In 1973, Jim and Margaret Hogan bought a piece of rural Burlington County in New Jersey. The 1.5 acres cost them $9,000 and was once part of Brotherton, part of the one and only Native American reservation in New Jersey.
Jim Hogan, now 84 years old told the Philadelphia Inquirer:
“We didn’t know that when we bought it. A family from Pennsylvania sold it to us. It was all commercially zoned and we thought this area, on a major highway, would be the next Cherry Hill.”
That’s not how it turned out though. Jim, a retired construction-equipment salesman, explained that the area is still pretty much rural and he never developed his property, other than for a small farm-stand he built and used for a short time.
“We tried to sell this land on and off, and after the last sale fell through in 2017, we decided to donate it to the Indians for a dollar,” Jim said. He added, “The history of the United States and the Indians is not too good, and we wanted to do something for them.”
The Hogans conveyed the deed of the property to the Brotherton Indian Reservation organization on September 4, 2018.
About 200 Leni-Lenape, or Delaware people lived on the reservation but the population declined over time. The state of New Jersey began selling pieces of the land to private buyers in 1802, while the rightful owners moved to other indigenous communities.
Joseph Littlefeather, chief of the Sandhill Lenape Cherokee Tribe, said:
“I want to thank him for doing this. We want to put a farm stand on the land, and eventually open an office there, so people who live down there don’t have to travel so far.”
Joseph Barton, mayor of Tabernacle, the small town within which borders the land is located, said he wasn’t aware the deed had been transferred:
“Unless the [new owners] have some sort of federal exemption, they would have to come before our zoning and planning board, as well as the Pinelands Commission, with any plan for building something there.”
Although there are no federally recognized Native American tribes in the state of New Jersey does not preclude the local indigenous population from organizing.
“We don’t receive any money from the State of New Jersey and we don’t have anything to do with the Bureau of Indian Affairs,” Littlefeather said of the descendants of the group often referred to as the Brotherton Indians.
“It still is the Brotherton Reservation,” Littlefeather said. “They sold property that wasn’t theirs to sell,” adding ” We’re not going to go down there and throw everybody out of their houses.”
Littlefeather and others aren’t set on removing non-native residents off of their former land, but it would be a step in the right direction if descendants of the Brotherton Indians reestablish themselves, even on a small piece of their native land.
Jim Hogan agrees:
“I would love to see them be able to come back. The Indians were here before anybody else. They should be able to use this ground.”
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