The Delaware or, as they call themselves, the Lenape, were the Native Americans who lived in and near what is now New York City and Philadelphia in the American north-east. They had lived there for at least a thousand years when the whites came and took their land away. George Washington once fought against them.
They called their country Lenapehoking. It lay along the Delaware and the lower Hudson rivers and the land in between, now called New Jersey. Two big American cities now stand there, New York on the Hudson and Philadelphia on the Delaware. In those days, though, it was a vast forest full of animals. About 24,000 Delawares lived there. Now a thousand times as many people do, almost none of them Delaware.
The Delaware lived off of the deer and bear and elk and grew maize, beans and squash and gathered strawberries. They lived in long houses.
When the whites came they brought things that the Delaware did not know how to make but grew to want, like metal pots and knives, guns, whisky and even glass beads.
It was for things like these that they sold Manhattan and other pieces of their land. But they did not have a Western idea of private property: you could no more sell the land than you could sell the air. All that you could sell was the right to use it.
The whites also brought with them terrible diseases that the Delawares had little defence against, like smallpox, cholera and measles. Many died.
They knew how to fight in the woods better than most white men did, and they even had guns. But one thing they did not have were numbers. More and more whites kept coming over the seas every year. And whatever land whites could not get by sale or the small print of a contract, they took by force.
An excuse to fight the Delaware could always be found. Once it was because one of them took a peach. Small things like that grew into years of war. Even those who had taken on Western ways were killed. Even those who had become peaceful Moravian Christians were killed. Even women and children were killed. It did not matter.
And so the Delaware, those who had lived through the white diseases and the white wars, were pushed west bit by bit - through Pennsylvania in the 1600s and 1700s, Ohio, Indiana and Kansas in the 1800s and so on till most of them came to Oklahoma by the 1860s, though some by then were in Wisconsin and Ontario. By 1990 there were about 13,000 left. Unlike other Native Americans, few married blacks.
Their language is still heard in prayers at funerals, prayers that few understand any more. It is also still heard in the names of places in their long lost homeland, names like Parsippany, Minisink, Massapequa, Hackensack, Raritan, the Poconos, Rockaway, Canarsie, Jamaica (in Queens) and Manhattan.