LŽnape Culture and History

An Introduction

"Though you may hear birds singing
on this side and that side,
you must not take notice,
but hear me when I speak to you,
and take it to heart,
for you may always depend that what I say shall be true."


The LŽnape people were once one of the most preeminent nations on Turtle Island. Virtually all of the Algonkian peoples, from the east coast to the plains to the west coast, in Canada and the United States, called us the "Grandfather People". Other nations sought our help to mediate their wars and disputes, when the Cherokee were enslaved by the Mississippians, they sought our help to set them free, when the Dutch, French, and Americans fought the British they sought our help.

Today we are but a shadow of what we were, decimated and fragmented by assimilation, annihilation, relocation, and denial. Our history and our culture has been obscured, corrupted, and lost by the influences of Pan-Indianism, New Age fantasies, mis-information, and outright fabrication. Peyoteism, Christianity, and other religious influences have replaced our traditional spirituality and have added to the loss of our history and culture. Many groups across the country have fraudulently claimed to be LŽnape and make-up their own false history and culture.

My intent in constructing this site was to provide a "learning site" about the LŽnape people, which could be accessed by students, teachers, or anyone interested in learning about our culture and history. Much of the information which is taught in history books or found on the internet is not accurate. Over the years, inaccurate information, Pan-Indianism, New Age fabrications, and other influences, have taken over the truth, and it is my desire to dispel these fallacies and set forth the true history and culture of the LŽnape people.


Although we are commonly referred to as Lenni-LŽnape, this term is not correct. The term Lenni-LŽnape is grammatically incorrect in our language, as well as being historically incorrect. We never referred to ourselves as the Lenni-Lenape. That term is used only by people who do not have a knowledge or understanding of our language.

Those who use the term Lenni-LŽnape, claim that "lenni" means "original", and "LŽnape" means "man". These alleged definitions are inaccurate. "LŤni" (the correct spelling) does mean "genuine, pure, real, original", but LŽnape does not mean "people". The proper word for person is "awŤn", with the plural being "awŤnik" (people). "AwŤnhake" means "Indian person" and refers to any Indian person who is not LŽnape, and whose nationality (tribe) is not known to the speaker. There are words for woman, and for man (male). The proper word for man (male) is "lŽnu". "LŽnape" is simply our name for our own people.

As is easily seen by the definitions given above, the term "Lenni-LŽnape" is grammatically incorrect, as it represents incorrect definitions, and would be used only by people who have no knowledge of our language.

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE >> lŤni....LEH-knee; LŽnape....luh-NAH-pay; awŤn....AH-when; awŤnik....ah-WHEN-eek; awŤnhake....ah-when-HAH-kay; lŽnu....LUH-new.


The early European explorers who sailed up the bay and river along the eastern Pennsylvania - New Jersey coast named the bay and river De La Warr, after a British nobleman. The people residing in the area were referred to as "the people of the De La Warr". Through normal conversation, De la Warr became slurred to "Delaware", and that term has remained through today. Delaware is the English word by which the LŽnape people have come to be known.

It is my hope that you enjoy this site while you learn the true story of the LŽnape people. The graphics used as links are illustrations of LŽnape artifacts, people, and other pieces of LŽnape culture. Hopefully they will serve to make your tour through LŽnapehoking fun as well as informative.


I am MŤssochwen TŽme, and I am LŽnape-Mohawk-Dutch. I was born and raised in New York, but now reside in western Tennessee with my wife Jeanne Winter Bird (Gesigewei Jipji'j) who is of Mi'kmaq and Passamaquoddy descent.

The correct spelling of my name is mŤsoxwentŽme, but the Germanic phonetic spelling of mŤssochwen tŽme is how it was spelled when bestowed upon me and is on record, so that is the spelling I use publicly.

I have authored, to date, three books about LŽnape history and culture which have won high acclaim from LŽnape elders, educators, language instructors, museums and universities in New York and Pennsylvania, and have been included in university language databases, as well as teachers resource reference lists. The books have also been used by anthropological societies and linguistics professors in Europe.

The first book, entitled, "The LŽnape - Their History and Culture", has gained widespread acceptance from LŽnape Elders, museums, universities, and educators, and has been included in teacher's reference resource listings.

The second book is entitled, "Unami - The Language of the LŽnape". It is a complete text book on the language of the LŽnape, and has been has been well received by LŽnape Elders and language instructors. It has been recommended to Cornell University's Olin Library and Native American studies program, is used at Cheyney University, and has been incorporated into the languages database at Millersville University.

My third book is entitled "LŽnape Social and Religious Beliefs and Ceremonies". This book is the first study of our traditional ceremonies in nearly 100 years. It describes the origins and protocols of all LŽnape ceremonies, both civil and "religious", and also describes many of our beliefs. It is the only book of its kind available today. This book is not available to the general public due to its contents, and the need to protect the sanctity of our ceremonies. It may be made available to legitimate reseachers, educational institutions, or tribal governments.

I am also a former writer and editor for Turtle Tracks, a Native American children's e-zine. I also authored the boys' cirriculum for the Grandmother's Wisdomkeepers youth program. This program is a course of study in Native American culture and living skills, which is administered by Wisdomkeepers Inc. in conjunction with various tribal governments. (GWK is based in Knoxville, TN).

My wife and I are members of the Mantle Rock Cultural and Educational Center, which was founded by renown Cherokee Elder Marti (Momfeather) Erickson, and located in Marion, Kentucky. My wife and I work with schools, universities, museums, and youth and other groups, teaching about our culture and history.

I have included my e-mail address on this first page, and invite anyone interested in learning more, or in having my wife and I address their group, to feel free to write. You may also inquire about ordering any of the books listed above.

MŤssochwen TŽme

The following pages will take you on a tour of the history and culture of the LŽnape people. You will be able to visit an overview of our history, spirituality, life style, language, and more. Just click on the various graphics to take you where you want to go.

The information on this website, including most of the illustrations, is taken directly from, or adapted from, my books, and as such is copyrighted. Please respect all copyright laws while reading and enjoying this website.


The background music on this website consists of short sound clips of traditional LŽnape social dances. Each page will feature a different dance, and a brief introduction to the particular dance featured.

With the exception of the War Dance when held as a social dance, LŽnape social dances are usually begun early in the evening and last all night. They are held every other Saturday night, as weather permits, from April through October. Some dances are for women only, and some are for both men and women. The instruments used in social dances are the drum, (either hand, log, or water), and gourd rattles. (Turtle shell rattles are considered sacred and are NEVER used in social dances.) With some dances dancers often wear leg rattles made of deer toes as well.

Traditional LŽnape dances are always done in a counter-clockwise direction. The dancers proceed around a fire which is located in the center of the dance area. The singers (the drum and rattle players) are located to the north side of the dance area, with the rattle players on either side of the drummer.

The Algonkian Family Tree

Unami - Language of the LŽnape

LŽnape History

Dress And Appearance

LŽnape Houses

LŽnape Games and Recreation

LŽnape Spirituality

tŤlŽn Úk nisha lilenowokŗnŗ - The 12 Laws

The divider bar used throughout this website is an example of LŽnape beadwork. The LŽnape used floral motifs and geometric shapes, both of which are very common among eastern woodlands peoples.


Lead Dance

This dance begins with men only participating. The dancers proceed in a single file with the singer singing short phrases and the dancers echoeing them. Soon the women gourd shakers, and any other women wishng to join in, fall in behind the men, so the order is man-woman-man-woman. This dance is done frequently throughout the night.