Before the European settlers arrived to North America, the land we now know
as part of Delaware was settled by the Unami Lenape tribe (also known as Delaware
tribe). This was an Eastern Algonquin tribe which lived along the Delaware
valley and the Nanticoke and other rivers leading to the Chesapeake Bay. This
tribe was closely related to the Munsee Lenape which lived along the Hudson
River. The Delaware had a settled hunting and agricultural society. When fur
trading became frantic, they became middlemen in the trade with their natural
rivals the Susquehannock tribe. In the 1670s, the Iroquois destroyed the Susquehannock,
clearing the way for the Lenape to move over the Allegheny mountains.
In 1631, the Dutch established the first European settlement called Zwaanendael,
near present-day Lewes. Settlers in the area were killed within a year in
a dispute with local tribes. In 1638, Fort Christina (Wilmington) was established
by a group of Swedes as part of New Sweden. The Dutch established a fort at
present-day New Castle in 1651 and in 1655, they conquered New Sweden, incorporating
it into New Netherland. In 1664, England conquored New Netherland, under the
direction of James, Duke of York. Delaware was then leased to William Penn
and for the next century, Pennsylvania and Delaware were one colony. Even
after the division into two colonies, they shared a governor.
Delaware was the first state to ratify the Declaration of Independence on
7 Dec 1787. Pennsylvania followed next.
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