Lenacpeo is a tribe that never was. Its traditions and lifestyles are based off the Caddo tribe of Oklahoma and Texas and the Lenni- Lenapes of New Jersey and Delaware.
A new tribe seems to be nearing our village. They look like us, but do not soundlike us. They haul canoes of many sizes. Shore, Bears wife, was sent to see where the tribe from the unknown land has settled. They have settled on our land.
Leaf, Lenacpeo Tribe, 1558
When the Spaniards entered the United States, something was bound to happen, and when the Dutch began trading with tribes in present day New Jersey and Delaware something else was bound to happen. And thats how Lenacpeo, a tribe that formed in present day Tennessee, began. The Caddo Native Americans of present-day Oklahoma and Texas were overcome with disease from the Spaniards that settled on their land. The diseases seemed untreatable and therefore, three-hundred and fifty of the Caddo Native Americans left their homeland. They were in search of a place to call home, a place where there would be little harm to approach them, a permanent home. Further North, in the Atlantic region of the United States was a tribe called the Lenni- Lenapes. They also had close contact with the Europeans, with incoming threats for beaver pelts and trade routes being set up to close to their society. The Lenni- Lenapes decided to leave, but some who were unworthy to the tribe stayed. They too were in search of a new home with similar qualities to the ones the Caddos were in search of. Four-hundred and fifty left towards Pennsylvania and then continued south, toward the Tennessee area.
Lenacpeo began when the Lenni-Lenapes settled on the Caddos land. Leaf wrote on a journal made of rock slates found in a cave near the present day Cherokee National Forest about the Lenapes strange approach towards learning more about the local tribe: They seemed to be watching us from a distance. They seemed to be peaceful. They did not approach for another ten moons. (Leaf, Lenacpeo Tribe, 1558) Their approach was professional and ended, after a short quarrel, successfully. The quarrel was not terrible. There was a small fight, in which no one was killed, that was started by the less peaceful Caddo Tribe. The two leaders, Bear from Caddo and Shell from the Lenapes talked about their homelands and their ceremonies and realized how similar their tribes were. They also knew that two tribes with less than one-thousand people each would not survive if a larger tribe invaded their villages. Within twelve days of meeting, the two tribes became one tribe with many skilled citizens and many strong values. Then, the new tribe needed a new, unique name. Many suggestions were given, but only one stood out, Lenacpeo. The reason for this name was simple. Lenape meant the people and with an added cpeo it meant The People of Lenni and Caddo.
The people of Lenacpeo needed to make up a somewhat new way of life by combining traditions and everyday lifestyles. The end result was that many traditions were either taken away or reinvented to fit Lenacpeo. Education became the tribes main priority. The children were to be taught survival skills, and after about two years the tribe had come up with a language to be used throughout the entire village. The language became almost more important then the survival skills, but in a good way. The tribe didnt have a type of currency. They traded among other tribes to get the items they needed. The Government system was very strict and the rules applied to all the members of the tribe, no matter how important the person was to the village. Lenacpeo was well known for writing their rules down on rock slates, called Masdo. The slates were later found in a cave near the present-day Cherokee National Forest. Many new festivals were founded, such as Sacred Monday, the Harvest Feast, and the Winter Festival. These Holidays marked when special events would start, such as trade. They also represented the seasons, like the first day of winter. New documents were written using Lenacpeo, the name of Lenacpeos language. There were four main documents, Lenacpeo: Rules and Uses, Lenacpeo: Rules and Punishment, Lenacpeo: Dictionary of Terms, and Lenacpeo: Plants and Medicine. All these books were available to other cultures through trade. The other tribes would use Lenacpeos ideas for their own tribe. Lenacpeo became a very successful and well known tribe.
Once Leaf, who became the first woman leader of Lenacpeo, published Lenacpeo: Rules and Uses, education was almost forced out in front of all the other tasks of the day. Our education became the most important. The young ones, like Deer and Tree, go to school for four hours daily. Twoof the hours were to learn survival skills. The last two hours would teach Lenacpeo. (Hare, Lenacpeo Tribe, 1561). A school area was set up in the forest area of the village. The first session of school began at six in the morning and ran until eight in the morning. The next session started at ten in the morning and didnt end until noon. True school began at age six and went until the age of eighteen, although children could learn survival skills from family members as young as two or three and if a student was very skilled in a particular area they could go until twenty-four years old.
Both girls and boys attended school because it was law that all the people of Lenacpeo had to be able to communicate in the tribes language. When this law was passed the eight teachers of the tribe, Reed, Bird, Flower, Squirrel, Rain, Branch, Buffo, and Sqwee, started setting up night classes for the adults in the tribe. There was also a rule that you could not use slang in Lenacpeo, according to Lenacpeo: Rules and Uses. The students would give the Leader of their tribe items to pay their tuition. Children were taught in groups divided into three age levels, six to nine years old, ten to thirteen years old, and fourteen to eighteen years old. Each age group was required to learn a certain amount of tasks and up to a certain amount of language by the time they were to move into the next age group. Children were expected to have been taught gardening, gathering, basic weaving and how to play the drums before six years of age. Lenacpeo was believed to be very difficult, and it was. Their dictionary consisted of more than two-thousand words. Approximately six hundred words were taught per age group. Studying was the key to doing well in Lenacpeo.
Lenacpeo had a very positive influence on their community and their trade community. The people of the tribe could communicate with each other. They could write down their thoughts and documents. Everyone could know the laws and their consequences because they had been written down. That way the ideas of Lenacpeo would never change. Trade also changed once the new language came into play. When it came to trade, the tribes or villages a tribe traded with needed to be able to communicate with the other tribe. The same with Lenacpeo. They wanted to make sure they got the fairest trade possible and in order to do that they needed people to know their language. Hare, the leader of Lenacpeo from 1560-1571, sent out fourteen fluent Lenacs around the surrounding area to spread Lenacpeo. They were like missionaries, expect they taught their language. Through the missionaries, many tribes adopted Lenacpeos language. As Lenacpeo spread further and further, Lenacpeo: Rules and Uses became available through trade. Because of Hare and his missionaries more items could be traded with new tribes. The Ocoee River became a well known trade route throughout Tennessee and the nearby areas.
Lenacpeo, a tribe in present day Tennessee, was a very prosperous tribe until its fall in 1611, when jealous tribes took over the area and sent the Lenacs far away, into a vast land of which the location is still unknown. Their education was the key factor for a successful life among the Native Americans of Lenacpeo. Education influenced their tribes life, as well as their trade lives. Lenacpeo was a truly amazing tribe from start to finish.