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  The Europeans Arrive          

1500-1600:  The First Explorers

Lenape & FarmersDuring the 16th century, explorers from Europe found a rich new continent, which had plentiful supplies of fish, lumber, furs and other goods.  People like Giovanni da Verrazano (1524) first met the Lenape off the coast of Sandy Hook, but didnít stay long.  Soon after the voyage of Verrazano, more and more European fishermen, whalers, and slavers interacted with the native people along the Atlantic coast, changing the ancient life of the Lenape and other native groups forever.  

By the time Henry Hudson and his crew aboard the Half Moon entered the New York Bay in September 1609, the native people of the area no longer trusted the Europeans and occasional problems and fighting soon ensued.


1600-1750:  Fur Traders, Disease, Settlers

TradingBy 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.

As trade 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.

The introduction 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 their people.

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.

  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 Bartlesville area.  

Several hundred Lenape/ Delaware Indian descendants still live in our area today.  We cannot forget the Lenape because many cities have Lenape names, for example, Allamuchy, Hackensack, Manasquan, and Manhattan.  Many streets, parks, lakes, rivers and mountains also have Lenape names.

Children primarily attend public schools, although there are Bureau of Indian Affairs boarding schools on other nearby reservations in Oklahoma such as the Wyandotte that accept Delaware students.  Some elders still speak the Delaware language which is now available on language teaching cassette tapes, which can be purchased by Touching Leaves Company.

The tribal government consists of a chairman, assistant chairman, and three councilmen.  It is an elective governing body with officials selected every three years.

Lenape children still have their arts and oral traditions that reflect their culture.  However unlike their ancestors of long ago, they now live throughout the United States and Canada and 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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  (For additional information see The Lenape or Delaware Indians, or The Indians of Lenapehoking.)

 

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