriculture, botany, climatology, memory, and the ever-increasing impact of technology. Van Aken’s works in the natural and public realm are seen as metaphors that serve as the basis of narrative, sites of place making, collective learning, and in some cases have even become the basis of scientific research.

Talks like this continue throughout the Lenapehoking exhibition, which runs from Jan 20 through April 30. Program calendar here.

To view the exhibition website, please go here.

Lenapehoking is made possible in part with support from the Shelley & Donald Rubin Foundation.

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