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Map showing the Lenapehoking region.

Lenapehoking is a term for the lands historically inhabited by the Native American people known as the Lenape (named Delaware by early European settlers) in what is now the Northeastern United States. Though it is sometimes said to be a word in the Delaware languages for this area, like much of the toponymy involving languages in the Algonquian linguistic group, there is some confusion about the meaning and history of the name. Much of this land is now heavily urbanized and suburbanized.

At the time of the arrival of the Europeans in the 16th and 17th century, the Lenape homeland generally encompassed the territory adjacent to the Delaware and lower Hudson river valleys, as well the territory between them. It stretched from modern-day Delaware to western Connecticut and Long Island and included parts of eastern Pennsylvania, all of present day New Jersey, and the southern counties of New York State, including Rockland, Orange, Westchester, and Putnam Counties, Nassau County, and the five boroughs of New York City. Along with New York City, Newark, Trenton, Princeton, Philadelphia, Wilmington, Delaware, Atlantic City, and numerous other urban and suburban areas are in Lenapehoking today, as are the Jersey Shore, Pine Barrens, the Sourland Mountains, the Delaware Valley, and perhaps some parts of the Catskills, Poconos, and the Pennsylvania Dutch Country.

There is no universal agreement among scholars regarding the autonym of Lenape territory. Some believe the area the Lenape inhabited was called Scheyischbi, or 'the place bordering the ocean'. According to some people, the Lenape called this territory "Lenapehoking" (lənape haki-nk), meaning 'in the land of the Lenape'. This assertion has gained widespread acceptance and is found widely in recent literature on the Lenape, including in the websites of purported Lenape people. Ray Whritenour, a philologist, says that the term does not appear in any sources from the 18th century, but is a modern name coined by Nora Thompson Dean (Touching Leaves Woman) in 1984, in order to provide the archaeologist/author, Herbert C. Kraft, with a convenient term for the area once inhabited by ancestors of the Lenape people.

Today, some Native Americans, not limited to the Lenape or Delaware tribes, live in the Northeast Corridor or Eastern Seaboard. Many of them first arrived in the 1920s to 1960s from the Iroquois Confederacy employed as skyscraper construction workers, where they were nicknamed "Mohawks" and played an important role in building the skyline of Philadelphia and New York City. In the University City section of West Philadelphia, there has been some political activity by Urban Indian residents of the area, who adapted the namesake Lenapehoking to where they live.

Lenape place names[edit]

Lenape place names within the region included:

  • Manhattan
    • Manhattan is derived from Manna-hata, a Dutch version of a Lenape place-name.

The name Manhattan derives from the word Manna-hata, as written in the 1609 logbook of Robert Juet, an officer on Henry Hudson's yacht Halve Maen (Half Moon).[1] A 1610 map depicts the name Manahata twice, on both the west and east sides of the Mauritius River (later named the North River, and now called the Hudson River). The word "Manhattan" has been translated as "island of many hills" from the Lenape language.[2] The Encyclopedia of New York City offers other derivations, including from the Munsee dialect of Lenape: manahachtanienk ("place of general inebriation"), manahatouh ("place where timber is procured for bows and arrows"), or menatay ("island").[3]

  • Staten Island
    • Aquehonga - name for Staten Island
    • Manacknong - name for Staten Island
    • Shawkopoke - habitation site and cultivated area along Great Kills Harbor
  • Brooklyn
    • Nayack or Wichquawanck - habitation in Bay Ridge near the present location of the Verrazano Narrows Bridge
    • Gowanus Canal - originally named by early settlers as "Gowanes Creek" after Gouwane, sachem of the local Lenape tribe called the Canarsee, who lived and farmed along the shores of the creek.[4]
    • Sassian - habitation site in present Red Hook
  • Queens
    • Rockaway, evolved from the Lenape word "reckowacky", which apparently referred to "a sandy place."[5]
    • Maspeth originally Mas-pet were a part of the Rockaway band that lived along Maspeth Creek.[6]
  • New Jersey
    • Absecon - meaning: "place of swans"[7]
    • Assunpink Creek - meaning: "Stony Creek"[7]
    • Communipaw (in downtown Jersey City) - "riverside landing place"[7]
    • Hackensack - "stream flowing into another on a plain/ in a swamp/ in a lowland"[7]
    • Hoboken - "where pipes are traded"
    • Hohokus - "red cedars"[7]
    • Hopatcong - "pipe stone" (NOT "honey waters of many coves" as early 20th-century boosters would have it)[8]
    • Kittatinny - "great hill" or "endless mountain"
    • Mahwah - "meeting place"
    • Manahawkin - "place where there is good land"
    • Manalapan - municipality's name is said to have come from Lenape and is said to mean "land of good bread"
    • Mantoloking - said to be either "frog ground", "sandy place" or "land of sunsets"
    • Manasquan - "Man-A-Squaw-Han", meaning "stream of the island of squaws"
    • Mantua - said to have come from the "Munsees", North Jersey Lenapes, but the township is in South Jersey.[7]
    • Matawan - "hill on either side"[7]
    • Metuchen - "dry firewood"[7]
    • Minisink - "from the rocky land", is the old name for the Munsee, and the name of an ancient Lenape trade route that ran along a good part of what is now US Highway 46 in Northern New Jersey
    • Musconetcong
    • Netcong - Abbreviation of "Musconetcong".
    • Passaic - "valley" or "river flowing through a valley"[7]
    • Peapack - "place of water roots"[7]
    • Raritan - original form was Naraticong - may have meant "river behind the island" or "forked river".[7]
    • Scheyichbi. Meaning of name varies.[7] notes two possible meanings: the land that the Lenapes called their country, or "land of the shell money (wampum)".[7]
    • Secaucus - "black snakes".[7]
    • Weehawken - "place of gulls".[7]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ Full Text of Robert Juet's Journal: From the collections of the New York Historical Society, Second Series, 1841 log book, Newsday. Accessed 2007-05-16.
  2. '^ Holloway, Marguerite. "Urban tactics; I'll Take Mannahatta", The New York Times, May 16, 2004, accessed 2007-04-30. "He could envision what Henry Hudson saw in 1609 as he sailed along Mannahatta, which in the Lenape dialect most likely meant island of many hills.
  3. ^ "More on the names behind the roads we ride", The Record (Bergen County), April 21, 2002. Accessed 2007-10-26. "The origin of Manhattan probably is from the language of the Munsee Indians, according to the Encyclopedia of New York City. It could have come from manahachtanienk, meaning place of general inebriation, or manahatouh, meaning place where timber is procured for bows and arrows, or menatay, meaning island."
  4. ^ The Gowanus Dredgers Canoe Club, "Gowanus Canal History", accessed May 12, 2004, revised April 2, 2004
  5. ^ William Martin Beauchamp: Aboriginal place names of New York (1907); p.179 [1]
  6. ^ History of Long island from its discovery and settlement to the present time. Volume 1 By Benjamin Franklin Thompson, Charles Jolly Werner (1918)[2]
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o http://www.rootsweb.com/~njmorris/indian.htm
  8. ^ http://www.hopatcong.org/1d.htm
  9. ^ The origin of certain place names in the United States By Henry Gannett
  10. ^ Lenape dictionary
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i RESEARCH OF Donald R. Repsher, of Bath, PennsylvaniaFriend and Brother of the Lenape
  12. ^ http://www.delawareandlehigh.org/talesofthetowpath/lehigh-canal/catasauqua/
  13. ^ Nude Walker: A Novel By Bathsheba Monk
  14. ^ Names which the Lenni Lennape Or Delaware Indians Gave to Rivers, Streams ... edited by William Cornelius Reichel
  15. ^ http://www.phillyh2o.org/backpages/PDFs_Misc/PeggsRun HK.pdf
  16. ^ http://history.rays-place.com/pa/butler-connoquenessing.htm
  17. ^ a b Who Are the Lenape?
  18. ^ History of Lycoming County, Pennsylvania ... edited by John Franklin Meginness
  19. ^ The Centennial Celebration, 1776-1876 at Pottstown, Pa., July 4, 1876 and ... By L. H. Davis
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Lenape language LEGACY In towns creeks and more, Indian nation left its mark on our region - November 14, 2008 Joanna Poncavage Of The Morning Call
  21. ^ The Story of Berks County (Pennsylvania) By A. E. Wagner, Francis Wilhauer Balthaser, D. K. Hoch
  22. ^ http://www.dcnr.state.pa.us/stateparks/findapark/blackmoshannon/
  23. ^ http://shelf3d.com/i/Lenapehoking
  24. ^ http://www.psu.edu/ur/about/nittany.html
  25. ^ http://205bsashrewsburypa.org/Troop/Camps/troop_camps.html
  26. ^ History of Delaware county, Pennsylvania by George Smith 1862
  27. ^ The New England Magazine, Volume 37
  28. ^ http://www.philaplace.org/resources/South%20Philadelphia%20Timeline.pdf
  29. ^ History of Dauphin County, Pennsylvania, Volume 1 By Luther Reily Kelker
  30. ^ http://www.waymarking.com/waymarks/WM9NF9 Pennypack Creek Philadelphia PA
  31. ^ http://penntreatymuseum.org/wordpress/
  32. ^ http://placeandsee.com/wiki/susquehanna-river
  33. ^ Specht, J. Henry (1974). A History of Towamencin Township. Lansdale PA. pp. 1–69. 
  34. ^ http://foundationsofamerica.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=750:tulpehocken-creek&catid=92:place-names&Itemid=78
  35. ^ Philadelphia, a Guide to the Nation's Birthplace By Best Books on, Federal Writers' Project