One State-Many Nations

Western Reserve Public Media


“Common Man, True Man, Original Man”


  • Algonquian.

  • Had the longest contact with the European people of the tribes in Ohio.


  • Originally lived along Delaware River to southern New York state.

  • Lenape are believed to be the oldest and first Algonquian speakers so they were often called the “Grandfathers.” The Lenape were a sect of the Delaware people. It’s possible the pictographs that record the history of the Lenape go back at least 14,000 years.

  • Delaware is not a Native American name. It comes from the Governor of Virginia, Lord Thomas West. His royal title was Lord de la Warr which became Delaware.

  • Contact with European people began in 1524 with Giovanni da Verrazano. There was much trading of furs which culminated in the Beaver Wars.

  • 1633 small pox struck the Delaware and half of the population was lost.

  • The European concept of ownership of land was a foreign concept to Native people, especially the Delaware.

  • The Tuscarawas and Muskingum River valleys were the main area of early settlement within the boundaries of Ohio.

  • Delaware people were forced north and west. Delaware, Chillicothe and Cary, Ohio, are cities near where Delaware people lived.

Family Life

  • Delaware Indians were farmers and hunters.

  • They lived in fairly permanent villages in the summer and separated from their families to hunt in the winter.

  • In early years, they used three types of wigwams: round with a domed roof, oblong with an arched roof, or oblong with a center pole.

  • In later years, they built log cabins.

  • Religious ceremonies revolved around the “Big House” or central building.

  • Matrilineal society: the clan is determined by the mother. The eldest women could appoint and dismiss the chief

  • The men wore breechcloth, leggings and moccasins. They removed their facial hair and plucked their heads to leave the traditional round scalp lock

  • Before the Europeans came, ornaments were made of copper, shells and porcupine quills. They also used cloaks made of feathers.

  • Women wore a two-hide dress; one was a wraparound skirt help up by a belt, and the other was a fringed poncho. Leggings and moccasins finished off the outfit. Leather clothing was worn before the European trade.

  • Tattooing was common for both men and women.


  • 1682 the king of England granted a Charter to Pennsylvania. William Penn did not believe this grant overrode the Native Land rights. He signed a treaty with Chief Tammamend.

  • After Penn’s death in 1718 things changed. By 1732 all that remained of the original Lanape land was a small part of New Jersey and a valley near Allentown, Pennsylvania.

  • In 1737, Pennsylvania officials "discovered" an old treaty that said they had rights to all the land between the Delaware and Lehigh Rivers.

  • The Delaware were now homeless and had to move themselves to the upper Susquehanna and Wyoming River Valleys.

  • In 1740 the Moravian missionaries began to convert the Delaware in Pennsylvania. The Delaware were leaving Pennsylvania to come to Ohio. The Six Nations ordered them back to the reservation. The Delaware people ignored this.

  • After much harassment, the Delaware fought back. Pennsylvania authorities signed the Treaty of Easton which paid for lands taken without compensation and established a reservation.

  • The Fort Pitt blankets and handkerchiefs of smallpox victims were given to the Natives and an epidemic broke out. The Delaware and Shawnee were forced to sign a treaty in 1763.

  • The last Pennsylvania Delaware left for Ohio in 1764.

  • In 1770 the Delaware moved with the Miami to the White River in Indiana.

  • Delaware tried to be neutral in the many wars, but was forced into defending their territory.

  • In 1778, the Delaware signed the first treaty with the United States Continental Congress.

  • By 1782, the Moravian Delaware at Gnadenhutten were placed under arrest. Instead of bringing them back to Fort Pitt, the Pennsylvania militia voted to kill them. Twenty-nine men, 27 women and 34 children were beaten to death with wooden mallets.

  • In 1795 the Delaware moved to the northwest of Ohio, into Indiana and finally to Missouri.

  • After the Treaty of Greenville, the Delaware had no land and became refugees. Many moved to the White River in Indiana.

  • In 1829, the Delaware ceded their reserve and in 1832 joined the Delaware west of the Missouri River.
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