Lenape People

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Hierarchical Path: Seven Years War (Main Page) >> Armies >> Native American Peoples >> Lenape People

Origin and History

The Lenni Lenape people (aka Delaware) are an Algonquian-speaking nation of Native Americans consisting of numerous bands. At the beginning of the 17th century their small independent communities and associated but often distant hunting territories were located in homelands along the Delaware River in present-day New Jersey, Eastern Pennsylvania, the Lower Hudson Valley and Delaware. In 1607 John smith encountered a party of 50 Lenape in their canoes in Chesapeake Bay.

Lenape Territory - Copyright: Kronoskaf

From 1609, Dutch traders came to contact with the Lenape people following Henry Hudson’s disclosure that the land abounded with furs. At that time, this people numbered some 20,000 individuals.

In 1614 the Dutch established a trading post at present-day Albany to the north of the Lenape in Mahican territory and another called Fort Nassau at present-day Gloucester, New Jersey on land obtained from the Lenape in 1624.

In 1626, the Manhattan band of Lenape sold their island to the Dutch. A plot in Delaware Bay was bought in 1629. Note that different concepts of land to the Lenape meant shared use but to Europeans owned. In 1631 colony of Swanedael (Lewes, Delaware) was established but lasted less than a year due to a provoked Lenape attack.

From 1638, Swedish traders established Fort Christiana (present-day Wilmington) in the southern part of the Lenape territory. Further Swedish and Finnish farms spread along the Christiana River as the Lenape allowed them to share their territory.

In 1641, the Raritan band, which inhabited Staten Island, attempted to expel the Dutch squatters but they were soon defeated.

Frictions increased between the Lenape and Dutch as the latter’s population increased and several killings and retaliations occurred. In 1643, several hundred Wiechquaeskecks fleeing Mahican attacks took refuge on Manhattan Island. The Dutch saw this as an opportunity for revenge and massacred the refugees thus sparking off two years of war. The Lower Hudson Lenape united and attacked outlying Dutch farms and settlements. In February and March 1644 a joint Dutch-English expedition destroyed Lenape villages. Peace was concluded in the summer of 1645

In 1655, short minor conflict began when, it is said a Dutchman killed a Lenape man stealing peaches. A series of incidents kept matters on edge, and land cessions continued.

In 1660 seven canoes of Lenape men, women and children moved west and settled amongst the Susquehanna. In 1661 the smallpox spread from the Susquehanna to the Lenape. Many died and survivors accused the Europeans of spreading it deliberately.

In June 1663 the Esopus Lenape attacked a new Dutch settlement in their territory setting off a yearlong war until the English took over the Dutch colony. The Esopus driven out, took refuge with the Minisink on the Upper Delaware, and although a number remained on the Hudson, began the consolidation of a more westerly group. Along the Delaware River relations with the Swedes and the English were more peaceable. However, ‘land sales’ continued which consolidated the Lenape into a reduced number of villages.

In 1663 the Iroquois attacked the Susquehannock. A number of Lenape warriors assisted the Susquehannock in their defence. 12 Lenape were killed by a ‘Seneca’ war party on the Delaware River. In the fall, Lenape travelled to the Mohawk to negotiate peace but were rejected. The Lenape often acted as peace emissaries at this period.

In 1664 the English replaced the Dutch.Lenape leaders were reported saying ‘When the English come they drive them from their lands.’ The Algonquin speaking peoples in Maryland and Virginia had been persecuted by the English. Anti-English sentiment took over. There were several incidents involving Lenape hunters and Maryland settlers. There were also incidents in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Delaware where cattle wandered into Lenape cornfields and villages. There instances of murders, numerous thefts and arson, as well as ‘Land purchases’ continued.

In 1674 Andros became governor of New York colony. The following year he arranged a treaty conference with Lenape from the New Jersey and declared his desire to see that justice was done following trespass of Lenape fields. However, it did prevent colonials from debauching the Lenape with liquor, breaking the law. In 1677 the Lenape became part of the Covenant Chain of Peace alliance set up by Andros and Iroquois. Both the Lenape and Iroquois cooperated and adopted groups of the Susquehannock and the Iroquois gained rights to the Susquehannock Valley and the Lenape to the southern parts of Susquehannock territory. It was agreed in New York that the Iroquois would act as spokesmen and the Lenape would be honoured with the role of women (peacemakers), which they agreed to. The Iroquois were not dominant over the Lenape. The Lenape were adopted into the League by the Cayuga.

In 1682 William Penn and the Quakers arrived in Pennsylvania. A conference was held and in 1683 a peace treaty was signed, and land purchased. Penn did not intend to deprive the Lenape of their homes but, with continued land purchases. to assimilate them into the English population thereby eliminating their culture. However, the Lenape had no intention of giving up their way of life. Further land purchases to the Quakers occurred in 1685, 1692 and 1697. With the increasing European population along the Atlantic seaboard, the Lenape were compelled to move further west.

By the 1700s, the Lenape people had been reduced to only 4,000 by epidemic and war. The first migration occurred in 1709 when a small group moved to the Susquehanna Valley at Paxtang (present-day Harrisburg) to shelter under the Iroquois League’s Tree of Peace. Other refugee nations also sheltered there including parties of Shawnee, Nanticoke, Conoy, Tutelo and resident Conestoga (Susquehannock). During the next three decades other Lenape families followed to join their kin in the Susquehanna Valley.

In 1725, members of the Turtle and Turkey bands of the Lenape (Unami dialect) led by Shannopin left the Susquehanna and moved further west to establish what would become their principal town on the banks of the Allegheny River at Kittanning. Further Turkey and Turtles settled a town called Lawell-Hanna along Loyalhanna Creek. By 1731 there were over 1,330 Lenape living in the Ohio catchment. Other communities were established with the Shawnee. The Lenape also shared Logstown with the Ohio Iroquois and the Shawnee.

From 1726, following the death of William Penn in 1718, the Pennsylvania government had preferred to treat directly with the Iroquois League, portraying the Lenape as subsidiaries, even though the Lenape were becoming increasingly unified as a nation. In 1736 a Treaty of Friendship between the Iroquois and Pennsylvania further reduced the Lenape’s status, their leaders no longer able to oppose land cessions in the Susquehanna and Delaware valleys. Many more Lenape moved to the Ohio including Wolf Lenape (Munsee dialect) who settled at Kuskusky on the Beaver River and Goschgoschingstown on the Allegheny.

In 1742, the last band of Lenape whose villages were at the junction of the Lehigh and Delaware Rivers (present-day Easton) were forced to move to the Susquehanna following the infamous ‘Walking Purchase' of 1737, where the Lenape were fraudulently deprived of their last lands on the Delaware. In the same year, Canasatego, an Onondaga, at a meeting in Philadelphia, chastised his Lenape ‘cousins’ for selling their land leading to the metaphor of woman (i.e., could decide who councillors were and whether to go to war but not actually go to war themselves which the Iroquois would undertake on their behalf. However, women are seen as subordinate in European culture and the Pennsylvanians corrupted the term to mean disorder, vulgarity and subjugation).

In 1748, Céleron de Blainville led a large party of 3,000 men from Montréal down to the Ohio to reassert what they consider France’s territorial borders. He failed to win over the Ohioan Native Americans.

The Ohio Lenape accepted that they needed to stay on good diplomatic terms with the Iroquois League, not to least to ensure the supply of British trade goods, as a matter of appearance whilst seeking autonomy. In the early 1750’s, they dissented against the League who sought a Lenape leader who would be compliant with the Philadelphia government. European settlers had begun to squat west of the Susquehanna.

In 1750. Captain Philippe-Thomas Chabert de Joncaire, a French agent, set himself up at Logstown. The following year he demanded that English traders were expelled.

In 1751, the Ohio Lenape became alarmed at the advance of the Ohio Land Company of Virginia, who had received a fictitious land grant by the Crown, into the region. At a treaty meeting in Logstown the Lenape were asked to choose a ‘king’ with whom business could be transacted. Tamaqua, an orator, replied that it would take time. Talks continued in the summer of 1752 in which Virginia wanted to confirm that the Iroquois had, by the 1744 Treaty of Lancaster, given up land that bordered the Ohio in the south-east. The Iroquois refused to attend but Tanaghrisson, the League’s Ohio Iroquois ‘half-king’, scolded the Lenape for their raids on the Cherokee but put forward Shingas as the spokesmen for the Lenape contrary to their matrilineal order. The Lenape and other Ohio peoples opposed any land cessions but requested that Virginia build a ‘strong House’ at the mouth of the Monongahela River.

In 1753, French advanced into the Ohio Valley with a large army to erect forts on top of the lead plates left by Céleron de Blainville. The League kept neutral. Meanwhile the French and their Saint-Laurent and resident allies harried English traders out of the Ohio country. In response, Robert Dinwiddie, lieutenant-governor of Virginia, sent George Washington to travel to the French posts and demand that they vacate them. Accompanied by Tanaghrisson, he met Shingas at Kittanning and promised the Lenape that he was there to put them in possession of their lands and to dispossess the French from the Ohio. The Lenape were sceptical and replied through Tanaghrisson that they were not willing to get involved in a war between the British and French. On October 31, 1753 Tanaghrisson acting on behalf of Washington and the Iroquois League demanded that the Lenape return the wampum belts that the French had sent. Shingas claimed that the Wolf Lenape leader Custaloga held them at Venango and had refused to relinquish them. The French military were at Venango.

Role during the War


In 1754, whilst the Wolf Lenape favoured the French (on June 26, Louis Coulon de Villiers convinced some Lenape warriors to take up the hatchet against the British), the Turkey and Turtle groups sent wampum belts to the Iroquois League council at Onondaga in the spring, requesting that their role as women be lifted so that they could fight the French. Even so, there was bitter resentment among the Lenape against the governors of Pennsylvania and, on July 9, at a Covenant Chain conference in Albany the Iroquois League ceded both sides of the Susquehanna River as far east as the Delaware and north as the Appalachian Mountains. The Lenape were ‘violently driven from their lands’ and ‘reduced to leave their Country.’ Thus, many Lenape were thrown into the hands of the French.

On July 3, Washington had been inflicted a defeat at Fort Necessity. Nevertheless, many Turtle and Turkey Lenape still respected British power and still remained neutral. In August, Tamaqua (Beaver), another Turkey leader, told the League through Conrad Weiser, who acted on behalf of Pennsylvania, at a meeting at Aughwick, that if they could not protect them then they would take up the hatchet of their own accord. Tamqua knew that the Lenape would not tolerate encroachments by Pennsylvanian squatters into the Ohio. Weiser stated that the Ohio was not owned by the Lenape and admonished those leaders who ignored the advice of the Iroquois League.


In May 1755, Shingas and about 50 Ohio Lenape and Shawnee met Major-General Edward Braddock at Fort Cumberland for the British expedition against Fort Duquesne, but Braddock dismissed them.

After Braddock’s defeat on the Monongahela, Shingas allied the Lenape with the French.

On September 11, the Oneida sent a belt of black wampum to those Lenape still residing on the Susquehanna at Shamokin asking for assistance against the French, the League now having removed their ‘petticoats’. The crops had failed that year and the Lenape refused to leave their women and children to starve, being dependent on hunting. Teedyuskung, their diplomat, had asked assistance from Pennsylvania but none was forthcoming, leaving them apprehensive of a French attack.

On October 16, a party of Ohio Lenape warriors attacked a colonial settlement along Penn’s Creek south of Shamokin, whilst others visited Shamokin to advise their kin that they had joined the French. They brought a message from Shingas urging them to join them in ridding the land of the English. Other raids followed, particularly in Great Cove, which had been part of the infamous Albany purchase, destroying settlements and taking captives and scalps. War parties of eastern Lenape from the Susquehanna and Chemung Valley, rendezvousing at Ray’s Town (present-day Bedford), commenced further raids on squatter settlements. On November 24, Gnadenhütten, a Moravian mission village was destroyed. Many of these settlers fled back east from the west of Pennsylvania, Virginia and Maryland. Most areas between the Ohio and Susquehanna were affected by the raids.

The Susquehanna Lenape Teedyuscung and his followers had remained neutral but, in the winter of 1755, he declared himself a captain, gathered about 30 warriors and raided settlements north of the Kittatinnies. Fearing reprisals, he eventually settled at Pasigachkunk on the Cowanesque River, a tributary of the Chemung and continued his attacks from there.

On the Ohio Kittanning became the centre of the offensive, and where captives were held. The attacks demonstrated both the Lenape’s anger at the Pennsylvania government anddissatisfaction with lack of British support, and was a statement of autonomy; a response to years of demographic pressure caused by English settlement, fraudulent land dealings and political inequities placed on them by the Pennsylvania/ Iroquois League alliance. The Lenape believed their very existence was at stake. Even so, most Ohio Lenape remained uncommitted including those Turkey whose spokesperson was Shingas’ brother Tamaqua.


In April 1756, Governor Morris of Pennsylvania declared war on the Lenape and offered bounties for scalps and prisoners. In June, New Jersey did the same. The colonist built a chain of forts.

In July, Teedyuscung of the eastern Lenape began peace talks with Governor Denny of Pennsylvania and the Iroquois League at Easton.

On August 2, during the raids on the Western Borders, advancing from Fort Duquesne, a small force of 23 French (Troupes de la Marine and Milices Canadiennes) and 32 Allied Naive Americans under François Coulon de Villiers assisted by Tewea (Captain Jacobs) of the Wolf Lenape attacked a small stockade called Fort Granville, on the Juniata River in Pennsylvania while most of its garrison was absent protecting the farmers at their harvest. They took the fort, set it on fire and brought back 27 prisoners.

On September 8, a force of 300 Pennsylvania militia (mostly Scots-Irish) under Lieutenant-Colonel John Armstrong struck the large Lenape village of Kittaning on the Allegheny River. There were 140 Lenape and Shawnee warriors present as well as 150 white captives. Many of the women and children fled at the first sounds of musket fire, while the Lenape warriors fighting in the cornfields around the town delayed the attacking force. Tewea was killed, ‘... he fought & died like a soldier. He refus’d to surrender even when the House was even on Fire over his Head.’ After destroying the town and cornfields, with victory in sight, Armstrong was forced to withdraw when Shingas and his Lenape warriors, joined by a large French force from Fort Duquesne, appeared on the west bank of the town and prepared to launch a counterattack against his disorganised command. 50 Lenape had been killed in Kittanning including Tewea’s wife and son. The Lenape retreated to Kuskusky, others went to Logstown and then moved further north to Shenango. Kittanning whilst not abandoned altogether was no longer used as centre of military operations by the Lenape, which they re-established at Kuskusky. The raids on the colonial intruders from Pennsylvania continued.


In January 1757, a large party of Susquehanna Lenape warriors was encamped near Fort Niagara.

In the spring of 1757, the appearance of British allied Cherokee warriors from the south in western Pennsylvania alarmed the Lenape. The Cherokee had raided Logstown and twice near Fort Duquesne and were moving north toward the Seneca. At some point, 60 Cherokee intercepted a Lenape and Shawnee war party leaving Fort Duquesne and killed four. A prisoner told the Cherokee that they were becoming weary of the French, who could not furnish them ‘with the necessaries.’ Armstrong welcomed the Cherokee at Fort Frederick. The promise of 200-300 warriors never materialised so that Forbes in 1758 would secure only 80 Cherokee, due to the lack of supplies provided. However, the Lenape now felt that their women and children were open to attack contributing to seeking peace talks with the British.

In the summer, Susquehanna Lenape war parties attacked Orange and Duchess Counties in New York and the frontier in northern New Jersey. On July 24, a party of five Lenape warriors joined the French in their expedition against Fort William Henry.


In the spring of 1758, Lenape warriors attacked Walpack in New Jersey.

In the summer, the eastern Lenape, living at Wyoming and elsewhere on the upper Susquehanna, acting independently of the western Lenape, made their peace with the British. After this, Christian Post was sent as an emissary to the Ohio Lenape by Governor Denny of Pennsylvania offering an amnesty to all Lenape. Throughout the summer and fall Post met with Lenape headmen from the three bands. Shingas was open to this on receiving assurances that the bounty on his head would be ‘wiped away’. However, British officials had to deal with his brother Tamaqua, the moderate Turkey leader.

In October, the Lenape signed the Treaty of Easton with the British by which they sold their territory in New Jersey, so that the eastern Lenape retired to a reservation at Brotherton and obtained that Pennsylvania relinquished its claims on the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains. The Ohio Lenape agreed to withdraw from French influence and not assist in the defence of Fort Duquesne. Whilst the eastern Lenape were treated through the Iroquois League by the British, the western Lenape were now seen as an independent nation.

Fort Duquesne was occupied by the British in November.


In July 1759, the Lenape of the Ohio signed a treaty with the British at Fort Pitt. There was a strong delegation of Lenape leaders including Tamaqua and Shingas on the Turkey phratry, the Turtle Captain White Eyes and a group of Wolf leaders Killbuck and principal warrior Captain Pipe. These wanted trading posts in the Ohio but opposed Euro-American settlements and permanent military garrisons in Lenape territory, which was agreed. On July 8, Tamaqua presented 14 belts of wampum representing the Lenape and other nations confirmation of peace. On July 9, Tamaqua delivered two captive white women.


The Cayuga leader, Petiniontonka invited Tamaqua for the Lenape to re-join the Covenant Chain. This was ignored. The Turtle and Turkey Lenape moved across the Ohio and established new towns and a central fire established at Muskingham inviting the Susquehanna Lenape to join them to establish a distance between them and colonial settlements and provide secure hunting territories. The. eastern Lenape Wolf people remained on the Upper Alleghany at Venango.

However, British soldiers occupied former French forts throughout west of the Appalachians, breaking the treaty, and were seen by the Lenape as a threat to their liberty. There was mistrust between the Lenape and the soldiers. Lenape warriors would take horses and other livestock from the intruders to test their courage and skill. Livestock trampled cornfields were appropriated.

In September, Lord Jeffrey Amherst was appointed Governor General of British North America and authorised to carry out Indian Policy. which included reducing the costs of trade goods and the ceasing of giving presents, a cultural act of goodwill. There was already lack of trade goods in the Ohio country and this policy angered the Lenape, going against the agreed treaty. Amherst also withheld the sale of gunpowder and lead, where families depended on hunting and pelts for trading, and banned the sale of alcohol.

Furthermore, despite the treaty colonial hunters and squatters were infiltrating the Ohio Country west of the Appalachians again.


The Lenape signed a treaty at Fort Pitt on July 9, with a subsequent conference at Lancaster where they agreed to release all white captives. The Lenape expected the British to leave Fort Pitt, but this did not happen. Garrisoned with 200 soldiers, it remained as an annoying symbol of British authority in the region.

In 1762, a Lenape prophet named Neolin expounded a message of transformation, to return to their ancestral ways and to give up European goods. His teachings spread throughout the Ohio nations and influenced the Odowa leader Pontiac.



‘Many shaved their heads, leaving a short bristling crest of hair, or roach, running from a point just back of the forehead to the nape of the neck. At the crown, a part of this hair, allowed to grow long was braided into a slender queue or scalplock, upon which and eagle feather or two was tied. Others let their hair grow and hang loose.’ (Harrington, 1913)

John Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary, observed that the Lenape men plucked out their beards and the hair next to the forehead in order to have a clean skin to lay paint on and to facilitate tattooing. They considered a hairy face disgusting.


A circular roach of red dyed deer hair and black turkey beard secured with a bone spreader could be worn by passing a scalp braid through the spreader and secured with a wooden pin to the head. Mounted in on the spreader was a socket made of turkey leg bone into which a single eagle feather was fixed so that it could revolve with the wearer’s movement.

‘Sometimes head-bands of fur were worn, or bunches of loosely attached feathers, resembling the Iroquois.’ (Harrington, 1913)


Tattooing of the face and body was practised as an alternative to painting. Tattoos in the form of some animal, such as an eagle, a snake or other figure were ingrained with powdered charcoal. Linear patterns were also used extensively. Heckewelder described a veteran Wolf Lenape warrior who retired in 1742. ’Besides that, his body was full of scars... there was nor a spot to be seen, on the part of it which was exposed to view, but what was tattooed over with some drawing relative to his achievements, so that the whole together struck the beholder with amazement and terror. On his whole face, neck, shoulders, arms, thighs and legs, as well as his breast and back, were represented scenes of the various actions and engagements he had been in... ’ Loskiel, a Moravian missionary, further described that the old warrior had, ‘... upon the right cheek and temple, a large snake; from the upper lip pole passed over the nose, and between the eyes and top of the forehead, ornamented every quarter inch with round marks representing scalps; upon the upper cheek, two lances crossing each other.’ Visiting the Lenape in 1762 at Muskingham Heckewelder also stated that, ‘... tattooing is still practised by some Indians; a valiant chief of the village, Wawundochwalend, desirous of having another name given to him, had a figure of a water-lizard engraved or tattooed on his face, above the chin, when he received the name Twakachshwasu, the water-lizard.’

Zeisberger, a Moravian missionary, also observed, "The men tattoo their bodies in arm, leg or face with all manner of figures, serpents, birds or other animals, which are marked out by pricking the skin with a needle, powder or soot being afterward rubbed into the punctures."


Heckewelder observed that Lenape men. ‘... paint their thighs, legs and breast, they, generally, after laying on a thin shading coat of a darkish colour and sometimes white clay, dip their fingers’ ends in black or red paint, and drawing on it with outspread fingers, bring the streaks to serpentine form.

The care with which faces were painted for occasions, at this period usually by a man’s wife or sister, is exemplified by a description of a Lenape man. Heckewelder described: ‘I went in the morning to visit an Indian acquaintance of mine. I found him engaged in plucking out his head, preparatory to painting himself for a dance which was to take place the ensuing evening. Having finished his headdress, about an hour before sunset, he came up, as he said, to see me, but I and my companions judged that he came 'to be seen'. To my astonishment, I saw three different paintings or figures on one and the same face. He had, by his great ingenuity and judgement in laying on and shading the different colours, made his nose appear, when he stood directly in front of him, as if it were long and narrow, with a round knob at the end, much like the upper part of a pair of tongs. On one cheek there was a red round spot, about the size of an apple, and on the other was done in the same manner with black. The eye lids, both the upper and lower ones, were reversed in their colouring. When we viewed him in profile on one side his nose represented the beak of an eagle, with the bill rounded and brought to a point, precisely as these birds have it, though the mouth was somewhat open. The eye was astonishingly well done, and the head, upon the whole, appeared tolerably well, showing a great deal of fierceness. When turned to the other side, the same nose resembled the snout of a pike, with its mouth so open, that the teeth could be seen. He seemed pleased with his work, seemingly with great pride and exultation...’

Ears and Nose

Heckewelder noted that the Lenape cut the helix of the ear so as to separate it from the rest. He stated that, possibly in 1762, the practice was no longer common amongst the Lenape as, ‘... they often lose that part of the ear which is separated from the solid part, by being torn off by the bushes, or falling off when frost-bitten.’

Necklaces and Neck Pouches

Lenape leader Lapowinsa in 1735 - Source: Painting by Gustavus Hesselius, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Lenape Black Pouch, late 18th-early 19th century. Buckskin, porcupine quills, tin, deer hair, ribbon, glass beads, commercial cloth, 25.4 x 21.6 cm - Source: Brooklyn Museum, Henry L. Batterman Fund and the Frank Sherman Benson Fund

Heckewelder describing Lenape dress stated, ‘Those of the men principally in painting themselves, their head and face principally, shaving or good clean garments, silver arm spangles [arm bands] and breast plates [officer’s gorgets], and a belt or two of wampum hanging to their necks.’

Men also wore a tobacco pouch hanging from the neck, which contained a pipe, tobacco and tweezers made from wire for plucking the hair. Such a tobacco pouch is shown in the portrait of Lapowinsa in 1735.

Breechclout and Apron

Pierre Pouchot, writing between 1755 and 1760, generically, recorded men wearing, ‘... a breech-cloth, which is a quarter of an ell [about 45”] of cloth, which they pass under their thighs, crossing before and behind upon a belt around the waist. Sometime the cloth is embroidered. When they travel, to avoid being chafed by the cloth, they put it simply as an apron before them.’ Typically, at this period Lenape embroidery on breechclouts was likely to have been linear designs carried out with white seed beads.


The Lenape wore tight fitting leggings with the seam down the outside of the leg. These were generally of red, blue or black cloth. For best wear. the outer lap could be decorated with ribbonwork or gathering of several colours and white linear beadwork. These were tied to the waist belt supporting the breechclout and held below the knee with garters. It is likely that skin leggings continued to be worn when hunting or at war, although in wet weather these would take longer to dry and hence uncomfortable. Sometimes skin leggings were worn over cloth ones. Full leggings were likely to have been worn in cold weather.


Pierre Pouchot observed that, generically, ‘... they wear garters of beads [probably loomed wampum in geometric patterns of white and dark blue black], or porcupine quills [in red, black, yellow and white amongst the Lenape], bordered four fingers wide, which are tied on the legs.’ Garters were also made of woven woollen fibres typically dyed red or black with white bead patterns incorporated into the weave. For dancing deer dew claws were attached to the garters producing a rattling sound.


Lenape moccasins were made of skin smoked with basswood to produce a dark brown colour. The moccasin was made of single skin with a puckered seam up the instep. The cuff of the men’s moccasin was separated at the heel so that the two sides spread apart, whereas the cuff on women’s moccasins was a continuous band. A strip over the instep of moccasins for best wear could have been decorated with embroidered porcupine quillwork, using red. black, yellow and plain quills. The cuff could also be decorated with quillwork or linear white beadwork on a dark cloth background.


A European shirt, cut in contemporary European fashion, was also popular and could be daubed with grease and paint to waterproof it. These were made of cheaper fabric for the Indian trade. Some of the most requested fabrics included cotton, calico and chintz. Plain and ruffled shirts were reported by Heckewelder and listed on the Fort Pitt inventory of 1761. He also noted the use of clean, presumably undaubed, shirts for occasions.


Broaches of silver, replacing those of copper or brass, became increasingly abundant through the 18th century in adorning clothing and also came to be used as money. There several designs of broach. The simplest and most numerous was a ring across which a tongue extended like a buckle. This is affixed to cloth by pinching the material up so that the tongue penetrates it twice and when drawn back holds it firmly in place. Smaller ones can often line the edges of breechclouts, etc. whilst those of larger diameter decorated the upper body of shirts. Another very common broach fixed in the same manner is a circular ornate disc perforated with punched out or embossed regular patterns which can have embossed or crenulated edges sometimes known as a round buckle.

Blankets and Coats

Trade blankets, usually of blue or red woollen cloth, and skin robes were worn for warmth. Coats were listed on the Fort Pitt for men and children inventory of 1761. These are likely to have been a sleeved waistcoat rather than a frock coat. Hats and coats (but not britches although Teedyuscung was seen wearing a pair of checkered breaches and riding boots) of European origin and of higher quality marked men as diplomatic mediators. Teedyuscung was described as wearing a fine brown frock coat much laced with gold given to him by the French at Niagara.


Lenape halter - Source: Harrington 1913

John Heckewelder commented that the Lenape showed ‘... talent and much forethought in making the Happis, the bands with which they carry their bags and other burdens; they make these very strong and lasting.’ Halters or tumplines were carried on raids for captives. These were a woven braid made of twined vegetable fibre some 350 cm long with a broad central portion for a neck band of about 70 cm and 7 cm wide. These could be decorated with dyed hair.


The Lenape were likely to have principally obtained their firearms from Euro-American traders based in Pennsylvania and Virginia by the mid-18th century. George Croghan, who had established posts on the upper Ohio, and Christopher Gist working for the Ohio Company on behalf of the Virginian commissioners were distributing guns as gifts from the Crown. These trade guns were short, light flintlock muskets of .66 or smaller calibre, called fusils, fuzee or fuke and were approximately similar to the later ‘Northwest gun’.

The Lenape are likely to have possessed some Pennsylvania long rifles by 1750. Zeisberger stated that: ‘The Delaware Indians use no other than rifle-barrelled guns, having satisfied themselves that they are best for shooting at long range, in which they are very skilful and shooting accurately. They have acquired considerable skill in making minor repairs when the weapon gets out of order.’

A powder horn and a shot pouch would have been worn over the shoulder and high up under the arm to minimise them flapping about whilst moving. Shot pouches were often made of woven fibre with white bead patterns woven into the threads; bags of deerskin with sewn wampum panels with small white geometric patterns on a dark blue-black field or of black dyed skin with block and linear quillwork and white bead edging with a fringe of metal cones filled with red dyed deer hair (thunderbird and underwater panther designs are absent from Lenape quillwork, where the Thunderer is envisaged as a man-being form). Straps were of woven fibre or loomed wampum. A knife was carried in a sheaf, often decorated with red, black, yellow and white quillwork, hung around the neck and a tomahawk or warclub was carried stuffed through a belt at the back.

Belts were either of skin wrapped twice around the body and tied at the front or of finger woven wool, being enriched by the addition of white beads, which were carried on a special thread in zigzag or diamond and hexagonal designs V and W designs predominated in narrow sashes. Beads were also worked into the deep yarn fringes (20 inches to a yard long). Sashes were usually red but shades of blue, sage green, old gold and white were also made.

Pierre Pouchot described generically the equipment carried by Native American men. ‘They hung to this belt their mirrors and their tobacco pouch, which is the skin of an otter, beaver, cat or bird taken off whole and tanned, into which they put their pipe tobacco and steel. They have also a pocket hanging like a wallet, for carrying their balls and lead for hunting or war. They have an ox horn with a shoulder strap for carrying powder. Their knife is hung in a sheaf from the neck, and falls upon the breast. They also have a crooked knife or a curved sword, and they make great use of this.’ Warclubs, tomahawks would have been worn in the waist belt.


Goddard, Ives, Delaware: in Trigger, Bruce G. and Sturtevant, W. C. (eds), Handbook of the North American Indians, Volume 15, Northeast, Washington: Smithsonian Institute, 1978, pp. 220-223.

Grimes, Richard S., The Western Delaware Indian Nation, 1730-1795: Warriors and Diplmats, Bethlehem: Lehigh University Press, 2017.

Harrington, Mark R., A Preliminary Sketch of Lenápe Culture, American Anthropologist, New Series, Vol. 15, No. 2 (Apr. - Jun., 1913), pp. 219-220, 224-226.

Harrington, Mark R., The Indians of New Jersey: Dickon Amongst the Lenape, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1966, pp.155-157

Heckewelder, John, History, Manners and Customs of the Indian Nations Who Once Inhabited Pennsylvania and the Neighbouring States, New York: Arno Press Inc., 1971, pp. 202-207.

Kraft, Herbert C., The Lenape-Delaware Indian Heritage: 10,000 B.C. – A.D. 2000, Lenape Books, 2000, pp. 455-477.

McConnell, Michael N. A Country Between: The Upper Ohio Valley and its People, 1724-1774. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997, pp.161.

Pouchot, Pierre, Memoir Upon The Late War In North America, Between The French And English, 1755-60. Volume II, Alpha Editions, 2021, pp. 189-191.

Weslager, Clinton A., The Delaware Indians: A History, New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1972.

Weslager, Clinton A., The Delaware Westward Migration, Wallingford: The Middle Atlantic Press, 1978, pp. 3-35.

Zeisberger, David, History of Northern American Indians [ed. A. B. Hulbert & W. N. Schwarze] Columbus: Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society, 1910, pp.15, 85.

N.B.: the section Role during the War is partly derived from our articles depicting the various campaigns, battles and sieges.


Larry Burrows for the major update to this article