New Jersey Land Returned to Native American Group with Support from the Open Space Institute

Image Credit: Robin Carter

SALEM COUNTY, NJ (Sep. 8, 2023)—The Open Space Institute (OSI) was proud to work with partners to support the transfer of 63 acres of land in Quinton Township, New Jersey, to the Native American Advancement Corporation (NAAC), officially returning the property to Indigenous ownership and management. With its protection, the property will serve as a public nature reserve with trails, and host a future center celebrating the educational, environmental, and cultural heritage of the Nanticoke Lenape Nation.

OSI provided strategic planning and assistance in securing outside grant funding for the acquisition, which was completed by the NAAC, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s Green Acres Program, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy. The land has been transferred to NAAC as sole owner.

The forested “Cohanzick Nature Reserve” property is located on the traditional homeland of the Cohanzick Lenape people, who stewarded the land for thousands of years before the arrival of European settlers. NAAC plans to launch Indigenous conservation education programs at the reserve, providing an opportunity for the public to engage with and learn from the land’s original stewards. These programs will offer hands-on experiences, workshops, and guided tours to foster a deeper understanding of Indigenous conservation practices and beliefs, and the importance of environmental stewardship.

“The acquisition of the Cohanzick Nature Reserve is a monumental step toward preserving this ancestral homeland and sharing its significance with the broader community,” said Tyrese Gould Jacinto, president and CEO of NAAC. “We are committed to creating a haven for individuals, a place where traditions are deeply rooted in conservation, and the public can learn about the rich cultural heritage of the Cohanzick Lenape people.”

“The Cohanzick Nature Reserve is more than just a piece of land; it is a living testament to the enduring connection between the Indigenous people and the earth. We look forward to welcoming everyone to this beautiful place, where the past and the present unite in harmony and where the spirit of the Cohanzick Lenape people lives on,” said Jacinto, whose family has direct ancestral ties to the land.

“The return of this land is an acknowledgment of the Cohanzick Lenape people's rich history, cultural resilience, and commitment to stewardship,” said Bill Rawlyk, OSI’s Mid-Atlantic Field Coordinator. “The Open Space Institute is honored and humbled to have contributed to this deeply meaningful project, which we hope will inspire greater understanding and appreciation for Indigenous environmental traditions.”

OSI’s support for the project builds on the organization’s Indigenous land reclamation work, including the return of New York’s Papscanee Island to the Stockbridge-Munsee Mohican Community; successfully doubling the size of Georgia’s Ocmulgee Mounds National Historical Park; and the application of Indigenous land stewardship practices to the South Carolina’s Black River Initiative.

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