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The Munsee (or Minsi or Muncee) or mə́n'si·w are a subtribe of the Lenape, originally constituting one of the three great divisions of that nation and dwelling along the upper portion of the Delaware River, the Minisink, and the adjacent country in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. From their principal totem they were frequently called the Wolf tribe of the Lenape. They were considered the most warlike portion of their nation and assumed the leadership in war councils. They were prominent in the early history of New York and New Jersey, being among the first nations of that region to meet the European settlers.
The Munsee originally occupied the headwaters of the Delaware River in present-day New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut, extending south to the Lehigh River, and also held the west bank of the Hudson River from the Catskill mountains nearly to the New Jersey line. They were bordered by the Mahican and Wappinger on the north and east, and the Lenape (Delaware) on the south and southeast. They were regarded as a buffer between the southern Lenape and the Iroquois Confederacy based in present-day New York south of the Great Lakes. Their council village was Minisink, probably in Sussex County, New Jersey. The bands along the Hudson were prominent in the early history of New York, but as European-American settlements increased, most of the Munsee moved south to join their relatives along the Delaware.
In 1669 they aided the Esopus tribe in attacking the Dutch colonists, and were defeated by Martin Cregier (see Esopus Wars). By a noted fraudulent treaty known as the Walking Purchase, the main body of the Munsee was forced to move from the Delaware River about the year 1740. They settled on the Susquehanna River, on lands assigned them by the Iroquois - (Ong we Oweh - "The only true men"). Soon afterward they moved westward, joining the main Lenape nation on the Ohio River. Most became incorporated with that group. In 1756 those remaining in New York were placed upon lands in Schoharie County and were incorporated with the Mohawk.
A considerable body, the Christian Munsee, who were converted by the Moravian missionaries, drew off from the rest and formed a separate organization, most of them moving to Canada during the American Revolution. Others joined Ojibwa and Stockbridge people in Wisconsin. The majority were incorporated in the Lenape, with whom they participated in their subsequent wars and removals.
Those who kept the name of Munsee were in three bands in the early 20th century, in Canada and the United States. Two had consolidated with remnants of other nations, so that no separate census is available. These nations were the Munsee of the Thames, Ontario, Canada, 120 (now recognized as a First Nation known as the Delaware Nation at Moraviantown; Chippewa and Munsee Franklin County, Kansas, 90 , they had a federal reservation together from 1859 but dissolved their tribal relations in 1900); and Stockbridge and Munsee, Green Bay Agency, Wisconsin, 530. The Stockbridge-Munsee Community is a federally recognized tribe in Wisconsin, United States.
- Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico, Vol.3, Smithsonian Institution Bureau of American Ethnology, 1912
- Ripley, George; Dana, Charles A., eds. (1879). . The American Cyclopædia.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Gilman, D. C.; Peck, H. T.; Colby, F. M., eds. (1905). . New International Encyclopedia (1st ed.). New York: Dodd, Mead.
- Penford, Saxby Voulaer., "Romantic Suffern - The History of Suffern, New York, from the Earliest Times to the Incorporation of the Village in 1896", Tallman, N.Y., 1955, (1st Edition)
- . Encyclopedia Americana. 1920.