2 – Lenni-Lenape & their Descendants

Chapter Two

The Lenni-Lenape & their Descendants

This chapter specifies conditions and relations of Delaware ethnies as they emerge from historical and ethnological sources. An attempt is made to preserve continuity of temporal and geographical chronology spanning numerous relocations, usually of groups of families.  Some groups stand from the record in relief, due to their situation in tumultuous times and circumstances, such as in wars, booms and rushes.

Individuals in positions of leadership, including their close kin, are most often noted, bolth for the qualities and acts of leadership, and for their repeated presence in the midst of momentous events having widespread historical consequences.  These events and individuals are featured with the intent of establishing a sense of the cultural and historical atmosphere within which Delaware family relations have been developing. It is surmised that only within these family relations can be maintained (and remembered) the conditions of empirical experience necessary and sufficient for the maintenance of an ethnic consciousness, complete with a consciousness of the ethnic boundary.

Literature Survey

The problem of qualitative and perspectival contrast evident in myriad observer accounts requires discussion.  For example, the contrast between accounts by observers who accompanied J.C. Fremont’s party of Delaware scouts, hunters and fighters  (Carey  1931;  Preuss  1958;  Korn  1971),  and  the meticulously  documented  historical  accounts  by  Richard  C. Adams (1899; igo4; 1906) is unmistakable.  Adams’ writings, samples of which appear later in this chapter, are drawn from the author’s knowledge of an extensive scholarly and primary source literature, and from personal experience as a Delaware descendant and observer of their modern (turn-of-the-century) condition.

Examination of the works by Adams, especially those released as U.S. Government publications, reveal an extraordinary level of concern for correct attribution of source by the author.  Each claim and fact is carefully documented, and it is this methodical documentation which has so greatly facilitated subsequent treatments of Delaware subject matter, including the work of Ferguson (1972) and Weslager (1972, 1978a).  The extent of Adams’ contribution can’t be known, but it needs to be carried in mind that the best scholarly synopses are not necessarily the result of chronicity.

Less rigorous are the accounts by expeditioners with Fremont, who included Fremont’s personal biographer, and the artist, Solomon Nunes Carvalho. This diversity of perspective and variety of personal interpretive ability renders the record exceedingly difficult to unravel with confidence.  Nonetheless, an attempt is made here to do so.

The most reliable data for earlier groups, especially prehistoric ones, are archaeological and linguistic. Each generation of histories, ethnologies and ethno-histories becomes successively more redundant, often being reduced to summaries of summaries of primary sources.  It is only due to the relatively high quality and reliability of these sources and subsequent verification of primary data by descendants of the aboriginal Lenni-Lenape peoples that any summary can be considered reliable.

Done over, with identical resources, perhaps study of the Delawares of Idaho would follow a different path.  The literature of numerous related realms of interest combine to work threads of skewed interpretation into the fabric of ethnicity sometimes archaically referred to as the “customs” of an Indian ethny.  A fledgling ethnographer may as easily stumble in the library as in the field.

The single most useful document for the purpose of studying Lenni-Lenape/Delaware cultural history is Weslager’s (1978b) critical bibliography. Few titles of serious treatments of the subject produced prior to its appearance can be found missing from this exhaustive list.  Perhaps three-quarters of the 200-plus references it contains have been examined for this report. Only negligible minor difficulties are met in the process of locating documents as cited, and the errors likely originate in typesetting or other secondary process.

All of the extant historical materials related to the early years of colonial contact are traceable to relatively few basic sources. Chief among these is David Zeisberger (1910, 1912), a Moravian missionary whose influence on events chronicled was perhaps considerable, due to the vigorous efforts at proselytization required and commissioned by the Moravian Church, i.e. the United Brethren.  Zeisberger’s journals, dutifully forwarded to the archives of the church then became the basis for most subsequent treatises (Loskiel 1794 I Heckewelder 1876; Hulbert and Schwarze 1910, 1912; Reichel 1870; Gipson 1938; Kinietz 1946; Weslager 1972).

Social and political relations are illuminated in the reports of Paul Wallace (1952, 1958, 1960, 1961), Bliss (1885), Bowden (1981) and Jennings (1984). Study of the important area of Delaware relations with numerous agencies of foreign and domestic powers yields a glimpse of gregarious and politically skilled sets of individuals. Much has been gained in the ability to characterize possible family-maintained cultural forms which manifest in the relations of Delaware families among themselves and with outsiders in times both early and late.

The Iroquois, or Five (and later Six) Nations are linked to the Delawares by political, economic and social history, not to mention the gene pool expansion which accompanies acculturation. The contrasts in cultural forms between the two emerge readily from the record (Jennings 1963, 1965, 1968, 1970, 1971, 1974, 1984).

A study of singular interest for research of the genealogy of the Delawares of Idaho is the unpublished doctoral dissertation of Roger James Ferguson (1972), whose study effort concentrated on the Delawares who inhabited a portion of Indiana, once forced from their homes further east. These have become known as the White River Delawares. All events which might have relevance for this study are too complex and numerous to allow full case-by-case description, still it can be said that they largely mirror the forces which have buffeted and shaped historic Delaware ethnies.  Ferguson provides an excellent summary of the forces which carried the Delawares to the White River, from which they would ultimately be forced by the U.S. into Kansas and Oklahoma:

The people who comprised the Delaware tribe of the eighteenth century inhabited at the time of European contact parts of the state of Delaware, all of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and part of southeastern New York. The Lenni-Lenape, from contact through the early decades of the seventeenth century, enjoyed a favorable trading position with the European powers. The English, however, were interested in expanding their colonial possessions and by 1650 the Lenni-Lenape had been dispossessed in favor of the Iroquois.  From the middle decades of the seventeenth century to the beginning of the eighteenth century the Lenni-Lenape engaged in a violent struggle with the British-supported Iroquois and the land-hungry Europeans. The Iroquois were victorious and the defeated and subjugated Lenni-Lenape were forced to migrate to the Susquehanna River and into Western Pennsylvania. It was in this area that the political entity known as the Delaware Tribe emerged. It was comprised of the Lenni-Lenape and included bands of Conoys, Shawnees, Nanticokes, Mahicans, Munsees, and remnants of other disorganized and shattered bands. In 1751, the Delawares began to form settlements in eastern Ohio where they were supported by the French. The alliance with the French during the French and Indian War freed the Delawares from Iroquois domination but the tribe was not politically strong enough to withstand a new tribal division that was engendered by the American Revolution. Their fierce opposition to white settlement within the Ohio River region during the last three decades of the eighteenth century resulted in further depopulation and geographic displacement. After the Treaty of Greenville white emigrants poured into the upper Ohio Valley and a large band of Delawares, including the principal chiefs, migrated to lands between the Ohio and White River in the present State of Indiana (Ferguson, 1972: 40-41).

Subjugation of the Delaware by the Iroquois included a curious and controversial dimension. It argues in favor of conceptual plasticity regarding gender about the meaning of which there is continuing confusion and disagreement. It is only mentioned to exemplify versatility and dynamism in the world view of prehistoric people in general, and the Lenni-Lenape in particular.

Jay Miller (1974) has discussed the controversy which accompanies the interpretation of a number of “references to the whole Delaware Nation as women in contradistinction to the Iroquois as men.”  It is held to have been a condition forced upon the Delawares, following as a result of losses in warfare (Morgan 1972:15,338; Weslager 1944, 1947, 1972), with the shared view that a reciprocal political agreement was being made (Zeisberger 1910; Heckewelder 1876; Speck 1946; A. Wallace 1947).

Citing evidence that the Delawares were a more formidable entity than the Iroquois during the term of this sex-based polarity, Miller suggests that in fact it can be recognized as an example of the Levi-Straussian “transformation” or “insistence on differentiation” (Levi-Strauss 1968:75)’ The Delaware became women before 1712, and were formally declared men again in 1795, but the designation women continues today between Canadian Delawares and Iroquois (Miller 1974:510).

Any derogatory connotation which has attached to the notion of the Delawares as women has come from the European perspective.  We must ask the questions: How did the ambiguity of sex status relate to the value of men vs. women to the community? and how did the ambiguity translate into perceptions of kin-relatedness?.  Following Miller, I note Zeisberger’s emphatic description of:

…the strong antipathy between the Delaware and Iroquois, in which the former was always stronger. Therefore, the Iroquois plotted by wile what they could not achieve by force. The Iroquois preached that one nation should have the exalted status of women, of peacekeepers, of sanctuary. The Delawares assumed this status and became known as cousins (sister’s children) to their Iroquois uncles (mother’s brothers) (Zeisberger 1910:34-36).

Miller supports his own thesis of transformation with evidence of similar phenomena among the Keres, Tewa, Plains Pawnee and Winnebago (1974:413).  No position is taken on this question here, but it presents interesting possibilities for future study. An important sourcebook for interpretation of ambiguous areas of Delaware data, e.g. those related to the Delawares as women, has been A Delaware Indian Symposium (Kraft, ed. 1974). It provides a variety of useful information related to family and the ideological metaphor of family, or family-based cosmology.  It contains the best summary of the prehistory of the New Jersey area which is contributed by the editor.

Another useful paper in this volume is Thunnan’s discussion of his processual analysis of Delaware social organization (p.111). Weslager’s contribution to it, an account of his own personal name-giving ceremony, is most interesting in two respects: the clear presence of a family metaphor in the cosmology revealed in utterances of the event, and for his claim that it was the first time the ceremony had been performed west of the Mississippi in 200 years.   The latter claim surely needs to be checked, as it may be in error.

Political Organization

The aboriginal territories of the northeast woodland Lenni-Lenape lay so close to points of debarkation for the flotilla of European colonists, that they were among the earliest indigenous Americans to make contact and to be dispossessed. The introduction to an early report on remains from the Minisink burial site makes this clear.
On the arrival of  white settlers, the entire region afterward known as New Jersey belonged to the Lenni-Lenape or Delawares whose settlements extended “from the Mohicannituck (Hudson River) to beyond the Potomac”, and “from the heads of the great rivers ‘Susquehanna’  and ‘Delaware’  to the Atlantic Ocean (Heckewelder).  The neighboring tribes to the north (Mohegan, Narragansett, Pequot, and others), as well as well as those on the south (Nanticoke, the Powhatan Confederacy and others), all acknowledged relationship with the Delawares, with whom, there is no doubt,   they were affiliated linguistically (Hrdlicka 1918:13).

Hrdlicka summarized events which enveloped the Munsi.  He felt that the presence of Shawnees among the Delawares 40 to 50 years before their removal from Delaware probably explained skeletal variation he observed in the remains of the Minnisink burial ground. He also refers to the remains of a tail white roan, “possibly Dutch, English or Swede who reached the upper valley after l6lU” (p.2l4).

This survey of the aboriginal territory of the Lenni-Lenape and of neighboring groups, their political organization and affiliations, reveals a socio-politically dynamic group.

The 1911 Handbook of American Indians north of Mexico (Hodge, ed. 1911:385-387) adds this background:

[There was] a confederacy, formerly the most important of the Algonquian stock, occupying the entire basin of Delaware r. in E. Pennsylvania and S. E. New York, together with most of New Jersey and Delaware. They called themselves Lenape or Leni-Lenape, equivalent to  ‘real men* or ‘native, genuine men’; the English knew them as Delawares,  from the name of their principal river; the French called them Loups, ‘wolves ‘, a term probably applied originally to the Mahican on Hudson r.,  afterward extended to the Munsee division and to the whole group. To the more remote Algonquian tribes they, together with all their cognate tribes along the coast far up into New England, were known as Wapanachki ‘easterners’  or ‘eastern land people’, a term which appears also as a specific tribal designation in the form of Abnaki. By virtue of admitted priority of political rank and of occupying the central home territory, from which most of the cognate tribes had diverged, they were accorded by all the Algonquian tribes the respectful title of “grandfather” a recognition accorded by courtesy also by the Huron. The Nanticoke, Conoy, Shawnee, and Mahican claimed close connection with the Delawares and preserved the tradition of a common origin.

At the outbreak of hostilities between the Five Nations and the French, the advance of the Iroquois in the south was being contested by the Shawnee, who at that time were also engaged in war with the Cherokee. In the latter they (the Shawnee) suffered severely, and but for the timely aid of the Mahicans they would have been destroyed. The Lenni-Lenapes (Delawares) invited them to remove to their country; the invitation being accepted, the Minsis brought the matter to the attention of the government to New York, in September, 1692, on an application to permit their settlement in the Minnisink country. The council gave its assent on condition that they should first make peace with the Five Nations. This was soon affected during the latter part of the seventeenth century. The Munsi of Minisink was one of three main groups of Algonkian-speaking Lenni-Lenape. The other two are the Unami and Unalachtigo.  All three names were determined in relation to geographical features of each group’s respective territory, or subsistence area.  It is not known whether boundaries other than linguistic were important for these groups or not. Surely they exchanged goods and marriage partners. There was no greater degree of political affiliation than to the village of one’s own clan. Other clans and villages had other leaders, and unlike one’s own clansmen, the members of other clans were eligible sources for marriage partners. Unami,  Unalachtigo  and  Munsi  were  occupiers, respectively, of the “downstream”, “stony country, or mountaineer”,  and  “near  waves”  (river’s  mouth), (Brinton 1885).  The principal totemic designations within the three tribes are the Wolf, Turtle and Turkey.  These particulars suggest the probable extent of Delaware political relations throughout the early colonial period.

Many early accounts of Delaware customs come from immigrants, not all as uncamouflaged of motive as Johan Printz, an early Swedish governor of the colony on the Delaware River. His letters to Sweden show that the Swedes were interested in three things from the Delawares: land, animal pelts and their souls for conversion to Christianity (Adams 1906).  However, it would be greatly mistaken to picture the Delawares as mercilessly exploited victims of avaricious neighbors and traders.

Banished from trade on the Chesapeake and at New Amsterdam, the Susquehannocks smuggled some of their peltry to the Dutch through the Delawares, who made a good thing out of the situation. The Delawares got trade goods from the Swedes, either on credit or in exchange for maize, traded the goods for surplus Susquehannock furs, took the furs to New Amsterdam for the high Dutch prices, and had a neat profit from the cycle (Jennings 1984:120-1).

Throughout the historical period Delawares appear in economic, political and affinal alliances with their neighbors, both Indian and non-Indian alike.  The theme of trade-based relations is a persistent one throughout Delaware culture history. In it can be found a shared component with the history of the Delawares of Idaho, as will be seen in the following chapter. It is a component formed of the linkage between kinship, subsistence and territory, complete with an ideological rationale, e.g. tradition, ethnic pride, etc.

Harrington (1908b) provides an analysis of one instance of kin-based, generationally holistic cultural factors influential in shaping the mode and character of Delaware adaptation. While the characteristics are not described directly, they emerge from his description of “some customs of the Delaware Indians”. His (1913) treatment of early Delaware history is helpful but superficial.  Harrington skips over much of pre-to post-Revolutionary War era upheaval of warfare, dislocation and decimation to arrive at a simple treatment of a limited number of important Delaware cultural systems which, if taken as factual, reveal more about the role of kinship in Delaware cosmology than all the grisly tales of battle skirmishes, raids, shaky and treacherous alliances and the rest of male-dominated occurrences which arise out of martial periods. A world also exists wherein the aged, and women and children maintain the daily practices which produce the cultural and biological survival of any group.  This is a parsimonious explication of the levels of Lenni-Lenape social and linguistic organization:

In accordance with a social system which was very general among the American Indians, the members of the three tribal divisions of the Delawares were grouped into three clans, the Turkey, the Wolf and the Turtle. These clans did not correspond to the tribal divisions, whose distinguishing names, the Hunsi, the Unami and the Unalachtigo were of geographical significance. Each tribe, occupying its territory, would have a Turkey clan, a Wolf clan and a Turtle clan. The members of each clan believed that they were descended from the animal whose name they bore. Each individual was born into one of the other of these clans and claimed by right of inheritance the corresponding animal as his totem. Inheritance was through the mother, that is to say a child belonged to its mother’s clan irrespective of the father’s affiliations. Moreover each clan was divided into twelve smaller groups bearing such names, according to present usage, as Yellow Tree, Slipping Down and Red Paint.  These smaller groups or sub-clans as we may call them for the present, were exogamic, that is to say a man might not marry within his own sub-clan but must choose a wife from one of the thirty-five other sub-clans. His children, then, would belong, not to his own sub-clan but to the sub-clan and the clan of the mother. Among the American Indians the exogamic groups very commonly correspond to the totemic groups, but among the Delawares, the custom appears to have been as described (Harrington 1908b: 53-54).


While the numbers attributed to their population have never been very large, Delawarans appear to have sustained heavy losses in warfare, often as proxies for other parties (Foreman 1946). Goddard (1978) has presented estimates of population for Munsi and Unami-speaking groups which diminishing numbers, near decimation, reaching a low total of 1475 persons in 1867. This number was down from 11,000 estimated in 1600. The same table shows a Munsee increase in 1900 from 550 to 625, dropping by 100 persons over the ensuing fifty years. By contrast, Unami speakers numbered 1175 in 1867, 850 in 1900, increasing to 1400 persons by 1950.  No figures are given for the Unalachtigo-speakers, nor in fact are they mentioned at all, leaving us to speculate about whether they should be considered included in the other figures, or simply not included because their whereabouts and numbers were unknown.


In his (1956b) study of the culture and acculturation of the Delaware Indians, Newcomb performed an exhaustive analysis of the primary and scholarly sources, and cited a particular difficulty in identifying specific archeological sites in the Middle Atlantic slope area with historic tribes. This is due both to early emigration, dispersal or death of coastal inhabitants, combined with site destruction through heavy urbanization.

Newcomb’s exhaustive summary, as well as that of Goddard (1978:216-218) shows the relatively great importance of maize agriculture to the early Lenni-Lenape cultures, and emphasizes the importance of women in growing and preserving food crops (pp.l4-20). Neither disputes nor minimizes the value of hunting to Lenni-Lenape survival, although the relative importance of hunting vs. agriculture is not assessed in terms of whether one strategy outweighed the other in net energy yield. A good short summarization of the subsistence ways and means, and the material base on which they rested is as follows:

The Delaware Indians did not depend solely upon the chase for subsistence, for they grew large fields of corn or maize, squash, beans, sweet potatoes, and tobacco. They manufactured a kind of pottery, dressed deerskins, and made beads or wampum, feather mantels and other ornaments, and used considerable native copper, which they hammered into ornaments or used for arrowheads and pipes. They also made stone pipes, bows and arrowheads. The corn or maize was broken up in stone or wooden mortars, with stone or wooden pestles. Their implements of war were war clubs, tomahawks, bows and arrows, scalping knives and spears. They often used the bow and arrow and spear for killing fish and game.  They caught fish with fishhooks made of bone and dried claws of birds, and also used brush nets (Adams 1906:2-3).

Other lists, and discussions of related technologies, include descriptions of a highly varied complex of resource exploitation with women gardening and men hunting. If hunting did not provide the greatest part of the food requirement of the people, then it surely provided the widest range of materials useful in the overall subsistence technology. Most important of these products were probably animal skins, and if there was some animal present whose pelt was not sought and taken, it is not noted in the literature reviewed for this study.

In addition to the hunters and gardeners, some few individuals would be “part-time specialists” such as wampum makers, artisans, shamans and sachems (leaders). These would also perform the tasks normal to persons of their gender (Newcomb 1956b:21).  Newcomb’s careful annotation and attention to detail in the attribution of primary sources make his contribution one of the most useful and important among anthropological writings extant.

Another noteworthy dimension of Lenni-Lenape adaptation is the well-developed concept among them of the private ownership of property, and especially the family hunting territory (although it should not be likened to the European sense of same). This aspect  has  been  noted  repeatedly,  first  by  Heckewelder (1881:158-9),  and  subsequently  in  investigations  by  Speck (1915:289-305),  MacCleod  (1922:463) and Newcomb (1956:22-3). The latter, citing agreement with Heckewelder’s concept of Delaware land possession, called this summary the most penetrating:

To the Delaware Indian, land was an element, a medium of existence, like the air and the sunlight and the rivers. To him, “ownership” of land meant, not exclusive personal title to the soil itself, but occupation of a certain position of responsibility in the social unit which exploited the soil.  The “sale” of land (to use the white man’s term) might, to the Delaware, be almost any mutually satisfactory change in the relationship of two groups of persons subsisting on the land.  In the earliest sales, the Indians seem to have intended only to give the whites freedom to use the land in conjunction to the native population (Wallace 1947:2).

All are agreed that, in contradistinction to the Iroquois way of communal hunting grounds, that the Eastern Algonkian way was family-held hunting grounds, namely a unit of up to 200 square miles which would be associated with the names of individual Delawares, especially on European documents where they would be listed as “owners”. Most often these were “simply representatives of the social units who used this land” (Wallace 1947:4).

Newcomb summarized the current view of the relationship between this form of territoriality and Delaware social organization:

Inheritance of hunting territory right is but vaguely understood.  MacCleod has suggested that the inheritance of hunting territory was through the paternal line, since it was used primarily by males. If this was true, it would suggest either that matrilineal reckoning of kinship was an historic accretion to Delaware culture, or that the two systems existed side by side (MacLeod 1922:452). Wallace has concluded, as have I, that the maternal lineage was the social unit that “owned”, or perhaps more aptly, “belonged to”, the individual hunting territory (Wallace 1947:18). There is nothing incompatible in the existence of maternal lineages (or clans) and male-used hunting territories (Newcomb 1956:24).

It is precisely upon this element of Delaware culture history which hangs a large part of the thesis that survival of salient ethnicity is borne generationally within family structures, and can be related both to the material conditions of existence and to the perceptual salients of kinship in relation to that existence.


Following is a short discussion of the animistic spirit beliefs of the Delawares which opens a clear vista of the meaning of kinship in Delaware cosmology:

Over this entire spirit world ruled Gicelamukaong, a name usually translated “Great Spirit”. He was the chief of all and dwelt in the twelfth or highest heaven.  He created everything, either with his own hands, or through his appointed agents, and all the great powers of nature were assigned to their duties by his word. He gave the four quarters of the earth and the winds that come from them to four powerful beings or Manitowoc:  namely “Our grandfather-where-daylight-appears” (East), “Our grandmother-where-it-is-warm” (South), “Our grandfather-where-the-sun-goes-down” (West) and “Our grandfather where-it-is-Winter” (North). To the Sun and Moon, called “Elder Brothers” by the Indians he gave the duty of providing light; and to “Our Elder Brothers the Thunders”, manlike winged beings, the task of bringing rain and of protecting the people against the great horned serpents and other water monsters. “Our Mother the Earth” received the duty of carrying and feeding the people, while “living-Solid-Face” or Mask Being was directed to take charge of all the wild creatures of the forest (Harrington 1908b: 55).

The parallel to be drawn between a nurturing natural world and the nurture provided by the kinship system is inescapable. Harrington studied Delaware data for answers to specific questions of kinship and cosmology:  How the spirit of the unborn child kept company with its father. How the spirit of the newborn child was induced to remain with its human kindred. How a child was named.  How the Delaware boy obtained his guardian spirit.  The answers to these questions reveal the importance of family matters to the Delaware husband and father. Perhaps all the more so because of the lengthy absences of the men while hunting, and other activities, which required them to be away from home for long periods.

A family metaphor is observed in Lenni-Lenape/Delawaran cosmology. It is present in the underlying structure of most utterances attributed to native informants and other speakers of Lenni-Lenape dialects. It is present in official proclamations, in observer accounts and descriptions, and it is present in all ceremonial verbalizations. Where it is not explicit, it is usually tacit. This metaphor, coupled with an emergent sense of the daily round of ethnic Delaware life, provide a basis for the claim that certain essential elements in the self perception of Delaware family members at any given time, constitutes an example of ethnic survival.

The panorama of early Lenni-Lenape cosmology includes more recent developments which are important for understanding the ethnic perspective of the Delawares of Idaho. An example of this is the Walam Oluro:

Among the tribes of the eastern United States there were a few individuals who attempted to compose somewhat extensive records in their native languages. One of the most curious examples is that known as the Walam Plum, a short account of the early history of the Delaware tribe, written in that idiom, with mnemonic symbols attached.  Its history is not very complete. A “Dr. Ward, of Indiana” is said to have obtained it from a member of the nation, in 1822. From him it passed into the hands of Prof.  C.S. Rafinesque, an eccentric and visionary Frenchman, who passed the later years of his life in Philadelphia. He undertook to translate it, and after his death the translation, together with the original, came into the possession of Mr. E. G. Squier. By him it was first published but in a partial and incomplete manner, much of the original text and many of the mnemonic symbols being omitted and no effort being made to improve Rafinesque’s translation”.   [First printed in The American Whig Review, New York, Feb. 1849, reprinted in The Indian Miscellany, edited by W.W. Beach, Albany, 1877 I have not been able to find the original] (Brinton 1883:20-21).

Also an investigator of claims contained in the Walam Plum, Newcomb concluded: “Suffice it to say that the Walam Olum was probably a product of the Delawares during their phase of revivalistic nativism”:
[It seems] to be an account, by a despairing person unable to gain his customary satisfactions from a life that no longer existed, of a Golden Age which never was. Indeed the Walam Olum plainly appears to be the mirror image of a nativistically oriented people, rather than an authentic account of their past.

An attempt to identify cultural parallels between elements of the Walam Olum and the data of Lenni-Lenape and historic Delaware peoples has been inconclusive (Voegelin 1939). There are other ideological elements of Delaware ethnicity which deserve consideration require mention.  The principal functional attribute of Delawaran religion, namely the Big House ceremony, and later the emergence of the practice of Peyotism (Newcomb 1956; Petrullo 1934) have been important elements of Delaware ethnicity. An additional item of relevance is the development of pan-Indianism among the Delawares, as a hedge against the erosion of their Native American culture (Newcomb 1955b).  This is an aspect of the ethnic identity of the Delawares of Idaho, and is discussed in the next chapter.

Political History

The first Indian treaty between a colonial government and a North American Indian group was that concluded at Shackamaxon with William Penn and a host of Delaware Chiefs all assembled. It was apparently a remarkable sight, with Indians “up and down the banks of the river, and in the woods, as far as the eye could see” with all their arms, meeting to treat with a handful of unarmed Quakers (Adams 1906:12).

This occurred  in 1682,  and by 1755,  the  Quakers,  or “Friends”, were still instrumental as a mediating influence, this time between the Indians and Governor Morris, who was about to launch an attack against the peaceful Delawares. The Quakers had learned that the best way to achieve peace with the Delawares was by “just purchase of lands, protection from frauds, and considerable kindness” (Adams, 1906:12).

An incident occurred on June 30, 1757, during what was to have been the settlement of an agreement over terms of a land exchange made years before, the deeds for which had blank line spaces where land boundaries should have been described. The condition was that the land would be allowed by the Indians which could be walked off in a day-and-a-half.

The sons of William Penn were represented by a pair of “professional” walkers who, ignoring repeated protests by the Delaware observers that they were running, covered an area thirty miles beyond the intended boundary. One of the conclusions of the report made to the British Government on the causes of the loss of goodwill with the Indians was prophetic: “Thus a pretense was gained for claiming the land in the Forks without paying anything for it. But the accomplishment of this design lost us the friendship of the Indians and laid the foundation of our present troubles, and will, it is to be feared, in the end cost the proprietaries very dear (Adams 1906:17).

William J. Buck’s (1883) description of two portraits presented to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania in 1834 contains several items of interest. The paintings portray two “Delaware Chiefs” signatory to the infamous Walking Purchase. Lappawingo and Tishcohan do not stand out from the record except for their involvement as observers at the time of the walk, having been put in the position of authorizing it by virtue of their own and several other Delaware signatures.

It  was  largely  due  to  this  “Long  Walk”  or  “Walking Purchase” that the Delawares allied themselves with the French during the  late  pre-Revolutionary period,  who promised  to evacuate once the British forces had been defeated. Even though the Delawares were largely responsible for the defeat of the British troops under General Braddock, they were not unsympathetic to the Pennsylvania settlers, and lent aid to George Washington and the colonists. Braddock was defeated in 1755 and the British nearly lost another crucial battle, under John Forbes, at Fort Duquesne on the site of present-day Pittsburgh.

An item of potential interest in Buck’s (1883) article is the presence there of the name Marshall. Edward and Moses are both mentioned, but the exact role they play in the Walking Purchase is ambiguous, although it is apparent that Moses is the descendant of Edward, one of the walkers.  It is possible that these men might also have been related to the Indiana trader, William Marshall, a partner of the Conners, and ancestor of the Delawares of Idaho, who accompanied the Delaware wife and family of William Conner to Oklahoma, along with his own wife and family.  If such could be shown, it would expose roots of the Creech/Idaho Delaware family tree a century deeper in Lenni-Lenape history.

The Moravian missionary C. Frederick Post arrived about this time, and his representations to the Indians of the good intentions of the British in redressing their grievances were sufficient to get them to cease hostilities and make a pact with Forbes. This and their failure to capture Fort Duquesne made the French demoralization complete, and they withdrew to Canada. Until the beginning of the Revolutionary War period, the frontiers of Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia were “overrun with Indians” (Adams 1906:20).

A leader emerged during the Revolutionary War period whose actions and alliances are taken as indicative of a high level of political sophistication among Delaware leaders in their dealings with neighbors. The individual was Captain White Eyes, and the history of Delaware Indians would have been different but for his persuasive power over them.

Captain White Eyes and Captain Pipe competed for the loyalty and allegiance of Delawaran groups of the revolutionary period, and their efforts reflected those of the Americans and British, since both correctly perceived that Indian alliances would be a necessary component of political dominance of the Atlantic colonial region.  Captain White Eyes, a Christian Indian himself, was able to prevail upon his followers not to take up the hatchet against the Americans, and as a result, they were mostly spared what would have almost certainly have been massive casualties.

Captain Pipe, one of a faction of Delaware leaders who had resisted the Christianizing efforts of the European churches which competed for the souls of the Delawares and other Native Americans. His experience with Americans had been somewhat different than that of Indians influenced by the pacifistic Moravians. Adams quotes Heckewelder’s observations about this period of strife between the two leaders:

[Captain Pipe] was an artful and ambitious man, yet not deficient in greatness of mind. But his head at that time was full of the wrongs which the Indians had suffered from the Americans from their first coming into the country. His soul panted for revenge, and he was glad to seize the opportunity that now offered. He professed his readiness to join in proper measures to save the nation, but not such measures as his antagonist proposed. What his real object was, he did not openly declare, but privately endeavored to counteract all that was done and proposed by the other (Adams 1906:21).

After two years of this, a group of unscrupulous whites with Tory sympathies, spreading rumors that the Americans had issued orders to exterminate the Delawares, provided a reason at last for Captain Pipe to openly call the Delawares to arms against the false menace. There was a great movement to join him, and perceiving the fact. Captain White Eyes assembled his warriors and told them:

“If they meant in earnest to go out, as he observed some of them were preparing to do, they should not go without him. He had taken peace measures in order to save the nation from utter destruction. But if they believed that he was in the wrong and gave more credence to vagabond fugitives, whom he knew to be such, than to himself, who was best acquainted with the real state of things; if they had determined to follow their advice and to go out against the Americans, he would go out with them; he would lead them on, place himself in the front, and be the first who should fall. They only had to determine on what they would do, for his own mind was fully made up not to survive his nation, and he would not spend the remainder of his miserable life in bewailing the total destruction of a brave people who had deserved a better fate” (Adams 1906:21).

The Delawares, including Captain Pipe, were thrown into a state of confusion by this noble, if pathetic, oration. This allowed the uneventful passage of several days, a sufficient interval during which the assurance could reach them from Pittsburgh of “the steady friendship of the government of the United States”.

This was subsequently affirmed in article 6, of the treaty of September 17, 1778. Unfortunately, the ambition of Captain White Eyes that a fourteenth State of the Union be created solely for Indians with the Delawares at its head was never realized. Following his death, the more sanguine view of Captain Pipe finally prevailed, with many of his adversaries’ followers joining in war against the Americans. As a direct result of this one of the most atrocious massacres of Native Americans occurred when Col. David Williamson’s troops killed 90 peaceful Christian Indians in cold blood at Gnadenhutten, Ohio. No warriors were present, but the killings were at least partially avenged later in the same year when Col. Crawford and “several hundred soldiers” were defeated by the Delawares on the Sandusky, and Crawford himself was captured and burned at the stake (p.24).  In 1791 an alliance of Delawares, Shawnees, Wyandots and Miamis wiped out a superior force of several thousand troops under the command of General St.  Clair.  On August 20, 1794, Mad Anthony Wayne was able to gain a decisive victory in the battle of Fallen Timbers. His army of 2000 regulars and 1000 mounted volunteers out numbered nearly two to one.  During all these battles and wars, some of the Delawares remained loyal to the colonies, and in the War of 1812 and others, Delawares could be found in the militaries of both the Americans and the British. The Battle of Tippecanoe, in 1813 was the last in which any Delaware fought against the United States.

The second decade of the nineteenth century can be regarded as a watershed era in the political history of the Delawares. The particulars are painful to encounter if only the Delaware case is considered, but pale to an insignificant part of the overall history of the treatment of Indians under the authority and supervision of the newly created United States War Department.  War Department responsibility for the Indians consisted of two essential parts: defeat or otherwise subdue them, and move them out of the Northwest U.S. and harm’s way to lands in the un-colonized West, which would support them. Their value as breakers of the land to agriculture was well established through the long habit of European colonists moving onto abandoned Delaware farms in Pennsylvania.  But getting rid of the Indians was no simple or easy matter, especially for the Indians. Nor was it always viewed as a universal good by whites.  Among these would be the traders who established mutually profitable links between the Indians and the markets for their catches and harvests.

Two such individuals were the brothers William and James Conner, who appear as key figures in the political developments of the Delaware peoples of the White River in Indiana, and the emergent U.S. prominence, through development and conquest, in the Northwest. The Conner brothers grew up among the Indians. Their parents had been “adopted” by the Shawnee, with English and Shawnee dialect spoken in the household (Thompson 1937137).

Their education and cultural consciousness development were the responsibility of none other than David Zeisberger, the Moravian missionary whose influence on events was already significant.  Under his tutelage they became accomplished speakers of the three main dialects of Lenni-Lenape language: Munsi, Unami and Unalachtigo, but Shawnee, Wyandot and Chippewa as well. Naturally their knowledge, growing from lifelong residence in the Indian milieu, their grasp of Indian ways was also complete, and did not consist of mere encyclopediaism. William Conner married a Delaware “princess”, Mekinges, wrongly claimed by Thompson and others to have been the daughter of Chief Anderson, first Chief of the White River Delawares. William Conner’s partner, William Marshall, was also married to a Delaware woman. Thompson contributes some clarification of the context:

It is no more apparent from the written records why John and William Conner came ultimately to Indiana than it is why their father emigrated from Maryland to Ohio. There may have been the same desire for adventure and new scenes. There may have been another reason in the case of the sons. In a very few years both were married to Delaware Indian wives. Is it not likely that these Indian women were friends of an earlier day, perhaps of their childhood in Ohio, and that they sought them out in the White River country to which the Delawares came after the Treaty of Greenville? A less romantic possibility is that the Conners followed this friendly tribe of Indians whose language and customs they knew so well for the purpose of trade, and that they intermarried in the tribe to facilitate their trading operations—a custom quite common among traders at this time (p.4O).

Thompson observed that “History sometimes repeats itself. In the sane community there were cooperating after the lapse of a quarter-century, Delawares, Moravian missionaries, and the Conners” (Thompson 1937:42). The accompanying map is far more informative on this point than a textual description could be. It shows the location of the two Conner posts in the midst of strings of Indian settlements up and down the two Rivers. The Indians trusted and respected them, and as a result the trade was brisk and profitable, at least in the short run of things. Thompson poses an enigma on this point:

It is an anomaly in the relationship between the Conner brothers and the  Delawares that, although the Conners  were  interpreters  witnesses  in  thirteen treaties, including ten by which the Delaware Indians relinquished all their interest in the greater part of the State of Indiana, the tribe does not appear to have lost a whit of respect and confidence in them. The Indians might well have expected the Conners to back their opposition to cessions of land, both as friends and as traders who depended upon Indians living in their neighborhood. It is not apparent that the Conners used their influence against cessions in any of the treaties. It is indubitable that, at St. Mary’s, they effectively supported the proposals of the government (Thompson 1937:111).

It was as a result of the treaty of St. Mary’s, incredibly, that resulted in the departure of the Delawares from the White River to a destination or destinations unknown, again abandoning their homes to the rapacity of colonialism.  The treaties concluded at St. Mary’s in 1818 were signed at a time when William Conner and Mekinges lived with their six half-blood children in their log home of sixteen years, speaking Delaware exclusively.

When the time came for the Delawares to leave Indiana with Chief Anderson, both of the Conner brothers would remain behind to become major landholders and political figures in the colonial history of the state and nation. William’s partner, William Marshall, apparently more devoted to family than to material wealth, would accompany his own Indian family, and that of Conner, into the uncertain future that awaited them, with all of the hardships it promised.

The details of the diaspora of the White River Delawares are admirably set out in Weslager’s (1978) description of their western migrations. One possible destination was to have been a site in Michigan Territory:

But when the Delawares left their homes on the White River they did not enter Michigan Territory, but went directly across the young state of Illinois. After the first contingent of about 800 men, women and children departed from the White River under the leadership of Chief William Anderson in 1820, the migration continued during 1821 when others followed, including a detachment of Delaware families who had settled temporarily at Piqua, Ohio. Since the tribe had been under the supervision of the Piqua Agency, John Johnston had the responsibility for provisioning the Indian families until they reached the Mississippi.  The majority of the Indians rode on horseback, hauling their belongings on pack horses, and some of the families may have used travois. Many owned herds of horses which they drove ahead of them. When Mekinges left with her six children, her common-law husband, William Conner, divided his assets with her, giving her a number of ponies to take. Some probably were used to carry bags of sugar, flour, coffee, seed corn, beef, and other provisions needed during the long journey, because wagons were scarce (Weslager 1978; 209)

The Indians who headed west under the “protection” of the War Department suffered considerable losses of property on the trip. Their finest stocks, especially horses, were stolen by predatory whites. They were inadequately transported, housed and fed through the harshness of conditions and the incompetence and neglect of officials. Complaints by Chief Anderson that they had been forced to vacate choice lands in Indiana for worthless lands in Missouri preceded his eventual insistence that a better home be found for them. This was, after all, the quid pro quo of their signing the treaty at St. Mary’s. A familiar name appears in the record:

Considerable correspondence passed back and forth between Anderson and the Agency officials, dictated by Anderson in the Delaware language, and translated into English by one of the white traders who had accompanied the tribe from Indiana, most of whom had Delaware wives and could speak the native language. Among these were William Gillis, Joseph Philabert (or Filabert), William Marshall (emphasis added), and James Wilson. Wilson acted as the tribe’s official interpreter until 1823 (Weslager 1978:215).

Weslager notes that Chief Anderson spent the eight years in Missouri attempting to consolidate the scattered Delawares. Small numbers of families were in the Cape Girardeau, Missouri area from three decades previous, and they accepted his invitation, although some had already moved Oklahoma and Arkansas. The Munsi families had dispersed to Ontario, Canada, and there was a community of Stockbridge-Munsi in Wisconsin.

By the time he signed the Treaty of Council Camp in 1829, the Chief had become a far shrewder bargainer with the Yankee due to his long experience at it. He secured the provision of a new home for the main body of the Delaware in Kansas, in the forks of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers.  His efforts also resulted in the far better provisioning and equipping of his people, both for making the trip to their new home, and making a living once settled in it. Sixty men, women and children left for the “permanent” new home in 1829, and Anderson followed in 1830 with a larger group including herds of horses and cattle. Their new home was to be large enough for Anderson to accommodate a consolidated Delaware Nation. They were to be under the jurisdiction of the Fort Leavenworth Agency of the War Department, later to become the Kansas Indian Agency. The records of the Fort Leavenworth Agency claim jurisdiction over 1,050 Delawares in 1838 (Weslager 1978:219).

During this period, small groups of Delaware families were moving to, and establishing settlements in, Texas (while still part of Mexico), other counties in Kansas, and the settlements of other Indian groups, especially Chippewa and Wyandot in Kansas. When Anderson died in October 1831, the Delaware position was greatly improved over that during the watershed decade in which Delaware political power included the capacity
For successful armed self-defense.

Since the political history of the Delawares of Idaho can be seen as the result of conditions arising during the Kansas occupation, their description will furnish good introduction to the next chapter.