Walking Purchase
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Even before William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania in 1682, he contacted the Lenape Indians by letter and sent them gifts.

Unlike most British colonizers, Penn wanted to build a relationship with the Indians.

As a Quaker, Penn believed in spiritual equality and pacifism. Penn's moral devotion obligated him to accommodate the Indians and their beliefs as much as he could. He attended native feasts, festivals, and religious ceremonies. In the name of fairness he traded for land.

Daniel Richter is director of the McNeil Center for American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania:

"Certainly within the broad spectrum of European behavior towards native Americans, William Penn is out there on the end of the good guys."
He says Pennsylvania was a real estate venture and the economic survival of the colony depended on acquiring property rights.

When William Penn died in 1718, his sons jumped at the opportunity to convert land into money, even if it meant losing the trust of the Indians. William Krashatis is a historian and director of public programs at the Chester County Historical Society. He says Penn's sons were nothing like Penn:

"They rejected their father's Quakerism, they later became members of the Church of England. They looked at Pennsylvania as part of their inheritance and a way to make money."
In 1732, Penn's son Thomas inherited the deed to Pennsylvania. With the help of land agents, Thomas and his brother John began to sell land still owned by the Lenape to pay creditors.

Richter says debt and greed led to the Walking Purchase, one of the great land swindles in Native American history:

"...William Penn for all his great virtues was not a great businessman and left the family tremendously in debt. His sons were even worse. they are in this tremendous financial bind which, again, hardly excuses but helps to explain why the Walking Purchase happened."
In 1737, the sons presented the Lenape Indians with a 51-year-old incomplete land deed, drafted by their father William Penn. The deed said the Delaware Indians sold the Penn family land west of the Delaware River as far as a settler could walk in a day and a half.

The Lenape leaders were led to believe the deed was binding and the Penns prepared to get the most out of the arrangement.

William Krashatis:

"They hired three athletes to 'walk' this distance, and there were some members of the Delaware Indians who came actually to witness ...when these athletes set out at dawn on the morning of this particular walk, they began to run."
The athletes were helped by brush-cut pathways, horses carrying supplies, and boats to taxi them across waterways. Still, after 18 miles, one runner dropped out. The next day, another collapsed and went blind. He died two days later.

When time was called, only one of the athletes finished the journey, covering twice the distance intended by the original Walking Purchase. And, to the Indians' surprise, acquiring land for the Penns the size of Rhode Island.

Carla Messenger represents the Lenni Lenape Historical Museum. She says the Lenape people complained about the Walking Purchase for years but to no avail:

"The British crown had an official investigation. They proved that the documents that were produced were fakes. Then of course they mysteriously disappeared to get rid of the evidence. The thing is that it was done and the Americans would not return what was taken."
The Walking Purchase caused ill feelings between the Lenape and the Penns and led to a series of Indian raids and massacres of white settlers, says Krashatis:

"It really becomes a harbinger of the French and Indian War in 1756, although this happened more than a decade and a half earlier. But there was a distrust now between Penn's sons and the Indians, something that never existed in Penn's own relationship with the Indians."
Penn's sons bullied their way into the land they wanted while forcing the Indians westward to less desirable territory. The Walking Purchase set a precedent that would be repeated throughout American history.

Joel Rose, WHYY News.
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