The name Delaware is of English origin, coming from the voyage of Lord Delaware to the Delaware River region. The true name of the Delaware—what he calls himself—is Lenape. In the pronunciation of this name the a is as in father. The final e is a separate syllable, and is sounded as a in fame. The accent of the word, Lenape, is on the a.

The name often appears in the early writings with the adjective prefix lenni. The exact meaning of this word had been the subject of much discussion. Mr. Heckewelder is the best authority, and he says it means “original, pure.” The tribe always insisted that it was the original Indian tribe or people. This distinction was conceded to them by many other tribes, even those of different linguistic stocks. The author had often heard them boast that they were the “Original men.”

The Lenape were separated into three sub-tribes:

  1. Minsi, or the Wolf.
  2. Unami, or the Turtle.
  3. Unalachtigo, or the Turkey.

The word Minsi signifles “people of the stony country,” mountaineers, for the Minsi lived when first known to white men in the hill country about the head of the Delaware River. They were spoken of as Monseys, Minisinks, Munsees, and Muncies by the early writers.

The word Unami means “the people down the river.” This people lived on the Delaware River below the Lehigh.

The word Unalachtigo implies a “people who live near the ocean.” They lived originally near the present site of Wilmington, Delaware.

It was with the Unami and the Unalachtigo that William Penn made his famous treaty. The Minsi had no part in that transaction. It was not until 1737 that they were called on for cessions of land.1

The Wolf, the Turtle, and the Turkey were then totemic animals of the Delawares. In theory the Minsi sub-clan were descended from the Wolf—not the wolf as we know it, but an ancient animal with supernatural powers. And so with the Unami, and Unalachtigo; they came from the Turtle and the Turkey. The Unami were accorded the most honorable place, being descended from the great Turtle, the primal being, older than the earth as we know it, and who yet bears the world on its back as it stands deep in the primeval ocean. And these animals were referred to in metaphor—by or to some property or characteristic they possessed—and the metaphorical expression attached to the subclans, thus:

  1. Wolf, Tuk-sit, Round-paw.
  2. Turtle, Pa-ko-an-go, The Crawler.
  3. Turkey, Pul-la-ue, Non-chewing.

The sub-tribes are composed of clans—or are separated into clans or gentes. Each sub-tribe had twelve clans, as follows:

I. Wolf

  1. Mä-an´-greet, Big feet.
  2. Wee-sow-het´-ko, Yellow Tree.
  3. Pa-sa-kun-a´-mon, Pulling Corn.
  4. We-yar-nih´-kä-to, Care Enterer.
  5. Toosh-war-k´-ma, Across the River.
  6. O-lum´-a-ne, Vermilion.
  7. Pun-ar´-you, Dog Standing by Fireside.
  8. Kwin-eek´-cha, Long Body.
  9. Moon-har-tar´-ne, Digging.
  10. Mon-har´-min, Pulling up Stream.
  11. Long-ush-har-kar´-to, Brush Log.
  12. Maw-soo-toh´, Bringing Along.

II. Turtle

  1. O-ka-ho´-ki, Ruler.
  2. Ta-ko-ong´-o-to, High Bank Shore.
  3. See-har-ong´-o-to, Drawing down Hill.
  4. Ole-har-kar-me-kar-to, Elector.
  5. Mar-har-o-luk-ti, Brave.
  6. Toosh-ki-pa-kwis-i, Green Leaves.
  7. Tung-ul-ung´-si, Smallest Turtle.
  8. We-lun-ung´-si, Little Turtle.
  9. Lee-kwin-a-i´, Snapping Turtle.
  10. Kwis-aese-kees´-to, Deer.

Two clans have been long extinct, and their names have not been preserved.

III. Turkey

  1. Mo-har-ä´-lä, Big Bird.
  2. Le-le-w´-you, Bird’s Cry.
  3. Moo-kwung-wa-ho´-ki, Eye Pain.
  4. Moo-har-mo-wi-kar´-nu, Scratch the Path.
  5. O-ping-ho´-ki, Oppossum Ground.
  6. Muh-ho-we-kä´-ken, Old Shin.
  7. Tong-o-nä´-o-to, Drift Log.
  8. Nool-a-mar-lar´-mor, Living in Water.
  9. Muh-krent-har´-ne, Root Digger.
  10. Mun-karm-huk-se, Red Face.
  11. Koo-wa-ho´-ke, Pine Region.
  12. Oo-chuk-ham, Ground Scratcher.

The Delaware composed in their own tongue, with the aid of hieroglyphics, the Walum Olum, a history of their tribe, and an account of its migrations. It is the only aboriginal record of the North American Indians. Its value is just beginning to impress students.

Additional Delaware History

Footnotes:

1. This follows Brinton’s Lanape and their Legends. It is the best authority.