Native Americans before Colonial Settlement
Native Americans refers to the groups of people indigenous to the North American continent. Native American tribes are most often viewed through a colonial lens, which organizes the numerous tribes into categories based on their interaction with European colonists. Through this lens, many of the Native Americans living in North America's mid-Atlantic region were referred to as Algonquians and Iroquoians based on the languages they spoke.
Prior to contact with European settlers, Native Americans of the mid-Atlantic region lived in villages that included a few dozen to a few hundred residents. They successfully farmed crops such as maize, squash, and beans in addition to hunting game and foraging. Foraging is the practice of collecting fruit, nuts, and other edible plants in the wild. Many lived in settlements enclosed by large walls. In areas where fish and other wild food were plentiful, people were more likely to live in extended family groups instead of large villages that relied on agriculture.
There were hundreds of Native American tribes in North America prior to colonization. One of the largest Native American groups in the mid-Atlantic area at the time of colonization was the Iroquois Confederacy. They lived primarily in what is now the state of New York. The confederacy was a matrilineal society, meaning it was a cultural group in which ancestry was tracked through the generations of women in a family. Men and women in the Iroquoian tribes enjoyed a fairly egalitarian, or equal, relationship. They performed different duties in their societies, but women were not subordinate to men.
Colonists' Interactions with Native Americans
As William Penn established the Pennsylvania Colony, he needed a way to bolster the geographic borders laid out in his charter. Connecticut and New York disputed Pennsylvania's northern border, while Maryland questioned its southern border. Penn wanted to acquire land from local Native Americans to further document his ownership of the territory.In addition his Quaker beliefs led him to offer a fair settlement with the Lenni-Lenape (Delaware) Indians. In 1682 Penn signed a treaty with Tammany, the Lenni-Lenape leader. Penn traded a supply of cloth, guns, and other goods for land on the banks of the Delaware River. Besides the goods Penn provided, he also promised Tammany he would treat the Lenni-Lenape honestly and protect them from further encroachment by other colonists. Because of Penn's negotiations with the Lenni-Lenape, Pennsylvania became renowned as a peaceful colony with cordial relationships between its colonists and Native Americans.