Who are the Delaware Indians?

Matthew F.

The Delaware Indians were a Native American tribe living in what is now New Jersey. The majority of these Indians lived in the areas north of the state of Delaware, east of the Delaware River and south of the Hudson River. At first European contact in the 1500s, the Delaware Indians lived in an area known as Lenapehoking.

Quaker colonists formed the settlement of Pennsylvania.
Quaker colonists formed the settlement of Pennsylvania.

The Delaware Indians were a part of the Algonquian tribes because they spoke in two languages, Unami and Munsee, which were a part of the Algonquian languages. The Delaware Indians were related to the Miami Indians, Ottawa Indians and Shawnee Indians. It is believed the Delaware Indians were viewed as “Grandfathers” because they were the oldest members of the Algonquian nation.

William Penn and other Quaker colonists formed the settlement of Pennsylvania to drive the Delaware Indians out.
William Penn and other Quaker colonists formed the settlement of Pennsylvania to drive the Delaware Indians out.

After a large number of European colonists started immigrating to North America, the Delaware Indians began to head westward. While moving west, they met the Iroquois Indians who proceeded to drive them even further west. William Penn and other Quaker colonists formed the settlement of Pennsylvania to drive the Delaware Indians out. The advancements west put them into what is now Ohio, along the Muskingum and Auglaize Rivers. The Delawares became a powerful tribe, even after the Iroquois tried to advance westward.

Once the Delawares arrived in Ohio, they began to form an alliance with the French traders who engaged in fur trading. The Delawares and French commonly traded items such as cookware, guns and alcohol for the furs. The alliance was brief as Ohio was becoming an area of land fought over by the French and British. As the British were becoming the stronger European nation in the land, the Delawares switched alliances from the French to the British. After the French and Indian War was resolved, the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763. The treaty stated the Indian tribes would not be pushed any farther west by British settlers. They remained in alliance with the British and Americans until the American Revolution.

The Delaware Indians were once again forced to move west after the American Revolution. The Ohio tribes, including the Delawares, were forced to relinquish their land in 1794 and 1795. General Anthony Wayne defeated the Ohio Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers. In the 1860s, the Delawares were delegated to the Oklahoma Territory where many members of the Delaware tribe still reside. Other members of the current Delaware tribe officially reside in Wisconsin as well as Ontario, Canada.

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Discussion Comments


@JimmyT - Unfortunately, the Delaware Indian tribe were like almost all other Indian tribes during the American Revolution as they chose to side with the British.

They sided with the British because the British did not want western expansion of the colonies, something that appealed to the Native American tribes who had settled farther inland after being forced out of their homelands near the coast.

As far as the state of Delaware being named after a group of people that supported the enemy in the battle for independence goes, I do not think that they harbored much ill will against them for doing so and even if they did the area was probably known as Delaware well before the Revolution and they probably just kept using the same name as not to confuse people.


One thing I would like to know about the Delaware Indian tribe is whether or not they sided with the Continental Army during the American Revolution?

I would assume that they did if the Federal Government was willing to name the state of Delaware after them.

I would not even think that the state would be named after this particular Indian tribe if they were sided with the enemy in the battle for independence, but then again I could be wrong and they are a tribe that does not seem to have a very well known history at least according to the history books.


@stl156 - I have to disagree with part of that point due to one reason, they are the reason for people picking the name of the state of Delaware.

It is true that many Native American tribes throughout history have been ignored and someone are not even well known enough to live on Indian reservations, but they are still known enough throughout history to have one of the original thirteen colonies named after them and at least have people talk about them to this day.

It could be the fact that historians pick and choose the Native American tribes they want to include in their studies and only choose the ones that have contributed the most, but the Delaware tribe has not been totally ignored throughout history and are at least known as a prominent Indian tribe so much that they do have a state named after them.


It seems to me like the Delaware Indian tribe has been ignored throughout history and has not lived in the minds of people outside of the tribe.

I see that this is the same with a lot of Native American Indian tribes in which they did not have a major contribution to white history or some direct impact on American history, so they are tended to be overlooked.

I do not see the Delaware Indian Tribe as being on par in the eyes of history looking at other Indians like the Cherokee. I find this to be very unfortunate when looking at Native American history and that the entire Delaware nation is overlooked on a national scale as opposed to other more famous tribes.

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