October 8, 2011 Marshall Becker, PhD: "Mahamickwon and Cultural Change
New Jersey: The Story of a Lenopi Family and Native Conservatism from
1660 to after 1810"
Most readers are surprised to learn that the Lenopi, the native
people of southern New Jersey, continued to speak their own language
and maintained a traditional, if somewhat modified, foraging lifestyle
well into the 1800s! Documents relating to Mahmickwon, ca. 1665 to
after 1740, and his heirs, spanning the period from 1677 to after 1802,
reveal the persistence of traditional culture among the Lenopi even as
the lives of the increasing numbers of colonials around them were
becoming radically altered. Lenopi traditions also were changing, but
their basic subsistence economy remained remarkably intact. Even as
early as 1697, Mahamickwon was recognized as an important member of the
Rancocus band. This band resided part of the year in the area around
Coerxing, a Lenopi summer station, or Indian Town, where he was active.
From his first appearance in known records, as mahomecun in 1697, he
was also identified as King Charles. This English name indicates one
element of apparent early acculturation among the Lenopi, and the title
reveals his high status. The information drawn from an array of deeds,
journals, and other documents enables us to identify Mahamickwon as the
native also known as Him-mick-son also Hymickhone and Hinneron and to
reconstruct his life story and that of his family. The narrative of the
life of Mahamickwon and that of his family reveals several important
aspects of Lenopi cultural history.
Marshall Joseph Becker received
his B.A., M.A. and PhD from The University of Pennsylvania; all in
anthropology. At present he is Professor Emeritus in Anthropology at
West Chester University where he continues his research. His primary
interest relates to culture contact and processes of culture change,
with a focus on interactions among the Native peoples of the lower
Delaware Valley and Bay and their contacts with early Dutch, Swedish
and English traders and colonists. He has spent 40 years researching
the Lenape or so-called Delaware, of southeastern Pennsylvania, and
their native and colonial neighbors such as the Lenopi and Sekonese.
His many publications in scholarly and popular journals document the
success of these peoples in maintaining their cultures much later
than is generally recognized. A number of granting agencies have
supported Dr. Becker’s work, including the National Science Foundation
and the National Geographic Society.
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