Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




Kathleen J Bragdon


This research explores the meaning, construction, representation, and function of Delaware ethnic identity during the 1820s. In 1821, nearly 2,000 Delawares (self-referentially called Lenape) crossed the Mississippi River and settled in Southwest Missouri as a condition of the Treaty of St. Marys. This dissertation argues that effects of this emigration sparked a vigorous reconsideration of ethnic identity and cultural representation. Traditionally, other Eastern Algonquian groups recognized Delawares by the metaphoric kinship status of "grandfather." Both European and Colonial governments also established Delawares as preferential clients and trading partners. Yet, as the Delawares immigrated into a new "western" Superintendency of Indian Affairs in 1821, neither status was acknowledged. as a result, Delaware representations transitioned from a taken-for-granted state into an actively negotiated field of discourse. This dissertation utilizes numerous unpublished primary source documents and archaeological data recovered during the Delaware Town Archaeological Project (2003-2005) to demonstrate the social, political, and material consequences of Delaware ethnic identity revitalization. Utilizing Silliman's (2001) practical politics model of practice theory, the archival and archaeological data sets of Delaware Town reveal the reinforcement of conspicuous ethnic boundaries, coalition-building that emphasized Delaware status as both "grandfathers" and as warriors, and also reestablishing preferred client status in trade and treaty-making. This study illuminates this poorly-known decade as a time where Delawares negotiated and exerted their ethnic identity and cultural representations to affect political, economic, and social outcomes of their choosing in the rapidly-vanishing "middle ground" of early-19th century Missouri.



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