About the Delaware Tribe of Indians

Delaware Community Center, Bartlesville, OK

Kansas Headquaters, Caney, KS

The name DELAWARE was given to the people who lived along the Delaware River, and the river in turn was named after Lord de la Warr, the governor of the Jamestown colony. The name Delaware later came to be applied to almost all Lenape people. In our language, which belongs to the Algonquian language family, we call ourselves LENAPE (len-NAH-pay) which means something like “The People.” Our ancestors were among the first Indians to come in contact with the Europeans (Dutch, English, & Swedish) in the early 1600s. The Delaware were called the “Grandfather” tribe because we were respected by other tribes as peacemakers since we often served to settle disputes among rival tribes. We were also known for our fierceness and tenacity as warriors when we had to fight, however, we preferred to choose a path of peace with the Europeans and other tribes.

Many of the early treaties and land sales we signed with the Europeans were in our people’s minds more like leases. The early Delaware had no idea that land was something that could be sold. The land belonged to the Creator, and the Lenape people were only using it to shelter and feed their people. When the poor, bedraggled people got off their ships after the long voyage and needed a place to live we shared the land with them. They gave us a few token gifts for our people’s kindness, but in the mind of the Europeans these gifts were actually the purchase price for the land.

Our Delaware people signed the first Indian treaty with the newly formed United States Government on September 17, 1778. Nevertheless, through war and peace, our ancestors had to continue to give up their lands and move westward (first to Ohio, then to Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, and finally, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma). One small band of Delawares left our group in the late 1700s and through different migrations are today located at Anadarko, Oklahoma. Small contingents of Delawares fled to Canada during a time of extreme persecution and today occupy two reserves in Ontario (The Delaware Nation at Moraviantown and The Munsee-Delaware Nation).

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