The State Museum of Pennsylvania Image of Penn's Treaty
An Image of Peace: The William Penn Treaty

Article Titles

An Image
of Peace

Deeds of Peace

The Elegant Land

The Common People

Brother Onas...
William Penn

Creating an
Image of Peace

Spreading an
Image of Peace

Celebrating an
Image of Peace

Sharing an
Image of Peace

Image Gallery


Brother Onas … William Penn
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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 the Indians.

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.

Wampum Belt, 1994
James "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!"