About The Land We Are On
The Morris-Jumel Mansion and the surrounding 130 acres that comprised the Morris and Jumel estates was built on the ancestral homelands of the Munsee Lenape Nation. “Mannahatta” was the Munsee-Lenape (Lenni-Lenape) name for the island of Manhattan. The term “Mannahatta” first appeared in the logbook of an officer aboard the Half Moon, the Vessel of Henry Hudson, who was one of the early explorers to visit the island in 1609. Although no confirmed translation exists, the term has been translated to mean in English “island of many hills” or a “thicket where wood can be found to make bows.” Mannahatta is part of Lenapehoking, the homeland of the Lenape, and for centuries it has been a historic gathering and trading place for many diverse Indigenous peoples, some who continue to live, work and maintain kinship ties on the island. Today, these communities continue to contribute to the life of the region. Morris-Jumel Mansion, honors and celebrates Indigenous heritage, living traditions, and care for the sacred land and waterways.
In 1626, the Dutch “purchased” Mannahatta from the Lenape. The original inhabitants of the area were unfamiliar with the European notions and definitions of property ownership and land rights. To Indigenous communities, water, air and land could not be owned, so from their perspective, these resources could not be bought or sold. Such exchanges would also be difficult in practical terms because many groups migrated between their summer and winter habitations. The Lenape believed that the agreement reached was to share the island with the Dutch, while the Dutch believed it was a proper sale. When the Lenape didn’t immediately leave, the Dutch used force to remove the Lenape and eventually built a wall to keep the Lenape out. That wall would later become Wall Street.
Following Dutch colonization, the land was a part of the township of Haarlem (known as Harlem today). Prospective settlers to the area, William Holmes and Resolved Waldron, obtained the rights to lots sixteen and seventeen, the contemporary location where the Mansion is located today. The chain of title for the property indicates that there were four other owners before British Colonel Roger Morris and his wife, Mary Philipse Morris purchased the land in 1765. The land and the money used to build Morris-Jumel Mansion (then called Mount Morris) derived from Mary’s Anglo-Dutch merchant family, their landholdings, and their connection to the slave trade. The family likely used the forced, rented labor of Indigenous and Black individuals to construct the building that occupies the site today.
We honor and acknowledge the significant history of Indigenous, Black Americans, and other communities of color, who have made and continue to make invaluable contributions to the neighborhood that surrounds the Mansion today.
Who are the Lenape today?
Present-day Lenape communities include Lenape people who belong to the communities of the Delaware Nation, Delaware Tribe of Indians in Oklahoma, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community in Wisconsin, the Munsee-Delaware Nation in Canada, and the Moravian of the Thames First Nation. Additional information can be found by visiting the Federally Recognized Tribal Nations and State Recognized Nations lists.
Members of many other tribal nations also live in Manhattan today and gather together as part of the Urban Indian community in New York City. For more information, please visit the American Indian Community House website.
What is a land acknowledgment?
Land Acknowledgements are statements intended to recognize the displacement and marginalization of Indigenous communities and to recognize and respect the history of the land on which institutions are built. A “Living Land Acknowledgement” is the process of continually building relationships with Indigenous peoples and committing to support and include Indigenous voices in an organization’s mission, programs, and interpretive work.
Why is this land acknowledgment important to Morris-Jumel Mansion?
As part of Morris-Jumel Mansion’s commitment to telling a full history of this historic site and its role in settler colonialism, a living land acknowledgement is central to building meaningful and collaborative relationships with the Lenape Nations, and other Indigenous Nations. It is a living plan of action and institutional promise to respect and work together with Indigenous people to transform the museum into a space where Indigenous stories and voices are reflected in its educational programs, collections, and interpretation.
As members of the museum community, we intend to use this Living Land Acknowledgment to actively guide our educational and interpretive work. It is a work in progress and the museum is continuing to revise and strengthen it in collaboration with our community through partnerships with Lenape community members and scholars of Indigenous history.
What actions is Morris-Jumel Mansion taking towards a more inclusive interpretation of the past?
The Morris-Jumel Mansion is in the process of uncovering more about the lives of individuals who lived and worked on the land and at the historic site, beyond the historically named “Founding Fathers” and wealthy Morris and Jumel Families. The museum has undertaken several initiatives over the past few years to supplement the interpretation of the land from pre-colonization to the present. This Living Landscape project is a step in creating more comprehensive and inclusive narratives about the site’s history. We also invite you to take a look at a variety of sources on this website, shared below.
We understand that creating a Land Acknowledgment alone is not enough. It is a starting point for dialogue and social, political, and economic change.
We worked with Heather Bruegl, a public historian, activist, and decolonial education consultant in creating this Living Land Acknowledgement and accompanying resources. Bruegl is a citizen of the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin and a first line descendent Stockbridge Munsee. This intends to be an actionable living land acknowledgment and we will continue to revise and strengthen it in collaboration with community members.
We additionally want to thank Angela Garcia, Museum Educator and Project Content Developer for National Endowment for the Humanities “Living Landscape : Mapping Community Stories” project; Shiloh Holley, Former Executive Director Morris-Jumel Mansion; and Megan Byrnes, Former Public Programs Manager, Morris-Jumel Mansion for their contributions to the development of this actionable Living Land Acknowledgment.
Want to Learn More?
Visit our Land Acknowledgment Resource Guide