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Department of State

New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs

The Hon. Tahesha Way, Secretary of State
New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs

Commission Members

Lewis Gray Squirrel Pierce, Jr.

Lewis Gray Squirrel Pierce, Jr.(Lewis J. Pierce, Jr.)
Lewis Pierce is Commission Co-chair of the New Jersey Commission on American Indian Affairs, which is part of the New Jersey Department of State. Mr. Pierce has served on the Commission since its inception and has been Chairman for the past three years.

He also was designated by Governor Corzine to serve as an ex-officio member of the New Jersey Committee on Native American Community Affairs, which was tasked by the Governor to research and report on the status and needs of American Indian citizens of New Jersey.

Mr. Pierce is the Spiritual Leader of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe and chairperson of its Membership Committee. He has been a member of the Tribal Council since 1983 and was Chief from 1983 to 1986.

Mr. Pierce was born in Hopewell Township in Cumberland County and graduated from Bridgeton High School. He has completed a number of courses in management and was Supervisor of Automotive Services for the Township of Cherry Hill for 33 years.

Lewis Pierce has been married to Edith Little Swallow for 40 years and has two daughters, Tina Little Wild Flower Pierce Fragoso and Kimberly Little Owl Pierce Satterfield.


Urie Ridgeway

Urie Ridgeway
Urie Ridgeway is Tribal Secretary of the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribe and has served on the New Jersey Commission for three years. He graduated from Fairleigh Dickinson University with a B.S. degree in construction engineering in 1993 and has worked as a Civil Engineer in both the private and public sectors.

Mr. Ridgeway is also a consultant with the New Jersey Department of Corrections, serving as a Chaplain to Native American inmates. He also is active as member of the Red Blanket Singers, a southern style drum group that appears at many cultural events and powwows.

Urie has been married for 13 years to Saiyida Ridgeway and they have three children named Hassan, Javid, and Jalen.


JoAnne Hawkins

Representative of the Powhatan Renape Nation
JoAnne Hawkins represents the Powhatan Renape Nation on the Commission. Ms. Hawkins was born, raised, and presently lives in Pennsauken, New Jersey. She has a long history of dedicated service to the public and her community.

After attending Seton Hall University, Ms. Hawkins taught in public and private schools, then began her career as a case manager with the Camden County Board of Social Services, the Philadelphia Urban Coalition, and the Philadelphia Workforce Development Corporation. She later began Ride Phoenix Transportation, Inc., a non-emergency medical transportation service in Pennsauken.

At the urging of a family matriarch, Ms. Hawkins began her involvement as an advocate for Native American issues in the early 1970’s. This involvement led to her becoming Executive Director of the Powhatan Renape Nation, based in Rancocas, NJ. The Nation provides first stop services for cultural development, educational support, career counseling and placement, as well as weatherization services for citizens across the state

One of the Renape Nation’s most successful endeavors is the highly popular bi-annual Native American Arts and Cultural Fair, providing education and entertainment to as many as 50,000 participants, drawing New Jersey residents and Native American artisans from across both North and South America.



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