The Delaware, Iroquois, Penns and Land Purchase

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Posted by Bill R on March 06, 1998 at 10:06:01:

I have mentioned on this board about a land purchase engaged in between the Delawares and the Penn Proprietaries of Pennsylvania. The context of the mentioning was centered around a rifle carried by one of the "land runners" Edward Marshall which I intend making a reproduction of. However, reading again the book "Wilderness Empire" by Eckert I came across his reference to this land purchase and discovered some interesting things about that purchase that I had completely forgotten.

Apparently, the Penns had forged a document which stated that a certain tract of land had been sold to them 50 years prior by chiefs of the Delaware nation. This disputed land (and it was disputed by the Delawares) was in the area I had grown up in....along the Delaware River from Easton Pennsylvania Northward along the western shore. The Delawares did indeed dispute the document, and a new arrangement was made. The Delawares agreed to sell to the Penn Proprietaries a tract of land along the Delaware from Easton northward "as far as a man could walk in a day and a half". Now, the Delawares intended that to mean as far as one of their men would walk....liesurely, hunting along the way, stopping to eat and smoke a pipe or two....that sort of thing. The Penns, however had other ideas.

They arranged for three of the best woods runners to leave at the appointed time and place and RUN as far and as fast as they could for a full 36 hours non-stop. One of these men was Edward Marshall. The man with the best time and distance would be used as the extent of the land just bought. Instead of the maybe 20 miles that the Delawares expected to be involved, the actual run encompassed somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 miles encompassing many thousands of square acres of land. The Delawares were absolutely furious!!!

Now here comes the interesting part that I had forgotten. The Delawares, getting no satisfaction from the Penns in their displeasure of the conduct of this sale, went to the Iroquois for help. It seems that the Delawares were living on this land at the FOREBEARANCE of the Iroquois, having been conquered by them some time previous. The went expecting the Iroquois to back them up in their dispute. Big mistake!
The Iroquois were themselves furious!! How dare the Delawares sell land belonging to the Iroquois through right of conquest without asking permission nor including the Iroquois in the deal and the money/gifts from the sale. Essentially the Delawares were presented with a belt of wampum to remind them of their treachery, were called women as a tribe and forbidden to own or sell land in perpetuity from hence, and told to remove themselves off the land they inhabited to one of two locations close to the Iroquois so "they could be watched as children must be watched". The Delawares left the meeting without a word and removed themselves as instructed. The Iroquois at the time were a confederation of six nations allied strongly together and could exterminate the Delawares at will if they chose to. They were one of the most powerful indian confederations of all time. Their range extended from upper New York eastward to mid Pennsylvania, southward to Virginia and westward to the Ohio.

The Penns kept the land. The Delawares lost not only the land, but the good will and respect of the Iroquois, and the right to call themselves warriors. From then on, they were called (and accepted the name) women.

Much later the Iroquois retrieved the wampum belt from the Delawares and re-established them as warriors again, but that is a different story.

Bill R.

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