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Although the charter granted William Penn complete
ownership of Pennsylvania, he believed it necessary to purchase the
land from its original inhabitants. Both in person and through agents,
Penn made a series of treaties with the Native Americans, forbidding
European settlement on any land until its ownership was secured from
An exchange of gifts occurred at most meetings between the Native Americans
and the government. Animal skins usually comprised the offerings from
the Indians. In exchange for land, Penn and his agents provided such
goods as kettles, tools, clothing, cloth, and shell beads called wampum.
"Lone Bear" Revey (American)
Wampum Belt reproduction, 1994
Quahog shell and deer hide
The Indian Committee of Philadelphia Yearly Meeting
Wampum beads, made from quahog shell, sometimes
formed a medium of exchange between settlers and Native Americans. When
woven into belts, these pictures serve as graphic reminders of important
stories and events, such as land transactions.
An extraordinary friendship existed between William Penn and the Native
Americans. With the death of Penn in 1718 the relationship between Native
Americans and Pennsylvania's government changed. The "firm league
of peace" gave way to mistrust, abuse, and eventual expulsion of
Native Americans from their homeland.
In 1737 Thomas Penn, son of the founder, and several government officials
claimed discovery of an old deed. The document, they said, permitted
the purchase of additional land with boundaries fixed at the distance
a man could walk in a day and a half. Lenape leaders reluctantly agreed.
On the day of the walk, not one but three trained athletes began to
walk as fast as possible. At the journey's end, a distance of about
65 miles, a line drawn at a right angle to the path of the walkers defined
the new purchase, a total of about 1,200 square miles. The Lenape expected
to surrender far less land and unsuccessfully protested saying, "It
is no fair, you run, run, run. You was to walk!"