Indians of Pennsylvania
and the Delaware Valley
The extensive drainage basin of the Delaware River is popularly
called the "Delaware Valley." In different parts of my life I've lived in each
of the three states surrounding it -- Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.
As a boy, I was always curious about the mysterious Indians who were nowhere to
be seen, but whose language surrounded us in place names like Conestoga,
Susquehanna, Passaic, and Hoboken, just to name a few. Even the name Manhattan
comes from the language of the "Delaware" Indians.
I am glad to have finally learned, much later in life, about the
people who really "settled" this land and blazed its trails. Here in
Pennsylvania, many early contacts were honorable, and Indians were
well-treated. Unfortunately, much of that honor died with
William Penn. The
links below will shed light on the history and culture of this region's first
inhabitants, and the activities of Indians who live here now. (*See below
for photo information)
Introduction: Numerous native populations occupied what is now
Pennsylvania before the first Europeans arrived here. Perhaps the best known
were the "Delaware" Indians, a somewhat broad term used by colonists, that
included the Lenni Lenape and related groups which spoke similar languages.
Through a long history of land purchases, wars, emigration, and forced
relocation by state and federal governments, many or most surviving descendants
of the Delawares ended up in Oklahoma. Because they arrived there by different
routes at different times, two separate groups formed, and remain there today,
one in the eastern part of the state and one in the western part. The eastern
group claims to be the larger of the two, with 10,500 members. As you'll see
below, those are not the only groups claiming to be descended from the
indigenous population of this region.
Webmaster's Comment: The
information on this page changes faster than virtually any other page on the
entire Online Communicator website. In the version you're reading now, over
half the sites linked here had disappeared, or the links required some type of
updating, since the previous page revision. Tracking down the new information
is difficult from a research standpoint, not to mention politically sensitive!
So please help out and let me know if you find anything missing.
- The Delaware Tribe of
Western Oklahoma had an attractive website that had disappeared the last time
this page was revised. Since then, the group has undergone a name change and
set up a new site, with the simpler name
The Delaware Nation.
- Still at the same site is
The Delaware Tribe of
Indians, another population of Lenape/Delaware descendants, who live in
eastern Oklahoma. They are recognized by the U.S. government as a
sovereign Native American nation, after a ruling in 1996.
The Ramapough Mountain Indians were a
group in New Jersey whose Native American lineage has been disputed by some
parties. Despite the controversy, they achieved official recognition by the
state of New Jersey. This is another group that has changed its name since this
page was first published. Now they are the
Ramapough Lenape Nation.
The information on the new site is distributed via a discussion board
structure, linked from the home page.
- The Powhatan Renape Nation -
Rankokus American Indian Reservation is recognized by the state of New
Jersey. Among its goals are "to educate the non-Indian community about our
traditional ways, beliefs, traditions, and culture."
- The Lenape Nation is a
group in eastern Pennsylvania that seeks to preserve cultural traditions and
tribal identity, and hopes for state recognition.
- The Thunder Mountain Lenape
Nation [Revised URL] includes members of the United Lenape Nation
who live primarily in Western Pennsylvania. They have various informational
links, and report on their cultural activities and other news.
- The Kansas
Delaware [Revised URL] tribe views itself as another distinct
branch, and although it is currently incorporated in the state of Oklahoma, it
is seeking recognition in Kansas.
- The Delawares of
Idaho [Revised URL] are also separated from the "main" branches of
the tribe, but are organizing and working toward recognition, while they
preserve their culture with the help of their website, powwows, and other
Research and History
- The Lenni Lenape Historical
Society in Allentown, PA provides a museum, an annual schedule of
educational and cultural events, and more.
- Historical and other information on the
Delaware [Revised URL]
Indians, as well as the Susquehannock, the
Erie, and much more, can be
found on First
Nations/First Peoples Issues, a large website that has stirred a bit of
controversy within the ranks of Native American activists.
Lenape Delaware History
Net is essentially a labor of love that was long maintained by Thomas
Swiftwater Hahn and Chris Hahn. Tom Hahn passed away since this link was first
added here, but Chris is keeping things going. The site disclaims any official
link with specific tribal groups, but still provides lots of links and other
- The Delaware State Historic Preservation Office offers an
multi-section overview [Revised URL] of Indian history in that state
based on archaeological findings, going back 12,000 years and up to the time of
contact with Europeans.
- With all the digging it does, the Delaware Department of
Transportation keeps track of Archaeological Exploration and
Historic Preservation in Delaware [Revised URL]. They used to have
an overview page of all their prehistoric findings, but that seems to have
gone. Instead, they publish findings of prehistoric artifacts and information
for each project individually, which can take some time to locate. An example
is the Hares Corner interchange, for which they produced a summary of
Prehistory pertinent to that project.
- The Indian King Tavern
Museum, Haddonfield, NJ hosts a page with interesting anecdotes describing
local Indian activities in early New Jersey history.
on the eve of colonization [Revised URL] part of the PA State
Historical Museum site, this page describes the indigenous people who lived
here before Europeans arrived. Also at that site:
Promises, Broken Dreams: "North America's Forgotten Conflict at Bushy Run
Battlefield" -- a very detailed description of a large battle among Indians and
Europeans that marked a turning point in the westward expansion of the state,
and the nation.
- The Pennsylvania State Data Center has analyzed 1990 U.S. Census data
and offers a Research Brief analyzing
population in Pennsylvania [Revised URL], along with a data chart
and county-by-county map. For your convenience I've posted a
version of the statewide map right here. Visit the source to see the
The Center also offers a 1998 article commemorating
History Month [Revised URL] in Pennsylvania.
- Larry Smith's huge site devoted to Bedford County, in West-Central
Pennsylvania, contains extensive information about
The Indian Occupation Of
Mother Bedford, with particular emphasis on the Susquehannocks and their
- Not to be outdone, Rick Nicholson's Delaware County site features
his laborious presentation of the
History of Delaware
County, Pennsylvania written by Henry Graham Ashmead in 1884. Ashmead's
text provides numerous references to Indian activities and influences in the
southeastern part of the state, going back to the 17th century -- and to top it
off, the entire site is searchable by keyword. Thanks, Rick!
- The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting of the Society of Friends has
maintained an Indian
Committee continuously for well over 200 years. Many of the records it
accumulated from 1745 to 1983 are housed within the Special Collections of the
Haverford and Swarthmore College Libraries. You can get some idea of the
collection's breadth by exploring its
- Mohican Press operates a tribute site to the film Last of the
Mohicans. Their The
Mohicans: Children of the Delaware touches on the relationships among these
- Unfortunately, Marist College has apparently cut back its web pages
on Native Americans. Other sources report on some of the same topics, including
Indians of the Lower
Hudson Valley and Native
American Tribes of the Hudson River.
- As they migrated out of Pennsylvania, some members of the various
tribes known as Delawares settled for a while in Ohio, where they made enough
of an impression to merit a page on
Central [Revised URL].
- The Library of Congress offers a look the
boarding schools where authorities tried to quash Indian culture and
language, under the guise of "helping" Indian children through mainstream
education away from their families and tribes. A search of the collection
from the Indian school in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. For a deeper and
well-documented exploration of the school's history and context, visit the
Carlisle Indian School
Research Pages. Stephanie Anderson's thoughtful article
"On Sacred Ground"
attempts to put the Carlisle experience into perspective from a modern
- As a graduate student at the University of Virginia, Tuomi J. Forrest
created an incisive look at the interaction of culture, politics, history, and
art in Penn in the
Capitol, which examines various marble panels within the U.S. Capitol
building. * The panel shown here depicts William Penn making a treaty with
the Indians. The Virginia site has better versions of the original
photograph, other Indian-related images from the Capitol, references to the
sources, and an informative and interesting commentary.
- The Schuylkill Heritage Ecosystem Discoveries Project developed
several pages of information about the
Lenape and related topics, now hosted by Web-Savvy Productions.
- United American Indians of the
Delaware Valley [Revised URL] is a Philadelphia-based non-profit
organization providing numerous support services and cultural activities for
Indians of all backgrounds. UAIDV seems to have had its share of organizational
difficulties over the years. The website URL has changed several times since
this page was first published, and as of this writing, the site is still rather
bare. The group has sponsored some large pow-wows in the city over the years,
but an interested visitor might have to search elsewhere for information about
new ones, unless the group decides to start updating the website.
- Hope Farm Press
publishes a particularly large and eclectic selection of books on Native
American history, culture, and related topics, especially about this region.
- The Billy Graham Center at Wheaton College offers archives for
visiting scholars, including specialized microfilm collections. Most such
collections provide summaries or "finding aids." Sometimes the "finding aid" is
useful all by itself, such as this
Background of the Moravian Missions Among American Indians. If you want
more detail, however, you'll have to go look at the microfilm in person.
Ever since I launched this page, people have written to me asking me if
I could help them identify their long-lost Indian ancestors, and similar
questions. Folks, I am not a psychic, nor am I a free research service. I just
run a free website on my own time, and I provide links that you could find
yourself, except that I make it easier to find things all in one place. In that
spirit, here are some links that are just meant to get you started if you have
a question about Native American family links. If they don't meet your needs,
just learn to use the search tools that are available on the web. I simply
can't answer personal questions about your family tree. Thanks.
The Reading (Pennsylvania) Moravian
Church used to host a lot of genealogy links on its site, but now it links to
this separately-maintained list of Moravian Church Genealogy
- Betty and Ray Terry's Mitsawokett site focuses on the history
and genealogy of "Native American Isolate Communities" primarily in the
Delmarva Peninsula area. Unfortunately, a bit too much Java and loose coding
slows the site down. However, they host some unique materials. One, a series of
papers by consultants Ned and Louise Heite under the title
Indians arose from research into the Bloomsbury archaeological site in
Delaware, with extensive followup research into the geneaology of people
- A site called "Access Genealogy" provides a page specific to
Native American Genealogy.
- To get an idea of just how hard it is to get access to the
information stored in some early records, take a look at
"The Records Of The Moravian
Indian Mission: A List of Published Transcriptions and Translations" which
puts the records in historical perspective, and describes how much of the
original data still has not even been microfilmed yet, much less transcribed
and then translated from the original German.