A Glimpse of the Lenape

The night before (page 3 of 7)

The nets catch more than the families can eat, so the women slit and clean the bellies with rocks chipped into sharp knives, then lay them on racks over hot stones till the flesh is dried. Minisink pots, 1000 – 400 years ago

Minisink pots, 1000-400 years ago

Photo courtesy of Lenape Lifeways, Inc.

Where the creek comes down, there's thick clay; the women make carefully decorated pots from this, then use them to boil fish heads for oil. The pots of oil and baskets filled with dry fish will be carried inland for the cold, hungry months to come.

Spring is the rich time for fish, but even now, in the fall, men will pick out a tall tulip tree and drop it by lighting a fire at its base, then burn it hollow and smooth it with stone gouges. In these canoes, they go out into the dark and hold torches over the water so they can spot the swirls of bluefish and the giant sturgeon. There are still crabs for the children to catch in the shallows, and always the wisamèkw — whiskered fat fish — that feed on the bottom.

Hollowing out canoes

Hollowing out canoes

Courtesy Rivergate Books, an imprint of Rutgers University Press

In the flood plains, where the spring waters deposit rich black earth, the women plant mounds of tangled maize and squash and bean. All summer, they've scared away the crows and groundhogs. At the last wëski kishux — new moon — a harvest celebration began. The pumpkins and beans were brought in from the fields, the surplus maize stored away for winter. Everyone danced to drums and heron bone flutes, young boys found young girls, old people told their stories, children shook turtle shell rattles.

The First People Slideshow

A Glimpse of the Lenape

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