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#1 Jan-14-2009 11:39:am

lenape
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Registered: Feb-11-2008
Posts: 1779

Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

here is a short "responce" I wrote to the spreading myth of "Lenapei Clan Mothers" I thought I would share....


Lenapei "Clan Mothers"



  Among the Lenape People the Women play an important role in the general balance of life.  Traditional Lenape belief was that the year was divided into two parts, the male and the female, the work was divided in half, men's and women's, and for ceremonies men have their role and women theirs.  There are also women's ceremonies that men do not participate in and men's ceremonies that the women are not part of, this is not a form of "sexism" as it may be perceived by the dominant culture, it is the balance of Lenape Life.  While men historically were the warriors, the women made the decision which, if any, of the prisoners were kept and adopted into the village, again the balance.



  While some Eastern People like the "Iroquois" have a "Clan Mother" system, the Lenape traditionally did not.  The Lenape did not practice having "Women Chiefs" as did other Peoples.  As language is culture one would think that there is a word or phrase in the Lenapei Language to denote this "revered position" if it truly existed, however there is not!  However there are words to describe each and every role in Lenape life, "Sakima" – A Chief, "Ila"  - Warrior, "Lepweinuwak" – Members of Council, which derives from the suffix /-inu-/ which specifically denotes a "man", as well as words describing, or denoting visionary, medicine man, medicine woman (and separate words describing what "kind" of medicine), elder, war caption, ect…  As our language is extremely descriptive and specific one would think that this position would be noted, however there is nothing.  Looking through the various recorded documents from first contact with the Lindstrom documentation up to modern day continuous Lenape/Delaware Communities there is absolutely no reference to a "Lenapei Clan Mother".



  In fact it is quite the opposite as you will read in the following citations:



·        Weslager wrote in "The Delaware Indians", pg 288: "…the council, or Lupwaaeenoawuk("Wise Men"), comprised of chiefs, and captains-as well as warriors and patriarchs-representing the three divisions…", (citing Rev. Zeisberger) "…Food,  when called for, was distributed by the women, who remained outside the Council House and were admitted only for the purpose of handing the victuals to the attendants and keeping up the fire." (see: Zeisberger's History of the North American Indians)

[In the above excerpt the sentence: "patriarchs-representing the three divisions" specifically acknowledges that the representatives for the "three division", also understood as three clans, were men, and that the women's responsibilities were in preparing the food and tending the fire during council, both responsibilities equal in importance and significance, and maintaining the balance in Lenape life.]



·        William Penn wrote : "…Their Government is by Kings, which they call Sachema, and those by succession, but always of the Mother's side; for instance, the children of him that is now King, will not succeed, but his Brother by the Mother, or the children of his Sister, whose sons (and after them the Children of her Daughters) will reign; for no women inherits."

·        Zeisberger  wrote in "Zeisberger's History of the North American Indians" : "…women are never admitted to the council; in maters of public interest they may stand about the house and listen, and they account it an honor when they are admitted to hand victuals and keep up the fire…", also see George Loskiel, "History of the Mission of the United Brethern among the Indians of North American: In Three Parts.", pgs 134-135



  There is absolutely no documentation that there was even a sort of "duel government" much like the "Iroquois" or Cherokee People.  There were no "Men's Council" and "Women's Council" in Lenape Culture.  The first Europeans, having knowledge of the Six Nations form of Government, and Clan Systems, described the Lenape government as "…male governance, having a civil Chief and a War Chief, who alternated authority in times of peace and war, who were advised by a council made up of old men and experienced warriors…", see M. Caffrey, pg 52



  So, as you have seen in the information provided above, the "Lenapei Clan Mother" does not exist in Lenape Life.  I can only venture to guess that this "position" has come about as a result of a "power struggle", adaptation from other tribes, or lack of knowledge of Lenape Culture and Life.  I do not know of any Legitimate Lenape communities that claim such a system, many Lenape "Hobby Groups" and organizations have over the years applied this "position", but it is not a  part of the balance in Lenape Life.

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#2 Jan-14-2009 01:11:pm

sschkaak
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Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

Good summary.  The Sand Hill Indians presently have clan mothers, but I confess I don't know if this comes from their Cherokee side (Did the Cherokee have such a position?), or if it is a modern adaptation borrowed from another culture.  The Six Nations Delaware had (?have) a woman's position known as "chief maker," who would appoint their chief, from among those in her clan who were eligible to hold the position.  This, too, may have been necessary to accord with the Iroquois with whom they were/are living.

Last edited by sschkaak (Jan-14-2009 01:12:pm)

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#3 Jan-14-2009 01:16:pm

lenape
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Registered: Feb-11-2008
Posts: 1779

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

Thank you!

  The Cherokee had a "Beloved Woman", but not sure of clan mothers.  I was not aware that the "Sandhills" had "clan mothers" (have avoided that group over the last year)  Would guess it was an adaptation.  The "Chief Maker" among the Six Nations Delaware, I would assume, comes from the Six Nations culture.

Last edited by lenape (Jan-14-2009 01:31:pm)

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#4 Jan-14-2009 02:23:pm

lenape
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Registered: Feb-11-2008
Posts: 1779

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

While looking for the "chief maker" reference I stumbled onto this also, while not a "Clan Mother" issue could be of interest:

   "There were the rare occasions when a woman was permitted to serve in the capacity of a sakima in the absence of a suitable  male heir (Trelease 1960:9).  Known as "squasachem" or "sunksquaw", some even left their mark on historical treaties and other documents (Grumet 1980:50-53; see also Plane 1996)
Edit to add: The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage, Herbert Kraft, Chapter 6, pg 250

Last edited by lenape (Jan-14-2009 02:25:pm)

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#5 Jan-14-2009 02:36:pm

lenape
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Registered: Feb-11-2008
Posts: 1779

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

"...a sakima was appointed from among the elligable men in the linage.  This appointment was, according to some athorities, made by the matriarch in consultation with other women of the lineage(sub script 31)." Kraft, pg 250
"Notes for Chapter 6:

(sub script 31)  "Matriarchs have sometimes been called "Chief Makers" (eg. Wallace 1947:6), but this designation was more appropriate to the Iroquois were matron did have this privilege" Kraft, 256

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#6 Jan-14-2009 07:07:pm

NanticokePiney
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From: Hopewell Twp., New Jersey
Registered: Jul-10-2007
Posts: 4214

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

The Nanticoke-Lenape Community in New Jersey kept many "Indian" practices even though they were English speaking Christians. One of them was that the elder men gathered to discuss community affairs, farming, who was causing trouble and needed to be "eldered" and who needed to be praised. Young men who attended just listened unless asked to add their two cents worth. Women NEVER attended although they did put their opinions in to their husbands at home. I don't see a "clan mother" practice ever existing among them. If it did women would certaining attends these gatherings.


I don't have anger issues...just violent reactions to B.S.
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#7 Jan-14-2009 07:09:pm

lenape
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Registered: Feb-11-2008
Posts: 1779

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

Piney wrote:
"....although they did put their opinions in to their husbands at home."

  The old saying "if momma isn't happy, nobody is happy!"  LOL!

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#8 Jan-16-2009 12:23:am

NanticokePiney
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From: Hopewell Twp., New Jersey
Registered: Jul-10-2007
Posts: 4214

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

I just read that the concept of "Clan Mothers" came about during the formation of the '5 Nations Confederacy'. The purpose of it was to stop the chiefs from going to war. If the chief was too warlike they could pull his horns. Jikohnsaseh was the first one appointed by Hiawatha and Deganawidah.


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#9 Feb-23-2015 08:13:pm

tree hugger
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Registered: May-12-2006
Posts: 11061

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

lenape wrote:

Thank you!

  The Cherokee had a "Beloved Woman", but not sure of clan mothers.  I was not aware that the "Sandhills" had "clan mothers" (have avoided that group over the last year)  Would guess it was an adaptation.  The "Chief Maker" among the Six Nations Delaware, I would assume, comes from the Six Nations culture.

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#10 Feb-24-2015 05:40:am

tk
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Registered: Mar-17-2009
Posts: 111

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

Just for comparison:

Hopis have clan mothers – the eldest woman in the senior lineage of the clan. [But note: the names (and therefore numbers) of clans in any village and the seniority position of lineages within them always has a potential for dispute.] She owns the ‘clan house’ within which clan ritual paraphernalia is kept. However, she has no political functions; a clan chief selects his own successor. 

tk

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#11 Mar-07-2015 10:44:pm

tree hugger
Site Admin
Registered: May-12-2006
Posts: 11061

Re: Myth of the "Lenapei Clan Mother"

I'm sorry tk, I just noticed your reply.

Thank you!

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