Lenni Lenape

Important things to know about the Lenni Lenape people

The First People

The Lenape people were the "first people" in New Jersey. They lived near the Delaware River and were also known as the Delaware People. They were part of a bigger group of Native Americans called the "Algonquin".

Who are the Lenape?

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The Lenape Community

The Lenape or Delaware Indians lived in an area they called Lenapehoking which means land of the Lenape. Their land included all of what is now New Jersey, the eastern woodlands,lenapehoking had many rivers streams and lakes and was densley forests and rich in wildlife. most of them lived in small bands of 25 to 50 people.

familes were important to the lenape Indians. there were strong tiews beetween parents and children.

the lenape had three clans wolf turkey and turtle which traced

thierv decendend through the female line. for example if a mother belonged to the same clan.the sons had to marry women from other clans and their children belonged to thier mothers clan

Sharing the work

Everyone worked, but the men and women were expected to do different tasks. Small children began to learn the skills at a very early age.

Women's work

Women were responsible for the planting and harvesting and gathering wild foods like berries, roots and nuts were dried for winter use. Women were skilled at making clay pots. Women were also responsible for preparing the hides for clothes and shelters.
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Men's Work

Men cleared the land, built and cleared the land for houses and made dugout canoes. Using bows and arrows, the men hunted a variety of animals. Men were good warriors and sometimes had to go to war to defend their homes.
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Clothing and Decoration

The Lenape dressed for snow and icy winds or for sticky heat,depending on the season.
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Everyone wore soft-soled deerskin moccasins.
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keeping clean

They kept themselves clean and were accustomed to a daily swim or used a sweat lodge

or steam bath.

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Decoration and jewelry

Men tattooed themselves with pictures of animals,birds,snakes or various geometric


Shelters and Villages and Tools

The Lenape made dome-shaped houses called wigwams where a small family or individual could live.Sometimes several families lived together in a larger "longhouses".Inside the longhouse were platforms of poles on either side.Openings in the roof let the smoke out. Every ten or twelve years they had to move their entire village to a new site because they had used up many of the natural resources of their area.


Men used tools to make houses and canoes. Some tools were used to make clothing, moccasins, mats and baskets. Sinew from animals was used for sewing and binding. Rattles were made from the hooves of animals.

Beliefs and Vision Quests


The Lenape believed that there were spirits- called manetu- all around them. They believed that spirits could be helpful or harmful and so they had to be treated with respect. The Native Americans were careful not to offend the spirits.

Vision Quests

The Lenape believed that certain rituals gave them special power to influence spirits. It was custom for boys (sometimes girls) to mark the time when they became adults by going away alone for many days to fast and dream to find a special guardian. This special guardian could take the form of a fox, a hawk, a small ant or even a rock could protect the individual for life.

Preparing the food

The Lenape believed that food was there to be shared. Food was cooked in clay pots over the fire or wrapped in leaves and set in hot ashes.

The three most important crops were known as the Three Sisters; corn, squash, beans.

Storing food for Winter

Plant foods were also stored away for the wintertime. Deep holes were dug in the earth. Dried meat, dried fish and other were placed in these pits to enable the Lenape to survive the cold winter.

Travel and Transportation and Games

The Indians of Lenapehoking (means Land of the Lenape) used different kinds of transport according to the season. They went on foot, rode horses and used canoes.


Not much is known about games and sport. The children wrestled for skill. there toys were usually made of tools and weapons for boys and cornhusk dolls for girls.

Europeans arrive

Early explorers first met the Lenape near Sandy Hook. the Dutch and Swedes began to exchange goods and culture with the Lenape. Europeans wanted furs, food and most importantly land. The Lenape wanted iron axes, cloth, shirts, copper kettles, bells, glass beads. mirrors and liquor.

The early explorers (Europeans) also brought disease such as small pox, measles,mumps and scarlet fever. The Lenape had no immunities to the diseases and it devastated the native population. By 1750, the Lenape lost almost 90% of their people.

The Lenape sold their lands in New Jersey and moved to Oklahoma and Canada.

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The Lenape Today

Today most of the Lenape / Delaware are living in Oklahoma and Canada .In Oklahoma , there are two communities ; one around Anandarko and another near the Bartlesvill area.Several hundred Lenape/Delaware Indian descendants still live in our area today. We can not forget the Lenape because many cities have Lenape names. for example , allamuchy, hackensack, manasquan , and manhatten

children primarily attend public schools.some elders still speak the delaware language.

lenape children still have their arts and oral traditions that reflect their culture. unlike there ancestors they attend school,wear clothes such as jeans and sweatshirts,live in apartments and houses and watch the same television shows and films that children throughout the united states do.

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