Coming up is the Meesink ceremony for the Lenape. Meesink is pronounced Me-sing as nk is pronounced as a ng. Meesink is a protective spirit (or creature) that looks after the forest and the Lenape and is often pictured as a sasquatch or bigfoot-looking figure, with a face painted red and black and an expression of surprise. I have a copy of the Meesink story, as told by Bob Red Hawk, and I’ve heard Shelley DePaul, our class teacher, relate it as well. In a quick search I didn’t see any tellings of it on Youtube.
In a brief summary, the story tells that when the creator was preparing to make humans, all the animals were concerned. They asked Meesink, who was big and powerful, to tell the creator not to make humans because they would ruin everything. Meesink did so, and the creator suggested a challenge to decide who was right. Whoever could move a mountain in the Poconos the furthest would get their way. So they each faced away, and Meesink tried to move his mountain but it wouldn’t budge. Then he heard a sound and turned to look. Wham! The mountain the creator was moving hit him in the side of the face, which is why one half of his face is black and disfigured and the other is red. He is usually depicted with an expression of surprise. Meesink acquiesced to the creator’s wisdom, and understood that the humans would use the woods well. Meesink told the creator that he’d watch over the woods, the deer and the Lenape people and has done so ever since.
So much of the language has been lost that often these stories are being translated back into Lenape from English now. In our Lenape class, we’ve finished the first round of lessons and have a basic vocabulary. We’re starting to learn verb conjugation, which is fairly complicated. Transitive verbs have 14 different forms just for inanimate objects and I suspect another 14 if the object is an animate noun. So…lots of conjugation. Here’s an exchange using some of the conjugations we’ve learned. A reminder, I’m still a first year student and not a native speaker.
A; He. Kulamalsi hech? “Hello, are you well?”
B: Nulamalsi. Kshelantech. Kemachi hech? “I am well. It will be a hot day. Are you going home?“
A: Ku. Mpemeska menepekunk. Na Ilaok wulhatuwak muxula. “No, I am walking to the lake. The warriors have boats.”
B: Kpentamena hech ne puhenikana? “Do you hear the drums?“
A: E-e. Na Ilaok puhenemaok. Matanake xu ashewileyok. “Yes. The warriors are drumming. After a while they will swim.“
B: Kesihena kishkwik. Wentaxa, xuniti ktixamwihena xu menepekunk ok xu kpilsihena. “We are hot today. Come on, we will soon bath in the lake and will be clean.“
A: Ahikta. Atam. “Yes, let’s go.“