Fishtown resident to begin 2,000-mile walk retracing the migration some Lenape Indians’ made to Oklahoma

A Fishtown resident wanting to raise awareness of Lenape Chief Tamanend and his Treaty of Friendship with William Penn will Wednesday morning begin an 8-month, 2,000 mile walk to Oklahoma.

Peter Prusinowski calls his journey the Trail of Hope. Starting at  Penn Treaty Park, the place where Tamanend and Penn are believed to have signed the treaty of friendship, Prusinowski will trace the Lenape Indian migration from the Delaware Valley to Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where some Lenape live.

Other Lenape live closer to Philadelphia, in New Jersey and in Delaware. Some of the easterly Lenape will sned Prusinowski on his way with a traditional blessing.

Prusinowski came to the United States from Poland in 1976. His love of history and a discovery of the world of photography merged and began to shape his life here. As he traveled in South America and elsewhere and met many different kinds of people, he learned that all of us have many things in common. The story of William Penn and Tamanend and their 1682 Treaty of Friendship between two different cultures have become vitaly important to him. 

“My desire to spread the life altering elements of love, peace and friendship among humanities mirrored the very intentions of William Penn in 1682 along the riverbank in the same neighborhood I immigrated to,” he said.

One day about two and a  half years ago, the idea for this walk came to him. “It didn’t come to my head, it came from my heart,” he said. But Prusinowski didn’t know if he could do it. He had to research. He had to plan. And he had to do physical training that including walking, running and lifting weights for hours at a time.

A photographer for the past 10  years, Prusinowski will take a camera with him, along with a cell phone, laptop computer and a small backpack. He plans to walk about 20 miles a day and then will stop at night along the way. He has no corporate sponsorship, and will not be followed by a motor vehicle.  “I believe that the gentle shadow of the Great Elm Tree’s canopy will follow me along this trail, like an eagle protecting me under its wings,” Prusinowski wrote in a statement about the walk.

There is no record of the exact route the Lenape of Oklahoma took over the many years that they were forced further and further west, Prusinowski said in an interview. But he will stop in places where they are known to have spent time, and also in places along the way where other significant events  have taken place since the treaty. These include Gettysburg and the site in Shanksville where passengers of Flight 93 fought 9-11 hijackers, preventing the plane from crashing into its intended target in Washington, DC. In Ohio, he will stop in Dayton, where in 1995 a peace agreement ending one of the armed conflicts in the former Yugoslavia was reached.

His walk will both trace painful steps made by Native Americans and moments where people embraced the principles Penn and Tamanend committed to in their treaty, Prusinowski said. “That’s why it’s called The Trail of Hope,” he said. “It’s about hope for all human kind.”

He will write about both the history made in these places and his new experiences along the way in his blog, The photographs he takes will be presented in an exhibit Prusinowski hopes will inspire peace, love and hope for future generations.

Prusinowski would not reveal his age, saying it was irrelevant to what he hopes to accomplish. He has two adult children.

The journey begins with an 8 am ceremony at Penn Treaty Park, 1188 N. Delaware Avenue and Columbia Ave. in Fishtown.

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal