Monday, November 24, 2008

The Indians of Lenapehoking

Titles and names of groups can be confusing or misleading. One example: The Stockbridge-Munsee Indians. In spoken communication, people often don't realize that there is a hyphen between the words "Stockbridge," and "Munsee," so they make the reasonable, but incorrect assumption that the Stockbridges are a band of Munsees. Actually, of course, they are Mohicans, (or, arguably, they are amalgamated Algonkians). But who are the Munsee Indians?

A book that appears to be written for middle school students, The Indians of Lenapehoking (1985, Seton Hall University Museum) by Herbert C. Kraft and John T. Kraft addresses our question. The people who once lived in an area that included all of New Jersey, plus much of the land surrounding it, once called themselves the Lenape, or "the ordinary people." In the 1600's the English began calling them the Delaware Indians (page 2). (The Mohicans believed they were descendants of the Delawares and referred to them as their "grandfathers.")

According to Kraft and Kraft, "two related but distinct" groups of Indians made up the Delawares. Those living north of the Raritan River spoke a Munsee dialect, while those south of the Raritan spoke a Unami dialect (page 2).
(Map courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons)

The question of how the Stockbridge Mohicans became the "Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Mohican Indians" is too complex for me to get into now. Suffice it to say that the "Munsee" part doesn't refer to the Brotherton Indians, it refers to other Delawares that joined the Stockbridges later on.

1 comment :

Myron said...

Len a pe
Pure a bide : Those who abide with the pure.
The name has been in use in America for 880 years.

Len a pe ehok ing
Pure a bide folks place. :Place of folk who abide with the pure.

Main group: The main core of the Lenape.


The Delaware tribe originated from the enslaved women used as housekeepers and for other purposes by Lord de la Warr's men. The Lord de la Warr men also used systematic rape during the war of extermination 1610 to 1613.

Following the war of extermination John Rolf started his tobacco venture to "save Jamestown." The tobacco leafs were "watered by the tears" of the Lenape women and their progeny, who provided the labor no self-respecting English man would do. The original tobacco slaves were Lord de la Warr's tribe also.

The Delaware trip should have been confined to the region of the extermination, Delaware peninsula and along the James River between Jamestown and Raleigh, Virginia.

But the English went into a cover up and erase mood. Roger Willams (banished from the Puritan colonies}, Thomas Morton, (the Pilgrims sent him back to England in chains --three times!), Anne Hutchinson, (banished), an aristocrat woman who built her home on the east end of Long Inland, (finally moved to "protection"} and Mary Dwyer, (hung.) may have began to understand what "Lenape" meant. They may have begun to ask "Why are we, the English, trading guns to the Iroquois for Lenape scalps?"

So, it appears, that the English tried to hang the "Delaware" name on any tribe that spoke a dialect of "Algonquin." The English probably found driving or Killing Delaware, a more pleasant task than driving or killing people who "abide with the pure". Took less explanation, anyway.