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 Lenepes 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 todays
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
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).