Collection Description

Culture Name


Culture Description

The Delaware are a Native American group consisting of three smaller groups; the Lenape (or Unami), the Munsee, and "Jersies" (or Unalachtigo). The Delaware spoke an Algonquian language. Their aboriginal territory was in the vicinity of what is now known as the Delaware River in the states of New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware. The Delaware now reside in communities in Ontario and Oklahoma. The Lenape were foragers with a seasonal pattern of band aggregation and dispersion. From the spring to the fall they caught different species of anadromous fish; in the winter, deer hunting was the principal activity. The Lenape bands were matrilineally related clusters of nuclear families, but with high interband mobility. Today, they are largely part of the American mainstream. the two largest groups of Delaware live in Oklahoma.


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North America --Eastern Woodlands


United States

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Collection Overview

Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.

The Delaware collection consists of 19 documents, all in English, with a geographical focus on the eastern United States (specifically on the Delaware River Valley, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and New York), and on Oklahoma, and to some extent, on Ontario, Canada. The major emphasis in the collection is on the traditional culture of the Delaware during the colonial period of American history, and their subsequent migration from the east coast of the United States to Oklahoma and Ontario during the seventeenth to mid twentieth centuries. One of the most comprehensive surveys of Delaware ethnography during this time period is the article by Goddard from the Handbook of North American Indians, Vol. 15 (Goddard, 1978, no. 20). This is supplemented by the works of Heckewelder (1819, no. 1), Zeisberger (1919, no. 3), Newcomb (1956, no. 2), Herman (1950, no. 5), and Morgan (1959, no. 15). Morgan's work, however, is a brief culture summary of the Delaware he met in Kansas in 1859. A document of particular interest to both historians and ethnologists alike is that written by Marshall Becker (Becker, 1986, no. 17), who traces the movement of the Okehocking band of eastern Delaware from one area to another based on his reconstruction of their movements from data presented in colonial land records. Going one step further, Becker attempts to reconstruct Delaware life back to prehistoric times, again based on his analysis of various types of historical data. Other documents of particular interest in this collection are the studies on religious ceremonials by Harrington (1921, no. 6), Speck (1937, 1931, nos. 7 and 10), and Newcomb (1956, no. 11); by Tantaquidgeon on Delaware medical practices and native artistic motifs in beadwork and silk ribbon work (Tantaquidgeon, 1942, 1950, nos. 4 and 12); and the Delaware personality studies by Wallace (1950, no. 13), and Miller (1991, no. 19).

For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection, see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.

This culture summary is from the article "Delaware", by Marshall Joseph Becker in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 1, 1991. Timothy O'Leary and David Levinson, editors. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co. The synopsis was written by John Beierle in May 2002.

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John Beierle

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