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The Making of Munsee

MUNCIE, INDIANA - I think my favorite word in the English dictionary is "Why?", just by asking ourselves 5 Why's?, we can get to the root of any problem. Some of the answer's are simple, some are a little more complex. The answers I find give me a sense of pride, knowledge, wisdom and pain.

They give me a sense of hope.

All of this information below was gathered simply because I asked myself, "Why the hell is Muncie called Muncie?"


Indiana, as you may know, literally means land of the Indians. Numerous nations of Native Americans called Indiana home long before "Indiana" was even thought of. - Native Americans fled the territory that became Indiana during a conflict known as the Beaver Wars. These groups only returned after the wars ended in 1701. The war was fought over territory and the ability to hunt beaver for their pelts. The Iroquois were supported by the Dutch and English on one side and the tribes of the Great Lakes region, including what became Indiana, were supported by the French on the other side.

French Map of the Great Lakes Region circa 1740. I've highlighted the present day Wabash and Ohio Rivers.

The Miami had been in what is now Indiana for quite some time, as were the Potawatomi. When I say quite some time, what I mean is thousands of years, and just to put things in perspective, the state of Indiana is barely even 200 years old (1816). The Miami and the Potawatomi had been here, but it was conflict on the east coat would soon bring a new group to the region: The Delaware.

The nations of Native Americans that are most associated with Indiana, in my opinion, is the Miami or the Delaware. Delaware is not an indigenous word, the word that the Delaware use to describe themselves is "Lenape", which translates to "people".

As the Europeans began to settle along the east coast, the Lenape moved West, to Central Indiana, particularly along the White River and Fall Creek.

Delaware relocation from the east coast to present day Ohio

Delaware Tribe - The Delaware Tribe is one of many contemporary tribes that descend from the Unami-and Munsee-speaking peoples of the Delaware and Hudson River valleys. Munsee and Unami are two closely related Algonquian dialects that were easily distinguishable from the languages of the other coastal Algonquian groups.

The word Munsee refers to a particular dialect of the Delaware people. The word can also be found spelled "Muncie:" or "Minsi."

Even though there were an abundance of different Native American tribes in the Midwest, the Europeans kept coming this way, and the Native Americans made a decision to stand their ground. In 1794, Chief Little Turtle (Miami), Chief Blue Jacket (Shawnee) and Chief Buckongahelas (Delaware) fought for their land at The Battle of Fallen Timbers against a General "Mad Anthony" Wayne. Wayne County, Fort Wayne, and the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, all get their name from Anthony Wayne.

Location of Fallen Timbers and other conflicts during the period

Delaware Tribe - Following the defeat, the Delaware and others surrendered to the United States and signed the Treaty of Greenville after which they would never again take up arms against the Americans. The main body then joined other Delaware who had earlier settled, at the invitation of the Miami, along the White River in what is now Indiana.

Delaware relocation from Ohio to Indiana's White River after the defeat at The Battle of Fallen Timbers

Together on the White River, the Delaware began to reclaim their iconic identity that was present on the east coast. Well respected elder Chief William Anderson was chosen to be leader of the Delaware here in Indiana during the period following The Battle of Fallen Timbers.

Chief William Anderson

For a little background on Anderson, he was born in Pennsylvania to a Swedish father and the daughter of great Delaware Chief. As a result of multiple treaties during his lifetime, Anderson, along with his family, moved to the White River.

The city of Anderson, Indiana, which is along the White River, is named for Anderson.

Old Map of Indiana, if you look closely along White River, you can see Anderson's T., as well as Muncie T.

Now let's get back Munsee, or Muncie, or even Minsi. Munsee is a dialect, it's spoken by the Delaware people.

In 1790, when the Delaware first arrived to their new home on the White River they established a village, they called it Munsee Town. A trading post was soon available, it would come to be known as Muncietown.

White River, Muncie, Indiana

City of Muncie - In 1818, under the Treaty of St. Mary's Ohio the Delawares ceded their holdings in Indiana to the United States government and moved westward. In 1820, Delaware County was opened for settlement.

On January 13, 1845 the town's name would officially be shortened to Muncie. Muncie would eventually go on to be a city, a city that was HUGE beneficiary of the Indiana Gas Boom (I have a story on that too).

The original men and women of Munsee are a strong people, they did their best to adjust to the new world being thrust upon them. From the banks of the Hudson River to the plains of Oklahoma, the Delaware are resilient. They inspire me in every way, I want to help tell their story.

Muncie still remembers those that were there first. There are two large Native American statues near downtown Muncie.

"Appeal to the Great Spirit"

"Passing of the Buffalo"

I mention a few of my tattoos every now and then because they are a part of who I am, they are a part of what I believe in. I got this one my chest heading into my junior year of college. There's an Indian Chief full of pride, knowledge, wisdom and pain. He's joined by a slave, breaking free, he's full of pride, knowledge, wisdom and pain. They're full of hope.

Why wouldn't they be? As I dig into this Indiana history, and as a few of you follow along with me, let's keep asking "Why?". When I was growing up Indiana's history seemed to be so bland, so boring, so.. well, white.

When in reality, that couldn't be further from the truth. Our history is so colorful, so intriguing, every single ethnic group has influenced who Indiana is today.

That's why the hell Muncie is called Muncie.

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