The Lenape (also known as "Lenni-Lenape" and "Delaware" Indians) and the Nanticoke are two distinct tribes. However, the Nanticoke originated from among the Lenape in ancient times. Also, from at least the 1600's, many Nanticoke people migrated into Lenape territory... with some continuing north or west with migrating Lenape. Our tribal families originated from the Lenape and Nanticoke territorial border area. For generations, intermarriage between the tribes produced interconnected families and bloodlines. Our compound tribal name, a practice not uncommon among modern tribes, honors our ancestors from the two dominant ancient tribes which comprise our tribal nation. Sometimes our people will identify themselves as "Nanticoke and Lenape" to avoid any confusion. As a confederation of Nanticoke and Lenape people, we have governed ourselves from ancient times and never surrendered our sovereignty to any other authority.
Most Americans think of the tribes of the mid-western United States and the history of tribal and U.S. government interactions from the mid 1800's forward. Our tribal interactions with European colonists predates the formation of the United States by about 250 years, the details of which are rarely considered by those outside of our community.
Also, because of racial persecution, many tribal families remained in isolated communities and did not seek unwanted attention from outsiders. Cultural activities were not open to the public. Sometimes, even racial misidentification occurred in an effort to clear state and federal obligations to remaining tribal citizens. It was not until the civil rights protections from the 1960s and 1970s that many, previously hidden, tribal communities and their leaders began to publicly advocate for their people and promote their heritage in to the public. Our tribe's history and families are historically well documented, although not well known among the public... we are working to correct this.
Even though some are said to be in an effort to "honor our people," most are insulting and racist and all reinforce insensitivity and stereotypes. Often our children must visit or attend schools where their race is being caricatured on walls, shirts, jackets and flags. Our proud tribal names, villages, heroes and even rituals are turned into marketing tools and demeaned. Sadly, it has been our experience that when we try to educate such offenders, we are verbally... and sometimes even physically... attacked. Having such mascots is NO HONOR... It is an INSULT!