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Lenape Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Lenni Lenapes for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to look through our main Lenape language and culture pages for more in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Lenni Lenape pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.




    Lenape Tribe

How do you pronounce "Lenape?" What does it mean?
Lenape is pronounced "Leh-NAH-pay" and it means "the people." Sometimes you will see this name spelled Lenápe or Lenapi instead. The tribe is also known as the Lenni Lenape ("true people") or the Delaware Indians (after the Delaware River, which runs through Lenni Lenape territory.)

Where do the Lenni Lenape Indians live?
The Lenni Lenapes were original people of the mid-Atlantic area. Here are some maps showing the geography of the Lenapes and their neighbors in New Jersey, Delaware, New York and Pennsylvania. Most Lenape Indians were driven out of their homeland by the British. Here is a partial map of the forced travels of the Lenape Indians. The Americans eventually relocated them to Oklahoma, where the modern Delaware Indian tribes are located today. Other Lenape people joined the Nanticoke or Munsee Delawares. There are also some small Lenne Lenape communities remaining in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The total Lenape population is around 16,000.

How is the Lenni Lenape Indian nation organized?
There are two federally recognized Lenape tribes in Oklahoma: the Delaware Tribe of Indians and the Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma. Like most Native American tribes, the Delaware Indian tribes are autonomous. That means each tribe has its own government, laws, police, and services, just like a small country. However, the Delawares are also US citizens and must obey American law.

Lenni Lenapes in New Jersey and Pennsylvania are not officially recognized as tribes by the United States. That means they do not have reservation land or their own governmental system, though they still practice the Lenape culture.

What language do the Lenni Lenapes speak?
Lenape Indians all speak English today. Only a few Lenape elders still speak their native Lenape language (also known as Unami.) But some young Lenape people are working to learn their ancient language again. If you'd like to know some easy Lenape words, "he" (pronounced "hey") is a friendly greeting and "wanishi" means "thank you." You can listen to a Lenape woman talk in her language here and read a Lenape picture glossary here.

What was Lenni Lenape culture like in the past? What is it like now?
There is a good overview of the Lenni Lenape way of living here. You can learn more about modern Lenape people from the Delaware Tribe of Indians, who are the largest group of Lenni Lenape descendants today.

How do Lenni Lenape Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Lenape children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like early colonial children. But Lenape kids did have dolls and toys such as miniature bows and arrows. Lenape games for teenagers and adults included lacrosse, which was played only by boys and men, and a kicking football game, which both genders played together. Leni Lenape mothers traditionally carried their babies in Native cradleboards on their backs--a custom which many American parents have adopted now.

What were men and women's roles in the Lenni Lenape tribe?
Lenape men were hunters and sometimes went to war to protect their families. Lenape women were farmers and also did most of the child care and cooking. Both genders took part in storytelling, artwork and music, and traditional medicine. In the past, Lenape chiefs were always men, but today a Delaware Indian woman could be chief too.

What were Lenni Lenape homes like in the past?
The Lenni Lenapes didn't live in tepees. They lived in villages of round houses called wigwams. Some Lenape Indians preferred Iroquoian-style longhouses to wigwams, because more family members could live in a longhouse. Here are some pictures of wigwams, longhouses, and other Native American homes. Each Lenni Lenape village usually included a rectangular council house and a sweat lodge, and some villages were palisaded (surrounded with log walls for protection).

Today, Native Americans only build a wigwam for fun or to connect with their heritage, not for shelter. Most Lenapes live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Lenni Lenape clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Lenape women wore knee-length skirts. Lenape men wore breechcloths and leggings. Shirts were not necessary in the Lenape culture, but the Lenapes did wear deerskin mantles when the weather was cool. Both genders wore earrings and deerskin moccasins on their feet. In colonial times, the Lenapes adapted European costume such as cloth blouses and jackets, decorating them with fancy beadwork. Here are some pictures of Lenni Lenape clothing, and some photos and links about Native American clothing in general.

The Lenni Lenape didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Usually they wore a beaded headband with a feather or two in it. Sometimes a chief or other important Lenape Indian would wear a high headdress made of feathers pointing straight up from a headband, like this. The Lenni Lenapes painted their faces with different colors and designs for different occasions, and Lenape men often wore tattoos in animal designs. Lenape women wore their hair in long braids. Lenape men, especially warriors, often wore a Mohawk hairstyle or shaved their heads completely except for a scalplock in the middle. Here is a website with pictures of these different Indian hair styles.

Today, some Lenape people still have a traditional headband or moccasins, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of breechcloths... and they only wear feathers in their hair on special occasions like a dance.

What was Lenni Lenape transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes, the Lenni Lenape tribe used bark and dugout canoes to travel on the Delaware River and the East Coast. Since they moved to Oklahoma, however, Lenape traditions of canoe-building have mostly been lost. Over land, the Lenapes used dogs as pack animals. (There were no horses in North America until Europeans brought them here.) Lenape Indians used sleds and snowshoes to help them travel in the winter. Today, of course, Lenape people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Lenni Lenape food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Delaware Indians were farming people. Lenape women did most of the farming, harvesting corn, squash and beans. Lenape men went hunting for deer, elk, turkeys, and small game, and caught fish in the rivers and inlets. Delaware Indian foods included soup, cornbread, dumplings and salads. Here is a website with more information about American Indian cuisine.

What were Lenni Lenape tools and weapons like?
Lenape hunters used bows and arrows. Lenape warriors wielded heavy wooden war clubs, and also carried body-length shields of moosehide and wood. Here is a website with pictures and information about weapons of the Native Americans.

What are Lenni Lenape art and crafts like?
The Lenape tribe is known for their American Indian beadwork and basketry products. Like other eastern Native Americans, the Leni Lenape also crafted wampum out of white and purple shell beads. Wampum beads were traded as a kind of currency, but they were more culturally important as an art material. The designs and pictures on wampum belts often told a story or represented a person's family.

What other Native Americans did the Lenni Lenape tribe interact with?
The Lenape Indians were close relatives of the Nanticoke and Munsee Delawares. These tribes were never united into a single confederacy, but they all considered themselves Delaware Indians. The Delaware tribes traded regularly with all the other New England Indians, especially the Wampanoag and Mohicans, and they often fought with the powerful Iroquois League.

What kinds of stories do the Lenni Lenapes tell?
There are many traditional Lenni Lenape legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Lenape Indian culture. Here's one legend about how the crow got black feathers. Here's a website where you can read more about Lenape mythology.

What about Lenni Lenape religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about Lenape beliefs or this site about Native American beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
You may enjoy Legends of the Delaware Indians, which is a nice collection of Lenape legends compiled by a Delaware Indian author. If you want to know more about Lenape history and culture, two interesting sources are The Lenape Indians of Pennsylvania (for younger kids) and The Delaware Indians (for slightly older kids). You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American books in general.

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2013.

Thanks for your interest in the Lenni Lenape Indian people and their language!

Learn More About The Lenni Lenapes

Lenape Indian Tribe
An overview of the Leni Lenape people, their language and history.

Lenape Language Resources
Lanape language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Lenape Delaware History and Culture
Related links about the Lenni Lenape people past and present.

Lenape Words
Lenape Indian vocabulary lists.



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