The Lenape: Lower New Yorks First Inhabitants

Dr. David Oestreicher will present a lecture, The Lenape: Lower New York’s First Inhabitants on Sunday, November 8, 2:00-4:00 PM at the SUNY Albany Center for Arts and Humanities. For over twelve thousand years, the region that is now lower New York, New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware was home to groups of Lenape (Delaware Indians) and their prehistoric predecessors. By the late 18th and early 19th centuries, however, after a tragic series of removals had taken them halfway across the continent, the broken remnants of these tribes finally came to settle in parts of Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Ontario. By the late 20th century, only a handful of elders could still speak their native language, or had knowledge of the traditional ways.

In this lecture, David M. Oestreicher combines archaeological and historical evidence with decades of firsthand ethnographic and linguistic research among the last Lenape traditionalists. He gives a brief overview of the prehistory of the Mid-Atlantic region, describes how the Lenape and their neighbors subsisted at the time of European contact, why they ultimately left their homeland, and where they are living today.

Dr. Oestreicher touches upon the major historic events involving the Lenape, including the arrival of Henry Hudson &#8212- contrasting Hudson’s own words with Lenape oral traditions collected by Oestreicher and others over the centuries. He relates how the Lenape language, ceremonies, religious beliefs and life ways were impacted by removal from their traditional homeland.

The presentation includes a slide (or powerpoint) program featuring native artifacts, maps, illustrations and photographs of various life activities, and images of some of the most important tribal traditionalists &#8212- the last repositories of their culture. The talk concludes with an account of efforts today by the Lenape to reclaim their ancient heritage and revive long abandoned traditions. Those attending the presentation will have a unique opportunity to learn about our region’s original inhabitants &#8212- not the romanticized Lenape of popular mythology and recent new-age literature, but a special people as they really are.

For further information about this event, please contact:

E. James Schermerhorn
The Dutch Settlers Society of Albany
Phone: (518) 459-0608

This lecture is a part of the New York Council for the Humanities Speakers in the Humanities program.

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