THE ORIGINAL PEOPLE:
The Ancient Culture and Wisdom of the Lenni-Lenape People
by Chief Quiet Thunder and Greg Vizzi
The book is a collaboration of Chief Quiet Thunder and Greg Vizzi. It was originally published as an ebook in 2013. The paperback was published in November of 2020.
The Lenape were one of the first Indian tribes to make contact with the Europeans. The Treaty of Peace and Brotherhood was made between William Penn and the Lenape Indians. This was a verbal treaty and the first one between the colonists and the Indians in North America. Chief Quiet Thunder was a Native American elder from Woodbury, New Jersey, and past chief of the Lenni Lenape tribe. He was a traditional Indian, but happy to share his culture with audiences of all ages. He gives many presentations in the schools and other venues for the general public.
The Original People is based on many hours of video and audio interviews, recorded conversations, and stories by the chief. The book is written for the most part, in his own words and point of view. He speaks about the Lenape Indian culture and traditions. He tells personal stories of his life growing up and how he became an educator, teaching people about his culture and traditions.
He brought dozens of hand-crafted cultural items to his programs and if you attended you might have had a chance to hold a stone ax, arrow, or bone knife made by the chief. Quiet Thunder infused his talks with colorful scenes from the past as he takes you on a journey to America before European contact. His audiences were often held spellbound by his stories. His classroom presentations were very "hands-on" for the children. He engaged the very young by giving them drums and rattles to play and puts animal skins on the "hunters" as if they are members of the tribe.
Quiet Thunder began giving presentations to the public over thirty years ago. Because of his authentic presentations and deep understanding of his tribe's traditional past, he was in great demand in many school systems, nature centers, historical societies, museums, and other venues in Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Southern New Jersey.
Excerpt from the introduction to The Original People by Chief Quiet Thunder:
“I am fortunate to know many of the traditional ways of the Lenni-Lenape. The name Lenni-Lenape means “Original People.” If I can help people gain a better understanding of the native people of North America, then this book will exceed my goals.
Mother Earth is the giver of life and the protector of the spirit after life, for all people, not just the Indian people. We have a sacred obligation to protect the Earth and to learn to live in harmony with the earth. I developed my beliefs through time spent in the wild, talking to elders, and maintaining the traditional ways.
This book combines an oral history of my people, their way of life, and spirituality. It also contains some of my personal life story and beliefs as a Native American in the modern world. I try to pass on ideas that meant something to my family and my ancestors, ideas that still have significance today.”
Excerpt from Additional Thoughts for The Original People by Greg Vizzi:
I think it was in 1986 when I first attended the Columbus Day Festival at the Rankokus Indian Reservation near Mt. Holly, New Jersey. Dick “Quiet Thunder” Gilbert, was giving a presentation. He had reconstructed a village setting in a field along a wooded area. His display consisted of many animal pelts stretched on wood frames with dozens of beautiful bone and stone tools, painted drums, and other handcrafted items he had made. Behind him was a wooden canoe he had carved from the trunk of a tree. He gestured and spoke in a soft, relaxed tone. As I listened to his stories, he spoke of things that were new to me. We kept in touch over the years and became good friends. The peace-loving Lenape people had a unique culture and lifestyle because of the geographical conditions around them and thrived in ancient times in our most densely populated state and surrounding areas."
Excerpt from Additional Thoughts for The Original People by Marcia Adams:
“Quiet Thunder has kept the original beliefs of his people and has not sacrificed his heritage to peer pressure.
Soft-spoken and unassuming, he brings to his program hundreds of handmade artifacts, which he hauls in and out of his pickup truck. Children and adults linger after his program offering to help him load up his truck to spend a few more minutes with this very special person. His ability to laugh at life and even at himself is indeed a rare quality. When asked if he had ever killed a cowboy his reply was, “John Wayne gave us a lot of trouble.”
He has taught first graders in elementary schools and graduate students at universities. Hundreds of school children have written him letters of thanks for coming to their schools, promising him that they will remember what he taught them for the rest of their lives.”
The idea for this book first came from Marcia Adams, a historian from Delaware who recorded and transcribed some stories from Quiet Thunder. After beginning the project, she was called to other commitments, so I continued the project. I believe strongly that this is an important story to be shared and feel privileged to bring it to a wider audience and the world at large. I have transcribed and compiled well over a hundred recordings of the chief, and with great care, converted his spoken word to the written page, preserving his voice. The manuscript has been carefully reviewed and approved by the chief. This project has been over ten years in the making and has resulted in two books about the Lenape Indians: The Original People, and The Seventh Generation. There are many topics covered in The Original People, some of which are listed below.
Contents: The Original People
Chapter 1: Growing Up
Childhood experiences. Learning to fish, trap, and hunt to put food on the table.
Chapter 2: In The Beginning: An Introduction to The People
An overview of Lenape and Indian culture.
Chapter 3: The Natural World
Learning patience as a boy and observations of nature. The balance of nature. Learning to track and stalk. Fishing and hunting stories.
Chapter 4: Customs and Culture: Past and Present
Traditional village life. Trade. Oral History.
Chapter 5: Seasons and Ceremonies
Living according to the seasons. Ceremonies for every season.
Chapter 6: A Spiritual Way of Life
Universal tribal laws. Bringing the eagle back. Indians' relationship with the land. Our power to destroy or protect.
Chapter 7: It’s Their World We Are Leaving Them
Teaching beyond the tribe. A fun way to teach. Oral history and storytelling. The importance of teachers.
Chapter 8: What Lies Ahead?
Life as it was in the past. The importance of water. Keeping traditional ways. Protecting the earth.