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Munsee Lenape – “People of the Stony Country”, “Original People”


  • Munsee Lenape – “People of the Stony Country”, “Original People”
  • Ramapo – “Sweet Water”
  • Historically mistranslated known as “sloping rock”


Munsee is a part of the Algonquin Linguistic Group related to the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) Native Americans who referred to themselves as the Minisink.


The Munsee are a band of the Lenni Lenape (Delaware) with 3 clans:

  • Munsee = wolf tribe
  • Unami = turtle
  • Unalachtigo = turkey

Following European implementation of borders, general membership elected chiefs (since 1920s)


  • Prior – Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and from the Northern bank of the Raritan River North to Albany, New York
  • Post – About a 7-mile radius in the Ramapo Mountains in of New Jersey and New York

Contact Period:

1524 – first written contact with Europeans with Giovanni da Verrazzano

Munsee Lenape Online Resources


Munsee Lenape Bibliography

  • Dunn, Shirley W. The Mohicans and their Land: 1609-1730. Fleischmanns: Purple Mountain Press, 1994.
  • Hauptman, Laurence M. The Native Americans: A History of the First Residents of New Paltz and Environs. Poughkeepsie: Mid-Hudson Library System, 1975.
  • Lenik, Edward J. Indians in the Ramapos: Survival, Persistence and the Presence. Ringwood: The North Jersey Highlands Historical Society, 1999.
  • Trelease, William A. Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: The Seventeenth Century. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.


Munsee Lenape Summary:

The purpose of this entry is to provide general information about the Munsee Lenape tribe of the Hudson River Valley. This is an ongoing effort; HRVI will add and update these pages as often as possible based on additional research, access to new materials, and new scholarship. Readers are encouraged to learn more from the online resources, books and articles listed here.

The Munsee Lenape are a band of Lenni Lenape Native Americans, called Delaware by the English settlers, who occupied the region of Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and from the Northern bank of the Raritan River, north to Albany, New York prior to contact with Europeans.1 The language primarily spoken was Munsee, which a dialect of Algonquin. The Algonquin language group spanned most of the northern United States and southern Canada.

There are many distinct groups under this umbrella that are related primarily through language and social customs. The name Munsee Lenape translates to English meaning “people of the stony country.” The Ramapo Munsee Lenape live in Sloatsburg and Suffern, New York to Mahwah, New Jersey, and their name translates to “sweet water.”

There are three groups within the Lenape: Munsee, which is the wolf clan, Unami, the turtle clan, and the Unalachtigo, the turkey clan. The clans coexisted as they lived together in communities or bands.2 A band is like a neighborhood that incorporates different clans. According to historian William Trelease, “The Munsee [as a tribe] did not exist as such until about 1694, when a group of Shawnee combined with remnants of local bands on the upper Delaware under that name.”3 The Munsee are the only remaining clan in existence today. Multiple clans may be contained in a tribe, though the organizational concept of a tribe occurred after colonization.

The first interaction between Europeans and the Munsee Lenape, specifically the Ramapo, was in 1524 with a written document from Giovanni Verrazzano when he sailed into the Mahicannituk (Hudson River). According to Verrazzano, “The people were...showing us [the] safest place to beach the boat...About 30 small boats ran to and from across the lake with innumerable people aboard who were crossing from one side to the other to see us. Suddenly...a violent unfavorable wind blew in from the sea, and we were forced to return to the ship, leaving the land with much regret on account of its favorable conditions and beauty; we think was not without some properties of value, since all the hills showed signs of minerals.”4 Though the interaction was short-lived, this was the first contact with Europeans.

Henry Hudson would sail on the Hudson River, or Mahicannituck, in 1609 with Dutch settlements being established in the following years. When the Dutch settlers came into the area in the 1640s, the Natives traded maize for cloth. The two groups did not have the same understanding of trading and exchanging: . The land Europeans would eventually gain would be owned, but the Native Americans viewed the land as communal.5 As in the “sale” of land, the terms of trade between the two groups were not the same and sometimes tensions broke out, resulting in events like the Pig War, the Whisky War, and Kieft’s War. In 1643, the first record of Native Americans being used as slaves in New Jersey was documented after Dutch soldiers crossed the Hudson River during the night and attacked the indigenous people.6

According to the Ramapo Munsee of Bergen County, New Jersey, and southern New York state, there is only about a 7-mile radius in the Ramapo Mountains where the Ramapo Munsee Lenape live today. They are officially recognized by the state of New Jersey but not by the federal government, though their history remains integral to the local areas.7 As the Dutch and English colonized more land, Munsee villages were destroyed and they were forced to move off their land. Several Munsee and other displaced Native Americans also relocated to Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and later to Wisconsin, where they are now known as the Stockbridge Munsee Community Band of Mohican Indians.8

-Jessica Mild, Marist, ‘23


1. “Munsee Lenape,” Native Land Digital, https://native-land.ca/maps/territories/munsee-lenape/; Laurence M. Hauptman The Native Americans: A History of the First Residents of New Paltz and Environs. (Poughkeepsie: Mid-Hudson Library System. 1997), Footnote 11.; William A. Trelease, Indian Affairs in Colonial New York: The Seventeenth Century, (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 2.

2. Trelease, 2.

3. Trelease, 3.

4. “The Written Record of the Voyage of 1524 of Giovanni da Verrazano” Columbia University, http://www.columbia.edu/~lmg21/ash3002y/earlyac99/documents/verrazan.htm.

5. Trelease, 63.

6. “Remembering Pavonia,” The Public History Project, https://www.publichistoryproject.org/remembering-pavonia/. 7 “Ramapough Timeline,” Accessed February 2023,

7. Ramapo Munsee Lenape, Accessed February 2023, https://ramapomunsee.net/.

8. Ibid, “Multilingualism.”; https://www.mohican.com/.