Experience area close-up: 1816 Lenape Indian Camp

Interpreter Mike Pace works with a young girl, teaching her how to throw an authentic tomahawk inside 1816 Lenape Indian Camp at Conner Prairie.

By Hannah Kiefer
Last but not least in our experience area close-up series, we visit 1816 Lenape Indian Camp, the earliest time period that our visitors get to explore when they visit Conner Prairie.

Lenape Indian Camp looks at the relationship between white settlers in Indiana in the early 19th century and the Lenape Indians, also known as the Delaware Indians. Because Indiana became a state in 1816, the camp invites visitors to explore changes that statehood presented to the inhabitants of the land at that time. The experience area opened in the mid-2000s.

Young visitors experience what it was like to travel the river in a hallowed-out canoe back in the early 1800s inside 1816 Lenape Indian Camp.

William Conner’s story is intrinsically tied to the Lenape because he lived among them for much of his young adult life and he married Mekinges, the daughter of Lenape Chief Anderson, sometime around 1800. Conner and Mekinges lived in a log cabin on the land where Conner Prairie is now and Conner operated a trading post out of his cabin. He was one of the few white men in the area who spoke Lenape and he often served as a translator. He also helped negotiate the Treaty of St. Mary’s in 1818, which moved the Lenape Indians west of the Mississippi.

Today, Conner Prairie maintains a relationship with the modern-day Lenape. Our staff knows that the stories we tell in the camp belong to the Lenape. We’re the stewards for those stories. As a result, our staff members collaborate with the tribe regarding what’s currently in the experience area and any possible changes that might happen in the future. Just last June, two of our staff members accompanied interpreter Mike Pace to a powwow in Oklahoma hosted by the Lenape. Mike is a member of the tribe and guests can often chat with him as he works in Lenape Indian Camp.

A trader explains his work to 1816 Lenape Indian Camp visitors.

Like in 1836 Prairietown and other areas at Conner Prairie, there are costumed interpreters in this area, too. Visitors are likely to meet the fur trader Duncan McKinnen, who married a Lenape woman and has two children, Eliza and Benjamin. While Duncan’s working with customers in the trading post, Eliza can often be found working in the family’s cabin next door. Guests can learn the going rates for popular trade items in 1816 and discover what life among the Lenape was like.

There’s plenty for visitors to do in this experience area. They can throw a tomahawk, investigate a bark house that was built on-site and help with other traditional Lenape activities, such as pottery. Make and Take items are also offered on a rotating basis, such as beaded bracelets or “trade silver” pendants.

Over the next two weeks, we’ll take a closer look Conner Prairie’s Lenape Indian Camp. Follow along on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat to learn even more about this experience area.