The Delaware Indians
belong to the great
Algonquin family. Their oldest known home was in the
lower part of Pennsylvania and the adjacent parts of New Jersey, their
villages being on the waters of the Delaware River and its tributary
streams. The Delaware, or Lenni
Lenape, claimed to be the "parent" from which the numerous
descended -- the name Lenape signifying original man. Their claim to
superiority was recognized by the other tribes, who accorded to them the
title of "Grandfather."
The chiefs of this tribe were the principal parties to the
first treaty made with William Penn. They were conquered, and for many years
lived under the domination of the Iroquois, who bestowed upon them the
degrading appellation of "Women." They espoused the cause of France during
the the Old French War, and at the opening of the American Revolution,
declared independence on their own account -- ridding themselves of the
hated domination of the Iroquois, and the still more hated name that nation
had fastened upon them.
The first treaty made
by the United States with an Indian tribe was with the Delaware on September 17,
1778, at Fort Pitt. It was a treaty of peace and mutual protection, the sixth
article indicating that the United States contemplated the possible formation of
an Indian State, with the Delaware at its head.
By the treaty of
August 18, 1804, made at Vincennes by William Henry Harrison, then Governor of
Indiana territory, the Delaware relinquished their land in Indiana -- "all their
right and title to the tract of country which lies between the Ohio and Wabash
Rivers, and below the tract ceded by the treaty of Fort Wayne, and the road
leading from Vicennes to the falls of Ohio." The United States agreed to
"consider the Delaware as the rightful owners of all the country which is
bounded by the White River on the north, the Ohio on the south, the general
boundary line running from the mouth of the Kentucky River on the east, and the
tract ceded by this treaty and that ceded by the treaty of Fort Wayne on the
west and southwest."
The Delaware were
assigned lands in the State of
Missouri, and removed to their reservation, on
the James Fork of the White River, where they remained until a new treaty was
established on September 24, 1829, that relinquished the Missouri land. They
were then granted lands in present-day
Kansas, thus described: "The
country in the fork of the
Rivers, extending up the Kansas River to the
Kansas line, and up the
Missouri River to
Camp Leavenworth, and
then by a line drawn westerly, leaving a space ten miles wide, north of the Kanza's boundary line."
These lands were
surveyed by Isaac
McCoy, an Indian missionary the following year,
who was appointed by the Delaware accompanying the surveying party. By
arrangement made with the Delaware, the site of
Leavenworth was reserved to
the United States, McCoy's instructions making no provisions for
such reservation. The Delaware Reserve was one of the most valuable in the
territory, and the eastern portion, from the junction of the Missouri and Kansas
north to Fort Leavenworth was afterward well cultivated by the Indians.
The United States erected grist and saw mills for them, fenced and plowed 105
acres of land, erected a schoolhouse and other buildings, and furnished them
cattle. Their farms and cabins were scattered along the military road which led
to Fort Leavenworth and though many subsisted by farming, the majority continued
to live as hunters.
A Methodist Mission,
under the direction of the Missouri Conference, was founded in 1831 and in the
first four years, it had a church of 50 members, and a school which taught 25
students. Reverend E.T. Perry and wife were the first missionaries.
A Baptist Mission was
established in 1832, under the superintendence of Dr. Johnston Lykins, the
missionaries residing at the Shawanoe Station. A school was started in April,
1833, with G.D. Blanchard being employed as teacher. The mission labored under
many disadvantages, but held its ground, and, after ten years' effort, was
reported prosperous. Three missionaries were then employed.
Mr. John G. Pratt, who
came to the Shawnee Mission in 1837 to take charge of the printing office, was
afterward Superintendent of the Delaware Mission. He learned the language, into
which he translated several books, and printed them for the use of the tribe. He
remained for many years in charge of the mission, and was one of the last agents
appointed for the tribe.
On December 14, 1843,
the Delaware sold to the
tribe, 23,040 acres of land, situated at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas
which contract was ratified by act of Congress on July 25, 1848.
On May 6, 1854, the
Delaware ceded all their lands to the United States "except that portion of said
country sold to the Wyandot
tribe of Indians by instrument sanctioned by act of Congress, approved July 25,
1848, and also excepting that part of said country lying east and south of a
line beginning at a point on the line between the land of the Delaware and the Kanza, forty miles in a direct line west of the boundary line between the
Delaware and Wyandot;
then north ten miles; then in an easterly course to point on the south bank of
Big Island Creek, which shall also be on the bank of the Missouri River where
the usual high water line of said creek intersects the high water line of said
This reservation was,
in general terms, a tract ten miles wide, extending forty miles up the Kansas
River. By the terms of the treaty, it was agreed that all the ceded lands except
"the outlet," which was ceded for the specific sum of $10,000, would be surveyed
in the same manner that the public lands were surveyed, and afterwards would be
offered for sale. The money received from the sale of the land, after deducting
the cost of surveying, was to be paid to the Delaware.
For the relinquishment
of their permanent annuities, the government paid the tribe $148,000. The
Delaware lands were sold in November, 1856, which had previously appraised at
$1.25 to $12 per acre. About $450,000 was realized from the sale of the trust
lands, which was to be divided among the Delaware, then numbering about nine
hundred, and the wealthiest tribe in Kansas.
On May 30, 1860, by
treaty with the Delaware, eighty acres were assigned to each member of the tribe
and the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western Railroad Company purchased the surplus
lands, amounting to 223,966 acres for $286,742.15. The treaty was made at Sarcoxieville, on the
Under this treaty, the
Delaware Reserve, except the lands assigned to individuals was sold to the
railroad company, then known as the
Union Pacific Railroad.
On July 4, 1866, the
remainder of the land, known as the "Delaware Diminished Reserve," was, by
authority of the Secretary of the Interior, offered for sale "at not less than
$2.50 per acre." This tract was also bought by the Union Pacific Railroad
Company, the date of the transfer being January 7, 1868.
portion of the tribe removed to the
in 1867, and the remainder, reduced to about 150, removed to the home at the
Wichita Agency in January, 1868. The Oklahoma Delaware purchased land from
Cherokee Nation and a court dispute then followed over whether the sale
included rights for the Delaware within the
Cherokee Nation. The dispute finally
had to be resolved through a long court battle fought during the 1890s.
The Curtis Act of 1898
dissolved tribal governments and ordered the allotment of tribal lands to
individual members of tribes. The Delaware fought the act in the courts but lost
and in 1907, each head of household was allotted 160 acres with the excess being
sold to white settlers.
In 1979, the Bureau of Indian Affairs revoked the tribal status of the
Shawnee living among the Cherokee in Oklahoma, including them as
Following a legal battle covering almost 20 years, the Delaware fought the
decision, which was finally overturned in 1996, regaining federal recognition as
a separate tribe.
Compiled and edited by
of Kansas, updated March, 2017.
About this article:
The primary content for this article is an edited rendition of the
as told in William G. Cutler's History of the State of Kansas, first
published in 1883 by A. T. Andreas, Chicago, Illinois. Note that the article is
not verbatim as minor corrections for spelling and punctuation, editing for
clarity, and updates since the article was first written, have been made.
William Penn and
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