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The Lenni Lenape

The Original People

The long tale of Philadelphia's oldest inhabitants, and some links to the Baldwin Park neighborhood, can be briefly told by discussing the characters seen in the photo below, looking east from the west side of Logan Square.

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Panoramic photo of Logan Square looking east. 
The characters in this story, from right to left: William Penn atop City Hall, Logan Square, turtles, frogs, the golden cross on the Cathedral, Hotel 201 behind the Cathedral, three statues of humans representing three rivers, swans, the 34-story Alexander Apartments, and the Angel Moroni on the Mormon temple at far left

Most Philadelphians and tourists, when asked to describe the origins of Philadelphia, will start with the Quaker represented by the 37 foot tall statue atop City Hall. The brass plaque on City Hall reinforces this story, with William Penn calling Philadelphia "the virgin settlement,"  although a famous Benjamin West painting shows William Penn meeting with the residents of 10,000 years in 1683 at what is now called Penn Treaty Park.

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The Treaty of Penn with the Indians, by Benjamin West, 1771-72.
William Penn is meeting with the Lenape, who Penn called the Delaware. Tamanend, the leader of the Lenape at the treaty discussion, is memorialized standing on a turtle at Market and Front Streets.
Penn's prayer on City Hall

William Penn was granted the land that became Pennsylvania by King Charles II of England, who had acquired the lands after defeating Dutch colonists in New Netherland (the Americas) for the final time in 1674.


The Dutch preceded the English and this history is portrayed in Logan Square. In Logan Square the fountain has three Native American figures, the older female figure representing the Schuylkill River, which in Dutch means "hidden river." The two swans in the fountain being held by the female figures are a play on the name of the founder of the Philadelphia Fountain Society, Dr. Wilson Cary Swann. More of an ontological stretch would be connecting the swans to the first Delaware River colony of the Dutch, named Zwaanendael, or Swan Valley, at what is now Lewes, Delaware. This colony was founded in 1631, but was wiped out by the Lenape in 1632 after an escalation of a misunderstanding. Later Dutch excursions and settlements worked their way north to the future Philadelphia area.

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1909 plaque on City Hall, commemorating the Dutch settlements here from 1623 to 1664. The early Dutch settlements were in what is now New York City, and Peter Minuit later instigated the Swedes to start a joint commercial venture in the area that is now Philadelphia.  This latter venture was eventually taken over by the Swedes for the years 1638 to 1655, after which the Dutch absorbed New Sweden commercially and administratively.
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1909 plaque of City Hall commemorating New Sweden denoting their sole sovereignty between periods of Dutch hegemony.
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I cannot find any evidence of the Swedes in the Baldwin Park neighborhood, but there are nice displays of the Swedish history in what was to be Philadelphia at the American Swedish Historical Museum at 19th and Pattison Avenue. This tapestry designed in 1959 in Stockholm, now at the museum, shows New Swedish immigrants to the right, Lenni Lenape to the left. The Dutch threat to New Sweden looms in the background depiction of a windmill. The first contacts of Lenape and Europeans spelled doom for the Lenape, as it is estimated that diseases like measles and smallpox, to which the native peoples had never been exposed, killed up to 90% of the Lenape. 
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The pre-European map of the inhabitants of the area between the Delaware and Hudson valleys. The Lenapes divided into three major clans, represented by turtles, turkeys, and wolves. The dark green represents the Unami clan, whose totem was the turtle. The turtle is prominently represented in the Logan Square fountain. The Munsee totem is the Wolf and the Unalachtigo's the turkey. The Lenape spoke an Algonquin language, which distinguished them from the Iroquois speakers to the north and northwest.
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In John Collins Park on Chestnut between 17th and 18th, the three Lenape totems, turtle, wolf, and turkey, are displayed on the fountain. Smaller family groups of Lenapes might have their own animal icon, like the Mantas on nearby Burlington Island, whose icon was the frog. There are three frog statues in the Logan square fountain.
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Replica hanging in the American Swedish Historical Museum of a 1934 map made by the Philadelphia City Planning Commission. The original is at the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
The three totem animals are pictured at top. The words along the margins are William Penn's descriptions of the Lenape in his 1683 Account of the Lenni Lenape or Delaware Indians. The natives' names on the areas and rivers are seen. The name "Delaware" was given to the river by the English to honor the first governor of the Province of Virginia, Thomas West, 3rd Baron De La Warr (the title itself of French derivation). De La Warr instigated the first Anglo-Powhatan War in 1610 in Virginia, which only ended when Pocahontas married John Rolfe in 1614.
So, of the rivers represented by the three human figures in the Fountain of the Three Rivers at Logan Square, the name Delaware River is derived from English via French, the Schuylkill from Dutch, and only the Wissahickon maintains its Lenape name, which means "catfish creek."
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Detail from the map above. Coaquannock means "Place of Tall Pines," and the current Matthias Baldwin Park would be located near the letter "u" in the word Coaquannock. Cohoquenock, the stream flowing into the Delaware River at right, will be renamed Pegg's Run by the British colonizers and will play a role in the Callowhill Cut, as discussed here. The same physical characteristics that made the area favorable to the Lenape, including many streams between two broad rivers as discussed here, made the area appealing to Penn. For more on the cosmology of the Lenape, see the article on the mural unveiled in 2019 here.
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Another Penn, Thomas Penn the son of William, was living at Springettsbury (now the site of City View Condominiums) in 1737. Thomas Penn, trying to acquire more land from the Lenape, claimed he had a deed from 1686 that promised that the Lenape would sell all the land enclosed by a line extending west from a fixed point with its eastern border the Delaware River, with its length determined by how far a man could walk in a day and a half. This distance was misrepresented on a map shown to the Lenape by James Logan, of Logan Square fame. The Lenape estimated this distance at 40 miles, but Logan had hired the fastest runners and cleared a path through the woods in advance, resulting in a 70 mile trek. The Lenape appealed to the more powerful Iroquois, but Logan had made an agreement in advance with the Iroquois to support the colonists' side in the dispute over the "Walking Purchase." The 1686 deed produced by Thomas Penn was probably a forgery. Note the city of Shamokin on the map.
Under pressure from the English colonists and the Iroquois, the Lenape were forced to vacate the Walking Purchase lands, an area the size of Rhode Island, and move west to the area around the current city of Shamokin, Pennsylvania. Shamokin is a Lenape name meaning "place of eels," and is the only street in our neighborhood with a Lenape name. In this photo looking south on 19th Street towards the Lenape figures in the fountain, the Shamokin Street sign is seen behind the Granary.
Note to the observant: that street sign pointing west from 19th Street should say 1900, not 1800.

The forced migration west after the Walking Purchase was just the beginning. Land-hungry colonists pushed the Delaware into Ohio, where the Delaware took a military stand against further encroachment. These Ohio forces were decisively defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 by General Anthony Wayne, whose gilded statue sits atop the Rocky Steps, 100 feet to the southwest. 

The Delaware then scattered into Indiana and Canada. After the War of 1812, with relinquishment of land claims by the British, colonists (now United States citizens) pushed the Delaware out of Indiana into Kansas and Missouri, and then out of Kansas and Missouri into the Oklahoma Territory. By this time, there were only about 2,000 Delaware left from a pre-Columbian census of around 12,000. Small pockets of Delaware remained in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Canada.

Statue of Mad Anthony Wayne at the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
For trivia lovers: both Marion Morrison and Batman took their stage or alter-ego names from Mad Anthony Wayne, resulting in John Wayne and Bruce Wayne respectively.

The population genocide was accompanied by a cultural genocide. The Dawes Act of 1887 broke up communally-owned tribal lands into parcels of individual ownership, and as individual sales happened, the sense of tribe diminished. The Native Americans who accepted private ownership were granted United States citizenship, losing their identity as a Native American nation. Federal laws then required Native American children to attend government-run schools, many far removed from their homes. Institutions like the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania, the first such school, taught students the culture of the whites, in an attempt to aid assimilation or destroy their culture depending on one's view.


Religious conversion was another tool of assimilation. Another "character" in the initial panoramic photo of Logan Square is the golden cross atop the Cathedral of Saints Peter and Paul. The photo below shows the name of Kateri Tekakwitha carved on the north side of Hallahan High School near 19th Street. Kateri was a Mohawk, not a Lenape, but spoke Algonquin like the Lenape. When Kateri was age four, and living in upstate New York in 1660, her parents died in a smallpox outbreak and Kateri's face was scarred. She was raised by relatives and was converted to Roman Catholicism by the Jesuits. She engaged in physical injury to her own body as a penance, and refused to marry, actions deemed laudable by the Catholic Church of the time. She died when she was 24. Alleged miraculous appearances by her, and illnesses cured by intercessory prayers to her, resulted in her becoming a saint in 2012 by declaration of Pope Benedict XVI.


The official seal of the Delaware Indians recognizes those who were converted in its depiction of a cross (see here).

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Memorial on Hallahan High School to the first Native American woman of North America to be canonized. The lily in Catholic iconography signifies chastity.

There are two other Native American connections to the Cathedral. The altar to Our Lady of Gaudalupe on the north side of the interior of the Cathedral honors the apparition in 1531 of the Virgin Mary to an indigenous Indian, Juan Diego, born in 1474. Also on the north side of the Cathedral is the altar dedicated to Katharine Drexel. Katharine was born into a wealthy banking family in Philadelphia in 1858. Inspired by the generosity to the poor of her step-mother, Emma Bouvier Drexel (great-great-aunt of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy), Katharine devoted her life and finances to serving the needs of Native Americans and other minorities. She was canonized in 2000 and her earthly remains and tomb were moved to the Cathedral in 2018. She was also of great help in establishing the Spanish Chapel at 1903 Spring Garden Street, as discussed on our website here.

Two other buildings in our panorama can be linked to the Native Americans.


The first building: the Alexander Apartments are named after Alexander Stirling Calder (1870-1945). He was the son of the artist responsible for the William Penn statue, and he helped his father create some of the other 250 statues on City Hall. Calder the son sculpted the figures of the three human figures, turtles, and frogs in the Logan Square fountain. The male figure represents the Delaware River, the younger female the Wissahickon, and the elder female the Schuylkill River.

The second building: the former Sheraton Hotel, now called Hotel 201, has been owned by Marriott International since 2015. Marriott, the largest hotel chain in the world, was started by J. Willard Marriott and currently run by his son, Bill Marriott. Both father and son are devout Mormons, and are known for stocking the Book of Mormon in all their hotel rooms, along with the bible stocked by Gideons International.

Which brings us to the last "character" in our panorama: the Angel Moroni, seen topping the Mormon Temple. According to the Book of Mormon, Moroni was a Native American. According to Mormon beliefs as written by Joseph Smith, like all Native Americans, Moroni was also a descendant of the ten Lost Tribes of Israel. After the first destruction of the temple in Jerusalem and the diaspora of the Israelites, some found their way to North America. This unusual migration idea had been put forth in the mid-1600s, and William Penn himself, in his 1683 essay mentioned previously, lists the reasons why the Lenape are probably descendants of the lost tribes of Israel: appearance, customs, calendar, and some Biblical justifications.

24-year-old Joseph Smith, when he published the Book of Mormon in 1830, took the story further. Moroni was the son of Mormon, a leader of the Nephites who battled against the Lamanites, both groups being Native Americans who had descended from the ten lost tribes. Perhaps in a naming coincidence, the Spanish missionaries in California in the early 1800s called the mission Indians "neophytes," a fact generally known. Moroni was the last known survivor of the Nephite nation (compare to James Fennimore Cooper's The Last of the Mohicans published contemporaneously in 1826. Tamenund, the sachem who made peace with William Penn and whose memorial statue is at Front and Market Streets, and the turtle clan of the Delaware, figure prominently in the conclusion of that book). Mormon wrote the record of the Nephite people on golden tablets. Moroni then buried them in New York in the early fifth century, and later, as the resurrected Angel Moroni, revealed the location of the plates to 17-year-old Joseph Smith in 1823. After translating the plates, Smith returned them to Moroni, the plates never to be seen again.

Out of this story eventually arose a new religion and our neighborhood's Mormon temple, meeting house, and the Alexander Apartments.

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The Americas being settled by the lost tribes of Israel, according to Mormon traditions.
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This article opened with a discussion of the character at the top of City Hall. If you walk under the City Hall tower via the north portal, you will see four massive pillars supported by the four races of man, according to beliefs in the 1870s. Asians, Africans, Europeans, and Native Americans are represented. The first three play a prominent role in current Philadelphia business and politics. The last, the ones who have been here the longest, sometimes seem to have been forgotten except in our art and place names.
Per Cent for Art on the Community College of Philadelphia campus.
The Lenni Lenape are prominently mentioned on this "petroglyph" just off 18th Street across from Baldwin Park. Gloria Dei, or Old Swede's Church, is also mentioned, so that is one Swede reference in the neighborhood.
authored by Joe Walsh, June 2019
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