Bourgeois had lived there for three years when he met Joseph Scabby Robe, a Cree Indian from Manitoba, Canada, during the 2011 Occupy Wall Street protest downtown.
“I told Joseph that I’d like to return the land to the Lenapes,” Bourgeois recalled. “The house isn’t important. It’s the land that the house sits on that’s important.”
Robe introduced Bourgeois to Anthony Jay Van Dunk, 54, a chief of the 5,000-member Ramapough Indians, part of the Lenape Nation. Van Dunk, a Brooklyn woodworker, spoke in his native Munsee language at a 2011 UN forum titled The State of Native Americans Today.
The house will be used as a patahmaniikan, or prayer house, used to help indigenous people reconnect with their language and traditions, Van Dunk said.
He said he was a “benefactor” at Standing Rock.
“I’ve given over $600,000 to the Oceti Sakowin camp site,” home to Dakota Access Pipeline protesters, he said.
“Money goes to buying food, firewood, protective hay bales and transportation. I spent time at the Sacred Fire. Standing Rock is a turning point in American history.”
The Lenapes were the original inhabitants of Mannahatta — land of many hills. They were widely represented as the tribe that sold the island to the Dutch for $24 worth of trinkets in 1626 — a story debunked by many modern historians.