Origin and History
The Lenape people (aka Delaware) are an Algonquian-speaking group of Native Americans consisting of numerous bands. They initially inhabited along the Delaware River in present-day New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, the Lower Hudson Valley and Eastern Delaware.
In the 1600s, Dutch traders came to contact with the Lenape people for the fur trade. At that time, this people numbered some 20,000 individuals.
In 1626, the Manhattan band of Lenape sold their island to the Dutch.
In 1634, war broke out between the Lenape and the Susquehannocks over trade with the Dutch. The Lenape then became tributaries to these people.
From 1638, Swedish traders began to live in the southern part of the Lenape territory. Many Lenape bands migrated inland along the Susquehanna River.
In 1641, the Raritan band, which inhabited Staten Island, rebelled against the encroachments of the Dutch settlers but they were soon vanquished. In 1643, after additional incidents, some Lenape bands began to launch raids on Dutch settlements, but the Dutch burned down Lenape villages and crushed the rebellion.
In 1655, another uprising led the Dutch to burn villages and to take children hostages.
In 1676, the Lenape became tributaries of the Iroquois Confederacy.
In 1682, the Lenape people signed a treaty of friendship with the Quakers of Pennsylvania.
By the 1700s, the Lenape people had been reduced to only 4,000 by epidemic and war. Under the growing pressure of British settlers, many Lenape bands had migrated westwards to the Ohio River and present-day Indiana.
During the French and Indian Wars (1689-1763), the Lenape initially sided with the French.
In 1751. the Lenape bands established in Western Pennsylvania accepted the invitation of the Wendat (Huron) to settle in eastern Ohio. There were now two major concentrations of Lenape bands: one along the Upper Ohio River and one the Upper Susquehanna and Wyoming Valley. Shingas was recognized by the Iroquois as the chief of the Lenape of the Ohio. The same year, the Lenape people suffered from an epidemic of smallpox.
In 1752, the Lenape bands of the Ohio asked the Iroquois for help against the French, who were establishing forts on the river.
In 1763 and 1764, many Lenape took part in Pontiac Rebellion.
At the end of the 18th century, some Lenape bands migrated to Missouri, and later to Texas. By 1835, the Lenape had mostly migrated to Kansas. In 1867, they migrated to Oklahoma, while other bands went to Canada.
Role during the War
In May 1754, the Iroquois Confederacy, unable to defend the Ohio, ceded it to the British colony of Pennsylvania. When the Native American people inhabiting the Ohio learned that the Iroquois had ceded their territory, With France and Great Britain encroaching on their territory, the Lenape of the Ohio decided to remain neutral. However, on June 26, Louis Coulon de Villiers convinced some Lenape warriors to take up the hatchet against the British.
In 1755, the Lenape bands of the Susquehanna River contributed 50 warriors as scouts for the British expedition against Fort Duquesne, but Major-General Edward Braddock dismissed them. After Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela, Pennsylvania overreacted and hanged Lenape representatives sent to protest about the cession of the Ohio to that colony. Together with the Shawnee people, the Lenape of the Ohio then launched punitive expeditions against British settlements on the Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia frontiers. Shingas, the chief of the Lenape of the Ohio, conducted raids along the Susquehanna and convinced the Lenape bands still living there to join his war parties. Some 300 Lenape warriors of the Susquehanna joined 700 Lenape warriors of the Ohio and ravaged the frontier of Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York.
In April 1756, Pennsylvania declared war on the Lenape and offered bounties for scalps and prisoners. In June, New Jersey did the same. The colonist built a chain of forts. On August 2, during the raids on the Western Borders, advancing from Fort Duquesne, a small force of 23 French (Troupes de la Marine and Milices Canadiennes) and 32 Allied Naive Americans under François Coulon de Villiers assisted by Jacobs, chief of the Wolf clan of the Lenape people attacked a small stockade called Fort Granville, on the Juniata River in Pennsylvania while most of its garrison was absent protecting the farmers at their harvest. They took the fort, set it on fire and brought back 27 prisoners. On September 8, a force of colonial militia under Colonel John Armstrong destroyed the large Lenape village of Kittaning on the Allegheny River. Chief Jacobs was killed but most warriors managed to escape.
In January 1757, a large party of Lenape warriors was encamped near Fort Niagara. In the summer, Lenape war parties attacked Orange and Duchess Counties in New York and the frontier in northern New Jersey. On July 24, a party of 5 Lenape warriors joined the French in their expedition against Fort William Henry.
In the spring of 1758, Lenape warriors attacked Walpack in New Jersey. In October, the Lenape signed the Treaty of Easton with the British by which they sold their territory in New Jersey, retired to a reservation at Brotherton and obtained that Pennsylvania relinquished its claims on the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.
In July 1759, the Lenape of the Ohio signed a treaty with the British at Fort Pitt.
In 1761, the Lenape of the Ohio returned 600 white prisoners to the British. Nearly half of the former prisoners decided to remain with the Lenape people.
After a final treaty at Lancaster in 1762, the Delaware expected the British to leave Fort Pitt, but this did not happen. Garrisoned with 200 soldiers, it remained as an annoying symbol of British authority in the region.
Men removed all facial hair and usually shaved most of their hair, keeping only a small “round crest, of about 2 inches in diameter”. Deer hair, dyed a deep scarlet, as well as plumes of feathers, were favorite components of headdresses and breast ornaments for men. Tattooing was common.
By 1750, the Lenape had become very stylish in their dress, favoring silver nose rings and clothing decorated with bright cloth purchased from European traders.
We have been unable to find additional characteristics about the dress of this Native American people that would distinguish them from other peoples. If you can suggest sources documenting such characteristics, please do not hesitate to contact us with your suggestions.
Bougainville, Louis Antoine de: Adventure in the Wilderness - The American Journal of Louis Antoide de Bougainville 1756-1760, Norman: University of Oklahoma Press translated by Edward P. Hamilton, p. 85
Sultzman, Lee: Delaware History], retrieved on May 3, 2021
Waldman, Carl: Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes, Revised Edition, pp. 119-122
Wikipedia – Lenape
N.B.: the section Role during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.