While learning the Lenape language, we’ve continued learning about the tribe and its history as well. One of the most notorious parts of that history is the 1736 Walking Purchase by which William Penn’s descendants acquired (stole might be a more accurate term) 1.2 million acres along the Delaware River – almost the size of Rhode Island. The Lenape agreed under pressure (and a possibly forged deed) to give the settlers land equal to the distance walked in a day and a half from the Delaware River. However, instead of simply walking through woodlands the local officials hired the three fastest runners in the colony to run along a prepared trail. One ran 70 miles in the time allotted. Officials then drew an oblique line back to the Delaware, granting far more territory than the Lenape had expected. The Lenape protested to their neighboring Iroquois, but they declined to intervene and the Lenape began their westward movement. The Lenape later challenged it in court in the 21st century, but courts ruled that under a 1790 law there was no recourse even if the land was acquired fraudulently.
As before, I am only an introductory speaker and the voices of the elders can be found in the Lenape Talking Dictionary. The Lenape language contains a number of words for items that did not exist before contact with Europeans. One of those is sugar, so the word here for cookie, shukelapontet translates as little sugar bread. Finally, there are slight differences here between the Unami dialect taught by Shelley DePaul and that spoken by the Lenape Talking Dictionary – notably in the words for the directions.
Child: Keku hech kemikentam? (What are you doing?)
Dad: Nemikemosi, nkwis. Ntalai na opsit ahtu. (I am working, son. I hunt the white deer.)
Child: Shewaha! Kewichemel hech? (Exclamation of glee. Can I help you?)
Dad: Ku. Sah. (No. Shh.)
Child: Wechia, keku hech luwanewank? (I wonder, what is to the north?)
Dad: Sah. Luwanewank ne ahchu. (Shh. To the north is the mountain.)
Child: Wechia, keku hech wunchenewank? (I wonder, what is to the west?)
Dad: Sah. Wunchenewank ne tekene. (Shh. To the west is the forest.)
Child: Wechia, keku hech shawanewank? (I wonder, what is to the south?)
Dad: Sah. Shawanewank ne sipu. (Shh. To the south is the river.)
Child: Wechia, keku hech wapannewunk? (I wonder, what is to the east.)
Dad: Chitkwesi. Wapannewunk ne utene. (Shut up. To the east is the town.)
Child: Nkatupwi. Milli mehemichink ksi. (I’m hungry. Give me food please.)
Dad: She yu shukelapontet. Kshilele na opsit ahtu tekening. Machitam. (Here is a cookie. The white deer has run to the forest. Let’s go home.