Three major clans make up our people; Turtle, Turkey, and Wolf. Research in many written pieces suspects that clans were driven by demographics. Many have assumed that Turtle Clan remains in the NJ, PA, and DE area, while the Turkey and Wolf Clans are further West and in Canada. That is not entirely the case. Main Clans are determined by the maternal side of your family. If your mother was of Turtle Clan, you were as well. It is more about lineage than anything.
Each of the three clans also had a number of sub-clans. These helped identify which families you came from, so to be mindful of both your Main Clan, and the sub-clans of both parents were to help limit who you could and could not marry. Back in a time when memory and oral stories were the only way to record, and the elders were the only ones who could tell you who your families were (which meant that when they passed on, that knowledge was lost), the clan systems kept close relatives from two different regions & villages who did not know one another from finding a mate in the other.
Clans defined more than just who you were allowed to marry. They defined your responsibilities among society; both socially and ceremonially. They were also a base for politics; and odd number of clans, so that unbiased decisions that would affect the tribe as a whole could be properly made. They also defined other things, such as which set number of the twelve Manëtuwàk (Spirits) assisted you on your path in life.
No clan had hierarchy over another. For example, our symbol represents a Turtle, but that is not to say Turtle Clan dominates or nation. Our symbol represents Turtle Island; our land developed on a Turtle’s back.
Unfortunately, most of our tribe do not truly know what Clan they belong to. Very few have families that have never forgotten. Others seek spiritual guidance from individuals who can see/speak/listen to the spirits to conclude the spiritual identity of the person in question (mostly by being sensitive to knowing which Manëtuwàk assist you).
We are actively beginning to revitalize our Clan Systems. It has become an appropriate need for ceremonies that are returning to our people that have been dormant for more than a century. More importantly, it has become a need in self-identification. When we formally introduce ourselves, we introduce ourselves by what we are called, who you are descendant of, your clan, and where you are from.
With the help of Ancestry.com, our database, connection to Lenape Spiritual Leaders, and self-knowledge of those who already know which clan they belong to, we are close to the means of identifying and appointing clans as a whole. Ways of revitalizing our Clan System are by first identifying those who know their clan. From that point on, we use the genealogy we have to assign all of the females of that lineage the same Clan. (Meaning, if you were of Wolf Clan, your mother, grandmother, great-grandmother, and so on would all be recognized as Wolf Clan.) We’d go as far back as our database would allow. And then, we’d go back down the bloodline, applying the clan to each immediate descendant of those women. And this process continues, going back and forth as needed. From just knowledge of one person’s clan, you can begin to assign hundreds of members’ clans. When it comes to assigning a clan to adopted members and tribal members whose mother was not of Native descent, members are assigned to the Turkey Clan (as most of the Turkey Clan historically are dwindling in numbers).
Volunteering members are beginning to put together an Ancestry Clan Tree utilizing Ancestry.com.