Delaware / Lenape
The Delaware Indians are also known as Lenape Indians.
Tribal Origin: Eastern Algonquian
Native Name: Lenape, means ‘genuine men’
Tribes of the Delaware: Munsee, Unami
Home Territories: Pennsylvania, New York and eventually Wyoming and Oklahoma
Language: Munsee and Unami
Alliances: Nanticoke, Conoy, Shawnee and MahicanEnemies: Iroquois
The Delaware Indians were forced to move West by the Iroquois Indians and European settlers.
The Lenape (len-AH-pay) or Delaware Indians lived in an area they called “Lenapehoking,” which means “Land of the Lenape.”
Their land included all of what is now New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, southeastern New York State, northern Delaware and a small section of southeastern Connecticut.
As part of the Eastern Woodlands, Lenapehoking had many rivers, streams and lakes and was densely forested and rich in wildlife.
We now know that two related but distinct groups of Indians occupied Lenapehoking; not three as is sometimes stated.
Those living in the northern half (above the Raritan River and the Delaware Water Gap) spoke a Munsee dialect of the Eastern Algonquian Delaware language, while those to the south spoke Unami – a slightly different dialect of the same language.
Relocation of the Lenape
Most Lenape were pushed out of their homeland by expanding European colonies during the 18th century after losses from intertribal conflicts.
Lenape communities were weakened by newly introduced diseases, mainly smallpox, and violence by Europeans.
Iroquois people occasionally fought the Lenape. Surviving Lenape moved west into the upper Ohio River basin. The American Revolutionary War and United States’ independence pushed them further west.
In the 1860s, the United States government sent most Lenape remaining in the eastern United States to the Indian Territory under the Indian removal policy.
In the 21st century, most Lenape now reside in the US state of Oklahoma, with some communities living also in Wisconsin, Ontario (Canada) and in their traditional homelands.
Most members of the Munsee-language branch of the Lenape left the United States after the British were defeated in the American Revolutionary War. Their descendants live on three Indian reserves in Western Ontario, Canada.
They are descendants of those Lenape of Ohio Country who sided with the British during the Revolutionary War.
The largest reserve is at Moraviantown, Ontario, where the Turtle Phratry settled in 1792 following the war.
Two groups migrated to Oneida County, New York by 1802, the Brotherton Indians of New Jersey and the Stockbridge-Munsee. After 1819, they removed to Wisconsin, under pressure from state and local governments.
Indiana to Missouri
By the Treaty of St. Mary’s, signed October 3, 1818 in St. Mary’s, Ohio, the Delaware ceded their lands in Indiana for lands west of the Mississippi and an annuity of $4,000. Over the next few years, the Delaware settled on the James River in Missouri near its confluence with Wilsons Creek, occupying eventually about 40,000 acres (160 km2) of the approximately 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) allotted to them.
Anderson, Indiana is named after Chief William Anderson, whose father was Swedish.
The Delaware Village in Indiana was called Anderson’s Town, while the Delaware Village in Missouri on the James River was often called Anderson’s Village.
The tribes’ cabins and cornfields were spread out along the James River and Wilsons Creek.
By the terms of the “Treaty of the James Fork” made September 24, 1829 and ratified by the US Senate in 1830, the Delaware were forced to move further west. They were granted lands in Indian Territory in exchange for lands on the James Fork of the White River in Missouri.
These lands, in what is now Kansas, were west of the Missouri and north of the Kansas River.
The main reserve consisted of about 1,000,000 acres (4,000 km2) with an additional “outlet” strip 10 miles (16 km) wide extending to the west.
In 1854 Congress passed the Kansas–Nebraska Act, which created the Territory of Kansas and opened the area for white settlement. It also authorized negotiation with Indian tribes regarding removal.
The Delaware were reluctant to negotiate for yet another relocation, but they feared serious trouble with white settlers, and conflict developed.
As the Delaware were not considered United States citizens, they had no access to the courts, and no way to enforce their property rights.
The United States Army was to enforce their rights to reservation land after the Indian Agent had both posted a public notice warning trespassers and served written notice on them, a process generally considered onerous.
Major B.F. Robinson, the Indian Agent appointed in 1855, did his best, but could not control the hundreds of white trespassers who stole stock, cut timber, and built houses and squatted on Delaware lands.
By 1860 the Delaware had reached consensus to leave Kansas, which was in accord with the government’s Indian removal policy.
The main body of Lenape arrived in Indian Territory in the 1860s. As a result of the multiple removals, each leaving some Lenape who chose to stay in place, Lenape people and descendents are located today in New Jersey, Wisconsin and southwest Oklahoma.
The two largest groups are the Delaware Nation (Anadarko, Oklahoma) and the Delaware Tribe of Indians (Bartlesville, Oklahoma).
The Delaware Tribe of Indians were required to purchase land from the reservation of the Cherokee Nation; they made two payments totaling $438,000. A court dispute followed over whether the sale included rights for the Delaware as citizens within the Cherokee Nation.
While the dispute was unsettled, the Curtis Act of 1898 dissolved tribal governments and ordered the allotment of communal tribal lands to individual households of members of tribes.
After the lands were allotted in 160-acre (650,000 m²) lots to tribal members in 1907, the government sold “surplus” land to non-Indians.
The Delaware in Spanish Texas
The Delaware migrated into Texas in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Elements of the Delaware migrated from Missouri into Texas around 1820, settling around the Red River and Sabine River.
The Delaware were peaceful and shared their territory in Spanish Texas with the Caddo and other immigrating bands, as well as with the Spanish and ever-increasing American population. This peaceful trend continued after Mexico won their independence from Spain in 1821.
The Delaware in Mexican Texas
In 1828, Mexican General Manuel de Mier y Terán made an inspection of eastern Mexican Texas and estimated that the region housed between 150 to 200 Delaware families.
The Delaware requested Mier y Terán to issue them land grants and send teachers, so they might learn to read and write the Spanish language.
The General, impressed with how well they had adapted to the Mexican culture, sent their request to Mexico City, but the authorities never granted the Delaware any legal titles.
The situation changed when the Texas Revolution began in 1835. Texas officials were eager to gain the support of the Texas tribes to their side and offered to recognize their land claims by sending three commissioners to negotiate a treaty.
A treaty was agreed upon in February 1836 which mapped the boundaries of Indian lands; but, this agreement was never officially ratified by the Texas government.
Delaware in the Texas Republic
The Delaware remained friendly after Texas won its independence.
Republic of Texas President, Sam Houston favored a policy of peaceful relations with all tribes. He sought the services of the friendly Delaware and in 1837 enlisted several Delaware to protect the frontier from hostile western tribes.
Delaware scouts joined with Texas Rangers as they patrolled the western frontier. Houston also tried to get the Delaware land claims recognized but his efforts were only met by opposition.
The next Texan President, Mirabeau B. Lamar, completely opposed all Indians. He considered them as illegal intruders who threatened the settlers safety and lands and issued an order for their removal from Texas.
The Delaware were sent north of the Red River into Indian Territory, however, a few scattered Delawares remained in Texas.
In 1841, Houston was reelected to a second term as president and his peaceful Indian policy was then reinstated.
A treaty with the remaining Delaware and a few other tribes was negotiated in 1843 at Fort Bird and the Delaware were enlisted to help him make peace with the Comanche.
Delaware scouts and their families were allowed to settle along the Brazos and Bosque rivers in order to influence the Comanche to come to the Texas government for a peace conference. The plan was successful and the Delaware helped bring the Comanches to a treaty council in 1844.
The Delawares and the State of Texas
In 1845, the Republic of Texas agreed to annexation by the US to become an American State. The Delaware continued their peaceful policy with the Americans and served as interpreters, scouts and diplomats for the US Army and the Indian Bureau.
In 1847, John Meusebach was assisted by Jim Shaw (Delaware), in settling the German communities in the Texas Hill Country.
For the remainder of his life, Shaw worked as a military scout in West Texas. In 1848, John Conner (Delaware) guided the Chihuahua-El Paso Expedition and was granted a league of land by a special act of the Texas legislature in 1853.
The expeditions of the map maker Randolph B. Marcy through West Texas in 1849, 1852, and 1854 were guided by Black Beaver (Delaware).
In 1854, despite the history of peaceful relations, the last of the Texas Delaware were moved by the American government to the Brazos Indian Reservation near Graham, Texas.
In 1859 the US forced the remaining Delaware to remove from Texas to a location on the Washita River in the vicinity of present Anadarko, Oklahoma.
Lenape Tribes Today
Federally recognized groups
Three Lenape tribes are federally recognized in the United States. They are as follows:
Canadian First Nations
The Canadian Lenape left the United States in the late 1700s following the American Revolutionary War and settled in what is now Ontario. Consequently, Canada recognizes three Lenape First Nations (with four Indian reserves); they are located in Southwestern Ontario:
Munsee-Delaware Nation, Canadian reserve.
Moravian of the Thames First Nation, Canadian reserve.
Delaware of Six Nations (at Six Nations of the Grand River), two Canadian reserves.
Eastern United States
New Jersey has two state recognized tribes, who are in part Lenape: the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Indians of New Jersey and Ramapough Lenape Nation.
In Delaware, the Lenape are organized and state-recognized as the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware.
Some Lenape or Delaware live in communities known as Urban Indians in their historic homeland in a number of states such as Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, and Virginia.
A small town, Lenni Lenape, NJ, is located in New Jersey between Princeton and Trenton, along US Route 1. New York City and Philadelphia are known to have some Lenape residents.
The Ramapough Mountain Indians and the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape identify as Lenape descendants and are recognized as tribes by the state of New Jersey.
Central United States Lenape
Some Lenape live within the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and others live in diaspora across the country. Large communities of Lenape people live in the vicinities of Bartlesville, Oklahoma and Anadarko, Oklahoma.
Additionally, over a dozen unrecognized tribes claim Lenape descent. Unrecognized Lenape organizations in Colorado, Idaho, and Kansas have petitioned the United States federal government for recognition.