28 Oct

Learning About the Lenape

Roni Kanter and Michelle Sussmann

“He!” [pronounced “Hay!”]  means “Hello!”

– from the Lenape languages of Munsee and Unami.

In conjunction with our study of the Lenape Native Americans, third graders visited Winakung at Waterloo Village, in nearby Stanhope, New Jersey. Winakung means “Place of Sassafras,” and as our third graders learned, Sassafras played quite a role in the Lenape culture.

Winakung at Waterloo Village is a re-creation of a typical Lenape village, and this annual third grade trip affords our students the opportunity to further immerse themselves in answering the guiding question, “How does environment shape the lives of its inhabitants and the development of its culture?”

As seen in the snapshots below, students enjoyed seeing, feeling and experiencing so much of the Lenape life they have been learning about in school.  This trip is truly a “hands-on, minds-on, bodies-on” kind of experience in which we sat in a traditional longhouse, ground corn with a mortar and pestle, and practiced working the pump drill, a tool used to start a fire. We heard, saw and experienced so much about Lenape cooking, medicine, clothing, and jobs. We were excited to see a dugout canoe and a Dead Fall Trap up close, and we touched and held all kinds of Lenape artifacts, such as animal skins, tools and pottery.  After enjoying our tour of Waterloo Village on this brisk, sunny day, our tour guide treated us to a dramatic, interactive retell of the Legend of the Sassafras Tree.

Interestingly, the third grade makes this trip to Waterloo Village each year, yet the trip is never the same from one year to the next. What makes it so different each year? It is the sheer delight and enthusiasm of the budding anthropologists and sociologists we bring with us. As Kennedy remarked, “It’s better to feel what we are learning.” Cooper even went home and charted for his parents all of the things he learned and did at each of the areas we visited along our tour! That is precisely how we know, it is worth the trip!