top of page

Honoring the States: The 1st State - Delaware...

Delaware is the very first state of the 13 original states to ratify the federal Constitution. It happens to be the second smallest state, but its population is not so small at 1,031,890 people recorded in 2023. The capital of Delaware is Dover, and that is where the government operates. The motto for Delaware is, "Liberty and Independence", and this is because the Order of Cincinnati, who was a patriotic organization that was formed in 1783 by officers that had served in the revolution (and adopted as a phrase in 1847 to add to the official state seal), nicknamed it this as the first state to ratify the US Constitution on December 7th, 1787. Delaware is also called "The First State" for obvious reasons, "The Diamond State" by Thomas Jefferson for being such a "jewel" among all of the states due to its location on the Eastern Seaboard, the "Blue Hen State" for the Blue Hen Cocks that were brought in by the soldiers to fight for entertainment, and "Small Wonder" given due to the small size of the state and beauty that it contributes. The state bird is the Blue Hen, the flower is the Peach Blossom, and the Tree is the American Holly.

On a deeper level, we have researched the first people to live in Delaware, which were the indigenous tribe of Lenape (the name translating to "The People"). There were made up of Unami-speaking people of "Down-River" and Munsee-speaking people "of Stone Country". A Quaker man named William Warner was the first European settler in West Philadelphia. He arrived 5 years before William Penn, who was the European "founder" of Delaware. When he saw the lush land, vast amount of trees, fruits, and vegetables, he was drawn in immediately to the land. The Lenape people were the "original" people of Delaware. They lived in bands along the water in wigwams - which were wooden huts situated along rivers and creeks. They tended to move often, relocating to areas that were more useful and productive for food and shelter.

In the 17th Century, European explorers and settlers came to the land to search for commercial opportunities. In 1633, the Dutch was colonizing land along the Hudson River. In 1638, they purchased a tract of land from the Lenape tribe known today as Wilmington, Delaware. Fur traders and settlers from Sweden and Finland came next. In 1640, Dutch investors sold their shares and established new trading posts along the Delaware River. William Penn practiced good will and principals with the Linape people. He saw them as "Children of God" and entered purchase agreements with them that brought lands deeded to his proprietorship under his "absolute title". He took ownership, but also honored certain areas where their villages were as land that couldn't be sold. They all lived in peace until William Penn died in 1718. In 1737, the fraudulent "Walking Purchase" deed between the Penn family and the Linape people acted as a way to use one group of people to cheat out another group from their land. Since they could not read the paperwork, they had no idea that they were being tricked out of their land by being told that their ancestors gave up as much land as could be "walked" in a day and a half. Instead of walking, the whites ran and gained huge pieces of land illegally. European settlers took advantage of this and in the 18th Century, the military alliance of the British and Iroquios Six Nations pushed them westward. Finally, the defeat of an intertribal coalition at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1796 became the turning point for change. Indigenous tribes were moved to Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Wisconsin, Ontario, and New Jersey. A small amount of indigenous people agreed to Christian beliefs and were able to stay on the land and are still there today. On November 26th, 1787, Delaware elected 30 delegates to a state convention to consider ratification. It was an unanimous decision to make Delaware the first state to ratify the US Constitution.

It has been difficult to talk about the history of Indigenous and the Colonial relationships because they were seen as "savage and heathen" for hundreds of years in comparison to the Christian settlers. Indigenous people were not legally able to celebrate their own culture in ceremony until the American Indian Religious Freedom Act was passed by Congress in 1978. It wasn't until 2016 that the Lenape Indian Tribe of Delaware was officially recognized by Delaware state officials, even though there was thousands of years of history that told the entire story. We wanted to give this part of our history a voice. As we learn about our history, we can choose how to move forward. Only by learning the Truth, can we heal our past and make big leaps forward in Love... together.


bottom of page