Lenápe (Delaware)

Lenni Lenape, Delaware, Mahican, Mohican, Munsee, Unami, Nanticoke, Conoy, Moravians, Stockbridges, Unalachtigo.

Autonym: The Lenápe is their own name for themselves. Often also rendered as Lenni Lenape translated either as ‘original people’ or ‘true men’. The groups living in Delaware River Valley pronounced the term as Lenápe. The Munsee pronounced it as Renápe. For many Algonquian peoples, the Lenápe were the Wapanachki (Mochome) ‘grandfathers’, a term of great respect stemming from the widespread belief the Lenápe were the original tribe of all Algonquian peoples, and this often gave the Lenápe the authority to settle disputes between rival tribes.

Exonym: Exploring the Atlantic coast north of Jamestown in 1610, Captain Samuel Argall discovered a large bay which he named in honor of Sir Thomas West, Third Lord de la Warr and the first governor of the Virginia. Apparently, West was unimpressed with this flattery and returned to England without bothering to see his namesake, but English colonists later used Delaware for the bay, the river and its natives. Other names: Akotcakanea (Iroquois), Anakwanoki (Cherokee), Delua (Delaas) (Spanish Texas), Loup (French “wolf”), Mattawa (Mathe, Mathwa) (Nanticoke), Narwahro (Wichita), and Tcakanea (Iroquois).

Location – Lenápe groups homeland, Lenápehoking, was in Delaware River Valley, the Hudson River Valley and the western part of Long Island.

Divisions, bands & villages – Occupying the area between northern Delaware and lower New York, the Lenápe people were not really a unified tribe in 1600, but a set of independent villages and bands. There was no unifying central political authority, and Lenápe sachems, at best, controlled only a few villages usually located on the same stream. The three historical Lenápe divisions (Munsee, Unami, and Unalactigo) were based on differences in dialect and location. There was, however, a common sense of being ‘Lenape’, not unlike the Greek concept of ethnos.

LanguageLenápe is part of the Algonquian linguistic family. The language is endangered in modern times, only spoken by some elderly individuals.

History – Never united as their society was based on village, band and clan organization. Epidemic diseases devastated their societies and hindered any notion of a unifying front against their enemies. Dispersed and becoming ever weaker as time went on, they were driven west, away from their traditional homeland.

Culture & Society – Matrilineal groups were the bases of the society. The Lenápe had a vague notion of common identity based on history, culture and language. Broken and hunted down by whites and the Iroquois, they fled west were most of them ended up in Oklahoma. There their culture and social norms were under constant attack and tremendous pressure from missionaries and the white society at large

Population – As with all the other Native American groups, the Lenápe were on the verge of being wiped out by ruthless and merciless terror waged upon them by various elements of the white American society that stole their land and livelihood.

DNA – Hardly any research has been done on Lenápe genetics. Regretfully, individual testimony found around the Internet is not much to go on.

Miscellaneous, articles and other interesting things

Lenápe sources

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