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Bygone Muncie: Lenape chiefs - but no 'Chief Munsee' - lived in Delaware County
Chris Flook Published 9:30 a.m. ET June 4, 2017
http://www.thestarpress.com/story/news/ … 354458001/
In January of 1802, a delegation of Shawnee and Lenape chiefs from Indiana met with President Thomas Jefferson and the War Department in Washington to protest white settlers squatting on Native lands near the White and Whitewater rivers.
During the encounter, the Lenape Chief Tetepachsit spotted an American army officer, whom he recognized from the Battle of the Wabash in 1791. During the battle, the Western Confederacy of Miami, Lenape, and Shawnee crushed General Arthur St. Clair’s forces near present day Fort Recovery, Ohio, one of the biggest defeats in American military history.
Supposedly, Tetepachsit approached this officer and asked, “Do you remember who I am? I am Tetepachsit." The officer replied, “Who the devil is Tetepachsit?"
Insulted, the chief removed a string of 27 dried human tongues from his belt, shook them in the officer’s face and walked off proclaiming, “He remembers me now."
Tetepachsit was one of several Lenape chiefs who established 14 villages along the West Fork of the White River after the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795.
His village of Munsee speakers (Munsee is one of three Lenape dialects) sat on the north bluff overlooking the White River near present day Minnetrista Boulevard. His village was known variously as Tetepachsit’s Village, Talapoxie, Munsee Town, and Wapikamikunk.
Contrary to popular local belief, there was never a chief named Munsee living along the White River at any time in human history. The city of Muncie was named after Tetepachsit’s village of Munsee speakers, not a chief.
When Europeans first colonized the North American continent, the Lenape lived in hundreds of decentralized villages along what is now the Hudson and Delaware river valleys. Each village had a headman known as a sakima (sachem), who served as a political and cultural leader. At the time of first Native-European contact, the Lenape villages didn’t answer to a supreme sakima, nor operate as a singular, unified tribe.
However, by the time they reached Indiana in the 1790s, the Lenape along the White River had organized politically under six chiefs: three war and three council. Each chief likely represented one of three Lenape matrilineal descent groups: tookseat (wolf), pokekooungo (turtle), and pullaook (turkey). The six answered to a council of elders known as the Lupwaaeenóáuk. One of the six would serve as first among equals, acting as a de facto head.
Another prominent chief was Buckongahelas. He was renowned for his military abilities and wisdom. He fought in the French and Indian War, the American Revolution and led the Western Confederacy in the Northwest Indian War with the Miami chief Mihšihkinaahkwa (Little Turtle) and the Shawnee chief Weyapiersenwah (Blue Jacket).
Buckongahelas was always skeptical of Euro-American intentions and was often hostile to settlers and missionaries. Along the White River, the chief lived with about 40 families at a village along what is now Burlington Pike. This community was known as: Wapicomekoke, Old Town Hill, or Buckongahelas' Village.
The Lenape lived only briefly in East Central Indiana. After signing a treaty at Fort St. Mary’s in 1818, they traveled west in 1821. During the 25-year period, several chiefs appear in the histories, oral traditions, and treaties. Chief Hockingpomsga, for instance, lived at his village Owenachki near Priest Ford Road. Other chiefs included the Beaver, Petchekekapon, Lapahnihe, Quenaghtoothmait, James Nanticoke, and Netahopuna.
Living in Madison County, a war captain named Captain Pipe was interviewed in later years by missionaries. This Captain Pipe (Tahunqueecoppi) was probably the son, or nephew of a more famous Captain Pipe (Hopocan or Konieschquanoheel) - who fought in the American Revolution.
Upon leaving Indiana, a chief named Kikthawenund served as the head of the tribe, leading the White River Lenape first to Missouri then on to Kansas in 1830.
Kikthawenund is probably best known to us as William Anderson, the chief at the village Wapiminskink, located at, or near the present day Madison County Courthouse. White traders referred to Wapiminiskink as "Anderson’s Village," which settlers shortened to just Anderson.
Kikthawenund’s mother was the daughter of the Lenape chief Netawatwees and his father was a Swedish ferry boat captain named John Andersson. Kikthawenund’s daughter, Mekinges, married William Conner.
Finally, the most famous chief living along the White River during this time wasn’t Lenape, but the Shawnee chief Tecumseh. Tecumseh, along with his brother Tenskwatawa (the Prophet), and several other Shawnee lived briefly in a seasonal hunting village along the White River somewhere near the Madison and Hamilton county line.
The Lenape chiefs along the White River walked a fine line between Native and white worlds. After 275 years of murder, ethnic cleansing, exploitation, disease, and warfare, the Lenape chiefs made pragmatic decisions intended to benefit their people, while opting for nonviolence with encroaching settlers. In the end, they moved west to maintain their way of life with the intention of living in peace.
Chris Flook is the vice president of the Delaware County Historical Society and is the author of "Native Americans of East-Central Indiana." For more information about the Delaware County Historical Society, visit delawarecountyhistory.org