Delaware Indians tell story of sovereignity during Muncie IN visit

New documentary by Ball State students reflects native suffering in early American history

By Rick Yencer

MUNCIE, INDIANA (NEWS) - Curtis Zunigha summed up the Lenape story in a few words after watching the documentary, The Lenape on the Wapahani River, on Saturday.

Perseverance, said the business manager for the Delaware Indians what gave their name to Delaware County and Muncie.

"We are still here," said Zunigha, talking to more than 100 people watching the film.

The history of one of the oldest and largest native tribes in the United States will filled with genocide and disease from European settlers and the new United States government that came from the Revolutionary War.

Paula Pechonick, chief of the Delaware tribe, talked about then General and later President William Henry Harrison marching 1,000 troops to Indian land that later became Indiana, and signing a treaty to move the tribe west.

Of course, General Anthony Wayne and the history of massacres of Indian women, men, and children also are known as well that the eventual destination of the Delaware tribe to Indian territory in Oklahoma that was ceded to the Cherokees who were moved from Tennessee.

The film written and produced by Ball State telecommunications students tells of the early days of the tribe that started along the Delaware and Hudson rivers, moving on to Ohio and Indiana and then to Kansas and eventually to Oklahoma.

Plenty of Delaware history along the White River is preserved in name by Anderson, named after Chief John Anderson who led the Delaware to Kansas along with a trading post at modern day Fishers named after William Conner.

Muncie and Delaware County also bear those English and tribal names with Muncie being the ancient language.and Delaware came from an English colonial governor, Sir Thomas West.

Kayla Eiler, who headed up the film, said production took more than a year as students researched and talked with modern tribal leaders. Some students said they knew nothing of early natives nor that the new government and settled continued to use genocide to move natives elsewhere,

Zunigha said the tribe, among the oldest in North America, is seeing rebirth and new sovereignty from the Cherokee. The tribe calls home home  Bartlesville Oklahoma and its future in Kansas where Anderson once brought the Delaware.

With the Delaware creating a sovereign nation from the Cherokee, the tribe can gain direct funding from the federal government for housing, education, and human services. And Zunigha said the tribe would reach out to Delaware in other states where their ancestors lived during the last 400 years.

And the Delaware do have a say in the proposed Mounds Reservoir that would be next to the site of old Lenape burial grounds on the White River. Those mounds, the name given to Mounds State Park, could be eroded or damaged by the lake.

And Zunigha said the Delaware and other tribes connected to the burial ground would have to sign off on the project that is currently undergoing engineering and hydrology studies. 

You can find the Delaware tribe online at www.delawaretribe.org