Times Past, Pausing to Remember


In 1832, a small band of Delaware Indians were living near Green Bay, then Michigan Territory, now Wisconsin. They numbered about 40 people and were the last of the group that had once lived in New Jersey, on the "Brotherton" reservation. It was time for New Jersey and the Indians to finally settle all land claims.

The Indians delegated one of their patriarchs, Shawuskukhkung, to represent them before the New Jersey authorities.

He spoke to them, as follows:

My Brethren,

I am old, and weak, and poor, and therefore a fit representative of my people. You are young, and strong, and rich, and therefore fit representatives of your people. But let me beg you for a moment to lay aside the recollections of your strength and of our weakness, that your minds may be prepared to examine with candor the subject of our claims.

Our tradition informs us, and I believe it corresponds with your records, that the right of fishing in all the rivers and bays south of the Raritan, and of hunting in all unenclosed lands, was never relinquished, but on the contrary was expressedly reserved in our last treaty held at Crosswicks in 1758.

Having myself been one of the parties to the sale, I believe in 1801 [he is here referring to the sale of the Brotherton Reservation] I know that these rights were not sold or parted with.

We now offer to sell these privileges to the state of New Jersey. These were once of great value to us, and we apprehend that neither time or distance, nor the non-use of our rights, has at all affected them, but that the courts here would consider our claims valid were we to exercise them ourselves, or delegate them to others. It is not, however, our wish thus to excite litigation. We consider the state legislature the proper purchaser, and throw ourselves upon its benevolence and magnanimity, trusting that feelings of justice and liberality will induce you to give us what you deem a compensation.

And as we have ever looked up to the leading characters of the United States (and to the leading characters of this state in particular) as our fathers, protectors, and friends, we now look up to you as such, and humbly beg that you will look upon us with that eye of pity, as we have reason to think our poor untutored forefathers looked upon yours, when they first arrived upon our then extensive but uncultivated dominions, and sold them their land, in many instances, for trifles in comparison as "light as air."

SOURCE: C. A. Weslager, "The Delaware Indians: A History," Rutgers University Press, 1972. p. 276