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Native Americans

By 1000 B.C., the Lenni Lenape no longer followed all the traditions of their ancestors the Paleo-Indians, who had once followed the animals they hunted. By the beginning of the century, the Lenni Lenape began to live a relatively stable life. They moved between the inland areas and the shore to hunt and fish, but this was not the only way they lived their lives. They planned around the seasons and also began to depend on crops for survival (Hall and Hall, 1982).

The Delaware Valley was the center of the Lenni Lenepe’s land. They were members of the Algonquin tribe and spoke two closely related dialects. When the Europeans first arrived, these Native Americans lived in bands of villages with a few hundred people in each (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums). These villages were spread over several regions, which are now known as New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware (Hall and Hall, 1982).

There was also Lenape activity in the Lehigh Valley, although not as much as would be expected. When European settlers first began arriving, there was a Lenape village located at the junction of the Lehigh River and Saucon Creek. There were also Indian campgrounds near the present day city of Easton, where the Lehigh and Delaware rivers meet (the Forks of the Lehigh). For many years, the Indians in the Lehigh Valley participated in quarrying activities, digging for both jasper and flint in today’s village of Vera Cruz (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums).

When the European settlers began to arrive, they participated in a lot of trade with the Native Americans. The Lenni Lenape would trade animal furs and skins with the Europeans in exchange for items that were far ahead technologically. These items, such as iron pots, needles, alcohol, and woolen cloth, made their way into the Indian culture. Within a generation, the culture began to decline because the Indians quickly became dependent on these newly introduced tools and skills that had been a part of the Lenape tradition began to disappear (Hugh Moore Historical Park and Museums).

Another issue that led to the downfall of the Lenni Lenape was the fact that they did not have a clearly defined system of leadership. The Lenni Lenape villages, as already stated, were spread out over an immense area. Each village would have a leader but there was not a specific leader for the entire Lenni Lenape people (Hall and Hall, 1982).

The differences in politics led to many misunderstandings between the Lenni Lenape and the Europeans as they arrived from across the Atlantic Ocean. When Europeans purchased land from a particular chief, they thought that the chief was speaking for all the people. After making a deal over land with one tribe of Lenni Lenape, the Europeans would face another tribe who claimed the land was theirs (Hall and Hall, 1982).

Political issues were not the only misunderstandings that the Lenni Lenape had with the new European settlers. The Lenni Lenape felt that owning land merely meant the ability to use that land — to hunt, to plant and to fish. Unlike the European settlers, they did not think that owning implied exclusive possession. When the Lenni Lenape signed treaties with the Europeans over land, they were shocked to find that they could no longer hunt on the lands as they had for thousands of years previously (Hall and Hall, 1982).



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