Long before the Europeans arrived in what is now Central and Eastern Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Delaware, well-organized groups of people hunted and cultivated these lands. Known to us as the Lenni Lenape, they comprised three distinct groups; the northern group was later known as the Munsee (Minsi) and in the lower areas they were known as the Unami (Delaware). In southern New Jersey lived those referred to as the Unalachtigo who were eventually absorbed into the Delaware.

For many Algonquin, the Lenape were the "grandfathers," a term of great respect stemming from the widespread belief that the Lenape were the original tribe of all Algonquin-speaking peoples, and this often gave the Lenape the authority to settle disputes between rival tribes.

An Eastern Woodlands tribe, the Lenape called their lands Lenapehoking (Land of the Lenape). First contact with white Europeans occurred in 1524, when Verrazano was exploring the New Jersey coast. Verrazano described them in such glowing terms as: ". . .most beautiful and have the most civil of customs ... women are shapely and beautiful ... well-built men." It was observed that they were a very vocal people whose language was characterized by beauty, strength, flexibility, and rhythm.


At my naming ceremony the wayhuhweehuhlahs, the giver of
names, told my mother, Half Moon Dancer, "He shall carry his
people on his back, as steady and sure as a hard-shelled turtle that
walks over land toward water. He shall be Walking Turtle Boy."

Walking Turtle is a good name for me because I carry my cousin,
Little Talk, on my back wherever we go. Little Talk was born with
a crooked foot. His legs did not grow straight and strong like mine.

He speaks little, but talks to me. "Wanisi, thank you, Walking
Turtle," he says.

I am the one who should say wanisi. Carrying Little Talk has
made me strong.

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