Together Well in the Lenape Forest Garden

Together Well in the Lenape Forest Garden (1)

Written by RuthAnn Purchase and Simon Purchase James

The Lenape Forest Garden at the Village of Fork Branch in Dover, Delaware is regeneration, reconnection, and decolonization in action. 

In the Lenape Forest Garden, we are learning how to remove invasive species and reintroduce native species that provide food, medicine, and materials for traditional lifeways, creating networks of reciprocal relationships, known to some as guilds or companion plantings. 

Last fall, John Heinz’s MobilizeGreen crew, the Appoquinimink High School Environmental Club and NPS Rivers, Trails & Conservation Assistance staff, and other volunteers joined us there for a work day. 

The day began with the Haudenausee tradition of Ohenton Karihwatehkwen, known in English as Greetings to the Natural World, Words Before All Other Words, or Thanks Giving Address, during which everyone present honored the inhabitants of Mother Earth as teachers and elder relatives.  

After a morning of work, the group settled down at the Sacred Story Circle, a space designed with Tribal Leaders to allow the stories of the 4 Directions to guide and rebalance our relationships.  Storytelling is usually reserved for the “Season of the Clacking Stones” when everyone in hibernation is striking stone against stone, making tools and baskets while waiting for the long nights and cold weather to pass.  That fall day, Chief White Otter Coker’s stories inspired the crew members to ask deeply thoughtful questions and commit themselves to planting native species everywhere they work.

Each plant guild around the Sacred Story Circle tells the stories of each direction.  White Flat Cedar greets us at the Eastern entrance, representing cleansing and new life; Evergreen Holly and Elderberry of the Northern guilds celebrate eternal life, wisdom, and healing. Designing the Lenape Forest Garden based on plants who grow together naturally helps us humans honor the families of plants who are also relatives in the Lenape world view.  

You’re welcome to visit and volunteer with us, May 15 & 25, June 5 & 15, and July 9. RSVP to 

Xeli Wanishi Xinkwelëmaok Welakamike Lenapehokink (many thanks for honoring the beautiful land of Lenape!).

Written by RuthAnn Purchase, Village of Fork Branch Cultural Mapping Project Manager, and Simon Purchase James, Volunteer Coordinator for the Lenape Forest Garden.

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