The Lenape were the OG caretakers of the Delaware River
This Indigenous People’s Day, we reflect on the people who cared for this land and waterways before us.
The Lenni Lenape are the indigenous people whose territory included our present-day New Jersey & eastern PA along the Delaware River watershed, and New York City.
In honor of the people who came before us – and took care of the Delaware River Watershed long before we existed – here are connections between the Lenape and “great river.”
Interesting tidbits about the Delaware River & Leni Lenape People
- Lenapewihittuk was the original name of Delaware River by the Lenape, meaning the largest river in this part of the country. Lenape Sippu is translated to the “river of the Lenape people.”
- Many of Lenape villages were located along banks and tributaries of the Delaware.
- There were likely 10,000 to 12,000 Lenape people in the Delaware Valley in 30 to 40 communities during William Penn’s time.
- Travel by water: The Lenni Lenape tribe used bark and dugout canoes to travel on the Delaware River, according to Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis, as stated on the Native Languages of the Americas.
- Park history: The Lenape people met with William Penn along the Delaware River at the present-day Penn Treaty Park to negotiate a peace treaty… allegedly, with a questionable accuracy asterisk.
- OG locavore farming: The Lenni Lenape people were farming people, with women harvesting corn, squash, and beans, and men handling hunting and fishing (often shad) in the rivers, according to Redish & Lewis.
- The Lenape had a matrilineal clan system, which means their bloodline and social positions were traced from the mother’s side.
- The Lenape tribe and treaty signers (environmental groups, churches, historical societies, and individuals) renew a Treaty of Renewed Brotherhood every four years to acknowledge the Lenape as the original caretakers of their homeland and to assist the Lenape people, language, and way of life. There is a coinciding three-week canoe group along the Delaware River, known as the Rising Nation River Journey. The original treaty was signed in 2002.
9. The Lenape Woods Nature Preserve, a homage to the tribe, is located in Atlantic Highlands with 51 acres of woodland and wetlands.
10. Today, many descendants of the Lenape people live in Oklahoma and Ontario.