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A New Lenape Speaker!

Bronx, NY 1970: A boy named David M. Oestreicher dreams of growing up to be a pre-Columbian Indian. While he did not pursue this dream to the extent of Iron Eyes Cody (Espera Oscar de Corti) and Grey Wolf (Archie Belaney), he did learn Lenape when he was given a Lenape-English dictionary on his 15th birthday. Sometime later, he read about Nicholas Shoumatoff (museum curator in Westchester) in the New York Times, and his grant to find and work with Lenape descendents, and met one of the last six Umami dialect speakers, Touching-Leaves-Woman, a medicine woman. Now, he carries on what he learned from her as a leading anthropologist; addressing Pershing Hall on Governors Island last Wednesday with a discussion on Lenape placenames, customs and stories, such as the following anecdote:

In one such tale, a man considered a town fool was listening to some of his neighbors speak. They expressed a wish for a turkey dipped in grease and left. When they came back, the man was dipping a living turkey, feathers and all, in a vat of grease. They laughed at him and said that he was supposed to kill the bird and pluck it first.

Many Native languages distinguish between whether something is animate or inanimate in their vocabularies (they have different words for ‘live turkey’ and ‘dead turkey’, similar to how English speakers use ‘beef’ instead of ‘cow’ when referring to the meat). Lenape has no more native speakers, but the potential for revival is greater today due to the Lenape Talking Dictionary.

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mathias

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One Response to “A New Lenape Speaker!”

  1. [...] is a new speaker of Delaware (del): A New Lenape Speaker! at [...]

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