63 Acres in Salem County Returned to Indigenous Conservationists
Aug 21, 2023
SALEM COUNTY, NJ — The Native American Advancement Corporation is thrilled to announce the acquisition of the Cohanzick Nature Reserve, a significant conservation initiative with deep historical and ancestral significance.
On Aug. 15, the Native American Advancement Corporation (NAAC), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection’s (DEP) Green Acres Program, New Jersey Conservation Foundation, and The Nature Conservancy acquired the former Morningstar Fellowship Church property in Quinton Township. Located at 62 Gravely Hill Road within the Burden Hill forest area, the forested 63-acre property is the traditional homeland of the ancient Cohanzick Lenape people, who have cherished and cared for this land for thousands of years.
The land was transferred to the sole ownership of NAAC, and will be known as the Cohanzick Nature Reserve. A former church building on the property will be converted into an educational, cultural, and environmental center.
“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.”
Jacinto and her father, former Chief Mark “Quiet Hawk” Gould, are citizens of the Nanticoke Lenape Nation and have direct ancestral ties to this sacred land. This acquisition marks a poignant homecoming for the pair whose grandparents were born and raised on this very soil. The deep-rooted connection between the Indigenous people and this land is beautifully recounted in the book “‘Strong Medicine’ Speaks: A Native American Elder Has Her Say” by Amy Hill Hearth. The late Marion “Strong Medicine” Gould’s memories and reflections of this magnificent place highlight its cultural importance.
NAAC plans to launch Indigenous conservation education programs at the reserve, providing a unique 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 and the importance of environmental stewardship.
However, to fully realize these vital initiatives, NAAC requires additional funding support. Individuals, businesses, and organizations are invited to contribute to the success of these programs, ensuring that this sacred land continues to thrive as a beacon of cultural preservation and environmental conservation.
“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.
“Green Acres takes great pride in its contribution toward this significant acquisition,” said Elizabeth Dragon, DEP’s Assistant Commissioner of Community Investment and Economic Revitalization. “By safeguarding this property, we uphold the DEP’s commitment to preserving open spaces for outdoor recreation. Through the protection of these 63 acres of pristine forested habitat, we not only combat the effects of climate change, but also directly benefit the public by providing recreational opportunities and environmental education, while honoring and sharing local Native American traditions.”
“It’s been an honor to work with all of the partners to see the Cohanzick Nature Reserve come to fruition,” said Rob Ferber, who led the project as New Jersey Conservation Foundation’s Regional Manager for the Delaware Bay Watershed. “NAAC’s past, present, and future work is a testament to the ways conservation can be guided by Indigenous values.”
“It is rewarding not only to play a part in protecting this land, but to know that its future will elevate awareness of how conservation is knitted into Indigenous culture,” said Barbara Brummer, The Nature Conservancy’s New Jersey state director. “We are pleased to contribute funding from our generous donors towards this meaningful project.”
The Open Space Institute as well as Natural Lands, a nonprofit organization based in Pennsylvania, assisted in this preservation effort by helping connect the partners and contributing funding for soft costs, respectively.
For more information on NAAC and the Cohanzick Nature Reserve, please visit: NativeAdvancement.org
About the Native American Advancement Corporation
The Native American Advancement Corporation (NAAC) is a focus organization on behalf of the advancement and development of all North American Natives. Its constituent organizers chartered NAAC as an expression of a need to promote Native Americans’ interests by ensuring support, addressing issues of concern, and promoting self-sufficiency. NAAC is a charitable, educational, and service-oriented agency based in Bridgeton in Cumberland County, NJ. We aim to create opportunities for land preservation, cultural preservation, training, employment, revenue, financial literacy, homeownership, home rehabilitation, maintenance, and repair programs in Cumberland, Gloucester, Salem, Atlantic, and Cape May counties.
About the Green Acres Program
Green Acres’ mission is to achieve, in partnership with others, a system of interconnected open spaces, whose protection will preserve and enhance New Jersey’s natural environment and its historic, scenic, and recreational resources for public use and enjoyment. The Green Acres Program was created in 1961 to meet New Jersey’s growing recreation and conservation needs. Together with public and private partners, Green Acres has protected well over a million and a half acres of open space and provided hundreds of outdoor recreational facilities in communities around the State.
About New Jersey Conservation Foundation
New Jersey Conservation Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan, statewide organization devoted to preserving land and protecting nature throughout New Jersey’s rural, suburban, and urban landscapes for the benefit of all. Since 1960, we have preserved more than 140,000 acres of open space, farmland, and parks. We also manage 17 nature preserves, conduct public outreach and education programs, and advocate for sensible land use and climate policies that will protect the health of New Jersey communities for generations to come. For more information, go to www.njconservation.org.
About The Nature Conservancy
The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, TNC creates innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world’s toughest challenges—tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. The Nature Conservancy advances conservation across six continents, including in over 70 countries and territories and all 50 U.S. states so that nature and people can thrive together. To date, TNC and its more than one million members have helped protect 130 million acres worldwide, including more than 60,000 in New Jersey. Visit TNC on the web at nature.org.