What Is the History of the Indian Populations in Delaware?


Quick Answer

The main Native American tribes that inhabited the current state of Delaware were the Lenape, who were also called the Delaware, the Nanticoke and the Assateague. They were contacted by Dutch and English settlers, and relations were generally violent with them. Eventually English and then American settlers forced them to move onto reservations and go further west.

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Full Answer

The Native Americans of Delaware were among the few North American tribes to have contact with Italian explorers. The Lenape acquired an early hostility towards Europeans following many slave raids. Their relationship with the brief Dutch colonies of North America was plagued with constant acts of violence. One infamous incident was the massacre of the entire Dutch colony of Zwaanendael. At the same time, trade wars erupted between the various Native American tribes, and those in Delaware were often attacked by members of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy.

By the end of the 19th century, almost all the native people of Delaware had moved further north and west due to the polices of the United States government. A significant amount of people from the Nanticoke tribe managed to stay within the state of Delaware. Some members actually came from neighboring states, and as of 2015, they have survived as the Nanticoke Indian Association. With their museum in Millsboro, Delaware and annual powwows, they have attracted tourism, keeping their small tribal community running.

Like other Native Americans of the eastern North America, the native tribes of Delaware saw men doing the hunting and fishing, while women and children did the farming and gathering. They built wigwams for housing, long houses for important social events, and sweat lodges for bathing and religious practices.

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