The Lenape or Delaware Indians


The Lenape or Lenni-Lenape (later named Delaware Indians by the Europeans) were, in the 1600s loosely organized bands of neolithic people practicing small-scale agriculture to augment a largely mobile hunter-gatherer society. Their language was in the Algonquian language family and had two main dialects, identified by Kraft (1986) as Proto-Munsee in the upper Delaware River (including North Jersey) and Proto-Unami in the lower Delaware River (including) South Jersey.

The Lenape were continually crowded out by European settlers and pressured to move in several stages over a period of about 175 years with the main body arriving in Northeast Oklahoma in the 1860s. But along the way dozens of other smaller groups split off in different directions to settle, to join established communities with other native peoples, or to stay where they were and survive when their brothers and sisters moved on. Consequently today, from New Jersey to Wisconsin to southwest Oklahoma, there are groups which retain a sense of identity with their ancestors that were in the Delaware Valley in the 1600s and with their cousins in the vast Lenape diaspora. I have included links below to some of the groups I could find available on the net.

The two largest:
Delaware Tribe of Indians (Bartlesville, OK)
Delaware Nation (Western Oklahoma, Anadarko, OK)

Some others:
The Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians Of New Jersey (Bridgeton, NJ)
The Museum of Indian Culture (Formerly Lenni Lenape Historical Society, Allentown, PA)

For recent scholarship on the Lenape civilization and, more specifically, their interaction with European settlers in the period before Quaker settlement in the 1670s, see "Lenape Country: Delaware Valley Society Before William Penn" by Jean Soderlund.

Starting in the late 1800s several families of native ancestry migrated from Virginia and formed a community in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Their ancestry is "Powhatan" and their ancestral language was also in the Algonquian language family. In the 1980s the State of New Jersey recognized this community as the "Powhatan Renape Nation" and arranged for the Rancocas State Park near Mount Holly to become the "Rankokus Indian Reservation." From the 1980s through about 2010 there were large "Indian Arts Festivals" held there twice a year that drew Native American crafters and dancers from all of the Americas. The State terminated the relationship in 2011 (see http://articles.philly.com/2010-09-27/news/24978497_1_powhatans-tribal-council-lease, and http://medfordsun.com/2011/10/05/eviction-of-powhatans-has-been-heartbreaking/).


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Last updated: 2015 Second Month, 23rd.