The Culture and History
of the Delaware Tribe
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, and 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, but 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).
Lenape Hach Ki? — Are You A Lenape?
The Delaware Tribe's official website (www.delawaretribe.org) was established several years ago, one purpose being to respond to the numerous e-mail inquiries about genealogy and tribal membership. Some are from people in the eastern part of the United States in the old Lenape (Delaware Indian) homeland. Often the messages will say, "I was told by my grandparents that our family has Lenape blood and we always lived in the East. Would you look them up and see if I am part Lenape?"
We wish there was a master roll of everyone who has any degree of Lenape blood and their ancestors, but there is not. Our rolls only go back in time to 1862 when our own ancestors, on their forced exodus from the East, were living in Kansas.
In order to be enrolled on our tribal roll, your ancestor(s) by blood must have been living in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma) in 1906, and enrolled on our official tribal base roll which was made at that time. This is a requirement set forth by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and follows THE CODE OF FEDERAL REGULATIONS, PART 83 — PROCEDURES FOR ESTABLISHING THAT AN AMERICAN INDIAN GROUP EXISTS AS AN INDIAN TRIBE.
We are sorry that we cannot be of help to many of you who think you might have Lenape blood, but there are no sources of which we are aware to look for your ancestors' names. We can only suggest you do regular genealogical research through the libraries and Federal Census records. Good luck on your quest.
To tribal members descended from ancestors on our 1906 Roll, if you have not yet signed up, go to www.delawaretribe.org.
The pattern running along the left side of your screen is a traditional Delaware Indian ribbonwork pattern which was used to decorate blankets and women's skirts.