A Glimpse of the Lenape

The night before (page 4 of 7)

On this dark fall night, it's almost time to beat the woods for deer — ahtuhw. Their coats will be thick by now, warm for blankets. Driving deer into an enclosure or fyke

Driving deer into an enclosure or fyke

Collections, The Historical Society of Rockland County

Men and women will go up to the top of the hills and form a line, then rap on bones and hollow logs to drive the ahtuhw forward, down to the river, where they'll be forced into the water or a fenced-off corral. There, the arrows and spears take them, the sharp rocks skin them, their flesh is cooked or dried and preserved.

Longhouse

Longhouse

Photo courtesy of Lenape Lifeways, Inc.

All of this for the coming winter, the hard season. It's spent away from the river, back inland where there's more protection from wind and snow. A semi-permanent shelter rises by forcing cut saplings into the ground, bending their ends together, then covering that arched structure with bark and stuffing the cracks with grass and husks. A chimney hole lets out the smoke from the small hearth fire. Men trap in the winter; women mend clothes and prepare meals and raise children. But most of the time is spent waiting out the cold and hoping there's enough food to make it through.

In that smoky dark, with a group of interrelated families listening to the north wind and trying to stay warm, people tell stories. There's the story of snow boy, for example, who turns other children's fingers black with frostbite and is finally set off down the river on an ice floe, promising to return as snow and help the hunters track.

The First People Slideshow

A Glimpse of the Lenape

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