The Delawares of Idaho, Incorporated
Information contained in this chapter has been selected from the corpus of Idaho Delaware data to best illuminate the goals and activities of the group, and to attempt to establish their discrete identity in the anthropological record. In so doing, it is intended that theoretical questions surrounding ethnicity and cultural “survival” discussed in Chapter One will be clarified.
The data of Idaho Delawareness are presently taken from numerous sources, always with the permission, or by the direction, of tribal leaders understanding the reifying effect of scholarly attention to their particular case. Occasional press accounts and broadcast news reports have periodically appeared in Boise and McCall newspapers and television broadcasts. These are similarly regarded as authenticating media, as is any form of de facto recognition. This point is verified in the repeated suggestion by leaders that public relations services be contracted. One example of such a contract might be the letter of introduction and request for financial contributions composed by the author for the Chairman shortly before his death in 1986. The basis of the plea was irredentist, seeking support in pursuit of a lost Oklahoma land allotment which, according to Arthur Creech amounted to several thousand acres.
The fortunes of the Idaho Delaware family lineages have taken many turns. Although the efforts of an aggregation of related kin groups to draw themselves into a discrete and coherent political entity might include willingness, even eagerness, to bare highly personal details of family history to an inquisitive fledgling ethnographer, he does not regard that they have done so with any intent to dissemble.
The decade-long struggle by the leaders who formed the corporation and first council to coalesce and organize the members of the lineages into a legal, political, economic and cultural entity has brought growing scholarly interest in their ethno-history as well as their ongoing present activities. This interest is, in itself, a form of official recognition. This point cannot be left entirely unconsidered when attempting to attribute causal elements in emergent behaviors linked to evident vectors of Indian ethnification.
Wright’s comprehensive survey of the Indians of Oklahoma (1951) provides a good summary of Delaware presence in Oklahoma. Two groups of Delaware live in Oklahoma. The main part of the tribe, known as “Registered Delaware”, came from their reservation in Kansas and settled by contract in the Cherokee Nation in 1867. Their descendants live in Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Delaware counties, at or near Bartlesville, Dewey, Copan, Wann, Alluwe, and in a number of rural communities. A band of Delaware who associated early in the nineteenth century with the Caddo and the Wichita on the Brazos Reservation in Texas came to the Washita River in the Indian Territory in 1859, where they remained under the jurisdiction of the Wichita Agency, now the Wichita-Caddo Agency of the Anadarko Area Office, at Anadarko. Descendants of this Delaware band live in Caddo County, principally in or near Anadarko and Carnegie (Wright 1951:146).
Early in the nineteenth century, some of the Delaware migrated to the Pacific Northwest where they were employed as trappers, hunters, and scouts by the Hudson’s Bay Company. Their descendants are living in Idaho, Montana, and Oregon, affiliated with various tribes, including the Crow, Nez Perce’, and Blackfoot. There are some Delaware living in Wisconsin among the Stockbridge (Hahican); and in Minnesota among the Chippewa; and in Ontario, Canada, where three groups are known: “Moravians of the Thames”, “Munsees of the Thames,” and another with the Six Nations on the Grand River. Descendants of Delaware who became United States citizens and remained in Kansas are living in that state and in Wisconsin near Lake Winnebago. A few members of the tribe are said to be living in Mexico (Wright 1951:146).
Lewis Henry Morgan’s Indian Journals; 1859 – 62 (White 1959: 48 – 59) presents a vivid, if ethnocentric, look at the material conditions of Delaware Indian life on the Kansas reservation during the early years of their residence in the area. During his stay on the Delaware reservation, he was a well-treated guest of Reverend John T. Pratt, who operated the Delaware Mission for the Baptists.
Morgan arrived in time to witness a comparatively rare event, and one probably attended as well by one or more of the ancestors of the Delawares of Idaho. When Morgan arrived on the scene, he observed that “about 800 were present and some Shawnees from the opposite side (of the Kansas River) and perhaps one hundred white people, including traders and spectators”. He noted that “shelter was furnished for the goods of the traders, who are inseparable from all payments”. Morgan’s descriptions of the Delawares present, with the men and the women all dressed in highly refined European style clothing, suggests the amount, variety and quality of goods available was impressive. Indications are that business was good:
Baptist Delaware Mission
Kansas Territory, June 9, 1859
I left the Shawnee Mission (Friends) yesterday and reached here the same evening. I crossed Kansas River at the Delaware Crossing, about twelve miles above its mouth; and was so fortunate in point of time as to be there on Payment Day, which is the annual gala day of the nation. As I had never seen a government payment of Indian annuities I was, of course, very glad that it happened as it did. After spending about four hours as a spectator of this curious scene, I went on to the Mission. Today Mr. Pratt and myself went down again, and spent a few hours, the payment still going on, but so near completed that they expected to finish tonight. We have just returned somewhat fatigued by the ride, as the day is warm. Some account of the payment must be given, although it is one of those scenes which should be seen to be appreciated. The amount paid was universally large, it being no less a sum than $78,000 to something less than 1000 people all told, men women and children and was paid in gold and silver. In January, 1858, the Delawares numbered by census 988. At the present June census their number is but 941. These figures were given me by Mr. Ford, a merchant of Lawrence, who stops here and is looking after the accounts with the Delawares. I supposed the nation was not diminishing, but rather on the increase (White 1959:49).
Removal brought the group to Kansas, from where the next major diaspora occurred. A short time after Morgan’s trip through the Indian Territory, a group of families, including those which would become the Delawares of Idaho separated from the larger body of Delawares. The main group had already split, as we have seen, into those moving to Cherokee land in Oklahoma, and those opting to remain in Kansas in exchange for citizenship and eighty acres.
Delaware Indians in Kansas were probably acquainted with conditions in Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and other northwest states (Adams 1906:35)- The presence of Delawares in Idaho is noted more than a decade before the arrival of the first family from whom the political entity, the Delawares of Idaho descended.
In 1863, a delegation of Delawares in Kansas addressed a communique to the commissioner of Indian Affairs “seeking to withdraw $800 from their invested funds, with which to defray the expenses of a delegation of their people to the Rocky Mountains in the forlorn hope that in those wild and rugged fastnesses they might succeed in finding harbor and refuge” (Adams 1906:42).
There had been exploratory expeditions by Lewis and Clark, and later ones by John C. Fremont. A number of Delaware families in the Indian country of Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Indiana and elsewhere, had a thorough, clear knowledge of conditions in the western U.S. intermountain. Significant numbers of them had been employed in these expeditions, other settler parties, military movements, and trading parties. Their services were sought because of their familiarity with the largely unmapped territory being traversed. These Delaware guides, guards and providers came from families in the Indian lands, and it was to these families that they returned upon completion of their jobs.
It is clearly apparent how and why the Delawares came to be found in Montana, or in Indiana, or Canada or anywhere else outside the aboriginal territory from which the ancestral peoples fled, or were driven. It appears almost as if they left their homes out of tradition, because conditions forced them to do so. Leaving Oklahoma, however, they went where they went because they were free to do so, and because they had perceived and/or identified subsistence opportunities in those places which were greater than existed in the places where they were. They knew well how to hunt and farm. They needed only access to game, fertile land, and water.
The Delawares of Idaho
The “first ancestor” of the Delawares of Idaho was Rebecca Lucas. Her name, the name of her daughter, Lucinda Llewellyn that of William Marshall, Lucinda’s husband, and of their daughter, Mary Frances, completes the quartet of individuals listed on John Pratt’s 1867 registry of Delawares who are linked genealogically to the families which today comprise the Delawares of Idaho, Incorporated (see Figure 1).
(Insert Figure 1)
1. Arthur A. Creech
2. Clyde Creech
3. Charlotte C. Simmons
4. Otelia E. F. Creech
5. Mary Francis Marshall
6. Lucinda Marshal(l?)
7. William Marshall
6. Rebecca Lucas
Figure I • Relationship of Creech Lineage to 1867 Delaware Enrollees
The four individuals named are presumed to have been related to individuals of whom there is a comparatively substantial amount of mention in the historical record. They were members of the Delaware families who were removed from the White River of Indiana to Kansas in 1821. These Indians have been discussed at length in literature describing events and personalities of the thirty years prior to removal (Thompson 1937; Gipson 1938; Ferguson 1972). Some of these were discussed in Chapter Two.
Arthur A. Creech was the grandson of Mary Francis Marshall, of the youngest generation to appear on Indian Agent John Pratt’s 1866 Registry of Delaware Indians. Until his death in 1986, he was the central figure of the Delawares of Idaho. Arthur A. Creech identified in oral history documents as AC), his nephew Clyde Wesley Creech (CC), and his daughter Charlotte Creech Simmons (CS), were interviewed by E. B. Merrill for the Idaho Historical Society. The resultant oral history of the Delawares of Idaho contains elements useful for comparison with similar elements from earlier Delaware ethnies.
Subsistence and Technology
During the period of residence in the Verdigris Valley of Kansas and Oklahoma, the diet consisted of beans, potatoes, corn, pumpkins, onions, fish and sage hens. The horses and cattle were fed from the willows along the Verdigris River. Before leaving the Kansas and Oklahoma area, Delaware hunters provided prairie chickens, wild turkey and antelope for the U.S. Army. “They’d rough dress ‘em out and put ‘em in boxes and the stagecoach come by every other day and take ‘em in to the forts and they supplied the Army for several years before they left Kansas and Oklahoma and come West.” (AC).
In approximately 1907, the group arrived in Montana, which they had reached by wagon train. The wagons were makeshift, and contained “very little possessions, by the time they had moved out of Kansas into Oklahoma, and then out of Oklahoma again” (CS). Photographs the group attached to the oral history when it was placed in the archives of the Idaho Historical Society confirm this.
In 1915, the group moved to Basin, Wyoming, using the same wagons that had carried them from Oklahoma to Billings. After three years residence in what was called the Basin Gardens, they moved to Alamo Flats, ten miles south of Basin, where they lived when the influenza epidemic of 1918 struck, hitting their group hardest of all the local residents. Two brothers of A. A. Creech succumbed to the disease.
They farmed, and bought and sold horses from the ranch they had leased in Basin Gardens. Four different groups out of Montana lived on this property of about a thousand acres, called the Randall Ranch. When they moved out to Alamo Flats they “were in the beet work mainly, which was the only thing going on them days” (AC). While there was not much wage employment, the group does not appear to have been very reliant on a cash economy, relying on familiar foods, and methods of getting them: “Well, at that time looming was famous for sage hens, deer, antelope, and elk, and that was our main food, outside of garden vegetables. At that time the sage hens – you don’t see it now days – I’ve seen ten thousand of them in one flock, just a whole countryside. We’ve killed hundreds of them in order to have meat” (AC). The flu epidemic of 1918 hit the group hard, and they have in their possession a news clipping of the day attributing to them some of the heaviest losses in the epidemic. Among others, it took a close family friend, as well as Arthur’s (maternal) Uncle Charlie Fent, and his two brothers, Merle and Esaw Creech. Afterward the survivors split up, with the Creech line moving to Idaho. Arthur Creech was now the eldest of the children of Leander Louis and Otelia Fent Creech. Others of the group were said to have gone on to California seeking less severe weather.
They came into the Payette Valley in 1924, approximately. Their employment at that time was principally the fruit harvest. They picked different types of fruit over in the Emmett-Payette area. They did pruning. They also worked in the beet fields. And at that time they would go out and contract as a group to do a field, and the eldest member of the family was paid for all the workers and then it was up to him to decide who earned what. And everybody that was old enough to walk, even some of the youngest children that was just big enough to pick up the fruit off of the ground (CS).
Scholars of American Indian studies will recognize in the implied gerontocratic pyramid, a classic and nearly universal element of Indian social structure. The same can be said of the practice of inter-family sharing of food resources.
Well, we worked for approximately seven or eight years pretty steady in Payette Valley until the winter of about 1929 when the big freeze come and killed a lot of the orchards out. At that time we started migrating to Oregon and Washington for the fruit harvest, and also to the Emmett Valley. We went to Freewater, Oregon for a period of approximately seven or eight years, every year in the spring. Had a big campground down along the Walla Walla River and whichever one of the members got there first would pick out the camp for the rest that was coming, and get garden stuff out of people’s gardens there, for the fruit workers got all their garden stuff free. And we put in cooling boxes along in the water along the creek to keep the vegetables fresh. So whenever you pulled in, your camp was all spotted up, your wood was there, vegetable box full of vegetables where we worked (AC).
The informants also recount the practice of carrying in handfuls of whatever produce was being harvested at the end of the work day. This would be preserved by canning, which the women would do after supper was over. The “jars of canned fruit” were stored in boxes “and whenever a load of it was full, then this was taken back to the home place in Payette, where they spent the winters.” The home place referred to is 127 acres of farmland on Birding Island, in the Payette River near the present community of New Plymouth. The farm was owned by the Creech Family, and contained one “main house and then the small houses around. My dad and mother lived in the main place with the kids that wasn’t married, and then we would set up tents and little houses, one room deals, all over the place” (AC). The little one-room houses were the same walled tents which were used while following the harvest. This “village” structure does not appear to be unlike that which appears at numerous times throughout the historic period for similar aggregations, or clusters, of Delawarean people.
Mrs. Simmons continues with her earliest personal memories:
My first recollection of working was in the potato fields. And at that time each member of the group, and there were probably forty people, had so many rows to do, and at that time I wasn’t big enough to pull a potato sack, so my father doubled up the rows and my job was to shake the potatoes from the vine so he could carry my row. Then later, I recall working in the beet fields and we picked cherries and peaches. I didn’t like the peaches on account of the fuzz. And apples and plumes (CS).
A considerable amount of social interaction took place during the harvest of hops in the Yakima Valley.
Over in the Yakima Valley, and the Wapiti [Wapato?] Indians, there’d be 400 or 500 camps there, used to pick ‘em by hand. My father, used to say he talked nine different Indian languages and he used to sit out by the hour and talk to the Wapiti Indians, tell ‘em about Oklahoma history, and they was really interested at that time; they sat and listened. And all the Indians — their lingo is just a little bit different than Dad knew-but they could still understand one another. They had some great old times (p.12).
The families traveled the fruit tramp as a group, with sometimes “fifteen, twenty carloads” of people. Making allowances for hyperbole, there remains the strong possibility that as many as fifty people or more would be present at any given time during the cycle of opportunistic migrations. This required some organization and caution to avoid losing people, with occasional lapses standing out in the memory. One instance of leaving her mother 200 miles behind was recounted by Mrs. Simmons. In all, the operation required an apparently great amount of mobility and organization to maximize returns with efficiency:
We worked with the Wapiti Indians, the Yakima’s and the Nez Perce; four or five different tribes. In them days the work’ed come on in different areas and everybody knew when the job would start. We’d finish up in the prunes; we’d go to Yakima into the hop yards. Hops usually lasted six weeks to two months and from there we’d go over to Lake Chelan [and] Brewster, Washington and get into the apples and put in maybe two months over there, sometimes three months. When the apples wound up then we always came back to New Plymouth, Idaho. Other groups, most of them, went over in Oregon, into the onion fields. We never worked in the onions. We didn’t get in on that. Every spring, why, it was just like a family reunion; three or four hundred of us, pull into the camp when the job started.
The group does not appear to have had an abundance of cash resources at any time. While this condition appears to have had little impact on the quantity and quality of subsistence, and a healthy diet, it tended to contribute to an appearance of contrast, or boundary, between themselves and the more cash oriented society by which they were surrounded. Before examining the social organization, including the division of labor, a glance at the menu:
During the time that they lived in the Payette Valley their usual diet was beans, potatoes, corn, fish, and egg gravy. Now, egg gravy is kind of an interesting dish, we grew up on it. It was originally made with wild honey and wild fowl eggs, and its cooked in such a way that it becomes thick, almost like a jam and it was served on hoe cake or Johnny cake. Another dish that we ate was slumgullion stew and this was made with fresh vegetables; tomatoes, corn, potatoes, onions and deer burger. Another thing that we ate was lambs quarters. Now I can remember helping to pick these greens, but that’s been so many years ago, you know. They also ate the dandelion greens and wild leeks. They ate pheasants and sage hens, ducks and geese, buffalo berries, and then they ate salmon. And the wild game and fish was taken the year around as the need prevailed. If they needed it, they went out and took it. Wild honey from the bee trees was also taken (CS).
Clyde Creech Sr. has a photograph at home of the results of an antelope hunt with men from the family. A six-man party shot six animals in the first two hours of the hunt: “..About eight o’clock we got on the ground and by ten o’clock we had our antelope killed, dressed out, and hanging on a fence”.
During summers spent in groups, everyone’s slumgullion was prepared in a common kettle, with the women taking turns doing cooking, washing dishes and camp work. This is said to have continued until 1947 when the surviving elders returned to Basin, Wyoming, where they remained until 1954, the year in which the two oldest males, Arthur A. Creech’s father Leander, and Clyde W. Creech Sr.‘s father Bruce died. In that year they returned to Idaho.
This was the beginning of the era of the incorporated Delawares of Idaho, for it was during this period that the thoroughly acculturated offspring of the enrolled ethnic Delawares of Oklahoma were to initiate the social and political efforts which would culminate in incorporation and the accompanying Indian ethnification.
Also during this period was initiated a fundamental shift in subsistence strategy, the result of which was the gradual abandonment of organized exploitation of the harvest “tramp”. The shift involved a change from the exploitation of wild and cultivated food resources in a cash-sparse economy, to the exploitation of mineral resources in a capital-intensive economy. The strategy, triggered by the discovery of a large body of tungsten ore in Idaho simultaneous with the discovery of formidable U.S. Government subsidy on tungsten. Even in this venture, the people devised a way to maximize the return through utilization of the family structure. Arthur Creech provides the narrative:
One of our members located tungsten ore, which was pretty valuable at that time. He came back to Wyoming and notified us that he had made this discovery, so I made the decision then to move back to Idaho. So we came back, we filed on approximately 2000 acres of mining property and about eight of us put in one whole summer of black lighting. Tungsten shows up under fluorescent light, so we worked at night, staking this property out, wherever it was. And after we’d made our preliminary discovery and investigated it, then every member of our group filed claims, and then we sold our claims to the corporation. The records is on file in Elmore County, every member of our group, pretty near, made a mining claim.
The mine property was located on Castle Rock Creek; ca. 30 miles east of Mountain Home, and the nine was managed and operated by the Creech family. They made deals with equipment owners to accomplish the extraction of the ore from the mine. The operation continued for three years, while the subsidy brought in $60/unit for the metal. When the subsidy was lifted, the price obtained dropped to $6, or below the cost of trucking to the smelter, “So we just quit”.
Subsistence and social organization are seen to be greatly intertwined, in the accounts of the oral history, to the extent that they reflect not so much the sometimes hyperbolic references and archaic stereotypes, but that they make clear the thorough reliance of individual members of these families to other individuals and the family institution itself. The data of social organization make this point abundantly clear.
Kinship and Social Organization
In response –to Merrill’s questions regarding the division of labor in the gathering of food:
Everybody gathered and everybody ate. The money was divided. It was paid to the eldest male, and after a job was completed and the members of the different households gathered at the table and he passed it out. It was my understanding that he changed it into silver dollars and he divided it up according to need and how he felt you’d worked, not according to how many boxes you’d picked, but according to what the eldest said you had coming. The women were never paid as the men, but they didn’t work as hard. The women did all the cooking and this sort of thing. The hunting took place in groups. Ten families would go hunting and everybody hunted until everybody had their game. If the hunt ended and there was not a deer or an antelope for everybody that was in the group, then it was divided up according to how the oldest said to divide it.
Again the familiar principle appears of deference and respect accorded to the eldest member (s) of the family. This feature of the social structure was included in the corporate structure, in the form of the succession of eldest males to the post of Chairman and first chief. Those eligible include all males still in touch with the main group, living in Idaho, with relatively sound health, and the willingness to lead. Arthur Creech, upon his death was succeeded by Clyde, his nephew. Clyde will be succeeded by Arthur’s son Charles. Arthur succeeded Clyde’s father Bruce, and Arthur’s father Leander. In actuality, there is considerable evidence that equal influence has probably been exerted by the women of the group where Delaware ethnicity is concerned, for it was Arthur’s mother Otelia (Tillie), his sister Viola, his grandmother Mary Francis Marshall, his daughters Joan and Charlotte, and his granddaughters, in whom had been vested considerable responsibility and influence in the management of family affairs and the survival of the families as such. Members of the group might demur on this point as a matter of form. The point is still speculative, but deserves investigation.
Before allowing the pigment to set on a picture characterized by an image of total group cohesion and unity, it must be emphasized that the day-to-day situation did not always approach this ideal. Again, this appears to have much to do with decision-making in the realm of marriage partners, clan-identification, residence-choice, and subsistence opportunity. The oral history contains several acknowledgments that the practices described are characteristic of the “nucleus of the group”, excepting “some of those that are off and on the outer edges, probably ten or fifteen that haven’t been as close-knit as the majority of the group.”
In fact, those of the group supposedly “at the edges” are collateral aggregations of kin, themselves perhaps organized along the same principles as the “nuclear”, i.e. scrutinized, group. This is a point which emerged in subsequent interviews of individuals by the author, and one which also deserves further investigation. The other group of greatest interest in this respect would be the one of closest propinquity which is still resistant in some degree to the acceptance of leadership by the adjacent (Creech) lineage. This may be part of a process of the transformation of clan structure in which the former matrilineal clans with preferential marriage have reformed as bilateral kindreds and it might give insight into bilateral kindreds that function as economic and social entities (i.e. cognatic descent group) (Scheffler 1965). The situation seems to reflect the persistence of Indian definitions of group and family in the face of disruption.
The marriage practices are one aspect of this group’s social organization which stands in contrast to others, in one informant’s consciousness. It was observed that a problem for the group had been the failure of first marriages. Coupled with this was the observation that the majority of successful marriages had been those “intermarrying back with people that have some Indian background”.
The perception was that “You marry into this group, you don’t marry out. If the male or female is unwilling to marry into a group like ours, then the marriage doesn’t work”. Again, this is an element which argues strongly for the presence of descent groups. This is precisely the sort of data which would be both difficult and worthwhile to quantify and describe. Part of the problem of failing marriages is alleged to be linked with the group way of dividing tasks, the benefit of which the group is seen to be the recipient. When the individual is called upon to “do something”, it is expected that there will be no resistance to something being done by the distaff person. “If someone calls and says their meeting its up to you to go, you go [sic].”
The perception is that, while these relations did not cause any strains on the closeness of the group, it caused a lot of marriages to break up.
There is in the informant’s perception of the religious practices of the Delawares a situation which is reminiscent of the polarity shown between the Revolutionary War era leaders, Captain Pipe and Captain White Eyes. The contrast has not to do with the sanguinary opposition but with the division of the group who practice some form of Christianity, and those who do not. There are not doubt variations in the forms of religious practices or beliefs, and while it would not be appropriate to detail them greatly, it should be noted that vestiges of practices characterized as witchcraft by one informant from Oregon, and of peyotism by another from Idaho stand out from the data. Delaware peyotism is well-documented as a practice with both religious and teaching functions, with each function, and accompanying set of rituals and symbols being autonomous. Either religion, or teaching, but not both appear to have been the basis, historically for this behavior (Petrullo 1946; Newcomb 1956, 1957).
The two biggest celebrations which were held prior to the advent of the powwow, which was adopted from the Oklahoma Delawares in much the same form as described by Weslager (1974), were Thanksgiving and Corn Harvest, the latter not having been celebrated for some years. “Whenever the corn would be ripe, they had a big feast to celebrate. And there again, all the members would come in (after the fashion of Thanksgiving) and one of the main dishes was the corn.”
Mrs. Simmons remembers a material symbol of her status as a little girl:
As a child whenever we played there with the grandparents, my grandfather made headdresses for the children. The boys were allowed to wear numerous feathers, but the girls were allowed to wear one feather. And at that time I thought my grandfather didn’t like me very much because he mutilated the feathers, cut the tip of the feather out and then pinched it twice on one side. I don’t know the meaning, but I was never allowed to wear more than that. I used to get my feelings hurt and go down around the barn and gather up some more feathers so I could have like the older boys. But whenever I showed up back with the group then I’d have my feathers taken away and the top pinched out and it was mutilated again. I had my feelings hurt a great many times.
This observation suggests the interaction of ideology and social organization, and also points to the considerable extent in which the ethnic Delaware grandparents were involved in the inculcation of elemental ethnicity in the present generation of Delawares of Idaho leadership. It was, and is, normal and traditional practice for the older people to have the care of young children entirely, for sometimes extended periods. During these periods came opportunities to instruct the children in the course of play, instruction, or training. They would learn the dances, and hear all the stories passed down through generations reaching back at least until the early colonial period.
One striking fact which emerges from the ideology contained in the oral history is that which involves the perceptions of difference, of separateness between the children of the group, and white children, with frequent allusion to harassment, ridicule and persecution. An example would be the mother’s remonstrance of an unruly child, “if you don’t behave, the agency will get you”. However it does not appear that stern treatment of children is any more the norm for the present group than for historic groups studied. Every visible evidence is of considerable affection and protectiveness by adults toward their children and those of kin.
Despite assurances by the principal informants of the group that many things are left out of the oral history because the informants “didn’t want anyone to know”, still it is a source of considerable interest to anyone interested in the process of cultural change. The Quest for Legitimacy The legal existence of the Delawares of Idaho dates from Their incorporation January 18, 1978. The articles of incorporation provided for a nine-member council. The purpose clause (article IIIa) of the articles of incorporation, lists the following goals:
…to promote the interests and well-being of Delaware Indians, wherever they may reside; to encourage the development of an historical and tribal tradition for persons descended from Delaware Indian ancestors; to inculcate in the members of the Corporation a sense of pride and privilege in being Delaware Indians and descendants of Delaware Indians; to make every effort to obtain for the members of the Corporation all perquisites, prerogatives and rights to which American Indians of the United States of America are generally entitled; to gain for the members of the Corporation the rights of compensation and ownership interest to which they are entitled in ancestral lands of the Delaware Indians, wherever located; to gain recognition as a federally recognized tribe or band of Indians; to all things necessary to promote the welfare and best interests of members of the Corporation as Delaware Indians.
The corporation petitioned the federal government for acknowledgment and recognition as an Indian tribe. Their petition is problematic for a variety of reasons. Not the least of these is that there are already two recognized Delaware groups, having greater numbers and longer residence stability. A result has been a higher ethnic profile for the main stem ethnies, and, probably, a higher degree of ascription of Delawareness by Indian neighbors, and of Indianness by non-Indians.
A completed petition for acknowledgment includes a summary report of a group’s origins, historical culture chronology, and a description of present status, especially social and political. It is accompanied by the greatest possible documentation of the claims and representations in the petition. This last requirement, given the frequently violent and abusive nature of imperial and colonial subjugations and expropriations, is understandably difficult for fragmented groups to meet. There are gaps in the records of their day-to-day life. This is especially true of behavioral derivatives of ethnicity which are rarely self-documented. Had the conquered ancestors of modern Native Americans foreseen that future generations of their descendants would have opportunities, however limited, to recover damages and compensation, they would have returned the receipts and other paper records of their material losses. A primary concern receiving significant administrative effort by leaders of the Delawares of Idaho has been the quest for U.S. acknowledgment as an Indian Tribe. Another, less ell-developed but still important, is to secure a corporate land base. This land base is seen ideally as a small acreage in a zone of commercial viability in or around the seasonal recreation oriented community of McCall, in Valley County, where the group’s powwow is traditionally held. The land would be used for future powwows, a corporate headquarters, and some form of small business enterprise, such as an Indian museum or trading post. A third goal of the founder of Delawares of Idaho was the establishment of a health protection plan for member’s families.
The Delaware Powwow
An important dimension of Idaho Delaware ethnicity is political. It is anchored in the initiation and continuation of litigatory, documentary and ceremonial activities. These activities are kept in motion and flux by a few leaders elected in secret balloting by the enrolled members. The principal exception to this scheme is that the eldest, healthy, Idaho-dwelling male of the Creech line occupies the chair. The choice of council members is usually among candidates qualified on the basis of age and sex, as well as availability. Additional requirements for holding certain offices are linked to geography and lineage Officers must reside in Idaho and be of the founding, or incorporating, lineage. Other possible criteria of acceptability, e.g. economic, may exist.
All of the more than 300 enrolled members of the Delawares of Idaho are legally incorporated under that name. To themselves, they are sometimes clan, sometimes as tribe, and sometimes as band. They govern, and are governed, by a council. In matters affecting all of the members, a secret ballot is taken. This occurs as part of the annual meeting. This weekend-long celebration of Delawareness, Indian-ness and pan-Indianism (cf. Newcomb 1956) is called the Annual Delawares of Idaho Powwow. All Indian people are invited and encouraged to participate in contests of dancing, drumming and wearing Indian regalia.
At the Powwows I attended in 1984 and 1985 “the winners of both the men’s and women’s divisions of the dancing contest each received $500 cash prizes, insuring full and enthusiastic participation. Drumming was provided by Nez Perce Indians from Lapwai, Idaho, called “Sam Jackson’s Bunch”. The participants would alternately drum and dance. The Chief Drummer was an elderly Nez Perce, and the strength and skill of his chants was that of a person greatly practiced in that traditional art. A professional Master of Ceremonies from Oklahoma announced the dances, telling jokes and talking about Indian culture. A professional “Fancy Dancer” from the Black Hills performed in a costume of extravagant color, to which great quantities of feathers and bells were attached. A dance contestant was recognized as a Sho-Ban official under his feathers and paint.
During the dancing, the Chief (A. A. Creech) and the older Delawares, when they were not dancing, became popular subjects of tourists’ cameras, usually posing with a fellow traveler of the camera-wielder. Many onlookers requested pictures, or series of pictures, of (and with) the Delaware celebrants and following the dancing, the Indian participants and their guests returned to their camping sites in the lake side state park where a potluck dinner was spread on rows of tables under the pines. After all of the guests had liberally filled their plates, the Delawares served themselves. The annual events in McCall bear an important relationship to the present goals and aspirations of the Delawares of Idaho. Their main goal is to establish a land base, preferably in the McCall area, where they can have a permanent presence in the form of a center for the development and perpetuation of (1) the Delaware Birthright, as they perceive it, and (2) an effective health protection plan for their members. They are willing to enfranchise any descendant of Lenni-Lenape, or Delawaran people.
The present lack of a health program would perhaps become evident in the light of an examination of the comparative health statistics of the Delawares and the public at large. The Delawares do not seem to be asking for too much else, and they would just as soon pay for it themselves. Indeed they would gladly pay for it once the brush of judicial and Congressional error and insult is cleared away and the long promised and awaited settlement funds are finally disbursed. Bureaucratic errors have cost the Delawares of Idaho their rights for 100 years.
Since we have already seen that Delawares are scattered over virtually the entire map of North America, we should not find it surprising that some of the distant bands might chafe over what they could only perceive as their exclusion from consideration, having been long out of contact with the two “main” bodies made holders of all the Delaware proxies by colonial authorities intent on dicing the earth into parcels of real estate for the occupation and exploitation by whites.