by Pat Goodfriend, Membership & Volunteer Coordinator
November 2, 2021
Morris County Historical Society is fortunate to have in its collection various objects that represent Native American history. Donated to MCHS over the years by Morris County residents, they include artifacts that broaden the scope of our collection and its interpretation. These artifacts evoke a sense of wonder and a curiosity to learn more about the Native Americans associated with them.
The Native American artifacts in our collection were found on the donors ancestral family farms and are man-made objects likely used in the everyday life of the county’s earliest residents, the Lenape (Lenni Lenape or Delaware). The Lenape, “the people,” are thought to have lived in this area for at least 10,000 years before the arrival of the Europeans. A Northeastern Woodland Native American culture group, the Lenape of Lenapehoking, or “the lands of the Lenape,” lived throughout New Jersey, and in portions of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New York. In Northern NJ, the Lenape were Munsee-speakers, a dialect of Algonquin.
The pre-colonial Lenape ensured their survival by making use of nearly everything the forests and waterways provided. Stone arrowheads, and possible spearpoint artifacts indicate hunting activity on the Hacklbarney-Chester farmland. The farmland in Parsippany yielded a sizeable milling stone, once typically once typically used with a hand-held muller, for grinding cultivation corn, or grains and seeds gathered near a long-ago Native American village. An irregularly shaped stone artifact accented by a perfectly drilled, small hole at one end, was also found on the same farmland. Could it be a tool, possibly a net sinker formerly used to place and secure fishing nets? Or is it an object of ornamentation? While questions remain, each of these ancient artifacts in our collection lends us many opportunities to represent the Lenape in local history.