(later named Delaware Indians
by Europeans) were, in the 1600s
, loosely organized bands of Native American
people practicing small-scale agriculture to augment a largely mobile hunter-gatherer society in the region around the Delaware River
. Their language was in the Algonquian
language family and had two main dialects, identified as Proto-Munsee in the upper Delaware River (including North Jersey) and Proto-Unami in the lower Delaware River (including South Jersey). In the Unami dialect, "Lenape" means "our men," "men of the same nation," "common people," etc.
The Lenape were the first native american tribe to enter into a treaty with the future United States government during the American Revolutionary War. The Lenape supplied the revoluntary army with warriors and scouts in exchange for food supplies and the promise of a role at the head of a future native american state.
The Lenape were continually crowded out by European settlers and pressured to move in several stages over a period of about 175 years with the main body arriving in Northeast Oklahoma in the 1860s. Along the way many smaller groups split off in different directions to settle, to join established communities with other native peoples, or to stay where they were and survive when their brothers and sisters moved on. Consequently today, from New Jersey to Wisconsin to southwest Oklahoma, there are groups which retain a sense of identity with their ancestors that were in the Delaware Valley in the 1600s and with their cousins in the vast Lenape diaspora. The two largest are:
Notable Members of the Lenni-Lenape
- Adams, Richard Calmit, The Delaware Indians, a brief history, Hope Farm Press (Saugerties, NY 1995) [originally published by Government Printing Office, (Washington, DC 1909)]
- Kraft, Herbert C., The Lenape: archaeology, history and ethnography, New Jersey Historical Society, (Newark, NJ 1986)
- Weslager, Clinton Alfred, The Delaware Indians: A history, Rutgers University Press, (New Brunswick, NJ 1972).