THE DELAWARES OF IDAHO
Jack Douglas Large
A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of
MASTER OF ARTS
IDAHO STATE UNIVERSITY
Debt accumulates in the effort to achieve scholarship and scholarly synthesis. I gratefully acknowledge the support of family, friends, colleague students and mentors through the term of my graduate studies at Idaho State University. My parents and siblings have aided and inspired my personal life and helped to illuminate the relations of kinship at the intimate level of the family. Countless friends and acquaintances have contributed to a growing sense of the highly conceptual and experiential nature of kinship.
I have been stimulated and informed by consecutive academic mentors Max Pavesic, Alien C. Turner and Anthony W. Stocks. Max urged the study upon me; Alien provided methodological and pedagogical backgrounding, and Tony illuminated theoretical goals and enforced high standards of exposition and composition. Other scholars to whom I am indebted are Richard Holmer, Suzanne Falgout, Merle Wells and Elizabeth Merrill.
I owe the greatest debt of all to Arthur Albert Creech and all of his kinspersons. I most profoundly regret his death in 1986 before beholding the completion of this thesis which he so generously and patiently informed and authorized. Clyde W. Creech, Sr., and Charlotte Creech Simmons deserve recognition for their tireless efforts to preserve and exemplify the impressive history of their tribe, kindred, clans, bands and families.
I am indebted to student peers and colleagues from classes I have taken or taught. I have grown to appreciate and respect the community of unsung bureaucrats, from the library and computer center to the graduate school and student services. These and more have contributed to the quality of the experience culminating in this thesis. Its flaws have been contributed solely by its author.
Jack D. Large
August 25, 1987
THE DELAWARES OF IDAHO
Jack D. Large
Thesis Abstract — Idaho State University (1987)
The Delawares of Idaho are a small, incorporated group of descendants of the Lenni-Lenape, a prehistoric subset of Algonkian speaking Northeast Woodland Indians. The ethnicity of the descendant group is examined in light of ethnographic, ethnohistoric and other studies in an attempt to describe their social organization, compare it with related forms, and explain their survival as a discrete group, or ethny, of Indian ancestry.
The economic and political survival and revitalization of the group are viewed through a materialist theoretical interpretation, tempered by an acceptance of cognitive factors related to ideology of kinship and the perceptual salience of kin-based subsistence prerogatives. This method follows that suggested by a combination of traditional, culture-based, examinations of human evolution and more purely biological themae, as integrated in the somewhat more recent perspective of sociobiology.
The history of Lenni-Lenape peoples is traced through the period of colonization of the New World and the westward expansion of the United States. Their survival strategies are outlined in an attempt to explain their persistence where similarly situated groups have become extinct, as a result of a broad, generalist adaptation to a combination of hunting and foraging with farming. The attempt is to support the thesis that families in a modern corporation of Delaware descendants in Idaho share cultural elements at deep levels of social organization with ancestral Delawarean and Lenni-Lenape families. I have suggested that the strong role played by family structure in their daily lives is greatly responsible for the survival of these ethnies, of which the family is a microcosm.
It is concluded that the salience of kin relations and generalized subsistence strategies create the basis for ethnicity in the case of the Delawares of Idaho, and of all other Delawaran ethnies. The transactional we/they dichotomizations implicit in ethnic boundary maintenance can be seen as supporting a dialectical view of ethnicity rather than a positivistic view which would insist on the transmission of some cultural “essence” through time (i.e. specific practices or beliefs), as the necessary ingredient for a cultural survival.
While the Delawares of Idaho do have a sense of themselves as possessing a cultural “essence”, it lies not in specific Lenni-Lenape practices transmitted through time, but rather in their sense of relatedness to each other, this is a family-centered identification that provides an anchor which secures the conduct of their lives and their “generalist” subsistence style. The sense of relatedness in turn may be based on the biological mechanism of kin-recognition and lies at the heart of ethnicity and ethnification.
This thesis is a report of ethnographic, ethnohistoric, and other studies, of the Delawares of Idaho, a small group of Native American descendants who regard themselves as having a unique ethnic identity. The primary goal of the work is to determine how Delaware ethnicity is maintained, and following that, why the Delaware feel it necessary to maintain their ethnicity. The secondary goal is to identify putative factors involved in Delaware ethnic continuity, if such continuity is present.
Methods of Research
A survey of the literature about the Delaware, who in their native language call themselves Lenape or Lenni-Lenape, was initiated in 1984 and continues to the present time. Correspondence has been made with scholars who have had contact with the Delawares of Idaho and discussions of their data interpretations have been sought in an attempt to develop a sense of the influence an observer might have on the nature and quality of information elicited. This was found to be necessary because the Delawares of Idaho exhibit almost none of the outward signs of Indian ethnicity. This creates an initial distress in the mind of the ethnographer struggling to disconnect historical and literary elements of Delaware self-awareness from elements derived in traditional culture beginning at birth, or perhaps earlier. This persistent problem will be discussed further.
Materials surveyed for the purpose of this study include oral histories, informant interviews, legal documents, press accounts, genealogies and photographs. Fieldwork included attendance at the 1984 and 1985 Delawares of Idaho Powwow held in McCall, Idaho, observations of a meeting of the Delaware Corporate Council, and of an Indian claim settlement decision in U.S. District Court at Boise. The most fruitful sessions were morning-long talks with three principal informants; Arthur A. Creech, Chief and Chairman; Clyde Wesley Creech, Sr., Treasurer of the Corporation; and Charlotte Simmons, daughter of A.A. Creech, Secretary, researcher and oral history spokesperson for the Delawares of Idaho, Incorporated. Arthur Albert Creech died in 1986, and was succeeded as leader by Clyde W. Creech; Sr. Organization of Chapters Chapter One outlines the theoretical orientation of the study. Ethnicity-related questions are at the root of rejection by the Bureau of Indian Affairs of the Delawares of Idaho’s petition for official U.S. Government recognition of them as a discrete political entity, or “tribe”. Reasons cited for the rejection were lack of documentation describing their status during years in which families and individuals underwent frequent residence shifts as part of a process of seeking relief from severe economic and cultural distress. This distress was largely the result of conditions imposed on Oklahoma Indians during the fifty years bracketing the end of the nineteenth century.
Chapter one also includes a discussion of anthropological views of ethnicity, which are then contrasted with legal, political and economic criteria. Such criteria are often imposed on an ethnic claimant by outsiders, usually dominant socio-cultural groups and their institutions. At stake are shares of funds set aside by the U.S. Congress trying to retire Native American claims. Such claims are many, and the process time-consuming.
Agencies of the U.S. Government have traditionally accepted a combination of biological and legal criteria for tribal recognition. These criteria at times have less to do with the discovery of ethnic identity, than with the prescribing terms under which it can be acknowledged. This appears to be especially true in the case of small groups of families clustered in areas geographically remote from traditional Indian communities and reservations. Once a subject group demonstrates that it characterizes itself in the prescribed fashion, it becomes eligible for a share of proffered benefits. This issue is discussed in Chapter One.
Chapter Two contains a definition and description of the Lenni-Lenape culture. It is not possible to fully appreciate the present-day culture the Delawares of Idaho without some knowledge of the history of their ancestral lines. Archeological reports, linguistic materials, and early accounts by European travelers, missionaries, government officials of assorted national origin and rank, and a handful of noteworthy ethnographies make up the descriptive corpus of the prehistoric Lenni-Lenape peoples. Chapter Two presents a partial reconstruction of Lenni-Lenape history, in an attempt to develop an interpretation of their ethnic boundary, its origin, and nature. The Diaspora of the Lenni-Lenape or Delawaran peoples is summarized in Chapter Two as well, including the sociopolitical context within which dispersal occurred. Generalized adaptive strategies and subsistence behaviors during this period of stress and crisis are discussed. It is suggested that these behaviors have been optimal for the survival, persistence, and resurgence of Delawares where other groups, similarly beset but less well equipped, have vanished.
Chapter Three gives ethnohistoric data of the Delaware in Idaho, including a characterization of their social organization in the context of shifting and evolving parameters of resource opportunity, territory, and strategy for maximum gain from the territory. It will be shown how territory, i.e., subsistence base, and its salience in Delaware families and their members, has been a key determinant of stasis and change in Delaware, and Idaho Delaware, social relations.
Chapter Four summarizes the main points made earlier in the report, and is followed by an integration and synthesis regarding the theoretical goals stated in the opening chapter. From analysis emerges a view of a set of intricate conceptual links, transmitted generationally along the communication lines of kinship structures, and based on adaptive strategies deemed appropriate within each individual Delaware’s ecological sphere.