PUL hosts Inaugural Lunaape Language Camp in its Makerspace

On Saturday, July 29, Princeton University Library (PUL) hosted 15 Munsee language-keepers and young adults in the PUL Makerspace for hands-on activities as part of the inaugural Lunaape Language Camp, deepening collaborations that began more than two years ago. The events took place on Lunaapahkiing, traditional Lunaape lands in and around Princeton, New Jersey, and were supported by the Land, Language, and Art (LLA): A Humanities Council Global Initiative, Princeton University, and by the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study (IAS).

Ariel Ackerly and Julie Rae Tucker prepping for Munsee language button making at the Makerspace

Ariel Ackerly (PUL Makerspace) and Julie Rae Tucker (Munsee Delaware Nation) prepping for Munsee language button making at the Makerspace. Photo credit: Melissa Moreton.

Event organizers Suzanne Conklin Akbari (professor of medieval studies and Language Director for LLA) and Melissa Moreton (IAS research associate) planned the Makerspace activities with Munsee (Lunaape) artists and curators Julie Rae Tucker (Munsee Delaware Nation) and Vanessa Dion Fletcher (Eelünaapéewi Lahkéewiit / Delaware Nation at Moraviantown). The group worked with PUL’s Ariel Ackerly, Makerspace Specialist, to test out virtual reality headsets and make custom buttons. The buttons, with words in the Lunaape language (Munsiiwak/ Munsee people, apwaan/ bread, wiicheew/ wolf, wteehiim/ strawberry), were designed by Tucker, who taught button-making during the Lunaape Language Camp. Attendees brought these home to share with the wider community. 

Dion Fletcher taught a workshop that included an introduction to traditional quillwork, dyeing, and sewing porcupine quills - attendees continued their work at the Makerspace. Quills are used as an art material because of their durability, color fastness, and the significance of the porcupine to Indigenous culture.

Porcupine quills at the Lunaape Language Camp, being dyed and prepared for decorative sewing into various materials

Porcupine quills at the Lunaape Language Camp, being dyed and prepared for decorative sewing into various materials (birchbark quillwork earrings and pendants on upper right); RIGHT: Brianna Dagostino (Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation) showing her quillwork from the event. Photo credit: Vanessa Dion Fletcher.

The Language Camp was planned by Language teachers from Munsee-speaking communities, along with faculty and students at Princeton University and IAS, and is part of a series of events presented by The Native American and Indigenous Studies initiative at Princeton.

Gathering around Munsee language books at Princeton University Library

Gathering around Munsee language books at Princeton University Library left to right: Lisa King (University of Tennessee, Knoxville), Karelle Hall (Nanticoke Indian Tribe), Jo Ann Schedler (Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians) at the Munsee Language & History Symposium, fall 2022. Photo credit: Sameer Khan, Fotobuddy.

The Library has supported and played an active role in these events over the last two years. Following its participation in the inaugural Munsee Language and History Symposium in 2021, PUL’s Special Collections' Indigenous Collections working group decided to focus some of its initial reparative redescription efforts on Lenape-related land deeds, in particular the 1674 deed related to the Tinton Falls area of New Jersey that is in PUL’s Miscellaneous Manuscripts collection. The work was presented at the symposium the following year.

PUL's Indigenous Studies Collection

PUL's Indigenous Studies Collection located on the first floor of Firestone Library.

For the second annual symposium, Gabriel Swift, Librarian for Early American Collections, hosted a hands-on session for community members to interact with maps, Lunaape language books, and Indigenous artifacts in Special Collections, and hosted panel discussions focused on teaching and learning the Munsee language and the preservation of the history of this Indigenous community. Anu Vedantham, Assistant University Librarian for Research, Teaching and Social Sciences and Library Liaison for Indigenous Studies, discussed the broader work being done at PUL, improving single phrase searching through a Library of Congress Headings analysis and prioritizing digitization of Indigenous language dictionaries and land deeds. In 2022, PUL embarked on a digitization project focused on Indigenous Studies which includes digital exhibits on items relevant to Lenape (Delaware) tribal nations and on North America.

Vedantham also unveiled the Indigenous Studies Collection on the first floor of Firestone Library during the October 2022 symposium.

PUL’s Indigenous Studies Libguide has more information on available resources. 

The PUL Makerspace is open to all Princeton University students, faculty, and staff and is located on the A-Floor of Lewis Science Library in the Engineering-Lewis-Fine wing.

The Third Annual Munsee Language & History Symposium will be held on October 19-21, 2023.

Published on August 7, 2023

Written by Stephanie Oster, Publicity Manager

Media Contact: Barbara Valenza, Director of Library Communications