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This Site Last Updated: Wednesday, December 31, 2003
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Introduction
"But we have always kept the memory of that first meeting, and in commemoration of it, the island where it took place was ever after called Manahachtanienk, which means 'the island where we all become intoxicated,' a name which the whites have corrupted into 'Manhattan'."
Account of the first meeting, in what is now New York harbor, between the Lenni Lenape and Giovanni de Verrazano, who gave them their first taste of hard spirits, probably rum, on April 17, 1524.
[Map of United States Showing Lenni Lenape Region]
The Lenni Lenape were the root of most eastern Native American tribes, and had a long rich history before the invasion of Europeans. At the time the Europeans invaded, the Lenape lived in what is now the northern Delaware, New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, southeastern New York west of the Hudson, Manhattan, Staten Island, and the western end of Long Island. They had lived in this area for at least several thousand years prior to the European invasion.
Meaning of Tribal Name
The Lenape are often mistakenly called "Algonquian", after the tribes in Canada, which is totaly incorrect since the Algonquians were descended from the Lenape and not the other way around. The Lenape are usually known as the "Delaware", even though they were distributed in states other than Delaware. The name "Delaware" was bestowed upon what we now know as the state of Delaware in 1610 by Captain Samuel Argall who sailed up the Delaware river and named it for his patron, Thomas West, Lord de la Warr. (Also written as de la Warre.)
The word Lenape means, depending on the interpreation, as "The People", "Real Men", "Standard Men", "True Men", or "Native, Genuine Men".
Theft of Land by Europeans Begins
By the time the Europeans had invaded, the Lenape were widely respected by other Native Americans in the area, and had been given status as a "grandfather tribe", which was not unlike that of elder statesmen. This meant that disputes were often submitted to the Lenape for resolution. Despite their renown as fierce, tenacious, and resourceful warriors, the Lenape sought peace when the first Europeans, Dutch traders, arrived.
While trade with the Europeans did bring useful goods, it also brought horrific disease, exploitation, and encroachment upon the Lenape lands. Disease was the worst scourge, and after 1633 the Lenape population had been reduced by 90 percent as a result of at least fourteen different epidemics of European diseases, primarily smallpox.
Treaty with Colonials
Encroachment on their lands led the Lenape, in 1682, to make a treaty of friendship with the colonials. Under the treaty's terms, the Lenape agreed to give up much of their land and to migrate from New Jersey, southern New York, and Delaware to the Susquehanna valley in what is now Pennsylvania.
The colonial representative for the signing was William Penn who respected the Lenni Lenape and was considered to be a friend by them. While he did his best to honor the treaty, the Lenape were thoroughly victimized by encroachment on their lands in violation of the treaty as well as by diseases.
In 1682 a treaty was signed at the Lenape council fire in Shackamaxon -- now Germantown -- Pennsylvania. One of the great Delaware chiefs present at the signing was Tamanend, whos name was later adopted by the corrupt New York City political machine "Tammany Hall". By 1700 there were fewer than 3,000 Lenape left.
In 1720 the remaining Lenape were victimized by Iroquois attacks, who no longer feared their war skills, and retreated for safety to what is now Ohio. At that time the Ohio valley was largely neglected by the colonials. During the last of the French and Indian Wars some of the Lenape sided with the French, and during the American Revolution they sided with the British, as the colonials had proven their untrustworthiness. With the defeat of the British, however, the hopes of restoration of Lenape lands was finally gone.
The Lenape eventually signed, on September 17, 1778, what became the first treaty between the United States and the Native Americans. The treaty allowed the Lenape to retain the rights to eastern Pennsylvania, as did the earlier treaty signed by William Penn. Encroachment on Lenape lands and violation of the treaty, however, soon resulted in armed conflict.
Flight to Canada and Oklahoma
Rather than fight a war they knew would be lost, some Lenape fled to Canada in 1790. The remaining Lenape fought for the lands guaranteed to them by treaty. Anthony Wayne defeated the remaining Lenape in 1794, and the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 compelled the Lenape to surrender all of their lands in Pennsylvania and Ohio. The Lenape were thus forced to migrate yet again.
This time the migration was west: to Indiana, then to Missouri in 1820, and finally, in 1830, to what is now Kansas. Encroachment by the railroads and cattlemen, however, soon forced the Lenape who remained in the United States from their lands again. In 1866 the Lenape agreed to give up their identity as a nation and live with the Cherokee. Today, some Lenape live in Oklahoma in Nowata and Washington counties, while others live in Anadarko, Oklahoma.
Two small Lenape reservations exist today in Ontario, Canada: Moraviantown and Munsee. The current inhabitants are descended from the Lenape who fled in 1790. The name of the first reservation comes from the Moravians, also known as the United Brethren, which was a Protestant sect which sent missionaries among the Lenape between 1740 and 1808.
Red Record is a Hoax
Scholarship moves on, and the following text, written over five years ago, now seems to have been based on a carefully orchestrated hoax by Rafinesque. Numerous historians, researchers, authors -- and even the Delaware tribe themselves! -- were taken in by it. At some point we will explain the thorough debunking done by David Oestreicher in his PhD thesis. In the meantime, don't take any of the Red Record text very seriously.
The Lenape history is known as the Wallum Olum -- translating loosely as Red Record, Red Score, or Red Painted Tally -- and was as a series of 184 pictographs engraved on birch bark tablets representing an epic song. The Lenape word walam means "painted", usually indicating being painted with red. The Lenape word olum means "score" or "tally" The use of red comes from the Lenape's belief that red was a sacred color.
The Red Record begins with the Lenape account of the creation of the earth and a great flood. Then it relates how the Lenape journeyed from Asia to North America, and describes their meetings with the peoples living there, and great battles that were fought as the Lenape migrated eastward. The record then contains the names of nearly a hundred generations of the chiefs who lead them. The record concludes with the arrival of Europeans:
[White People Pictograph from Red Record (Lenni Lenape)]
Wonwihil
Lowashawa
Wapayachik

For at that time
From north and south,
The white people came
[Great Ship Pictograph from Red Record (Lenni Lenape)]
Langomuwak
Kitohatewa
Ewenikiktit

Friendly people,
in great ships;
Who are they?
The Red Record has a history so unusual it can only be described as bizarre. The fact that we know of it today, let alone what it actually means, is an amazing combination of chance.
In 1820 the family of an olumpees, the Lennia Lenape word for record keeper or historian, was stricken with a deadly disease. The Native American healers were unable to cure him, and in desperation the family sought aid from a white physician named Ward who happened to be gathering botanical specimens in the area.
The full name of Dr. Ward may have been Dr. John Russell Ward, who died in Carlisle, Kentucky in 1834. Bad record keeping by Rafinesque, whose importance will become clear momentarily, causes the uncertainty. Strangely enough, Dr. Ward was able to cure the olumpees. Given the brutal medical "treatments" of that time, doctors usually killed more patients through bleeding, purging, poisoning, and the like than were actually "cured". It is highly likely the olumpees simply recovered on his own, in spite of Dr. Ward's efforts, not because of them.
To demonstrate his gratitude, the olumpees gave Dr. Ward the birch bark tables containing the Red Record in the form of pictographs. That is, however, the version of events related by Dr. Ward; the truth may be very different.
Transfer of Red Record to Rafinesque
Dr. Ward could not decipher the symbols and so he gave them to a friend of his, Constantine Samuel Rafinesque, who was a botanist, naturalist, and archaeologist, as well as a professor of botany, natural history, and modern languages at Transylvania University in Kentucky. Rafinesque was uniquely suited for the task and succeeded where nobody else likely would have.
Samuel Rafinesque's Background
Samuel Rafinesque was born in 1787 in Constantinople, to French and German Greek parents, and was raised in Italy. By the time he was twelve he had read a thousand books. When he was fifteen he traveled to the United States of America where he met President Thomas Jefferson and spoke, through an interpreter, to a delegation of the Osage tribe. He then returned to Italy and continued his studies. By the age of sixteen he had studied fifty different languages. At the time of his death he had published 938 papers and books, and accumulated 50,000 specimens.
In 1815, Rafinesque, who had become a successful businessman since his youthful journey to America, returned to the United States to conduct research into botany and ichthyology. He brought with him specimens and merchandise, only to be shipwrecked and washed ashore utterly destitute. But, using his numerous skills, he soon repaired his finances and became a professor at Transylvania University.
Rafinesque paid for his scientific interests by inventing and marketing an herbal treatment for tuberculosis and by organizing and managing a savings bank. He also invented the coupon bond, which makes regular interest payments upon the presentation of coupons attached to a purchased bond.
Moravian Records Supply Dictionaries
Two years after obtaining the tablets from Ward, Rafinesque obtained a transcription of the Delaware lyrics for the epic song of the Red Record. He did not, however, yet have any way to match the pictographs to the various components of the song. In 1826, Rafinesque returned to Philadelphia and brought the Red Record tablets with him. Philadelphia contained the archives of the Moravians, also known as the United Brethren, a Protestant sect who sent missionaries among the Lenape between 1740 and 1808.
These missionaries kept detailed, and quite voluminous, records including word lists, dictionaries, and grammars. The Moravians notably did not have any information about the Red Record itself, likely because its existence was only known to the tribal historians and it was used only on special occasions. Given that these special occasions, such as the annual Big House Ceremony, were closed to non-Lenape, the missionaries would have never known of the Red Record.
Decomposing Tablets to Words
Rafinesque used the dictionaries along with the transcription of the Red Record's spoken form to decompose the tablets into words. By 1833 he had finished a rough translation of the Red Record. This was eleven years after the birch bark tablets first passed into his hands.
Rafinesque then drew the symbols in a few notebooks and annotated his drawing with his translation. He called his first notebook "Walam Olum: the painted & engraved Traditions of the Linni Lenape". (The spelling and orthography are Rafinesque's.) The second notebook was named "Fragments: On the History of the Linapis since abt. 1600, when the Wallamolum closes". (Once again, spelling and orthography are Rafinesque's.)
Publication
In 1836, Rafinesque self-published his work, The American Nations: Outlines of their General History, Ancient and Modern. He did not include any of the Red Record symbols, likely because of the expense of producing the woodcuts required by the relatively primitive book printing technology of the day.
Rafinesque was, unfortunately, largely ignored by the scientific community and he died a pauper's death on September 18, 1840 at the age of fifty-seven. His friends smuggled his body out the window of his garret to prevent his landlord from selling it to a medical school in order to obtain unpaid rent. At this point the Red Record takes an amazing journey.
Rafinesque's Collection Destroyed
After his death, Rafinesque's life's work was treated appallingly. His impressive collection of 50,000 specimens, notably collected over a lifetime of travel, was discarded by jealous curators as "valueless". His books and remaining collections brought $131.42 at auction. At this point the Red Record notebooks and birch bark tablets, along with two manuscripts dealing with burial mounds, passed into the hands of Professor S. S. Haldemann of the University of Pennsylvania. The remaining papers and collections, contents unknown, were sent to the Philadelphia dump.
Red Record Originals Vanish
The Red Record notebooks and birch bark tablets then passed to a man named Nicollet, and after his death to Brantz Mayer, a distinguished Baltimore antiquarian and co-founder of the Maryland Historical Society. Mayer donated the Red Record notebooks to the society's collections. The donation was recorded as:
" ... a large collection of rare and curious pamphlets, on various subjects  ...  also pieces of birch bark with picture writing and hieroglyphics by northwest Indians, and other curiosities."
Mayer, however, withdrew his donation on September 29, 1875. The birch bark tablets have not been seen since.
Rafinesque's Work Rediscovered By Squier
Rafinesque's Red Record notebooks were loaned, in 1846, to Ephraim G. Squier who was writing, along with E. H. Davis, a book entitled Ancient Monuments of the Mississippi Valley for the Smithsonian Institution.
Squier was so impressed with the Red Record notebooks, and the corroboration of their contents by an Objibwa chief, that he wrote, in 1848, a paper entitled "Historical and Mythological Traditions of the Algonquians; with a Translation of the Walum-Olum, or Bark Record of the Lenni-Lenape". While this paper was presented to the New York Historical Society in 1848, there was little or no reaction.
Rafinesque's Work Rediscovered By Brinton
For the next thirty-five years, no attention was paid to the Red Record. Then, in 1883, Dr. Daniel G. Brinton mentioned it in his book Aboriginal American Authors. He then managed to track down the notebooks from the now dead Mayer's family and began to study it in detail. In 1884 he published The Lenâpé and their Legends: with the Complete Text and Symbols of the Walam Olum, a New Translation, and an Inquiry into its Authenticity. In it he wrote:
"... it is a genuine native production, which was repeated orally to someone indifferently conversant with the Delaware [Lenape] language, who wrote it down to the best of his ability. In its present form it can, as a whole, lay no claim either to antiquity or to purity of linguistic form. Yet, as an authentic modern version, slightly colored by European teachings, of the ancient tribal traditions, it is well worth preservation and will repay more study in the future.
...
The narrator was probably one of the native chiefs or priests, who had spent his life in the Ohio and Indiana towns of the Lenape, and who, though with some knowledge of Christian instruction, preferred the pagan rites, legends, and myths of his ancestors. Probably certain lines and passages were repeated in the archaic form in which they had been handed down for generations."
Brinton credits Rafinesque with deciphering of the Red Record:
"In these lines Rafinesque makes an important statement, which has been amply verified by the investigations of Col. Garrick Mallery, Dr. W. J. Hoffman and Capt. W. P. Clark, within the last decade, and that is, that the Indian pictographic system was based on their gesture speech.
So far as I remember, he [Rafinesque] was the first to perceive this suggestive fact; and he had announced it some time before 1840. Already in "The American Nations" (1836), he wrote, "the Graphic Signs correspond to these Manual Signs."
Here he anticipates a leading result of the latest archæological research; and I give his words the greater prominence, because they seem to have been overlooked by all the recent writers on Indian Gesture-speech and Sign-language."
The Rafinesque notebooks were then donated by Brinton to the University of Pennsylvania at Philadelphia, where they reside to this day.
As with previous authors, Brinton's work was ignored. The 400th anniversary of Columbus' "discovery" of America was celebrated in 1892 with no reference to the Lenape history.
Rafinesque's Work Rediscovered in 1954
A few authors published books about the vanishing Lenape, learning of the customs, history, and traditions from last of the Lenape in Oklahoma and Canada. But little was done until 1954, when the Indiana Historical Socity published, after twenty years of research, Walam Olum or Red Score: The Migration Legend of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians, a New Translation, Interpreted by Linguistic, Historical, Archeological, Ethnological, and Physical Anthropological Studies. This book included a facsimile reproduction of Rafinesque's notebooks.
Certainly an amazing journey.
The Red Record contains 687 symbols which represent an epic song in an archaic form of the Lenape language that was then highly compressed and stylized. This is why it was so difficult to translate.
William Penn, the governor of Pennsylvania, wrote of the Lenape language:
" ... lofty, yet narrow, but like the Hebrew; in Signification full, like short-hand in writing; one word serveth the place of three, and the rest are supplied by the Understanding of the Hearer  ...  And I must say, that I know not a language spoken in Europe, that hath words of more sweetness or greatness, in Accent and Emphasis, than theirs."
The Red Record describes the journey of the Lenni Lenape from Asia to America via the Bering Strait. The Lenape were clearly not the first to visit North America in this way, and the Red Record even records their contact with the peoples already living in North America.