Delaware Indians

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Delaware Tribe.jpg

The Delaware Indians, also called the Lenape, originally lived along the Delaware River in New Jersey. They speak a form of the Algonquian language and are thus related to the Miami Indians, Ottawa Indians, and Shawnee Indians. The Delawares are called "Grandfathers" by the other Algonquian tribes because of their belief that the Delawares were among the oldest groups in the Algonquian nation.

As British colonists immigrated to North America, the Delawares fled westward away from the land-hungry Europeans. While trying to escape the British colonists, the Delawares encountered the Iroquois Indians, who struggled with the Delawares and drove them further west. Some Delaware Indians came to live in eastern Ohio along the Muskingum River, while others resided in northwestern Ohio along the Auglaize River. Once in Ohio, the Delawares grew into a powerful tribe that often resisted the further advances of the Iroquois.

Upon arriving in the Ohio Country, the Delawares formed alliances with Frenchmen engaged in the fur trade. The French provided the natives with European cookware and guns, as well as alcohol, in return for furs. This alliance would prove to be temporary at best, as French and English colonists struggled for control of the Ohio Country beginning in the 1740s. As one European power gained control of the area the Delawares chose to ally themselves with the stronger party. This was the case until the Treaty of Paris (1763) ended the French and Indian War. As a result of this war, the French abandoned all of their North American colonies to England. The Delawares thereafter remained loyal to the British and the American colonists until the American Revolution.

During the Revolution, the Delawares became a divided people. Many attempted to remain neutral in the conflict, especially those who had adopted Christianity and lived in Moravian Church missions at Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten in what is now eastern Ohio. Other Delawares supported the English, who had replaced the French traders at the end of the French and Indian War. These natives thanked England for the Proclamation of 1763, which prohibited colonists from settling any further west than the Appalachian Mountains. They feared that if the Americans were victorious, the Delawares would be driven from their lands. Despite the Delawares' fears, many Americans hoped that they could count on the tribe as allies. As the war progressed, however, not all Americans trusted them. In 1782, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen, falsely believing the natives were responsible for several raids, killed almost one hundred Christian Delawares in what became known as the Gnadenhutten Massacre. Although these Delawares were friendly to the Americans, they suffered due to the fears of some of their white neighbors.

Following the American victory in the Revolution, the Delawares struggled against whites as they moved onto the natives' territory. In 1794, General Anthony Wayne defeated the Delawares and other Ohio Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. The natives surrendered most of their Ohio lands with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville in 1795.

In 1829, the United States forced the Delawares to relinquish their remaining land in Ohio and move west of the Mississippi River.

See Also


  1. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.