Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Lenni-Lenape, New Jersey's Original People

The Lenni-Lenape, who inhabited New Jersey long before the Europeans arrived, considered themselves to be the "Original People."

Unfortunately, they did not survive long after the arrival of the Europeans. The Colonists wanted to own the land. As with other Native Americans, European diseases, guns and alcohol all led to the death of natives and flight from the original homelands. By 1700, the Lenni-Lenape population was probably one fourth of what it was when the Dutch arrived and estimated it at 2000.

Lenape traditions and lifestyle seemed strange to the Europeans. Rather than settling and staying in one place and home, the Lenape moved with the seasons in what is now New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware.

In spring, planting was done in around their permanent settlements. In summer, they moved to the shore for oysters and clams and to escape the heat. In autumn, they returned to their village and harvested crops. In the winter, they lived by hunting deer and other animals.

The Lenape Indians lived in bark houses called wigwams. The frame was made by bending branches to form a dome shape. These branches were tied together with vines or leather thongs and it was then covered by bark or hides. A hole at the top let out smoke from the small fire circle inside.

The Algonquin Nation, including Lenni-Lenape, sided with the French in the French & Indian War hoping that they would move the settlers away from their homeland. The French and the Indians were fighting British colonists in what was the final Colonial War here. (It was fought in Europe by Austria, England, France, Great Britain, Prussia, and Sweden and was called the Seven Years War. although it extended from 1689 to 1763.)

The French and Indians lost the war on our soil. Some peace came through negotiations in 1758 with the New Jersey Governor Francis Bernard and Lenape leader, Teedyuscung. A home for the Lenni-Lenape in Burlington County was established and this was the first "Indian reservation."

There were about 200 Lenape who made a home in what was called Brotherton and was supervised by a hopeful Reverend John Brainerd.  A grist mill and sawmills were set up for the Lenape to create a new life and the area became known as Indian Mills.(Now, Shamong Township.)

The experiment was not successful and in 1796 the Oneida tribe (also Algonquin by language) in New Stockbridge, NY, invited the Brotherton tribe to live with them, and almost all of them moved to NY.

The New Jersey Assembly sold the reservation in 1801 and gave the proceeds to the less than 100 remaining tribe members.

Although Elisha Ahhataina (Lashar Tamar), the last chief of the Brotherton Indians, did go to New York, he eventually returned to New Jersey with some members and settled near the town of Rancocas, NJ.

Those who stayed with the Oneida asked the New Jersey Legislature in 1832 for the balance of the money from the sale of their Brotherton Reservation and were given $3,551. Forty remaining members resettled in Statesburg, Wisconsin. A small number moved west to be with the Cherokees and Osages.

The modern day Lenape Trail was intended to follow some of original trails and areas where the "Original People" lived.

There is still a group of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation (AKA Ramapo Mountain Indians) numbering about 5,000 who live around the Ramapo Mountains of northern New Jersey and southern New York.

Source:  New Jersey Homepage of the American Local History Network


  1. We should honor our Native Americans. It was/is their God-given land.

  2. The Lenape History can be seen at LENAPE LAND.
    The Lenape migrated 4,000 miles in 235 years from Greenland by way of the Dakotas to the Atlantic coast.

  3. i'm doing a research project on conservation of culture as it relates to biodiversity. I'm looking for specific information on farming practices, types of trees in the forrests, mast crops used by natives and their prey, as well as the types of animals that were present and no longer live in our territories or are extinct. any suggestions??

  4. April
    The late Herb Kraft at Seton Hall was the go-to guy I knew of for information on the Lenape. His publications would probably be useful.

    There are plenty of historical docs like