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For other uses, see Munsee (disambiguation).

The Munsee (or Minsi or Muncee) are a subtribe of the Lenape, originally constituting one of the three great divisions of that tribe and dwelling along the upper portion of the Delaware River, the Minisink, and the adjacent country in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. From their principal totem they were frequently called the Wolf tribe of the Lenape. They were considered the most warlike portion of the tribe and assumed the leadership in war councils. They were prominent in the early history of New York and New Jersey, being among the first tribes of that region to meet the European invaders.


The Munsee originally occupied the headwaters of the Delaware River in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, extending south to the Lehigh River, and also held the west bank of the Hudson from the Catskill mountains nearly to the New Jersey line. They had the Mahican and Wappinger on the north and east, and the Delaware on the south and southeast, and were regarded as the protecting barrier between the latter tribe and the Iroquois. Their council village was Minisink, probably in Sussex county, New Jersey. The bands along the Hudson were prominent in the early history of New York, but as white settlements increased most of them joined their relatives on the Delaware.[1]


In 1663 they aided the Esopus tribe in attacking the Dutch, and were chastised by Martin Cregier (see Esopus Wars). By a noted fraudulent treaty known as the Walking Purchase, the main body of the Munsee was forced to move from the Delaware River about the year 1740. They settled on the Susquehanna, on lands assigned them by the Iroquois, but soon afterwards moved westward and joined the main Lenape tribe on the Ohio River, with whom the greater portion eventually became incorporated. In 1756 those remaining in New York were placed upon lands in Schoharie County and were incorporated with the Mohawk.[1]

A considerable body, the Christian Munsee, who were converted by the Moravian missionaries, drew off from the rest and formed a separate organization, most of them moving to Canada during the American Revolution. Others joined Ojibwa and Stockbridge people in Wisconsin. The majority were incorporated in the Lenape, with whom they participated in their subsequent wars and removals.

Those who kept the name of Munsee were in three bands in the early 20th century, two of which consolidated with other tribal fragments, so that no separate census is available. These tribes were the Munsee of the Thames, Ontario, Canada, 120; Munsee (or Christian), and Chippewa, northeastern Kansas, 90; and Stockbridge and Munsee, Green Bay Agency, Wisconsin, 530. The mixed band in Kansas dissolved its tribal relations.

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  1. ^ a b Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Vol.3, Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, 1912


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