The Indian Occupation
     Of Mother Bedford

The Problem Of Names

   When speaking of the first human sojourners in this land it is difficult to determine a proper name by which to refer to them. The problem originated with those earliest sojourners because they left no record of what they called themselves. Some of the later descendants of those earliest sojourners attempted to bridge the chasm created by the lack of an inherent name by devising descriptive names. An example might be given by noting a tribe of those later descendants who chose for themselves the name of Lenni Lenape. They claimed that they were the "original people" or "ancient ones" and the words Lenni Lenape apparently vocalized this concept in their language. The Lenni Lenape's name was ignored by the Dutch explorers who encountered them in the region of their first settlements. Henry Hudson, in the service of the Dutch East India Company, named the river he discovered, which emptied into the Atlantic Ocean, the Delaware after Lord de la Warre. The Dutchmen who came after Hudson's discovery to settle the land named the people already inhabiting the region the "Delaware" Indians. A problem with referring to all of the descendants of the earliest sojourners by the name of Lenni Lenape, despite the fact that they claimed the name meant "original people" is that each particular tribe or extended family had their own name for themselves, and most of them made reference to the fact that they were the "original" or "earliest" peoples. To choose one over all the others would be a rather arduous task.

   Archaeologists have attempted to reconcile the lack of an acceptable specific name for the earliest sojourners by referring to the current-day sites where the evidence of their occupation have been found. The inherent problem with this technique of naming is that it likewise imposes an artificial name upon the people; the name being derived from a source unrelated to those earliest sojourners.

   The problem with determining a name for the earliest sojourners in this land is easily understood when one considers the fact that those earliest sojourners existed in what was the pre-historic period or a time before written history. Traditional tales handed down by way of oral recitation become diluted and altered through the haze of time and repetition. During the historic period, or rather the period during which written records have been maintained, the descendants of those earliest sojourners came into contact with the European explorers. Unfortunately, the first Europeans to set foot on this continent did not take the time or effort to attempt to understand the language of the people they encountered already inhabiting this land. Those earliest sojourners were called Indians by the Spanish explorers who thought they had reached the Indies (i.e. the Indian Subcontinent).

   In recent times it has become fashionable to refer to the first sojourners and their descendants as "Native Americans" despite the fact that such a title is almost a misnomer in itself. The name "American" was not coined until after the Europeans arrived on the scene. When it was applied to a group of people it was not meant to refer to the first human sojourners on this continent. It was originally coined in reference to the "Colonies in North America". That phrase was shortened to the "American Colonies" and the residents in those colonies were referred to as the "Americans". The name was never intended to refer to those earlier peoples who visited this land prior to the Europeans. In fact, the name "Americans" was probably not used to refer to the colonists until the post French and Indian War period. Those earlier sojourners were never assimilated into the "American" nation. In fact, their descendants living today within the boundaries of the North American Continent refer to their own "Indian Nation" as something outside the legal and cultural realm of the European descended "Americans". As noted in the above, the word "native" cannot be used to refer to the first group of peoples to invade the pristine wildness of this continent.

   So, as a compiler of history, how can this writer make reference to the peoples who came to this land prior to the Europeans without insulting their dignity or denying their claim to having been the "earliest" peoples to sojourn on this continent? Denying any intention to inflict insult upon the earliest sojourners, or their descendants, I have chosen to refer to them by the name "Indian" since that name was given to them by Columbus in ignorance of their true name, and that is how they were referred to in the records of the period to be discussed in this chapter. When referring to the earliest sojourners in general, and not in relation to the Colonial and American Revolutionary War periods, I have chosen to refer to them by the name "Amerindian", which is the name utilized by many cultural anthropologists. To refer to them by any other name would be unnecessarily confusing.