Delaware (Lenape)

Suppose a white man should come to me and say, “Joseph, I like your horses. I want to buy them.”
I say to him, “No, my horses suit me; I will not sell them.”
Then he goes to my neighbor and says, “Pay me money, and I will sell you Joseph’s horses.”
The white man returns to me and says, “Joseph, I have bought your horses and you must let me have them.”
If we sold our lands to the government, this is the way they bought them
~Chief Joseph, Nez Pierce ~


Delaware (Lenape) Tribe
Indian Territory

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The Delaware (Lenape) Name

The word Lenape (len-ah'-pay) means "the people". The name Delaware was given to the natives who occupied the Delaware River Valley during the colonial occupation of English Governor Lord de la Warr.

Lenapé Kishelamàwa'kàn
(The Lenape Creation Story)

Here is how the creation myth was explained by a Lenape patriarch when a Dutchman asked him where the Indians came from:
He was silent for a little while, either as if unable to climb up at once so high with his thoughts, or to express them without help, and then took a piece of coal out of the fire where he sat, and began to write upon the floor.
He first drew a circle, a little oval, to which he made four paws or feet, a head and a tail.
"This," he said, "is a tortoise, lying in the water around it," and he moved his hand round the figure continuing, "This was or is all water, and so at first was the world or the earth, when the tortoise gradually raised its round back up high, and the water ran off of it, and thus the earth became dry."
He then took a little straw and placed it on end in the middle of the figure and proceeded, "The earth was now dry, and there grew a tree in the middle of the earth, and the root of this tree sent forth a sprout beside it, and there grew upon it a man, who was the first male. This man was then alone, and would have remained alone; but the tree bent over until its top touched the earth, and there shot therein another root, from which came forth another sprout, and there grew upon it the woman, and from these two are all men produced."
*Jaspar Dankers & Peter Sluyter, Journal Of A Voyage To New York In 1679-80.

The Delaware (Lenape) Before The United States

The Lenni-Lenape Nation of the Algonquian People migrated to New Jersey from the “North Country,” crossing the Mississippi River. While the exact date of their arrival is unclear, it is known that humans inhabited New Jersey 10,000 years ago. The Lenni-Lenape Nation was known by the Algonquian tribes as the “Original People,” “Grandfather,” or “Men of Men."

While only about 2000 Lenni-Lenape lived in this area, many neighboring tribes came to New Jersey to hunt, fish and cultivate the rich soil. Although basically nomadic, they raised crops of corn, pumpkin and beans. In warmer weather they walked to the Atlantic Ocean. There they often lived for the summer months, enjoying cool sea breezes, collecting shells, smoking fish for the winter, and eating crabs, oysters and clams. (One path they made to the seacoast was so worn that it eventually became a stage coach route, known as Long-A-Coming Road. Today it is known in Voorhees as Route 561, or Haddonfield-Berlin Road.)

In the early 1600s the Nanticoke People from southeastern Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland migrated north and united with the Lenni-Lenape already living in New Jersey.

The Lenni-Lenape enjoyed living in what became known as Voorhees. They loved the forest for its plant foods and hunting grounds. They fished the many lakes in their bark canoes and log dugouts. Well into the 20th century residents in the Kresson area found arrowheads on their properties.

The Lenape were organized into three subtribes:

The Minsi, People of the "Stony Country", in the North.
The Unami, People Down the River, in the Center.
The Unilachtigo, People Who Lived Near the Ocean, in the South.

Each subtribe had a sub-chief, Sakima, and the Sakima of the Unami was considered to be chief of all subtribes.

(Source: Native People of New Jersey )

The Delaware (Lenape) Removal

The Lenape are recorded as signing the first Indian Treaty (called the Treaty of Fort Pitt) with the United States on Sept. 17, 1778. Through war and peace the Lenape continued to give up their homelands of northern Delaware, all of New Jersey, eastern Pennsylvania, and southeastern New York, and were forced to move westward to Ohio, and Indiana. A small contingent of Delawares fled to Canada during a time of extreme persecution (1790) and today occupy two small reserves in Ontario province (Moraviantown and Munsee).
Between 1820-1860, the Lenape had crossed the Mississippi River into Missouri and had produced 13 treaties which established a reservation in Kansas. In 1866, they moved to the Indian Territory.

A Timeline Of Their Forced Movements:

1795- Moved from Ohio to Indiana.
1820-22 Moved from Indiana to SW Missouri.
1829- Moved from SW Missouri to NE Kansas.
1866-1867 Moved from Kansas to Indian Territory.

The Delaware (Lenape) Tribe Today

In 1866 a treaty allowed the Kansas Delaware to either become United States citizens or retain tribal affiliation and remove to the Cherokee Nation as the Registered Delware. The Delaware (Lenape) paid the Cherokee Nation $ 1/acre for 157,000 acres and were considered a band of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, having been governed by the Cherokee Nation government and constitution. In 1979, at the request of the Cherokee Nation, the Bureau of Indian Affairs revoked federal recognition of the tribe. This was reversed in 1996, when they gained Federal Recognition from the United States Federal Government as an independent tribal nation, a reversal that was upheld in the United States District Court in 2002. The tribe were considered the 25th largest tribe in the United States with a membership of 10,500. They located their headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma on the original land that they had purchased from the Cherokee Nation in 1866. They located their headquarters in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where they have an 80-acre tribal complex located at the northwest corner of Tuxedo Blvd and Madison Ave.

Delaware (Lenape) Tribe of Oklahoma
170 NE Barbara
Bartlesville, OK 74006
(918) 337-6590

Their cultural web site is located at

In 2004, the United States Court of Appeals once again denied the tribe their soveriegnty.As of March 2005, the Delaware (Lenape) Tribe of Oklahoma was back under the governance and jurisdiction of the Cherokee Nation government, of Oklahoma. (It is ironic to note that the first American Indian Nation/Tribe to recognize the United States was no longer recognized by that government.)
(Source: Meador Manor )

Update: As of 28 July 2009, The Delaware (Lenape) Tribe of Oklahoma have once again gained federal recognition. (Source: Tulsa World )
Thanks to "joanng26" for the heads up!

The Delaware (Lenape) Tribe was formed from two different counties located in Northeastern Oklahoma:

Nowata - Washington

Oklahoma Historical Society

The Delaware (Lenape) Tribe Today, Continued...

There are two factions of the Delaware: The Delaware (Lenape) who are now located in Bartlesville, Oklahoma and the Delaware Tribe of Western Oklahoma or the Absentee Delware.
This later group broke from the original Delaware (Lenape) Group and migrated south through Arkansas, eventually ending up in Texas.

The Absentee Delaware (Red River Delaware) from the old Cape Girardeau Band remained in Texas and allied themselves with the Texas Republic in 1836. In 1854 they were moved to a reservation with the Caddo and Tonkawa on the upper Brazos River. They served as scouts for the Texas Rangers until 1859 when they were expelled to Oklahoma and settled at the Wichita Agency (Anadarko) with the Caddo, Tonkawa, Kitsai and Wichita. By 1874 they had merged with the Caddo and by the turn of the century had almost disappeared as a separate group (less than 100). They were considered as part of the Wichita and Affiliated Bands until given a separate identity and federal recognition. (Source: "Delaware," Lee Sultzman)

Today, the Delware Tribe of Western Oklahoma have a membership of 1,000, all descendants of the original members who settled in Texas. They still reside in Anadarko, Oklahoma on lands they jointly control with the Wichitas and Caddos.

Ceremonies Lenape (Language) Links Message Board
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Special thanks to Jim Rementer, Secretary, Culture Preservation Committee, Delware Tribe of Indians for his review.

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This Page Last Modified:
Friday, 02-Jan-15 16:45:10 PST