Published on October 21, 2010 by John
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In 1610 Captain Samuel Argyll entered the body of water now known as the Delaware Bay, and named it in honor of his superior officer, Sir Thomas West III Lord De la Warr, the Provincial Governor of Virginia. The tribes of Indians who lived on its shores and in its valleys were also given his name. This was not one tribe of Indians but several tribes reduced to bearing one name. Early settlers happily coexisted with the indigenous populations near their settlements. However, much of the recorded history of this period reflects explorer/settler experiences and their cultural bias. To the Indians, their settler neighbors were a bit strange but friendly. As more settlers came the Indians began to rely more heavily on technologies they brought with them. Traps, guns, gunpowder, tobacco and ammunition became the base for a settler-controlled trade economy, which first augmented, and later virtually replaced the Indians’ hunting and agricultural based economy. As even more settlers arrived there soon wasn’t enough land for Indians to live on. By the time the Delaware Bay was named, social patterns were significantly disrupted within and between Indian tribes, and tensions escalted between Indians and settlers. The eastern woodlands Indians never ‘owned’ any land. The concept of owning land was alien to them The land, in their view, belonged to Creator. At first bargaining between Indians and settlers was fair, with Indians sharing land use. But the colonial government pushed for ever more for expanding settlements. The government told settlers they could legally occupy abandoned lands in Pennsylvania. Villages vacated for fishing or hunting camps were viewed as abandoned. When Indian people returned to their villages to find their lands occupied by settlers, conflict arose. The trickery and deceit of the1737 Walking Purchase gave the Delaware people the true perspective of their relationship with the government. The Delaware thought they knew how much land they were agreeing to give up. Because their culture was a mobile one, walking was the Indian way of measurement. They knew how far a man could walk in a day and a half. They didn’t know whites had greedily cleared paths and hired runners to get the most of the deal. The original agreement with the Penn brothers (Williams Penn’s sons) was for “as far as a man could walk in a day and half”. The Delaware complained that the hired men did not “walk fair”. Outraged, they refused to leave the land. In 1741, British officials called on the Iroquois to force the Delaware to relinquish land in the Delaware and Lehigh River Valleys. The Delaware people signed the first treaty with the United States Government in of 1778. One small band of Delaware left the group in the late 1700s and after great travels settled in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Other contingents of Delaware fled to Canada during a time of extreme persecution where today they occupy two reserves in Ontario (The Delaware Nation at Moraviantown and The Munsee-Delaware Nation).
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In the late 16th and early 17th century, economic and political deceit led to escalating violent clashes between Indians and settlers. The people known as the Delaware were driven ever westward by settler encroachment and governmental control. They first moved along the North branch of the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. Later they were pushed farther west, establishing a vast town near present day Kitanning PA. Later they fled into Ohio, then to Indiana, Missouri, Kansas, and finally, Indian Territory, in what is now Oklahoma. With each move they were convinced they would be safe. Some chose to neither fight or leave, instead blending into the dominent society, taking on Irish, English, Dutch and Scottish surnames. They wanted to be able to own land and enable their children to attend local public schools without fear. Until 1978 it was illegal for Native Americans to practice their religions. The descendants of the Delaware who moved westward under governmental pressure now live in Okalahoma numbering nearly 12,000. One small band of the Delaware who left the group in the late 1700s are today located in Anadarko, Oklahoma. Other Delaware fled to Canada during a time of extreme persecution. Today EDN people are taking steps to learn the Delaware language through interaction with the The Munsee-
Delaware Nation in Canada.
Eastern Delaware Nations is not recognized by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, or the federal government as a tribe. Although the government official stand is that ‘no Indians stayed in Pennsylvania’, our ancestors did stay and we are still here! Regional place names echo our ancestor’s presence in the Endless Mountains: Susquehanna, Wyoming, Wyalusing, Towanda, Sheshequin, Laquin. Eastern Delaware Nations was incorporated in 1984 and achieved 501c3 status in 1993. Steeped in American Indian history, Wyalusing Rocks was purchased by EDN in 1999, after three years of fundraising, public donations and support. Roughly translated, Wyalusing means “Where the old man sits”. Some say medicine people prayed there, while others say people kept watch for invaders from these high cliffs overlooking the Susquehanna River.
Through the efforts of groups like EDN, awareness about American Indian history and culture is being raised across the state. In eastern Pennsylvania, Bradford, Sullivan and Lycoming counties joined Pennsylvania in proclaiming August ‘Native American Awareness Month’ in 2001. Schools, daycare facilities, scout groups, and other organizations request EDN presentations. Museums request exhibits of ‘story poles’ created through the Totem Rhythms project, and our mural titled ‘Elan Kumankw’ (We Are All Related).
EDN is strengthening cultural awareness, knowledge of historical contributions, and today’s American Indian culture throughout the Endless Mountains and beyond. The planned Cultural Center and living history areas will attract recreational, heritage and history visitors, and scholars to the Endless Mountains Region. The Cultural Center will be completed within a few years, offering visitors to the Endless Mountains Region a chance to understand history from the American Indian standpoint.