By Josh Lipowsky
He stands at 6 feet 5 inches, and with his broad build is a bear of a man, but behind his imposing physical stature are a soft-spoken voice and effervescent personality that put people at ease. As chairman of the Sand Hill Band of the Lenape-Cherokee tribe, Holloway is leading its struggle to reclaim what he said are its historic land, water, and hunting rights in New Jersey. (He lives in Milford, Pa.) That struggle led him last February to file a lawsuit against this state, alleging illegal seizure of lands, breach of treaties, and attempted genocide.
What he wants most when the fight is over, he told The Jewish Standard late last month, is “to see a place our tribe can call home.”
Holloway is obviously proud of his Native American heritage. The Sand Hill are the oldest indigenous tribe in New Jersey, he said. Among its history of warriors and leaders, though, Holloway may be unique—he is also a member of another tribe known for its longevity, the tribe of Israel.
As closely tied as he is to his Native American tribe’s leadership and heritage, Holloway’s convictions have been shaped by his family and dual heritage, which may seem at first glance at odds, given the polytheistic nature of Native American beliefs and Judaism’s steadfast monotheism. But Holloway has spent a lifetime meshing them to become the man he is today.
Sand Hill Band of Indians
The interaction between the Lenape and Cherokee is well documented. For example, in 1779 the Cherokee Nation (called “Kittuwa” by the Lenape) sent a delegation of “condolence” to their grandfather the Lenape, on the death of the Lenape head chief White Eyes. This was only one of several recorded migrations of Cherokee who were invited to stay among the Lenape. New Jersey records indicate Cherokee migration in the early 1700s from the southeastern United States to Monmouth County. Indians, often regarded as “colored,” were denied basic civil liberties in the South. They found they were much better off in New Jersey Indian communities.
The Sand Hill Band of Indians in New Jersey have never sought federal or state recognition because they know themselves to be a sovereign tribal entity. They are however, the only tribe in New Jersey to be recognized by both the federally-recognized Delaware Tribes of Oklahoma and the revered Keetoowah Society of the Cherokee Nation. They consider this acknowledgment paramount to any form of non-tribal governmental recognition.