The Delaware Tobacco

Learn of an interesting history about tobacco and its connection to the Delaware Indians.


| Winter 2015-16



tobacco

Delaware Tobacco Plant growing on Delaware homeland. Delaware Indian Sacred Nicotiana seeds are available at Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company www.RareSeeds.com.

Photo courtesy James Rementer

“I just want my people to be well remembered and well thought of.”

By Nora Thompson Dean

Touching Leaves Woman

James Rementer never imagined he would spend most of his life amongst the Delaware Indians. He grew up in southeastern Pennsylvania in Abington, a northern suburb of Philadelphia. There was nothing particularly remarkable in his post war upbringing. His family, like many others from the region, rented a summer place in Ocean City, New Jersey, and delighted in the carefree months spent close to the shore. Ocean City was a wonderful family shoreline destination with a two-and-a-half-mile boardwalk and an adjacent pedestrian promenade filled with shops proffering salt-water taffy, fudge, French fries, and soft ice cream.

As he got older, his parents sent him to Camp Lenape, pronounced locally as “leen-ah-pee,” where he spent two summers. The camp was located on Fairview Lake, formerly known as Big Pond. Camp Lenape was established in 1920 and featured tennis courts, basketball, archery, rifle ranges, swimming, and boating. The usual. For Rementer it was not the facilities that inspired him, rather the camp’s name and its location on the ancestral home of the Lenape Indians, plus two of the counselors at the camp, the Douglass brothers, were Indians. Unlike most suburban kids, he was inspired to learn about the people who had largely disappeared from their homeland. He wanted to understand the forsaken place names, landmarks, and rivers. Thus began Rementer’s lifelong journey and affiliation with the Delaware or Lenape Indians. 

The tobacco that Rementer was to inherit traveled across the same place names, landmarks, and rivers until it, along with its Indian keepers, was forced to migrate to a new land far from their ancestral home. Nicotiana rustica, Sacred tobacco, was and still is the sacred tobacco of eastern North America. The exact origination of this plant is not clear to botanists. It came from the Andes, supposedly the result of the natural cross breeding of two wild species producing the rustica tobacco, which then likely became a domesticated crop in this region.





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