Esopus Munsee Winter Customs - Deep Snow Moon and The Story of the Celestial Bear

Long before European settlers arrived, the land belonged to the Esopus Munsee people, descendants of the Lenape nation. Unlike the iconic stone houses, their dwellings were circular structures made from natural materials like saplings and bark, known as wigwams. A replica stands today at the DuBois Fort Visitor Center, offering a glimpse into their way of life.

The Esopus Munsee people, speaking a Munsee dialect of the Algonquian language family, inhabited the region for generations. Their way of life was intimately connected with the rhythms of nature, as evidenced by their circular dwellings known as wigwams. These homes, constructed from saplings and bark, provided shelter and warmth during the harsh winter months. In winter, the would share stories while around the communal fire, where elders imparted wisdom through tales about nature and the mysteries of the universe.

One such story, cherished by both the Munsee and Mohican peoples, is the legend of the celestial bear. This mythic tale unfolds with the seven stars of the Big Dipper chasing a bear across the sky each spring, culminating in her demise by winter's end. The bear's blood, symbolic of the changing seasons, coloring the leaves in autumn. As winter arrives, the bear's oil drips down, blanketing the earth in a layer of pristine snow. Come spring, the melting snow nourishes the trees, prompting them to offer sap – a gift of thanks. This story not only speaks to the interconnectedness of all living things but also serves as a reminder of the enduring bond between humans and nature.



Munsee / Munsey - "people of a stone country.". (Minassiniu, Minisink, Minsi, Moncy, Monthey, Mundook, Muncey, Munsi, Muncie).

Four groups of this division were sometimes called together (Esopus, Espachomy) : Catskill, Momekotiny, Waranawonkong, Wawarsink

Culturally, the Mansi stood apart and until the last century were often considered an independent tribe. The term appears in sources in the 18th century.
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