Lenape in the Hudson Valley

An Introduction by Warwick Town Historian, Richard Hull

The native Americans, called the Lenape, (the real people) inhabited the Warwick area for possibly 12,000 years or approximately 365 generations. Peoples of European or African descent have occupied these same lands for about nine generations. Catastrophically, this ancient population was obliterated in little more than one generation, between about 1715 and 1745, victims mostly of European-borne diseases, especially smallpox, measles, and the common cold, for which they had no natural immunities. Before 1609 they were apparently a healthy and robust population free of most infectious diseases. But by the time of white settlement in the early 18th century this demographic disaster had demoralized them and reduced their numbers to the point they could no longer sustain their basic institutions. Those who survived either genetically mixed with the white and black settlers or migrated westward, ending up in Oklahoma, where there is a community of 11,000 people today

Before the European encounter, the Lenape, an Algonquin clan,  maintained a diversified and dynamic livelihood. There were dozens of villages and even more campsites and quarries.They enjoyed a huge variety of natural foods, cultivated small gardens and orchards, and managed their forests from which they drew food, medicines and building materials.In their numerous quarries the local Lenape Indians turned out quantities of finely-crafted durable stone tools which were used by successive generations or traded as far as the Great Lakes, New England, the Chesapeake, and the Delaware and Hudson Rivers.


The lands of Wawayanda,(The Wandering River) which included Warwick, boasted of several distinct ecological and geological niches that provided people with many occupations and natural resources. Local farmers and archeologists have uncovered many thousands of Indian artifacts suggesting that by 1609, our region was likely supporting a larger and arguably more prosperous population than all of Manhattan.

 

The Lenape Minsi people prospered on the exchange of fine pelts from locally trapped beaver, muskrat, and otter in the incredibly fertile Drowned Lands and on bartering  much-coveted metal  implements and wampum. They had the additional benefit of extensive river systems running north (the Wallkill) and south (the Wawayanda) and one which ran in both directions, the Hudson river tidal estuary. In the local mountains of towering trees and sheltering rock formations they secured bounties of game as well as mica and other valuable surface minerals. Major inter-regional trails, like the legendary Wawayanda Path, kept them in touch with peoples and cultures near and far.  So, in 1609, Europeans were not entering a land of uncivilized savages and virgin wilderness but one of longstanding human communities that had achieved an understanding and dynamic equilibrium with the natural world surrounding them.enjoying a lifestyle and interdependence that many of us strive for today. In forging our own future, there is much that we can learn from those who came before us.

Richard W. Hull, Professor of History, New York
University and Warwick Town Historian

 

Related Information

Local Lenapes

Black Creek Site

More on Black Cr

Reminders of the Lenape:

 

Ball Rock Shelter, Warwick

Churt in Rocks, Lewis Woodlands

Pulpit Rock, on West St in Pennings open field.  Records of Lenape hunters waiting atop this rock.

Cairns and Stone Lithics, Fitgerald Falls area, Lakes Rd, Monroe/GL area

Churt Quarries along the Appalachian Trail, Rt 94S

Minisink Rock Shelter, Minisink, NY.  

 

The Lands of the Lenape  from Wikipedia