Fur Traders, Disease, Settlers
By the 17th
century Europeans had
realized the wealth to be gained from fur-bearing animals in
Lenapehoking. Soon early explorers like the Dutch and Swedes began to
exchange goods and culture with the Lenape.
Beaver hats were
fashionable in Europe, making beaver pelts the most valued fur.
In addition to furs, Europeans wanted food and most
importantly land. The
Lenape, on the other hand, became accustomed to iron axes, cloth,
shirts, copper kettles, bells, glass beads, mirrors, iron
fishhooks and liquor.
expanded, hostilities between the Europeans and the Lenape
increased. Over-hunting and dependence on trade goods created a scarcity
of furs and greatly disrupted traditional life. Many villages dispersed and left Lenapehoking.
of diseases for which the Lenape had no immunities, devastated the
native population. Smallpox
was one of the worst diseases, but others like measles, mumps and
scarlet fever were also very bad. Warfare and alcohol contributed further to their decline.
By 1750 it is estimated that the Lenape lost almost 90% of
During the 17th
century when many of the Lenape were moving west to Ohio and north
into New York and Canada, ever-increasing numbers of colonists
arrived and settled on land where the Lenape used to live. Missionaries came to convert them to Christianity.
During the French
and Indian and Revolutionary Wars the Lenape were drawn in on both
sides and often fought beside their European allies and against
each other. Finally, the Lenape sold their remaining lands in New Jersey
and moved out west to areas like Oklahoma and north into Canada,
where the majority of the Lenape live today.