3 — The Delawares of Idaho, Incorporated

Chap­ter Three

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).

Morgan’s Jour­nal

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.

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