Long before the coming of the “white man” the state of Pennsylvania was inhabited by six tribes of “Indians.” They were the Shawnee and Ohio Valley tribe along with the Erie, Iroquois, Munsee Delaware, Susquehannock and the Lenape Delaware. Both the Munsee and Lenape draw their names as their land bordered the Delaware River.

Around 1,000 A.D. tribes built homes and shelter known as wigwams. Trade was established between the tribes as well as burial rituals.

The natives were and are known to be very spiritual and are deeply rooted in their ancestry.

During the French & Indian Wars which raged for 75 years (1688-1763), the people and the tribes sided themselves either with the French or English – causing dissension.

Taking a toll upon the tribes was the coming of European settlers and explorers. They brought with them epidemic diseases, such as tuberculous, measles, cholera, small pox and influenza. The natives had not built immunities to these diseases and many died. Contributing to the toll of decline of the native population was leverage of taxes, enforced labor and enslavement.

It was the Lenape Delaware (also known as Lenni-Lenape) that we are closely associated since they inhabited the land in our area. They settled along both sides of the Delaware River and parts of the state of Delaware.

The principle Lenni-Lenape village was Shackaxon; this area is now part of Philadelphia. The word Lenape is pronounced “Leh-NAH-pay” and not “Len-a-pee” as said by many.

Lenni-Lenapes were tall and stood erect and were broad shouldered. Their black hair was worn long and straight and the men grew no facial hair. Their skin tone was tawny reddish brown. The characteristics among the various tribes differed.

The Lenni-Lenape developed and achieved instrumental music and choral singing. Their instruments included drums, rattles, gourds and flutes made from deer bones.

In the central-western part of the state the Shawnee & Ohio Valley tribe covered the largest land mass in Pennsylvania. They differed in governing their tribe as they allowed their women to sit in council.

At one time it is estimated the native population was 15,000 when the European settlers arrived. By 1790 there were just a little more than 1,000 remaining. Most of the tribes that were forced to leave Pennsylvania ended up in Oklahoma.

History show natives were known to have murdered, scalped and taken prisoners of their enemies. This was the way they battled the “white man” and other tribes.

Today here are no reservations in the state. Two small plots of land were set aside in Philadelphia as camp sites for visiting Indian delegations, until somewhere around the mid-1920s.

One of the first acts of William Penn upon his arrival to Pennsylvania was to make a treaty with the Delaware and Susquehannock tribes.

Today, there are 562 federal recognized tribes, communities and villages, with 326 reservations in the United States. Some tribes have more than one reservation and some share one.

In 1960 the subject of what to call the indigenous people of the United States arose. The often used term “red man” or just Indian became offensive and confusing. There was a question with some as to the use “American” as these people resided on the land before it became America.

It was settled upon that they would be called “Native American Indians.”

According to the U.S. Census Bureau those who identify with being indigenous – 50% preferred to the name of “American Indian” – 37% prefer “Native American” with 3% having no preference.

As there were no stores to purchase food, tribes survived by hunting, trapping and fishing. Women and children went into the fields and woodland to gather wild plant foods. In the spring and summer, fresh items were available. Preserving items for the long harsh winters was a necessity. Some dug deep pits into the land to keep the foods through winter. Involvement with settlers led to the planting of gardens. Usually planted were corn, beans, squash, herbs and some tobacco.


1¼ cups corn muffins or toaster corn cakes - cubes

2/3 cup whole milk

1 large egg

1 Tbsp. molasses

¼ tsp. ground cinnamon

pinch of salt

Put corn bread cubes into 12” -16” baking dish (lightly oiled). Whisk together remaining ingredients and pour over bread cubes. Let stand for 25 to 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300-degrees. Place baking dish onto baking sheet in the middle of the oven. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes – until edges are just set and still wobbly. Cool pudding to warm, it will continue to set as it cools.


3 ½ cups flour+

lukewarm water

½ tsp. salt

3 heaping tsp. baking powder

oil for frying

Mix dry ingredients with enough water to make a pancake like batter. Let to stand for several minutes. Heat enough oil to deep fry. Add more flour and water to pancake like batter. Mix and knead until the dough become biscuit like dough. Make dough rounds – approximately 5” round and about ¾” thick. Test a small piece of dough to make sure oil is hot enough. It is time to fry several rounds of dough at a time – turn once. Remove with slotted spoon or tongs ... do not pierce the bread as with a fork.


Blueberry Pudding

2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries*

½ cup sugar

1 cup + ½ cup water

2 Tbsp. cornstarch

*Instead of blueberries – you can use other berries or a mix of berries.

Place berries, sugar and one cup of water into a saucepan. Heat to a boil and turn down to low. Mix cornstarch and ½ cup water until dissolved. Slowly add cornstarch water to berry mixture. Stir constantly for 12 to 15 minutes until it thickens. Refrigerate, or to keep longer, preserve in boiling water bath. Makes a nice gift and tastes great. Can be eaten as a pudding or as a topping over ice cream, cakes and frybread.


Let me hear from you: banjack303@verizon.net. Search YouTube for Look Who’s Cooking as well as phoenixvillenews.com for this column. Find Bette on Facebook by searching “Bette Banjack’s Downtown Kitchen.”

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