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Delaware: Land of the Lenape

By Travis Childs
Pioneer Sentinel

Though Delaware may sound like an Indian name the colony was named after the Delaware River named for Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr.  As governor of Virginia he led attacks against the Powhatan Indians.  The river was first explored by Europeans during his time as governor, and they named it after his.  There is a Delaware Tribe, but that name was given to them by the Europeans.  They call themselves the Lenape, and they are a wonderful yet sad example of the European incursion on to Indian lands.

The Lenape faced a difficult decision in the late 1700s.  The Americans continued to move west onto Lenape lands, and many chose to fight against the British and Americans in the French and Indian War (1754-1763).  The Lenape signed a treaty with the Americans surrendering their lands in the east and agreeing to move into the Ohio River Valley where they might escape future attempts to take their land.  Within a few years the Lenape again faced a crisis during the American Revolution as American encroachment continued. In 1778 at present day Pittsburg the Lenape became the first tribe to make a treaty with the new United States, agreeing to support the Americans, but many preferred the British as the lesser of two evils.

Once again the Lenape were forced to move from state to state and eventually many were forced onto reservations in Northeast Oklahoma.  Some had moved into Spanish Texas and served the Republic of Texas as scouts for the Texas Rangers and negotiators with other tribes.  Those Delaware were put onto the Brazos Indian Reservation near Fort Belknap west of Graham, but they too were eventually moved to Oklahoma. There are pockets of Lenape throughout the U.S., but only three reservations, two in Oklahoma and one in Wisconsin, nowhere near Delaware.

Editors Note: Travis Childs is a history instructor at Cameron University in Lawton, Okla. He is a graduate of Midway High School and lives in Bluegrove. He is currently president of the Clay County Historical Society.


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The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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