Wednesday, January 25, 2012


1 – The Lenape Rebels

            The origin of the township of Hillfield, New Jersey begins long before the arrival of European colonists, when the state was still known as Scheyichbi by its original inhabitants, the Lenape. Much of the specifics concerning the area’s initial settlement have been lost in the fog of history. But even the broad strokes of the township’s primordial nascency support a theory of increasing popularity among Hillfieldologists (as the three of them have labeled themselves) – that Hillfield’s survival and growth has continued because of the serendipitous foolishness of its citizenry rather than in spite of it.
            The key to understanding the settlement of Hillfield lies in two important elements of Lenape society. Firstly: the Lenape held strict adherence to exogamy – that is, marrying outside their respective clans, which were matrilinealy defined. Secondly: the collective Algonquin peoples; which included the Massachusett, the Pennacook, the Mohegan, and many others; regarded the Lenape as their “grandfathers,” the originators from which they all arose. As a result the other Algonquins afforded them special status and respect and often deferred to them in inter-tribal councils. 
            At an unknown time prior to the arrival of the Europeans, a schism tore through the Lenape when an unorthodox sect emerged and challenged the prevailing order of their society. Those in the sect maintained the belief that the Lenape were the “grandfathers,” thus wiser and greater than the other Algonquin peoples, but came to believe that the practice of exogamy was diluting their power. They believed that intermarriage and subsequent inbreeding would increase their wisdom and greatness and make them more powerful. We do not know how many generations were born before the wider Lenape society recognized the sect’s propensity to produce physically and mentally deformed children. Eventually, however, an inter-tribal council was formed and ordered the sect to disband and resume the practice of exogamy. When the sect refused, they were exiled from the greater Lenape community and came to settle in a small stretch of sandy, wooded land they believed to be haunted. It was on this stretch of land that the township of Hillfield would one day be founded.
            The Hillfield Lenape, as two of the three Hillfieldologists have dubbed them (Mark Krasker insists on referring to them as “the indigenous Hillfieldians”), began felling trees and building homes. They implemented a limited form of companion planting and supplemented their crop production by fishing from the nearby rivers. Their handicaps, however, prevented them from having the same success as their estranged relations. Archeological remains of shoddily constructed foundations suggest a deficiency of hand-eye coordination. The use of recent developments in soil analysis reveal that the Hillfield Lenape may have lost the basic understanding of companion planting – in which different crops are grown next to one another for polycultural benefit – and instead grew their crops densely bunched together in very small plots. The reduced harvests were a constant danger to the Hillfield Lenape, but their shortened life spans and the frequency of prenatal deaths kept their population low enough for the limited food supply to sustain them. This was the state of the Hillfield Lenape when the first European settlers arrived.

The Indigenous in Dutch