The Ancient Ones

The Lenni-Lenape

Land of the Lenape

The Lenni-Lenape (variously translated to mean “men of men,” “original” or “common” people) are considered the “grandfathers” or “ancient ones” by many other tribes and are viewed as the “trunk” of the Algonkian family tree. The Lenape (pronounced Le-NAH-pay) homeland ranged from southeastern New York through to northeastern Delaware and included all of New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Called the “Delaware Indians” by the British, our Lenape ancestors were the ancient diplomats who were called to settle disputes between tribes.

The Nanticoke

Nanticoke Territory

The Nanticoke (pronounced Nan-TEH-coke), called the “tidewater people,” lived in the central Delmarva Peninsula primarily along the eastern shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Our Nanticoke ancestors were known for their shell beads (called “roenoke,” similar to wampum), for constructing bridges across creeks, and for their knowledge of herbal medicines. The Nanticoke were called master traders by the British. In ancient times, the Nanticoke had emerged from the Lenape, with the territories of each tribe coming together in Delaware.

Our Ancient Way of Life

Our Lenape and Nanticoke ancestors were peace loving, and given to hospitality. We lived in harmony with the natural world around us in small communities and had wigwams and longhouses as homes. The men hunted and fished while the women grew crops.  Men were charged with protecting the village while women were charged with care for their homes. The village chief (called “sakima” in Lenape, but commonly referred to as “sachem”) led by example and personal sacrifice, and conferred with a council of respected “great ones” and elders.

Lenape "Fort" by Campanius of New Sweden

We wore clothes of animal skins, decorated with shell and bone beads and sometimes with natural pigments. We honored the Creator and his appointed guardian spirits by respecting all life and never taking more from nature than we could use. That respect for life meant that if an animal was taken for food, all of the animal should be used in some way in order to show gratitude for the sacrifice of its life to sustain ours.