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A New Exhibit at Ellis Island Tells the Story of the Lenape, the People Who Were There First


This NPS photo shows some artifacts included in the Lenape exhibit now on display at the Ellis Island Museum.

A new exhibit at Ellis Island National Monument draws attention to a seldom-noted fact. When Henry Hudson discovered New York Harbor 400 years ago last September 11, Native Americans were already there. They were the Lenape, aka Lenni Lenape (“the true people”). The Lenape homeland included not only the area now occupied by New York City, but also a large territory that extended between the Delaware and lower Hudson Rivers and included all of New Jersey as well as parts of New York, Pennsylvania, and Delaware.

The Lenape (pronounced Leh-NAH-pay) fared well for a while after European contact, profiting from the fur trade, but the ensuing centuries saw their fortunes take a bad turn. Crowded out by settlers and ravaged by infectious diseases, the depredations of hostile tribes, and other calamities, the Lenape saw their numbers dwindle and their once-large territory whittled to tatters by treaties. Finally, most of the remaining Lenape were gathered up and removed to the Oklahoma Territory in the late 1860s. Today, most Lenape descendants live in Oklahoma, but there are also scattered populations in Wisconsin, Kansas, Ontario, and in the Middle Atlantic states where the traditional homeland lay.

“Lenape: Ellis Island’s First Inhabitants” is the title of the new exhibit telling the story of “the Lenape people’s experiences from their earliest known presence in the area, through their fateful encounter with Henry Hudson, past their removal from their ancestral homeland to their present-day communities in Oklahoma and Wisconsin.”

The exhibit integrates a variety of materials, including prehistoric artifacts, antique books, maps, archival photographs, traditional Lenape clothing and crafts, ceremonial objects, illustrations, paintings and dioramas, bronze sculptures, and documentary films, that create a historical narrative. These materials are combined with quotations on a wide variety of subjects by traditional Lenape.

The museum staff at Ellis Island worked tirelessly with exhibit curator David M. Oestreicher, Ph.D, using the content generated by him to design and develop the exhibit. Their contributions in this area also included the graphic design for the exhibition as well as editing of the text provided for length and accessibility and incorporating suggestions from one of the Delaware tribes, the Stockbridge-Munsee Community.

They also worked with Oestreicher and curatorial consultant Karen Frederic to reorganize the exhibition to fit within the galleries and have a coherent thematic structure. Museum staffers assisted in the selection of artifacts, developed two interactive computer kiosks that will enable visitors to access supplemental content, located additional images to illustrate text, and installed the exhibit.

“Lenape: Ellis Island’s First Inhabitants” can be viewed through January 10 in the third floor galleries of the Ellis Island Museum, which is located in the refurbished Main Building.


For your information to all there is no R in most native languages exept for word borrowed from languages spoken in Europe.

Claude Aubin Wabanaki also Bemdynick .

I forgot to mention . According to the migration charts done on eastern Algonkin birch scrolls and the knowledge provide on the Wampum belts holograms connected with the stars and our constellation, the migration of my people came from an island in the atlanctic ocean called Atlantisaalso called in dakota Mdewakantatonwan also called Midewin by the other Algonkin tribe. The Mayans clain the same island . In Ica Peru there is a pyctoglyph which was thought to be over 50,000 years and on it there is a map wich identified north america , south america and a large island in the Atlancitic ocean . It is also said that the language of the nations of the Wabanaki confederacy are related linguistically to the Egyptians. We do find Wabanaki hieroglyph that compare to Egyptians ones .
There is so many evidence found in craft and symbols and ceremonial ground found also on our territory or in Crete.
According to the scrolls and pictographs done by my ancestors the migration of our people went from east to west and not from the Groenland straight in the north. The one that came from that passage were Asian descent and are now called the Inuit. They have no connection with the southern population

As for the Aboriginal people of the west cost and south america many of them came from the Mu island in the pacific ocean .

Scrolls ,ceremonial keys languages and Wampum belts are just some examples.

Wampum belts are know to be cerebral microchips for the best computer in the world , the human brain . They are the helpers to retrieve information in space- time continuum rather than space and time .

Claude wrote:

Wampum belts are know to be cerebral microchips for the best computer in the world , the human brain . They are the helpers to retrieve information in space- time continuum rather than space and time .

Now I'm prompted to inquire whether we have wampum belts on display in our national parks together with information about their real functions as "cerebral microchips", not just their provenance.

For as long as I can remember, Lennie Lenape was a word described to mean "Original People". I dont know who put this meaning forth, but It seemed to make sense, as they were considered "the Grandfather" of several other Algonquin Nations.
I suppose off-shoots, who moved further away in search of food and hunting territory.To suggest "pure People" perhaps is in line with original people. To suggest pure means Christian, raises some questions. Were pagans then considered not pure? Did the early vikings who inhabited America follow the christian religion at all? Were they not only pretty much abandoned in Greenland by everybody including the church? In the course of several hundred years would they not lose any Christian teachings they once had, and as they blended and had contact with other natives here and go with more natural beliefs which focused on their survival? Just questions, not neccessarily meant to differ on any opinion or propositions. Yours in the search of truth and history.
Ron (Gunn) Goebel

Hello Run.

On the contrary you might be on the right path as this is part of our Wabanaki history. As europeen landed to the eastern door of norht america ( turtle island ) They noticed some aboriginal people of the Wabanaki Nations had already some blond hair, blue eyes and light skin with strong facial traits known to belong to the Anishinabe . Anishinabe means original people. This is why some of us were called the white indians of America by many of our peoples . The term used was Bemdinyik ( meaning vikings among you ). Would this means the Wabanaki People were Métis from their pre Columbian inception with their contact with Vikings ? Inerestingly the brother of Tecumse who was considered a Prophet used a prayer stick similar to the one use by the Vikings or influence by them .

Many Wabankai family like the Thomer family , The Thomas the Dennis and the St Aubin family were among the families labelled that way.

Since the first white Europeen man married the first Wabanaki woman to give birth to Métis is well documented. It is easy to trace a Métis family history to some Norman Breton sailors from St Malo or to English prisonners of the Wabanaki familly . These Métis are called Malouidit in Wabannaki territory. But many of these Wabanaki and Huron who later intermaried with the French or English colonists already had a considerable amount of white caucesian blood in them wich dated back to pre columbian times .

It is also a very sensitive subject of discussion on our Wabanaki Territory as some Wabanaki peoples are so insecure with their own identity.

Recognition of that fact do not complied with their contemporary reality and recognition by the governement. On the contrary it might just provide a raison or a justification for governements to exclude them from the Wabanaki Nations.

The question to find the truth is when this first métissage took place and what we mean by original people? Wabanaki people are inclusive not exclusive purist. This is how they survived the métissage .

Claude Aubin


You are leading the flock down the correct valley.
Thank you, greatly, for sharing.


Grandfather Commanda of the Circle of Nations holds some of the Wampum belts [Click on the Enter icon]

The way things used to work in America was: a small gift [i.e. international exposure on a National Park Service web site] would almost always compel the recipient to respond with a larger gift [i.e. photos and written explanations of the Wampum belts and the treaties or other events they commemorate.]

Good Luck

@m: Thanks for the info and the link to a very interesting site. Perhaps someone out there will want to follow up on this "suggestion," which seems intriguing. Let me take this opportunity to say that I never dreamed we'd have a commentary thread of such breadth and depth when I wrote the article about the Leni Lenape exhibit now on display in the Ellis Island Museum.

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