lenape facts
oyster history
letter tiles puzzle #2
letter tiles puzzle #3

There were two different groups of Lenape in the Delaware Watershed region. The term Unami is used to include the several different groups of people who lived roughly in our area of concern, who spoke the Unami dialect. The other major group, the Munsee, lived in northern New Jersey and New York and spoke the Munsee dialect.

lenape axeWolf, turkey and turtle were clans within the tribe. Members of all three clans lived in the same village; the three clans did not represent different geographic areas, as was once thought. Lineage was traced through the maternal line, so children were the clan as their mother. You were considered related to all the people in your clan. A clan member was not supposed to marry within the same clan. Young people typically married at an age when they could provide for themselves; 17-19 years for boys and a little younger for girls.

The Lenape:

The women were the tailors, cooks, potters, childcare givers and food gatherers. Both men and women worked very hard in order to survive rough conditions. The men hunted, made weapons, built shelters and the women carried heavy loads and dug in the earth with stone or bone implements. Both men and women could be healers. It has been estimated that for most of the year, women provided 70-75% of the food, while men provided the high protein food. Because of this partnership, women had more status than in many other more advanced societies. This changed when the Lenape began extensive fur trade with the Europeans, since the Europeans would only trade with the men.

lenape artifact #1Agriculture and the bow and arrow came into use at about the same time. Before that, Lenape used the spear, spear thrower (atl-atl) and the bolas. A bolas consists of round stones connected with a leather thong that is thrown at the prey.

Lenape fished using weirs and nets. The weir was built by inserting thousands of upright sticks to make a low enclosure in the shallows of a tidal river or estuary. When tidal waters crested the top of the sticks, fish swam in. When the tide ebbed, the fish were trapped behind the weir and could easily gathered. Both large and small nets were also used with the largest being described as more than 400 feet in length. One kind of artifact is a net-sinker, which was used to hold the net to the bottom. Shorter nets were only about 40 feet long. There is no information on the kinds of materials the nets were made of. Why? Because organic material rotted away.

Mussels and oysters were collected in large quantities all year from many locations and replanted in streams near permanent villages. In the summer, the mussels and oysters were heated and dried in the sun to preserve them. Many meats, shellfish, vegetables, fruits and fish were preserved by drying for consumption during the winter months.


©1998 robert d. owens