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

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 ‘Wolf 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. https://wabash.ca/ 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.

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