The English name Delaware was based on
the river named for Lord de la Warr. In early colonial times, this river
valley was the tribal center of an area that included present New Jersey,
Pennsylvania, New York and Delaware. The tribe call themselves Lena'pe or
Leni-lena'pe, which is equivalent to "original people."
Belonging to the Algonquian linguistic family, they once were the largest of all Eastern Woodland tribes.
The Delaware tribe was first encountered
by Europeans in 1620 living along the Delaware River in and around
present-day Vernon, New Jersey, as well as in New York, Pennsylvania and
Delaware. By 1682, they had concentrated settlements in Pennsylvania,
where they signed the famous treaty with William Penn. And in 1778, the
Delaware were the first Indian tribe to sign a treaty with the newly
established United States. By the 1770s, the tribe occupied the country
between the Ohio and White Rivers in Indiana. Later in 1789, a band of
Delaware crossed the Mississippi to escape the Indian wars in Ohio and
settled in Spanish Territory (now the state of Missouri).
One part of the tribe, known as
Registered Delaware, came from their Kansas reservation in 1867 and
settled with the Cherokee along the Caney River. Their descendants live in
Washington, Craig, Nowata and Delaware counties.
Delaware Tribal Museum (Anadarko); and Philbrook Museum (Tulsa), for carved temple masks.