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 tribe, Ottawa tribe, and Shawnee tribe. The Delaware were called "Grandfathers" by the other Algonquian tribes because of their belief that the Delaware were among the oldest groups in the Algonquian nation.

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

Upon arriving in the Ohio Country, the Delaware 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 Delaware tribe 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 Delaware thereafter remained loyal to the British and the colonists until the American Revolution.

During the Revolution, the Delaware 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 Delaware 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 colonists were victorious, the Delaware would be driven from their lands. Despite the Delawares' fears, many of the colonists hoped that they could count on the tribe as allies. As the war progressed, however, not all people in the U.S. trusted them. In 1782, a group of Pennsylvania militiamen, falsely believing the natives were responsible for several raids, killed almost one hundred Christian Delaware natives in what became known as the Gnadenhutten Massacre. Although these Delaware natives were friendly to people in the U.S., they suffered due to the fears of some of their white neighbors.

Following the U.S. victory in the Revolution, the Delaware struggled against whites as they moved onto the natives' territory. In 1794, General Anthony Wayne defeated the Delaware and other Ohio natives 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 Delaware 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.