Jack Dou­glas Large

A the­sis sub­mit­ted in par­tial ful­fill­ment of the require­ments for the degree of



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
Pocatello, Idaho
August 25, 1987


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.