Lenni-Lenape Indians

Pennsylvania Indian Tribes: Susquehannock Indians and Lenape Indians
Two of the main Indian tribes of Southeastern and Central Pennsylvania were the Susquehannock and Lenape. The Susquehannock lived along the Susquehanna River and the Lenape lived along the Delaware River. Perhaps at one time they were part of the same tribe; however, by the 1300's there was a clear separation.

Lenni Lenape
Lenape is Algonquian for The People. Lenni Lenape means something like the original people. Other Indians referred to the Lenape as grandfather. The precise origin of the Lenape is not known, but there is strong evidence that the Lenape are one of the oldest races. Likely, this is why other Indian tribes considered them the original people and the grandfather of all Indians.

Lord de la Warr, the governor of the Jamestown colony, mistaken re-named them the Delaware Indians. In the early 1600's, the Lenape were one of the first Indian tribes to come into contact with European settlers. Although the Lenape were severely respected by other Indians, as well as for their fierceness and tenacity as warriors, they preferred the path of peace. Unfortunately, this led them to be taken advantage of by the Europeans and other Indian tribes.

In 2022, the only Native American burial site in Newlin Township, Chester County, Pennsylvania was returned to Anadarko, Oklahoma's Delaware Nation (one of the groups representing descendants of the Lenape.)

"Roughly 30 members of the tribe were buried on the grassy knoll overlooking the West Branch of the Brandywine Creek with their heads facing east, in accordance with the Lenape's traditional funeral customs.

After most members of the tribe were forced to flee their homeland, the burial site was rediscovered by white explorers in the nineteenth century. Some of the graves were dug up and at least one of the bodies was taken to Swarthmore College in 1899.

The land was recognized by the Chester County Historical Society in 1909, when a marker was placed on the site.

Two other Lenape historical sites are located less than a mile away. "Indian Rock," which sits near Northbrook Road, was a landmark that tribe members used to stake their claim to the area. There are also markers highlighting the former residence and grave site of "Indian Hannah." She was the last member of the tribe in Chester County and died in 1802." -- The Philly Voice

Aerial view of the Schuylkill River in Gladwyne where there is a bend in the river. At this location, due to the water’s change in direction, there is a natural pool of warm water where fish congregate. This is where the Lenape set up their “summer station” to trap fish, which was a staple in their diet. Photo credit: The Lower Merion Historical Society.

Lenape Fishing Trap on the Schuylkill River

Alligewi (Allegheny) Indians
It is believed that the Lenape were from Western North America. For some unknown reason, they decided to migrate East. When they crossed the Mississippi River, they encountered the Alligewi Indian tribe. The Alligewi were known for building mounds, fortifications and entrenchments (many of which still remain.) Thus, a name that was given to them -- the Mound Builders. The Lenape asked permission to settle among them. The Alligewi refused but gave them permission to pass through and settle to the East.

Iroquois Indians
The Iroquois Indians were also from Western North America. They witnessed the Lenape's request. Having already been angered by the Allegewi, they offered to team up with the Lenape on the condition that they would share in the spoils of war. Eventually, they drove out the Alligewi. The Iroquois took the lands near the Great Lakes and the Lenape took the lands to the south.

For many years, the Iroquois and the Lenape lived in peace. Over time the Iroquois became jealous of the growing power of the Lenape. The chiefs of the Lenape recounted that they were tricked into a war with their neighbors of the south, the Cherokees. It is said that the Iroquois placed war clubs of the Lenape's near dead Cherokee bodies. In turn, the Cherokees declared war on the Lenape. Upon finding out what the Iroquois had done, the Lenape declared war on the Iroquois. The Iroquois were defeated forcing them to confederate their tribes into the Five Nations.

By the 1500's, the Iroquois were able to acquire superior weapons from the French and Dutch allowing them to conquer the Lenape. The Iroquois mocked the Lenape by saying they made women of them and called them grandmother instead of grandfather. The Lenape were no longer allowed to make war or peace, control land or other duties reserved for the conquerors. The Lenape migrated west and settled on lands near the Susquehanna River and the Allegheny River. They established communities in places we now call Lock Haven, Clarion, Punxsutawney, Beaver Town, and Kittanning, Pennsylvania.

The early Lanape had no idea that land could be bought or sold. It was believed the land belonged to the Creator and the Delaware Indians used it to feed and shelter their people. After having been driven westward by rival Indian tribes and the European settlers, the Lenape became more aggressive. They were known to raid colonial villages and scalp their foes. Eventually, the Lenape were beaten into submission and relocated to reservations in Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, and finally Oklahoma.

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