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The German and English-speaking Moravian missionary John Heckewelder wrote: "The Monsey tong [sic] is quite different even though [it and Lenape] came out of one parent language." At the time of first European contact, a Lenape person would have identified primarily with his or her immediate family and clan, friends, and/or village unit; then with surrounding and familiar village units.Next with more distant neighbors who spoke the same dialect; and ultimately, with all those in the surrounding area who spoke mutually comprehensible languages, including the Nanticoke people, who lived to their south and west in present western Delaware and eastern Maryland, and the Munsee, who lived to their north.Families were matrilocal; newlywed couples would live with the bride's family, where her mother and sisters could also assist her with her growing family.By 1682, when William Penn arrived to his American commonwealth, the Lenape had been so reduced by disease, famine, and war that the sub-clan mothers had reluctantly resolved to consolidate their families into the main clan family.The divisions and troubles of the American Revolutionary War and United States' independence pushed them farther west.In the 1860s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma and surrounding territory) under the Indian removal policy.In the 21st century, most Lenape now reside in the Oklahoma, with some communities living also in Wisconsin and Ontario.
Their dire situation was exacerbated by losses from intertribal conflicts.Hereditary leadership passed through the maternal line, and women elders could remove leaders of whom they disapproved.Agricultural land was managed by women and allotted according to the subsistence needs of their extended families.While clan mothers controlled the land, the houses, and the families, the clan fathers provided the meat, cleared the fields, built the houses, and protected the clan. The practice effectively prevented inbreeding, even among individuals whose kinship was obscure or unknown.This means that a male from the Turkey Clan was expected to marry a female from either the Turtle or Wolf clans.
As in the case of the Iroquois and Susquehannocks, the animosity of differences and competitions spanned many generations, and in general tribes with each of the different language groups became traditional enemies in the areas they'd meet.