Lenape Codes: Explorations in Delaware Arts

by Denise Low


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This project evolved through a memoir I began writing on my grandfather, a Lenape(Delaware) American Indian, in an attempt to explore my personal heritage andthe facets of his American indigenous identity. These were suppressed by thesocio-political pressures of his lifetime. My research uncovered an unknownglyphic language that expanded the scope of my memoir into a multi-media piecethat explores graveyard symbolism. Algonquian people like the Lenape usedimages that preserved clues to their tribal identities and historical eventsnot otherwise documented. 

I isolated the marble tombstones, ornamented with woodland motifs and specifically the “Ojibway Rose” as the primary source to explore the imagery and significance of this glyphic language.  The tombstones also mark the path of the Algonquian Indians from Great Plains back to the place of contact betweenEuropeans and Algonquian bands on the East Coast. The connotative symbolism of the Rose represents everything from the spiritual and ceremonial tradition to prayer, healing, Earth, and plant life. I refer to the format of this piece as a “creative text” because it is composed of assembled photographs, maps, documents, and my own response in the form of poems and prose to create an educational platform based on the history and lost visual tradition of a still thriving people.

It is personally important to me as a Delaware descendent to recuperate the arts of an American people who were so persecuted and to raise awareness about living versus purely historical representation. The results of my creative text will be in electronic form and made available to regional arts and cultural organizations. Your funding will help support travel to gravesites in Kansas, Ohio, and New Jersey. Funds will also support the costs of computer design and musician fees. The Delaware arts tradition is a valuable environmental and spiritual teaching for all peoples. It sustained my grandfather throughout his difficult life, and it sustains me today. Thank you for your support.



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    • July 02, 2012 Denise Low Artist

      I so appreciate those who sent donations over the weekend--Heidi Raak, Kathryn Kysar, Bill Dotson, Leo Oliva, Tina Hacker, Pamela Tambornino, Kathleen W. Bauer. You are all terrific.

      • August 10, 2012 Naseer Ahamd Virk Community Member

        can we start a project in partnership?

      • August 10, 2012 Naseer Ahamd Virk Community Member

        can we start a project in partnership?