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Native American Tribes of Pennsylvania And Their History

Even before William Penn, a famous English Quaker, and his fellow colonizers first set foot on the land known today as Pennsylvania, the area was already significantly populated by diverse tribes and their diverse culture.

The life of the native American tribes before their contact with Europeans greatly resembled that of the Stone Age, with their weapons and tools all made with either stone or wood. People traveled by foot on dry land and by canoes on lakes and rivers. The three native tribes Penn found inhabiting the land were the Lenape, the Susquehannock, and the Shawnee.

The Lenape

The Lenni-Lenape, which means “original people”, were groups of residents from various places like Southern New York, New Jersey, Delaware, and Eastern Pennsylvania. They formed an organization rich in both linguistics and culture. When the European colonizers arrived, they were called Delaware Indians.

Not only are these people experts in hunting, but they also practice a sophisticated system of farming. They employ a technique called slash and burn to maintain and prolong the productive life of their cultivated lands. The main idea of the slash and burn technique is to use fire to prep the fields before planting and then eventually leave the cultivated land once the soil nutrients deplete so that it can grow back to its original state as natural plants and animals settle in them again.

Aside from survival skills, women of the Lenape tribe are also taught to weave products out of plant fibers and barks. They are also responsible for caring for the children and other household chores.

The Susquehannock

This tribe settled along the Susquehanna River and into southern New York. There were few written documents about them since Europeans did not usually visit their sites due to the fact that they live quite far from the shore.

They are an Iroquoian-speaking tribe who constantly invaded other tribes along the Delaware River up to the Chesapeake Bay. Aside from their love of war, they also farmed for a living. They typically planted beans, maize, and squash during spring and while waiting for harvest time, most of them moved to the bay to fish and gather shellfish.

When the English settlement in Virginia bloomed, they started trading fur with the English in Virginia, which eventually reached out to the Dutch on Delaware Bay and the French in Canada. However, the great tribe had its downfall after a series of incidents and epidemic decreased its population.

The Shawnee

After the Iroquois forced them out of their homes in West Virginia, southern Ohio, and western Pennsylvania in the 1660s, the Shawnee was scattered into different groups. Over time and after a lot of moving, they finally formed a majority in Wyoming Valley and the Ohio Valley. In the middle of the 1700s, they returned to their original homes but were subsequently forced out again by the Europeans. They decided to reside in Missouri, then Kansas, before finally settling down in Oklahoma.