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Lenape Lore:
Perspectives 4


Many people ask if the Mėsingw, the red and black face on the Tribe Seal, is a Lenape god. The answer is no. The Lenape believe in one God only, but under him there are manėtuwąk, which are, somewhat like the Greek and Roman pantheons, "lesser spirits," with various roles to fill. Some have suggested that perhaps they are somewhat like angels in modern-day Christian belief, but that train of thought detracts from the beauty of the original Lenape beliefs.

The Mėsingw was the guardian spirit of the game animals, such as deer and bear, etc. It was said he "helped" the Lenape find the game when they went hunting, and also that he would sometimes be seen riding on the back of a deer.

He had a face that was half-red and half black, like the one shown on the seal. The man who impersonated him at certain ceremonies wore a suit made of bearskin as well as painting his face. Because he had a fearful appearance, the parents would sometimes use the mention of him to correct the children. They were told that the Mėsingw would get them if they didn't behave.

Many people are interested in how families functioned in various aIndian societies. In the traditional Lenape way, back in our original homelands, the men had the duty to bring in the game animals, gamebirds, and fish for his family to eat. In addition to his wife and children, a man often had his parens or other elders depending on him for food.

The men also took care of some of the heavier things that needed to be done around the village. These tasks included putting up the framework for houses, making dugout canoes, crafting bows and arrows that wold be reliable for hunting, and even making the mortars and pestles used for grinding corn. Of course, making arrowheads also required considerable skill and effort, as did most tasks back in the times before malls, catalog or internet shopping! In today's modern society, the man's role is much the same as that of any other man in modern America.

Other questions also focus on traditional homes and how we lived in the old days. Although the most common image of an Indian home tends to be the Plains tipi, the Lenapes built houses even before the colonists arrived.
Our houses were made of bark. First, a framework made from trees was built, usually in a rectangular or oval shape. Then this frame was covered with large sheets of bark. Sometimes, especially in the summer, the houses were covered with mats made from reeds.In the southern part of the area where the Delawares lived, the houses were mainly built for a single family. In the northern part of the historic Delaware lands, several related families often shared larger multiple-family barkhouses that were rounded, with a door on the side. The latter style of housing, of course, was to conserve and share fuel for heating and cooking fires in the winters.





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Indian Territory, Warm Springs