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Offspring of Philadelphia treaty tree dedicated

Philadelphia, Pennslyvania (AP) May 2010

A descendant of the elm tree that shaded Philadelphia founder William Penn and a Lenape chief as they signed a treaty of peace and friendship more than three centuries ago has been replanted in a park that now stands on the site.

The tree called the “Great Elm,” where Penn and Chief Tamanead of the Lenape turtle clan were said to have met along the Delaware River, was famous from a 1771 painting by Benjamin West. A storm uprooted the tree in 1810, and though it was replaced by an obelisk, many were concerned about the loss of such a symbol of equality and harmony.

So a group gathered recently during May at the site in what is now Penn Treaty Park in the Fishtown section of the city to replant an 18-foot clipping of the Great Elm, which Haverford College horticulturalist Carol Wagner said was given to the college by former park owner Gen. Paul Oliver.

Wagner said the college has nurtured seedling offsprings of the elm since the original fell, replanting the clippings and growing its descendants from its seedlings.

“I nurture it and I dig up its seedlings,” Wagner said. “This is one of the most important trees in American history.”

Native American pastor John Norwood, a member of the Nanticoke Leni-Lenape Tribal Council and the Penn Treaty Museum board, chanted a prayer while circling the elm in smoke, and each participant was asked to take a pinch of tobacco from inside a plastic bag and sprinkling the trunk while saying their own prayers before the tree, Wagner said.

During a ceremony in March marking the 200-year anniversary of the tree’s fall, Haverford donated two of the tree’s descendants. Native Americans from as far away as Oklahoma came for the event, which featured Leni-Lenape singing, dancing, and drumming.

John Connors, another member of the museum board, said he was proud of the park and what it represented.

“This park lives on because decent people kept a promise,” he said.

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