Hailing from the Northeastern Woodlands, the Lenape Tribe are part of the larger Algonquin group of Native Americans. When Europeans first came in contact with the Lenape, the tribe had become more or less sedentary.
No longer nomadic, the Lenape traveled between permanent camps on a seasonal basis. This gave them the opportunity to become farmers. Maize, beans and squash were planted together in a technique known as companion planting. Companion planting increases crop yield by placing crops together to benefit each other. The grouping of beans, squash and corn is also known as “Three Sisters” and constituted the main crops of many Native Americans.
To supplement their diet, the Lenape tribe also harvested seafood and hunted. While hunting, they usually opted for small game such as deer and birds. Fish and shellfish were important to their diet. Clans living in the area that would later become New Jersey gathered clams the entire year.
Much of the Lenape’s success can be attributed to the utilization of slash and burn techniques when clearing their fields. The richer soil, combined with the benefits of companion planting and using rotting fish as fertilizer led to a more bountiful crop yield than was normal. It is thought that there were once close to 15,000 Lenape, mostly due to their steady food supply.