Monday, May 14, 2012

The Delaware Indians on Indiana's White River

This graphic was "borrowed" from Wikipedia's entry on Delaware County, Indiana.

The scene of my next few posts was known many years ago simply as "the White River."  Now, more than two hundred years later, it is part of the state of Indiana and a county that is fittingly named after the Delaware Indians.  The county seat is called "Muncie," a different spelling than we now use to refer to the Munsee Delawares.  (Supposedly all the Delawares living north of the Raritan River during a certain period of time spoke the Munsee dialect.)  By the 1780's many of the Delawares - we can assume they included not only Munsees, but also Unamis, and Unalachtigoes - were settling in six villages along the White River. 

Some of these Delawares had been associated with Moravian missionaries, but no longer had a taste for the "white people's religion" after the Gnadenhutten massacre.  It goes without saying that the militiamen that committed the murders were not "good Christians," and maybe not practicing Christians at all, but the horrible event nevertheless set some of the Delawares on a path away from Christianity.  The idea was that the  Moravian missionaries had made their kinsmen "tame" and thus vulnerable.  A better explanation for the vulnerability, however, was simply their location, but that didn't matter, Christianity had lost its appeal for them.    

The White River Delawares were the subject of Roger J. Ferguson's Ed D. dissertation while he studied at Ball State University (which is in Muncie, Indiana, by the way).  According to Ferguson (page 80) the Delawares "were frantically striving for tribal solidarity and identity and thus resisted assimilation."  Since you and I are tolerant, modern people, that doesn't necessarily sound bad, they should have been allowed to do their own thing, right?  Well, Ferguson also says (page 70) that the Delawares were "one of the least self-sufficient tribes in the [old] Northwest."  In other words, they were not doing well from the 1790's to well linto the 1810's.  

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