Millionaire Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois Donates Multimillion-Dollar Home Back To Native American Tribe

By on December 31, 2016 in ArticlesHow Much Does

Manhattan millionaire Jean-Louis Goldwater Bourgeois, one of those rich people who often gets called "eccentric" by the press, has made a donation that is indeed pretty idiosyncratic by most standards. He's giving his $4 million home back to the Native American tribe that were its rightful owners long ago.

Bourgeois told the New York Post that he got the idea back in 2011, after meeting a Joseph Scabby Robe at an Occupy Wall Street protest that year. Robe is a member of the Cree tribe, and introduced him to Anthony Jay Van Dunk, chief of Ramapough Indians, part of the Lenape Nation. It was through Van Dunk that Bourgeois materialized plans based on his longstanding desire to return the land to its original Native American owners: "I told Joseph that I'd like to return the land to the Lenapes… The house isn't important. It's the land that the house sits on that's important."

Van Dunk suggested to Bourgeois that his house could be re-purposed as a patahmaniikan, or traditional prayer house. In addition to transferring the deed of ownership, Bourgeois also told the press about another ritual that had to take place in order for the transfer to take place:

"We had a pipe. We had a smudging. We had prayers being said. It was a healing. We wanted the spirits to know we were coming in with a good heart … The purpose is to get Indigenous people in touch with their language, their tradition."

Bourgeois bought the home about ten years ago, but the property dates all the back to 1834. More than 200 years before that, as a matter of historical record, the Lenape was tricked into selling it and the rest of what is now Manhattan island off despite being conceptually unaware that it was even possible for individuals to "own" land. This comparatively small gesture isn't the only step towards righting historical wrongs that Bourgeois has taken.  He has also donated $600,000 to the Oceti Sakowin camp site at the  Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, in addition to spending six weeks there protesting the North Dakota access pipeline.

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