Historical markers honor Lenape Native American trails in Monmouth County

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MIDDLETOWN — The Intertribal Council of AT&T Employees (ICAE), a federally recognized 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, has officially placed historical markers along several of the Monmouth County portions of the Lenape Great Navesink to Minisink Trail.

The Lenape were Native Americans who used the trail for seasonal migration, travel and trade, and the trail served as a foundation for some of the earliest roads in New Jersey, according to a press release.

The signs are located near the entrance to the AT&T Middletown facility on Holland Road, Kings Highway in Middletown, and on Crawfords Corner Road at Holmdel Park.

The 75-mile Lenape Great Navesink to Minisink Trail was the longest Lenape Trail in New Jersey and is recorded as having groups as large as 700 people traveling together in transit.

The trail connected the Lenape communities living along the Navesink River area of Sandy Hook to the Lenape Minsi (People of the Stone Country) Council Fire at Minisink Island in today’s Delaware Water Gap.

At Minisink Island, an Eastern Region Trading Hub existed which further connected to the Mohawk Trail in New York State as well as other trade routes leading into Pennsylvania, the Great Lakes Region, and Canada, according to the press release.

The 1747 James Alexander Map delineates the “Navesink to Minisink Indian Path” and it was used at that time to help identify land purchases boundaries and settle land dispute lawsuits.

As late as 1820, a group of Minsi Lenape were noted to perform a “War Dance” in appreciation for the hospitality of a homeowner and his neighbors who had allowed the traveling band to sleep in their barn for overnight lodging.

AT&T provided the funding for one marker and the ICAE raised the funds for the additional markers.

Significant support and partnership for this project came from Middletown Township and Mayor Tony Perry, the Monmouth County Park System, the Middletown Township Historical Society, the Middletown Landmarks Commission, the Sandhill Lenape Community of Neptune, the federally recognized Delaware Tribe of Indians and AT&T, according to the press release.

“The Township Committee and I are honored to play a part in formally recognizing the original settlers of Middletown,” Perry said. “It is important that we pay tribute to those who were responsible for giving us the wonderful place we are fortunate enough to call home.”

Additionally, the Monmouth County portion of the path was extensively researched by historian Paul Boyd as part of his Ph.D. thesis submission to Rutgers University and was also detailed in his book about Atlantic Highlands History “Atlantic Highlands – From Lenape Camps to Bayside Town,” according to the press release.

ICAE is an AT&T Employee Resource Group dedicated to supporting Native American communities and their advancement in the fields of math and science. The members provide annual scholarships to deserving Native American college students and also help to place them at internships within AT&T.

Financial donations to ICAE can be made at https://icae4nativeamericans.org/events/ for scholarships or for additional Minisink trail markers that can be placed in other historic trail locations.