Delaware (Lenape) Tribe
Kansas Native Americans
by William G. Cutler (1883)

The Delawares 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 and its tributary streams. The Delawares, or Lenni Lenapes, claimed to be the parent stem from which the numerous Algonquin tribes descended--the name Lenni Lenape signifying original man.

(See Also The Sale of the Delaware Trust Lands)


Their claim to superiority was recognized by the other tribes, who accorded to them the title of "Grandfather," the Lenape giving them the name of "Children" or "Grandchildren." The Wyandots, who were of Iroquois descent, they honored by the title of "Uncle." The sachems of this tribe were the principal parties to the first treaty made with William Penn. They were conquered, and for many years under the dominion of the Iroquois, who bestowed upon them the degrading appellation of "Women." They espoused the cause of France during the continuance of the Old French war, and at the opening of the Revolution, that of the United States, at the same time declaring independence on their own account, and ridding themselves at once 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 Delawares, September 17, 1778, at Fort Pitt. It was a treaty of peace and mutual protection, the sixth article evidently indicating that the United States contemplated at the time the possible formation of an Indian State, with the Delawares at its head. The passage referred to reads as follows: "And it is further agreed on between the contracting parties (should it for the future be found conducive for the mutual interest of both parties), to invite any other tribes who have been friends to the interests of the United States, to join the present confederation, and to form a State, whereof the Delaware nation shall be the head, and have a representation in Congress; provided nothing contained in this article shall be considered as conclusive until it meets with the approbation of Congress."

By the treaty of August 18,1804, made at Vincennes by William Henry Harrison, then Governor of Indiana territory, the Delawares relinquished "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 agreeing in future to "consider the Delawares 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."

By treaty made at St. Mary's, Ohio, October 3, 1818, "the Delaware nation of Indians cede to the United States all their claim to land in the State of Indiana" (the tract above described), and in consideration of the cession, "the United States agree to provide for the Delawares a country to reside in, upon the west side of the Mississippi, and to guarantee to them the peaceable possession of the same."

The Delawares 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, by treaty of September 24, 1829, that tract was relinquished, and they were granted the lands afterward a part of the State of Kansas, and thus described: "The country in the fork of the Kansas and Missouri Rivers, extending up the Kansas River to the Kansas (Indian's) line, and up the Missouri River to Camp Leavenworth, and thence by a line drawn westerly, leaving a space ten miles wide, north of the Kanzas boundary line, for an outlet."

These lands were surveyed by Mr. McCoy the following year, a Commissioner appointed by the Delawares accompanying the surveying party. By arrangement made with the Delawares, the site of Fort Leavenworth was reserved to the United States, Mr. 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 tolerable 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 among the tribe were industrious, intelligent men, who were glad to give up the chase for the farm, and the tomahawk for the plow; but to the majority, who subsisted chiefly by the chase, there was a greater charm in the war or hunting party bound for the Western plains than any the harvest field or work shop could offer.

December 14, 1843, the Delawares sold to the Wyandots 23,040 acres of land, situated at the junction of the Missouri and Kansas Rivers, which contract was ratified by act of Congress July 25, 1848.

On May 6, 1854, the Delawares 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 Delawares and the half-breed Kanzas, forty miles in a direct line west of the boundary line between the Delawares and Wyandots; thence north ten miles; thence 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, should be surveyed in the same manner that the public lands were surveyed, and so soon as the whole or any portion of said lands were surveyed, that they should be offered for sale by the President, at public auction, in such quantities as he might deem proper, being governed, in conducting such sale, by the laws of the United States in regard to sale of public lands; such lands as were not sold at public sale to be subject to private entry for three years, at the minimum government price, and if, at the expiration of that time, any yet remained unsold, they might, by act of Congress, be graduated and reduced in price until all were sold.

All the money received from the sale of the land, after deducting the cost of surveying, was to be paid to the Delawares. For the relinquishment of their permanent annuities, Government paid the tribe $148,000. The value of the school land, $46,080, was to remain at interest. The Delaware lands were sold in November, 1856, the sale commencing on the 17th. The lands had been previously appraised at from $1.25 to $12 per acre. The actual settler was permitted to take his land at the appraised value, and the balance was opened for competition. About $450,000 was realized from the sale of the trust lands, which was to be divided among the Delawares, then numbering about nine hundred, and the wealthiest tribe in Kansas.

On May 30, 1860, by treaty with the Delawares, eighty acres were assigned to each member of the tribe, in one compact body, to be held in severalty, the Leavenworth, Pawnee & Western Railroad Company to have the privilege of purchasing the remainder of their land, at not less than $1.25 per acre. The surplus lands, amounting to 223,966.78 acres were appraised at an aggregate valuation of $286,742.15. The treaty was made at Sarcoxieville, on the Delaware Reservation. Under this treaty, the Delaware Reserve, excepting the individual reservations above named, was transferred to the railroad company now known as the Union Pacific, and by the company sold to settlers.

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 one hundred and fifty, removed to the home at the Wichita Agency in January, 1868.

Delaware Missions.--The Methodist Mission, under the direction of the Missouri Conference, was founded in 1831. In four years, it had a church of fifty members, and a school of twenty-five scholars, part of whom were entirely supported by the mission. Rev. E. T. Peery and wife were the first missionaries.

The Baptist Mission was commenced in 1832, under the superintendence of Dr. Johnston Lykins, the missionaries residing at the Shawanoe Station also visiting this. A school was started in April, 1833, Mr. 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.

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