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Created 15 November 2004
24 July 2005
This page contains, for the moment, comments on the daily life between Delaware men and woman or about kindred tribes whose lifestyle was similar to the Delaware.
The following are comments by various witnesses during the probate of the estate of William Gillis about 1869-1873. Some witnesses are Delaware or other Native American-- mainly Kickapoo, Peoria, Piankeshaw, and Wea--who lived with or near the the Delaware, while other witnesses were whites trading and living with them.
(A. G. Boone, Merchant and Indian trader), [Indian marriages are usually done in this way] A man concludes to take a girl. If she has never been married he goes to a friend of hers and makes it known and asks him to intercede and he generally goes to her relations and tells them his friend wants the girl for a wife and how much he will give and they the relatives talk to her parents. Different tribes have different customs. If they think favorably about it, he goes and buys what to wants to pay in the amount. After the goods are obtained, the day is set when he is to take the goods and her friends gather together and the goods are shown and he tells what he is willing to give and if they accept, a feast follows, and that is the marriage. No priest or minister officiates. I have known them to live together a long time. When they separate - which they can do at any time -they divide the property. She takes what she had and he has given her and the children. They can marry at any time. I have known them to come together again...They [the traders] often would take a woman and keep her as long as he stayed with that tribe...The traders often gave presents to the presents and took their daughter and kept her awhile and [then] sent her away. When a trader would take a woman for a wife he would buy her wit property, such as horses, calico and would live with her as long as he stayed in the country and when he left he would leave her of course. The traders did not generally considered these marriages husband and wife as we do. (Rising, Gillis Probate, p. 69-70)
(Chief Baptiste Peoria) The Indian custom of marriage - When old folks got good girl want to get married, they hold a little council among themselves and when all agree, they give things - sometimes a horse - sometimes more. They have no priest, preacher or officer. When they have agreed they just go together as man & wife. When man gets tired of wife he can part or separate and the man can take another wife. (Rising, Gillis Probate
(Trader Peter Menard) I know all about their customs - are very different from ours. They did not go to see a girl and hug and kiss [.] when a man wanted a wife among the indians and she was a virgin - the matter was generally understood the mother had general control of the girl. Sometimes a guardian. Well, the man the applicant to obtain her hand would make a present to the mother or guardian - it was done in this wise. The young man sent one, two or more horses or other goods and left them in front of the wigwam. If those horses were taken and hobbled or goods received, it was a contract. It was understood it was a marriage. Then the girl was either by her mother or guardian taken to the young man's wigwam by night. The day before the girl was taken her father or mother would make a feast. The young man would go and eat with them but would not say a word...Separations seldom took place - it was mostly on account of infidelity. There was no formality about it - they just separated and divided the blankets. (Rising, Gillis Probate)
(Joseph Philbert, a trading company clerk at the James Fork Trading Post) If their customs were like the Delawares I was [acquainted] and my understanding is that they were the same. There were two sorts of people - one rich and the other the poor. The Rich were called "big folks". If you wanted one of their daughters - a virgin - you had to make a friend - generally a woman - for a friend. Tell you wanted such [and such] daughter. Then your friend would tell you that it would take such and such articles and goods naming the artricles it would take that she believed that you could get her for these articles. Then you made up the bundle of goods and gave it to your friend. The friend would tell you that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow she would go and if she returned with the bundle of goods you could not get her without adding such and such articles. After adding the required articles and the bundle was taken back if they were accepted, your friend returned and tells you, you can get her and she will be here such and such a night. She never comes alone, but when she comes about dusk [she is] accompanied by her mother or aunt or elder sister if she has one. Then the one that brings her soon after leaves and goes home and then you invite the bride to come & shows the blanket - this consummates marriage. Some require more than others and sometimes a horse or a gun or saddle are given (Rising, Gillis Probate)
(Charles Journeycake, Delaware) I know all about the customs of the Delaware Indians are regards courtships, marriages re - when a man likes a girl; or woman he generally gives to the mother of the girl (if she is young and has never been married and takes with him - sometimes a blanket and sometimes some calico and sometimes all - he tells generally the mother that he likes the girl and wants her - then the mother tells the father and relatives - such as brothers and sisters - and if it is sat5isfactory, then the mother takes the girl to the house of the man who has asked for her and sometimes the mother stays there several days in order to see if the girl is contented. It is customary among the Delaware Indians - even to this day, for a man to have one or more wives as he may desire...the family usually eat together not at a table but off a deer skin . When asked if it was the custom for a white trader who married a Delaware woman, he said that it was and also affirmed that it was the custom for him to sit with her at the head of the table while taking their meals. (Rising, Gillis Probate, p. 241-242)
Times New Roman 12 point. Copy 24 November 2004. Photo check A. TH