Last to Come, First to Go – Indiana’s Delaware (Lenape)

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The Delaware or Lenape “original people” or “true men” were also known as “the eastern people of the stoney country”. The Delaware Tribe was divided into three principal Clans (# 1) the “Turtle” Clan who ranked first and which is the oldest from which the rulers and politicians were chosen, (# 2) the “Wolf” (more commonly known as “Munsey” , or “Muncee”) the clan of hunters, and (# 3) the “Turkey” Clan which is the clan of farmers.

The Delaware maintained an extensive recorded pictograph (183 wooden sticks with pictures) called the Walam Olum (Wallam Ollum), which is an oral history covering many centuries and contains songs about the creation of man and their ancient migration into North America, etc. The Walam Olum firmly upholds the Delaware Tribal nickname of “Grandfathers'” as they were once referred to respectfully by peoples from other eastern Tribes. Their Wallam Ollum history indicates the Delaware Nation had been on the East Coast for seventy-six generations at the time of European contact, and prior to their arrival on the eastern coast their history describes generations of migration eastward from a land beyond great water. The Lenni Lenape spoke in one of the multi-dialect Indian languages that is referred to as Algonquin, hence the Lenni Lenape are referred to by modern researchers as an “Algonquin” peoples. Munceetown in Indiana was dominated by a particular Clan (Family) of Delaware Indians, who were known as the “Muncee” (‘Wolf’) Family, hence the name “Munceetown” or ‘Town of the Muncee Family’ or ‘ los angeles dodgers sweatshirt Town’. The Delaware (Lenni Lenepe) Indians spoke several Algonquin dialects, of which the three primary were Munsee, Unami, and Unalactigo. The majority of Indians residing in Munsee Town spoke the Munsee dialect, which was distinct from the other two used by the “Delaware” and apparently was more closely related to Mahican. (The Walum Olum is a very controversial record that has been disputed as being “authentic” by most scholars. It tends to go in an out of favor with historians and many questions about its true origins remain a mystery.)

As the white men encroached on the Lenape and as the neighboring Iroquois lost political ground of their own, the pressure for the Lenape to move west or suffer the consequences was intense. Many Lenape began to migrate first to Pennsylvania, near Germantown in 1682; subsequently they moved to the area of the Susquehanna River in 1742; and headed still further west crossing the Ohio near Newcomers and Tuscarawas in eastern Ohio and establishing themselves on the Muskingum River in 1751. They asked permission of the Miami and Piankeshaw tribes to settle between the Ohio and White rivers in Indiana in 1767. They must have felt the time would come when they would have to relocate once again. After the Miami, Shawnee, Delaware and other Ohio Valley tribes fought to hold onto their lands and drive the Americans out, (which led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville where they were forced to cede land to the United States Government), this left many Lenape without land of their own. It was at this time they began to take the Miami up on their offer to move to the White River and other areas of mostly uninhabited southern Indiana.

Furthering this relocation were incidents involving Christian Indians, converted by Moravian missionaries who were being harassed from Indians that favored warfare. When the Ohio Delaware Indians at Gnadenhutten refused time and time again to join their more traditional brothers in fending off American soldiers, they became targets of violence. The entire Moravian movement was caught in an impossible situation. Distrust grew among whites who saw the Moravian Indians as a haven for rebels. Moravian Missionary, David Zeisburger, who had devoted his entire life to converting the Delaware noted in his journal, “It had been a month since an American militia unit under the command of Lt. Col. David Williamson had systematically killed ninety-six men, women, and children, all of them Indian converts living in the Moravian settlement of Gnadenhutten on the Muskingum River. It appeared as if the developing world of the Ohio Valley was closing in on us and our charges. From the white people, or so-called Christians, we can hope for no protection, and among [the] heathen nations also we have no friends left, such outlaws are we!” Recent developments had not been kind to the Moravians and their communities in the Ohio Valley, but the murder of the Native converts at Gnadenhutten was the most egregious incident. Zeisberger could not believe what had happened, taking solace only in the ultimate mercy of God. This massacre has long been one of the most notorious examples of the mistreatment of Indians by eighteenth-century Euro-Americans. In the aftermath, the surviving mostly Delaware and Munsee Moravian converts scattered throughout the Ohio Valley and found refuge in the homes and villages of their Munsee, Delaware, and Shawnee neighbors. This violence and the fact that the alliance under Little Turtle of the Miami, Blue Jacket of the Shawnee and Buckengaoleas of the Delaware failed to drive the enemy away, forced many Delaware to consider relocating further west to Indiana territory.

Enter William Conner. William Conner was born in what is now Tuscarawas County, Ohio, in 1777. Conner’s family traveled with Moravian missionaries and their Delaware converts. The Conners joined the Delaware and the missionaries on their British-forced removal to Michigan. William’s father, Richard, would go on to settle in Michigan in an area later to become Macomb County, Michigan. Although Conner acquired almost 4,000 acres of land from his father, he would leave home by 1795 and begin trading with the Native Americans around Saginaw Bay. Conner and his older brother John arrived in Indiana during the winter of 1800-1801 as agents for a Canadian fur trader named Angus Mackintosh. Conner and his brother would become officially licensed traders by 1801. They would later settle among the Delaware along the White River. Conner and his brother would also both marry Delaware women. Conner’s wife’s name was Mekinges, daughter of Chief Anderson (Kikthawenund).

Conner helped maintain Delaware Indian loyalty during the War of 1812. Conner would later serve as an interpreter and liaison at the Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818, in which the Delaware ceded lands in central Indiana for those west of the Mississippi River. In 1818, he petitioned to secure legal right to his land from the Delaware. Upon securing his petition in 1820, Conner divided assets with his business partner William Marshall and provided his own family with horses and goods. Conner chose to stay in Indiana and saw that his wife and children and the rest of the Delaware leave that summer. There is some controversy as to why Conner did not have his family stay or why he did not go along with them. Only three months after his family’s departure, he married Elizabeth Chapman.

The Delaware had as many as fourteen villages along the West Fork of the White River. The White River or Wapihanne flows westward past the Lenape villages of Munseetown, Buckstown (Killbuck’s Village), Andersontown (Chestnut Tree Place or Wapiminskink), Nancytown (Nantikoke’s Town) and Straw’s Town before turning south and reaching the first white settlement in east-central Indiana, the William Conner farm of 1802 (where the Conner Prairie living history village is now located). Continuing south, the White River passed what would become Indianaapolis, or Chanktunoongi meaning “makes a noisy place” referring to Fall Creek, in the Miami dialect of Algonquin.

The county seat of Anderson began as a Delaware village called Wapiminskink meaning “chestnut tree place” and later referred to as Andersontown after Delaware Chief Anderson. The original layout of Anderson followed the Delaware village’s boundaries and trails. Kikthawenund’s individual camp was located at what is now the 900 block of Fletcher Street in Anderson. Kikthawenund was born in the 1740’s in Anderson’s Ferry (Marietta, Pennsylvania). His mother was a daughter of the Lenape tribal chief Netaawatwees and his father was a Swedish trader. Throughout his life, Anderson went by both his father’s name and his native tribal name. Not much is known of his early life but he was much influenced by his grandfather with whom he spent much of his time. As an adult, the Revolutionary war was an influence on many Native people and Kikthawenund was no exception. He sided with White Eyes of the Delaware who fought for the Americans. When the wars in the Ohio Country ended, Anderson was forced to consider relocating to lands the Miami were going to allow the Lenape people to utilize on the White River in central Indiana.

Anderson who became head of the Turkey Clan of the Unami Delaware took his group and settled in a small village on the White River in what someday would become the city of Anderson. His personal residence was a two-story log home, located where the present-day city building now stands. He was able to suppress the liquor trade among his people and during the uprising of Tecumseh, he kept his people out of the controversy as much as possible. In 1818, he signed the Treay of St Mary’s on behalf of his people and reluctantly prepared for another move west. Chief Anderson had four known sons and one daughter, Mekinges. His sons became famous scouts and guides for western-bound wagon trains. Mekinges and William Conner had six children together. When the Delaware were forced to leave Indiana, Mekinges and her children went with them while her husband, for controversial reasons, stayed in Indiana and remarried.

Killbuck’s village on the White River was known as “Buckstown.” William Henry Killbuck was probably born around 1785 in Ohio. He was the son of Gelelemend Killbuck and great grandson of Newcomer of the Turtle Clan of Lenape Delaware. He had a village on the southeast side of the White River, a northern tributary to the Wabash. It was one mile northwest of Chesterfield on a high bluff over-looking White River. The chief was one of the Native Americans converted by the Moravian missionaries who had begun their work in the area in 1801. Chief Killbuck signed the Ft. Wayne, Indiana Treaty of 1809 and the St. Mary’s, Ohio Treaty of 1818. His father actively assisted the English during the French and Indian War and he sided with the English during the early years of the American Revolution. Killbuck’s father later in his life became a convert to Christianity under Moravian Missionary, David Zeisberger and is buried in Goshen, OHio. Killbuck came to Indiana when the Miami and Piankeshaw granted them permission and after he felt they had no choice but to relocate. Killbuck sensed that he was in a no-win situation as his alliances were with the Indians but he wanted to remain neutral and he did not want to fight with Tecumseh and the Prophet’s followers but felt compelled to do so and was never heard from again.

White Eyes was also referred to as, “Captain White Eyes.” He was the son of the famed White Eyes who was loyal to the Americans during the Revolution. He along with his band of Delaware were granted permission to move to a tributary of the Wabash known as the Wapahanne. He chose to move further south in Indiana near the area of present day North Vernon and Madison. White Eyes wanted to remain neutral and made another choice to stay in the region where he was observed in 1814 by a Mr. Burns. According to Mr. Burns, “The entire region, (southeastern Indiana), belonged to old Captain White Eyes and his people. White Eyes did try to make friends with some of the settlers ’round here…he was bold looking, rather sassy, about thirty years of age at that time and around six feet tall. He usually wore a breechclout, leggins’ and moccasins with a blanket thrown over his shoulders. His leggin’s were dark blue wool of fine quality. His hair was long and black with buzzard quills stuck in it. He always carried a gun and a pipe tomahawk.” Mr. Burns refers to White Eyes as a “Potawatomi,” from “out on the Wabash.” He also states there were over a hundred people with White Eyes. Their main encampment at that time was over on Marble Creek close to the Hillis’ blockhouse in Lancaster Township of Jennings County on what would become Stout’s farm and later become part of the United States Proving Ground. Burns continued describing the village, “The camp was on a little knoll. All about it the bark was pulled off from the trees and set on end for shelter. Trees peeled as high as they could reach and for a good bit around as they had about fifteen wigwams.”

White Eyes was married and his wife also befriended the settlers. He was blamed for the Pigeon Roost Massacre. He did not participate in that or any other attack on settlements. He was blamed for an attack on a settlement, north of Madison where log cabins were burned out but he again had nothing to do with it. He rode his horse when he traveled and used others for packing things from place to place. They went to Madison to trade for liquor, cloth, guns, ammunition and processed flour, sugar and other items. White Eyes was murdered for deeds he had no part of and his body was thrown down a sinkhole in southeastern Indiana. Today, there is a marker nearby honoring the life of White Eyes.

Tahunquecoppi/Chief Pipe (Hopocan) was a Lenape who was from Ohio. Pipe Creek in Madison County is named for the Delaware leader Chief Pipe, also called Captain Pipe. One of his Delaware names was Tahunquecoppi meaning “Tobacco Pipe.” One source states that Hopocan or Captain Pipe was born about 1725; others put his birth at 1740. Little is known of his early years. He was probably born near the Susquehanna River in Pennsylvania. His uncle was Chief Custaloga, whom he succeeded as Chief. Captain Pipe likely spent his early years either at Custaloga’s Town, along French Creek in Mercer County, PA, or Custaloga’s other main village, Cussewago, at the present site of Meadville, PA in Crawford County.

Captain Pipe is first mentioned historically in 1759 among the warriors at a conference held at Fort Pitt, July, 1759, between the agent of Sir William Johnston, Hugh Mercer, the Iroquois, Delawares and Shawnees. During the American Revolution, Captain Pipe first tried to remain neutral to both the British and the Americans. He refused to take up arms against the Americans even after General Edward Hand killed his mother, brother, and a few of his children during a military campaign in 1778. The Delawares that Hand attacked were neutral, but he sought to protect American settlers in the Ohio Country from Indian attacks, including killing innocent natives.

Also, in 1778, Captain Pipe was with White Eyes and Killbuck when they signed the first-ever treaty between the Continental Congress and Native people. Later that same year, General Lachlan McIntosh, the American commander at Fort Pitt, requested permission from the Delaware Indians to march through their territory to attack Fort Detroit. Captain Pipe and other Delaware chiefs agreed, as long as the soldiers would build a fort to protect the Delaware form both the British and white settlers. McIntosh agreed and had Fort Laurens built near the Delaware villages in eastern Ohio. After constructing the fort, McIntosh demanded that the Ohio Country natives assist the Americans in capturing Fort Detroit. If the Indians refused, McIntosh threatened them with extermination.

Realizing how weak McIntosh’s force was and believing that the Americans could not protect them from the British and their native allies, Captain Pipe and many other Delaware Indians began to form a friendlier relationship with the English. Also in 1778, Pipe, and the warlike members of his tribe, departed from the Tuscarawas and located on the Walhonding River, about fifteen miles above the present site of Coshocton, Ohio. The Americans pushed Captain Pipe solidly to England’s side in 1781, when Colonel Daniel Brodhead attacked and destroyed this village, Captain Pipe became the leader of those natives who supported the British and moved his people to the Tymochtee Creek near the Sandusky River. This village was known as “Pipe’s Town,” located near the village of Crawford in Wyandot County. He spent the remainder of the war trying to thwart American expansion into the Ohio Country.

In 1782, he participated in the defeat of the Crawford Expedition headed by William Crawford. Seeking vengeance for the Gnadenhutten Massacre, Captain Pipe was probably the one who marked Crawford for death by painting his face black. He also threatened to kill Simon Girty if he tried to intercede on Crawford’s behalf while the natives first tortured and then executed Crawford. Pipe was said to be a merciless foe. Following the Revolution, Captain Pipe continued to resist white settlement of the Ohio Country (known as the Northwest Territory at this point). By the 1810s and 1820s, Captain Pipe realized his people had little chance against the Americans and began to negotiate treaties. The settlers violated these agreements, moving onto land set aside for the Delaware. In the spring of 1812, Old Captain Pipe and his people quietly removed westward, locating near the present town of Orestes in Madison County, Indiana. The Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818 gave the tribes three years before having to be removed from this area. They departed peacefully in 1821 and it is uncertain if Chief Pipe was still alive. It is said that he died around 1818 near Orestes and is supposedly buried there. Other reports claim that he removed to Canada and died there. Captain Pipe had a son also named Captain Pipe who signed many treaties and moved with the Delaware people to Kansas.

Nantikoke or (Nancytown)- was a smaller village than most but was named in honor of the Nantikoke or Naticoke people of which the term Nancy is a corruption. First contact with the Nanticoke Tribe was recorded by Captain John Smith in 1608. While exploring the Chesapeake Bay, Smith and his crew sailed onto the Kuskarawaok River. Nanticoke is translated from the original Nantaquak meaning the tidewater people or people of the tidewaters. As their numbers dwindled and pressures white settlers pushed the Nanticoke north and west, many united with the Lenape and some came with them all the way to Indiana, maintaining their group’s identity as separately. It is not known if they managed to maintain that tradition all the way to Kansas after their removal from Indiana in 1821.

Strawtown – a prehistoric site along the White River known as the Strawtown enclosure. It is a large circular, earthen embankment and ditch structure in Hamilton County, Indiana measuring approximately 80-90 meters in diameter. The enclosure has been recognized as a significant prehistoric earthwork, appearing in several early accounts. The site was intensively occupied. Ceramics from the site include Great Lakes wares, Fort Ancient guilloche pottery, and shell-tempered Oneota-like sherds. Excavations were conducted in the enclosure in 2001, 2002, 2003, and 2004. The site dates to the Late Prehistoric/Mississippian periods (circa AD 1100-1450). Several Late Prehistoric settlement sites are present in the immediate vicinity of Strawtown, at least two of which (the Strawtown enclosure and the Castor Farm site) are clearly eligible for the National Register of Historic Places. Hamilton County recently purchased 750 acres (containing at least 115 archaeological sites) in the vicinity of Strawtown to be developed as an archaeological research/tourism park.

Strawtown – Delaware Village – located some distance from the pre-historic site and was possibly named for a Delaware-Mohican named Straw. More research is needed to be certain.

The Delaware removed from Indiana in 1821 to Kansas and then Oklahoma. There are many Delaware (Lenape) descendants of these people living in Oklahoma and some often come to events and visit their Indiana and Ohio homelands.

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write by Jamshid Kamaliddinov