Kansas Delaware Tribe

A Brief History

The Delaware originally resided in northeastern United States. They were the first native Americans to have contact with explorers from Europe. Over the following decades they were scattered and pushed westward by colonists and the U.S. government into Ohio and Indiana, then into southern Missouri. Some Delaware split off and moved to Idaho and Canada and Texas. In 1829 the Delaware in southwestern Missouri were moved to a "permanent" reservation in Kansas. Today that area is Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties. The Delaware reservation also included a ten-mile-wide strip of land running west across Kansas for passage into the central plains for hunting.

The Kansas Delaware reservation was similar to their original land on the east coast. It was green, fertile and bordered on a river. There was a problem, however. Rather than living in isolation as they had in southwestern Missouri, the Kansas reservation put the Delaware on a hub for western expansion. They were soon inundated with settlers and land speculators and the railroad. Though the government was supposed to protect the sovereignty of the native American lands in Kansas, it didn't.

Forty years after moving to Kansas, the Delaware were again asked to move, this time to Indian territory in Oklahoma. The U.S. government gave the Delaware an ultimatum: move to Oklahoma or no longer be recognized as Delaware. To preserve the tribe, the bulk of the Delaware moved to Oklahoma. A handful of Delaware for various reasons decided to stay in Kansas. Some like Anna and Rosanna Grinter had married frontiersmen and had established permanent homes. They did not want to break up their families by moving some of the members to Oklahoma.

As one current Kansas Delaware tells the story: when the government in the 1860s told my ancestors to move to Oklahoma or they wouldn’t be recognized as Delaware by the U.S. government, my ancestors responded: "We don’t need the blessing of the federal government to know who we are. We’re Delaware and we’re not going anywhere. In past treaties between the U.S. and the Delaware, the government has consistently been dishonest and deceitful. Moving to Oklahoma will just be more of the same."

The Delaware who stayed in Kansas became Citizen Delaware, or Kansas Delaware as they’re known today. For a more extensive discussion of the western movement of the Delaware and their dealings with various tribes and the U.S. government, check out the following links: