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An Image of Peace: The William Penn Treaty

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An Image
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Deeds of Peace

The Elegant Land

The Common People

Brother Onas...
William Penn

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Lenape…The Common People

Drum Beaters, late 19th-early 20th century
Thomas L. McKenney & James Hall (American, 19th Century) after Gustavus Hesselius 
Lappawinsoe, 1836
The State Museum of Pennsylvania Archaeology
Their memory could not recall a time they did not live upon this land. Their villages dotted the shores of streams and rivers near the forest's edge. Tradition taught them to hunt game, plant corn, and honor the spirits who protect all living things. They knew other natives as enemies and as friends. They called themselves the Lenape, the Common People.

For their persons they are generally tall, straight, well built, and of singular proportion; they tread strong and clever, and mostly walk with a lofty chin…. Of complexion black, but by design,…. They grease themselves with bear's fat clarified, and using no defense against the sun or weather, their skins must needs be swarthy.

-- William Penn, 1683

Villages scattered along the creeks and rivers of New Jersey, southern New York, eastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware, marked Lenapehoking, "the land of the Lenape." No one owned a specific piece of land. Lenape teachings said land existed as a gift from the Creator for all to share, just as the air, sunshine and water. Groups maintained "use rights" to areas for farming, hunting and fishing, but may have abandoned these locations when villages moved every few years.

Nature supplied the necessities of life. From the forests came materials for building shelter. The white-tailed deer provided food and skins for clothing. Corn, beans and squash supplemented turkey, fish, squirrel, berries and nuts in a nutritional diet. The earth offered stone for tools and clay for pottery. Said one Lenape to a missionary, "we had therefore everything that we could reasonably require…"

Lenape believed the God Kishelemukong, "He who creates us by His thoughts," made the world and all it contains. Lesser spirits such as the sun, stars, and rain helped to maintain order. To the Lenape, all things had a spirit that require respect and honor. One of the most important of these spirits was Mesingw, "Living Solid Face." Riding through the forest on a deer, Mesingw tended to the health and feeding of the animals. He is usually represented by a face painted half red and half black.