The Treaty of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians with William Penn on the Banks of the Delaware River in 1682


By Richard C. Adams


When the time arrived at which William Penn and the Indians had agreed to meet personally to confirm the treaty of peace and the purchase of the land which his commissioners had bargained for and the transaction was to be publicly ratified, Penn came accompanied by his friends of both sexes to the place where Philadelphia now stands. On his arrival he found the Chiefs and their people all assembled there. They were seen as far as the eye could reach, up the river, down the river and in the forest far beyond, and looked frightful, both on account of their numbers and their arms. The Quakers were but a handful in comparison with the Indians and were unarmed, but confidence in the justice of their cause prevented dismay and terror from seizing them. William Penn appeared in his usual clothes and was distinguished only by wearing a sky-blue sash of silk net-work around his waist. He had a roll of parchment containing a confirmation of the treaty of purchase and amity in his hands. One of the Sachems, who was the head Chief of them, put upon his own head a kind of chaplet in which appeared a small horn. This was among the primitive Nations and according to Scriptural language an emblem of kingly power, and whenever the Chief who had the right to wear it put it on, it was understood that the place was made sacred and the persons of all present inviolable. Upon putting on this horn the Indians threw down their bows and arrows and seated themselves around the Chiefs in the form of a half moon upon the ground. The Chief Sachem then announced to William Penn, by means of an interpreter, that the Indians were ready to hear him. The treaty was ratified with all due solemnity and is known to this day as the treaty that never was sworn to and never was broken.


Chalkley, in his life of William Penn, says:


“It is much to be regretted when we have accounts of minor treaties between William Penn and the Indians, that in no history can be found an account of this, though so many make mention of it, and although all concur in considering it the most glorious in the annals of the world.”


The Story of Their Troubles


            The history of the Delaware Indians, perhaps, if given the attention of eminent writers, would be one of the most interesting, romantic, although pathetic stories, ever related by historians.

            For more than three years I have been entrusted by my people with the responsibility of defending their rights and protecting their interests; and in discharging my trust as best I could or preparing myself for the duties required thereby, I have reviewed the history of many past events relating to them and their dealings, and not one have I ever found that was a discredit to them; neither have I found any cause to know why I, myself, should not be proud that I am a Delaware Indian.

            Full justice has never been done the Indian in the American histories, and I should like to write one as it should be written from the Indian’s own point of view. But while my whole heart and soul are devoted to them, I fear I could not do them credit in undertaking to relate their story; yet, some day, perhaps, I may try it.

            In order that you may have a clear understanding of the condition of affairs, it will be necessary for me to give you, as briefly as possible, a history of the Delaware Indians from their first dealings with the white man down to the present time.

            The Delaware Indians, or “Lenni Lenape,” were once one of the most powerful tribes of Indians on the North American continent, the head of the Algonquins, called by many Indians “Our Grandfather.” When first met by the white man they claimed and controlled all of the territory between the Hudson River and the Potomac.

            Under the spreading elm tree at Shackamaxon, two hundred and seventeen years ago, they sold to the founder of the State of Pennsylvania, William Penn, the vast area within its borders for a nominal sum, and largely as an act of friendship and brotherly love which they entertained for the white people at that time and have ever since.

Sacred to the memory of the white man as well as to that of the Delawares, has been the eventual treaty resulting from that transaction. In the rotunda of the Capitol at Washington may be seen the historical fresco recalling that event. But while the State of Pennsylvania has made rapid strides in progress, until now it ranks as one of the wealthiest and proudest States in the Union, the Delawares, who were so generous in years gone past, and who have always proved their loyalty to the United States Government, have been forced much against their will and their interest to cross the continent, unwilling but always yielding graciously, having utmost confidence in the promises that “this move will be the last,” until now but a handful of them are left, where they have purchased homes in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. And here, where they were assured by both the Cherokees and the United States Government that their rights and interests would be protected, they find that their very homes are now being covered with applications for mineral leases by both Cherokee citizens and citizens of the United States – wealthy corporations – who claim the protection of the United States government and deny the rights of the Delaware Indians.

I appealed to the Indian Rights Association and others for their aid and moral support in defending our homes from the encroaching greed of grasping syndicates and companies who are now seeking to deprive us of one of the most sacred liberties mankind can claim – the right to control our own.

The Delaware Indians are more able to take care of their property, if given the opportunity of controlling it, than most of the white people who live in our country.

There are many things your civilized laws and public policy say are right that I cannot understand, but the greatest puzzle to me is, -- Why is the Delawares’ title to their lands now disputed and they required by the Government to appeal to the courts to obtain that which they bought and paid for with the advice, approval and guarantee of the United States Government itself? And even before that question is settled by the Courts, that they should be threatened with greater complications!

It may be because I am an Indian that I cannot understand the justice of this policy.

The good faith my people have shown; the prompt aid and assistance they have rendered the United States Government in the past as allies in the Revolutionary War; as soldiers and scouts in the Mexican and Civil wars; as guides for General Fremont across the Rocky Mountains; as peacemaker between other Indian tribes and the Federal Government, and the protection afforded by them to colonists in early days, of themselves are enough to entitle them to more land in bounties and grants, fifty times over, than the land now in question, which they bought and paid for.

The Cherokees now claim that the Delawares have no distinct rights in the Cherokee Nation. The Delawares claim the right to select one hundred and fifty-seven thousand six hundred acres of land for which they paid $157,600, and in addition to this an equal right with every native-born Cherokee to all the remaining lands and funds of the Cherokee Nation, for which they paid an additional sum of $121,824.28.

The history of this transaction is better understood by referring to the data that led up to it and the events that took place about that time, than by reading the contract or agreement itself.

You will see by referring to a letter on file in the Office of Indian Affairs, dated September 1st, 1866, and signed by D.N. Cooley, Commissioner of Indian Affairs, that the Delawares were offered lands in the Indian country, in the Seminole Nation at 15 cents per acre; in the Creek Nation at __ (illegible) cents per acre; or lands in the Quapaw Nation, the price to be determined when selections were made.

The Delawares were instructed, through their Agent, by letter dated October 13th, 1866, signed by John G. Pratt, to select a delegation and to “proceed South and select for your people a new reservation in that country.” Accordingly the Delaware Council authorized Captain John Connor, head chief, Captain Sarcoxie, Charles Journeycake, Joseph Armstrong, Andrew Miller and Isaac Journeycake to proceed to the Indian country and select a new reservation.

On December 9th, 1866, the Delaware delegates, in company with the delegates on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, agreed upon and did select, “that part of the country on Little Verdigris or Caney, beginning at the Kansas line, where the 96th meridian crosses the same, and running thence east ten miles; thence south thirty miles; thence west ten miles; thence north to the place of beginning,” the Delaware specifically declaring in the notice to the Cherokee Council that they preserve their tribal organization.

This selection was made in accordance with the instructions of the United States Government through the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, and the Delaware Indian Agent, and in accordance with the Act of the Delaware Council, and also the resolution of the Cherokee Council, of November 7th, 1866, which reads as follows:

“Resolved by the National Council, that the Principal Chief, Assistant Principal Chief, and three others, be appointed by the Principal Chief as Commissioners to enter into an agreement with the Delaware Delegation in reference to allowing the Delawares to select a reservation from our lands lying east or west of the 96th degree of longitude, according to the provisions of the treaty of July 19th, 1866.


H.D. Reese, Clerk                                           James Vann, President National Council

Concurred, R.B. Ross, Clerk Council             John Young, Speaker Council.


                                                                        Wm. P. Ross.”


(See page 84, laws of the Cherokee Nation, 1839-1867.)


On April 8th, 1867, the Delaware-Cherokee Agreement was made and approved by the President of the Unite States, and in 1868, most of the Delawares moved to the Cherokee Nation and settled on the lands selected on Little Verdigris or Caney River, believing, as has been proved to my satisfaction by sworn statements of old Delawares, parties to the Agreement, and the Delaware Indian Agent, John G. Pratt, that this land was to be theirs and in no way was to be molested or interfered with by the Cherokee Indians; but after they had settled there, they were constantly annoyed by the Osages who also claimed the land, and a great many half-breed Cherokees, who would make raids amongst them. So, after being harassed on every side, they became greatly dissatisfied and all moved in a body to the Quapaw country, on Neosho River, expecting to ask the Government to make an exchange of lands for them.

Superintendent Enoch Hoag and the Indian Agent finally persuaded them to return, telling them that they were not confined to the area of their previous selection, but were privileged to make their selection in any part of the Cherokee Nation where they could find good and suitable land.

Articles 4 and 5 of the Delaware treaty of July 4th, 1866, could also be taken into consideration, and also that part of Article 4 which says:

“The said tract of the country shall be set off with clearly and permanently marked boundaries of the United States, and also surveyed as public lands are surveyed, when the Delaware Council shall so request, when the same may be in whole or in part allotted by said Council to each member of said tribe residing in said country.”

Both the Delawares and Cherokees fully understood at the time of the Delaware-Cherokee Agreement, that the 157,600 acres of land was Delaware Land, and in no part a portion of the Cherokee Nation or the Cherokee public domains. The Cherokee delegates, J.L. Adair and D.W. Bushyhead, in a communication addressed to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, on June 19th, 1890, said:

“As has been seen, the Delawares purchased one hundred and fifty-seven thousand six hundred acres of Cherokee lands, lying east of the 96th degree west longitude. That was an absolute and unconditional purchase, in which lands the Cherokee Nation has no title or interest.”

(See Senate Bills 2322, 4005, 51st Congress.)

When the Delaware-Cherokee Agreement was made, the Delawares paid $157,600 for the right to select 157,600 acres of land.

They also bought for valuable consideration full citizenship in the Cherokee Nation, which would give them additional lands and an interest in their funds. A ratio was ascertained to determine what the Delawares should pay for this right, so a census of both tribes was taken; the assets of the Cherokees were fixed, and it was found that the ratio was one to thirteen and seventy-eight one-hundredths, and on this basis the Delawares paid an additional sum of $121,824.28.

The Cherokees claim the right, under the 15th article of the treaty of 1866, to sell to friendly Indians a separate and distinct tract of land east of the 96th meridian, or to sell to such Indians a communal or per capita interest in the lands and funds of the Cherokee Nation, or, in other words, a citizenship carrying with it all property rights. The Shawnees were admitted under the latter arrangement and for their citizenship paid $150,000. The Delawares sought to secure both rights (at the time having plenty of money), and the money was paid and received with such understanding.

In 1890 the Chief of the Cherokee Nation, J.B. Mayes, and the Cherokee delegates addressed a communication to the Committee on Indian Affairs, asking that the United States Government pay out per capita to the Delawares the trust funds, almost a million dollars, belonging to them, and giving as a reason for this request that the Delawares might be enabled to make permanent improvements upon their homes in the Cherokee Nation. This money was paid out to the Delawares per capita, and they have used the same to make good and substantial homes which are equal to any of those I have seen in the Eastern States. They have more than one hundred thousand acres of land in cultivation, although numbering less than one thousand souls. Their land is underlaid with valuable mineral deposits, such as lubricating oil, gas, coal, etc. This seems to be their misfortune since they are Indians. They have no money left in the hands of the government, and, if deprived of their rights in the Cherokee Nation, they are paupers. If they win in the contention, they are rich. The Cherokees are rich: they have a large fund in the hands of the Government, made larger by the money contributed to it by us. We have an interest in this fund, but have no means of obtaining any portion of it to defend our rights. So, thus disarmed, having by purchase and improvements expended over one million dollars in lands within the Cherokee Nation under the guaranteed protection of the United States Government, as well as that of the Cherokees – are we thus to be left at their mercy?

Since the Delaware-Cherokee Agreement was made the Cherokees have unlawfully admitted over 10,000 persons to all the rights of citizenship and without compensation to the Delawares, thereby reducing their interests in the communal property, and disturbing the ratio on which the respective rights of the Delawares and Cherokees were fixed. The authorities of the Cherokee Nation, consisting principally of the admitted class and intermarried white men, have done everything they could to embarrass the Delawares.

They have questioned the rights of the Delawares in sharing the communal property of the Cherokee Nation, and been denied the rights of the heirs of the deceased Delawares to the 157,600 acres of land that the Delawares purchased in 1867. This necessarily caused the Delawares to send representatives to Washington to protect their interests before the Congress of the United States and the Department of the Interior, or any other tribunal having authority in the premises.

            Myself and John Bullette were appointed representatives and made Attorneys in Fact. Through our efforts the 25th section of the Curtis Bill became a law, which provides that suit may be brought in the Court of claims and the Supreme Court to determine and enforce the rights of the Delawares in the lands and funds of the Cherokee Nation, and provides:

            “That before any allotment shall be made of lands in the Cherokee Nation, there shall be segregated therefrom, by the Commission heretofore mentioned, in separate allotments or otherwise, the one hundred and fifty seven thousand six hundred acres of land purchased by the Delaware tribe of Indians from the Cherokee Nation, under Agreement of April 8th, eighteen hundred and sixty-seven.”

            This, however, has not been done, although it has been demanded by us.

            On August 4th, 1898, we brought suit in the Court of Claims, as provided by the Act of Congress referred to above, and have since been busily engaged in securing data, evidence and proofs necessary to sustain our contention.

            They (the Cherokees) have not yet paid us the full amount of the money due us from the sale of the Outlet, which the highest courts of the land determined was ours (see Journeycake Case, 28 C. Cls., R., 281; 155 U.S. R., 197), claiming that they did not have enough money to pay us in full. But they found enough money to appropriate nearly half a million dollars more than was required to pay the Freedmen of the Cherokee Nation, and in order that they might justify themselves in paying this money out, since they were to divide the greater part as attorney fees, the same authorities consented to and did place on the Freedman roll more than one thousand Negroes who, everyone knew, were not entitled to be placed on the roll.

            A history of this shameful deal may be had by referring to Senate Document 101, 55th Congress, 3rd session.

            This is a fair sample of the way the combination that has control of Cherokee affairs regards right and justice.

            The same may be said in regard to the recent Agreement entered into with the Dawes Commission and the Commission on behalf of the Cherokee Nation, January 14th, 1899, in which it may be seen, by referring to section 6 of said Agreement, that the same authorities were willing to give to all the inter-married white persons and such other persons who were admitted without right or authority and without compensation to the Cherokee Nation, and even the negroes referred to above, an interest in all the lands and funds of the Cherokee Nation, equal to that due the legitimate owners, but expressly declared that nothing should be given to the Delawares, and section 87 of said Agreement seemed to annual the Curtis Act governing the segregation of the Delaware lands and even abrogating the entire Delaware-Cherkoee Agreement itself. Said section 877 reads as follows:

            “This agreement shall in nowise affect the provisions of existing treaties between the Cherokee Nation and the United States, except so far as it is inconsistent therewith, and no provisions of any Act of Congress now existing inconsistent with the Agreement shall be operative in the Cherokee Nation.”

            This Agreement, however, was not signed by the full-blood members of the Cherokee Nation, who have been our friends, neither was it ratified by Congress, and I have been informed that the proposition was a surprise to the Dawes Commission, but it was the best they could get. Hon. Henry L. Dawes, in his letter transmitting the Agreement, said:

            The Commission are aware of many imperfections in this Agreement. They have never been able to make one free from them.”

            And the Downing party of the Cherokee Nation, in order to get the votes of that class of people whose rights to a division in the lands and funds should be questioned, did endorse this Agreement and made it a part of their platform, and by offering an indirect bribe of an interest in the lands and funds for votes did secure the election of their Chief and get control of both branches of the Cherokee National Council, and will, of course, attempt to further embarrass the Delaware Indians.

            The same Act of Congress provides for the leasing of lands in the Indian Territory, for the purpose of developing oil, coal, asphalt and other minerals, leaving the matter optional and at the discretion of the Secretary of the Interior to grant or reject any or all applications that may be made for the same.

            Before the Act of Congress referred to above certain Cherokees and inter-married white men, relatives of the constituted authorities of the Cherokee Nation, did secure what they term mineral leases from the said authorities, covering the homes and improvements of the Delaware Indians. They did sub-lease the same to certain citizens of the United States who claim to have expanded twenty-odd thousand dollars in putting down eighteen oil wells, and for this reason they claimed a preferred right to lease from the Secretary of the Interior over one hundred and eighty thousand acres of land, covering most of the homes of the Delaware Indians, without respect to their rights and without their consent.

            One of the provisions of the leases is:

            “Provided, That the domain or tract, or any part thereof above described, is not within or does not infringe upon the improvements or legal boundaries of any other citizen.”

            Notwithstanding the fact that we have invested over million dollars in these identical lands and improvements thereon, these same people claimed in their petition to the Secretary of the Interior that there were no adverse claimants to this land: and held that the expenditure of about twenty thousand dollars, if they were forced to lose it, would work a great hardship to them. They forget that they were trespassers on our land, and in justice should be compelled to pay us damages. They forget our rights and the hardship that might be imposed on us.

            It might be noted, however, that no applications were filed for leases covering that portion of the Cherokee Nation where no Delawares were located.

            The question as to the rights of the Delawares is now in the Court of Claims. If their contention is sustained that these lands are Delaware lands and not subject to the laws and constitution of the Cherokee Nation, the Cherokees have no right whatever to make these leases. But even if the Delaware lands were subject to the laws and constitution of the Cherokee Nation, there is a provision in the Delaware-Cherokee Agreement which says: “Nor shall the continued ownership and occupancy of said land by any Delaware so registered, be interfered with in any manner whatever without his consent,” and the provision referred to above in the mineral lease would prevent them from interfering with the Delawares’ rights.

            The Delawares have just cause for alarm. If the pending leases are executed by the Secretary of the Interior, without awaiting the decision of the Court of Claims as to the rights of the Delawares therein, that tribe will find its interests and remedies at law seriously embarrassed. The Supreme Court of the State of Oregon, in Mosgrove vs. Harper, May term, 1898, held that after the Secretary of the Interior had approved a lease of Indian lands he could not cancel the same, stating;

            “That is a matter which belongs to the Judicial and not the Executive Department of the Government. The right of the lessee, when denied to re-enter and take possession of the leased premises under and by virtue of the several provisions of the lease, can only be tried out in a court of law, and not by some Executive Department of the Government.”

            The Assistant Attorney-General for the Interior Department, in his opinion dated June 12th, 1899, regarding certain leases covering Ponca Indian lands, Oklahoma Territory, in which it was shown that fraud existed in the procurement of the same, and upon which payment of royalties have since been accepted by the Interior Department, says:

            It is impossible to avoid the conclusion that with full knowledge of the fraud practiced in their procurement, these leases have been affirmed and the lessee permitted to proceed on that theory to such an extent that to cancel or rescind the lease at this time because of that fraud would not comport with the principles of reciprocal justice.”

            In one of my protests to the Secretary, I said:

            “The various companies have employed prominent attorneys and many of the parties interested hold high and honorable positions both in political and social circles. Their cause has been well represented and they are in position to represent it well, while I, the representative of the Delaware Indians, have non of these advantages; yet I feel that I have the best right to claim your attention and your careful consideration of the truth of the allegations I have set forth. In conclusion, I would ask that all leases be declared void and that no leases be granted in the Cherokee Nation, at least until the Delaware lands have been segregated by the Dawes Commission as instructed by the 25th Section of the Act of Congress, known as the Curtis Bill.”

            On July 17th, 1899, Hon. Thomas Ryan, Acting Secretary of the Interior, in his letter of instructions to the United States Indian Inspector for the Indian Territory, rejected the application of various companies who made applications for the leases covering the lands of the Delaware Indians, but leaves the impression that they may still obtain leases if they could prove that there were no adverse claimants to the land and applications as prescribed by the instructions of the Secretary of the Interior, May 22nd, 1899.

            A great many prominent and influential gentlemen, whose attention was called to the condition of affairs which confronted the Delawares, kindly responded and protested in their behalf. Among them were Hon. R.F. Pettigrew, Chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the Senate; Hon. James [SH]erman (illegible), chairman of the Committee on Indian Affairs in the House of Representatives; Hon. Charles Curtis, Member of the Committee on Indian Affairs of the House of Representatives; Hon. Matthew S. Quay, United States Senator; Rev. ___ (illegible) Morgan, Ex-Commissioner of Indian Affairs; Hon. ____ (illegible) R. James, Chairman of the Board of Indian Commissioners; S.M. Brosius, Esq., Agent of the Indian Rights Association, Washington, D.C., and a great many others.

            We are now trying to secure our last little homes in the Indian Territory and protect them from the grasping greed of ruthless syndicates and corporations. We have defended our interests as best we could; we greatly need the assistance of the Christian influence of this great Nation, and we shall be thankful for the help that we believe you will render us.

            With every sentiment of respect, I am your obedient servant.


                                    Richard C. Adams,

                                    Representing the Delaware Indians





If the kind reader into whose hands this booklet may chance to fall should become sufficiently interested in the matters relating to the Delaware Indians to render them moral support and assistance in any matter, such assistance will be greatly appreciated by both the Delaware people and your humble servant.

In distributing, with my compliments, a limited number of these booklets, I have undertaken the task from my own personal resources, and owing to my want of funds have not been able to make the distribution very large; but should you, or your friends, wish other copies of it, upon receipt of a remittance I will cheerfully furnish them.

The Delaware Indians, having no fund at their disposal, have been able to promise me so far only a contingent fee, and for three years, at my own personal expense, I have championed their cause and the cost of doing this has been many thousand dollars.

While I have undertaken to attend to matters personally before the Executive Departments of the Government, it is very necessary to have able attorneys represent us before the Judiciary and this has been one of the great expenses of this cause.

We were fortunate, however, in securing as attorney of record before the Court of Claims the assistance of Hon. Walter S. Logan, President of the New York State Bar Association, and as Associate Counsel, Marx E. Harby, of the firm of Logan, Demond & Harby, No. 27 William Street, New York.

The purpose of distributing these booklets is to better inform the publicus as to the justice of our cause. Few men will do another knowingly a willful wrong and there are but few men who will not be good Samaritans if they but have the opportunity.

With every sentiment of respect,


                        I am sincerely yours,

                        Richard C. Adams,

                        Representing the Delaware Indians,              

                        Washington, D.C.








And now you’ve read their story and their Legend, too,

You see by these traditions that they were friends to you.

You see the needs and troubles of this persecuted band,

Who always have stood by you, and helped you to a man.

Greater proof of friendship than this could never be,

When the quarrel was not his, he gave his blood for thee!

And now he asks your friendship, but not at such a cost,

He’s asking your assistance, before his home is lost.


He fears not the judgment when he gets to Court,

His rights are firmly anchored as any ship in port,

But there are pirates in the harbor! Fierce marauders lurking near!

And the mischief they are planning is the danger he may fear.

They are seeking to deprive us of the product of our land.

They care not who may own it, if they but perfect their plan.

In this bloodless battle, can we now expect your aid?

Give us for the blood we’ve spilt, your moral help instead.