History, Tales, and Destinations in the Land of Ahs


The Delaware Indians

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Delaware Indian FamilyThe Delaware 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 Algonquin tribes 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 Kansas and Missouri 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 Fort 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 Rivers 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.


Briggsvale School on the Delaware Baptist Mission, Wyandotte CountyA 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 Wyandot tribe, 23,040 acres of land, situated at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, which contract was ratified by act of Congress on July 25, 1848.




Delaware IndiansOn 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 river."


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 Delaware Reservation.


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.


Delaware woman and daughter, 1910On 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.


A large portion of the tribe removed to the Indian Territory 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 the 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 Delaware and Shawnee living among the Cherokee in Oklahoma, including them as Cherokee. 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 Kathy Weiser/Legends of Kansas, updated March, 2017.



About this article: The primary content for this article is an edited rendition of the Delaware Indians 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 Treaty with Delaware

William Penn and Delaware Indians signing treaty.


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