|Deacon’s House, Pleasant Hill Shaker Village|
This is who we’ve always been, a nation of madmen and sociopaths, for whom murder is a line item, kept hidden via a long list of semantic self-deceptions, from “manifest destiny” to “collateral damage.” We’re used to presidents being the soul of probity, kind Dads and struggling Atlases, humbled by the terrible responsibility, proof to ourselves of our goodness. Now, the mask of respectability is gone, and we feel sorry for ourselves, because the sickness is showing.
|Indian Valley Middle School Assistant Principal Scott Beckley.|
The American Revolutionary War brought the demise of these first settlements. The Delawares, who at the time populated much of eastern Ohio, were divided over their loyalties, with many in the west allied with the British out of Fort Detroit and many in the east allied with the Americans out of Fort Pitt. Delawares were involved in skirmishes against both sides, but by 1781 the American sense was that the Delawares were allying with the British. In response, Colonel Daniel Brodhead of the American forces led an expedition out of Fort Pitt and on 19 April 1781 destroyed the settlement of Coshocton. Surviving residents fled to the north. Colonel Brodhead’s forces left the Delawares at the other Moravian mission villages unmolested, but the actions set the stage for raised tensions in the area.
In September 1781, British forces and Indian allies, primarily Wyandot and Delaware, forced the Christian Indians and missionaries from the remaining Moravian villages. The Indian allies took their prisoners further west toward Lake Erie to a new village, called Captive Town, on the Sandusky River. The British took the missionaries David Zeisberger and John Heckewelder under guard back to Fort Detroit, where the two men were tried (but eventually acquitted) on charges of treason against the British Crown.
The Indians at Captive Town were going hungry because of insufficient rations, and in February 1782, more than 100 returned to their old Moravian villages to harvest the crops and collect the stored food they had been forced to leave behind. In early March 1782, 160 Pennsylvania militia led by Lieutenant Colonel David Williamson raided the villages and garrisoned the Indians in the village of Gnadenhütten, accusing them of taking part in raids into Pennsylvania. Although the Delawares denied the charges, the militia held a council and voted to kill them. The next morning on 8 March, the militia tied up the Indians, stunned them with mallet blows to the head, and killed them with fatal scalping cuts. In all, the militia murdered and scalped 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. They piled the bodies in the mission buildings and burned the village down. They also burned the other abandoned Moravian villages in the area.
As the Shaker missionaries were integrating themselves into the region of southwest Ohio they were acutely aware that Indians were very nearby. The trio kept a journal, in which they noted how close the Turtle Creek community was to the Treaty Line established at the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, the line separating Indian land to the north and west from land available to white settlers.
One early convert to the Shakers was one Calvin Morrell, and his farmland between Dayton and Cincinnati sat nearly bordering the Treaty Line, and it was on this farmland that a major sacramental meeting was held in mid April 1805.
It may be one of the great coincidences of history that the Shawnee in far western Ohio were also in the grip of an unprecedented religious revival, not so very far away from where the Shakers were becoming established in the region. The dramatic conversion of the Shawnee Prophet Tenskwatawa, a younger brother of Tecumseh, from drunkard to religious leader is well known.
What is less well known is the uncanny timing of his conversion, relative to the arrival of the Shakers.
Lalewethika is believed to have had his conversion experience in late April or early May 1805. While sitting by a fire, he went into a deep trance which lasted for more than a day and people took him for dead. He astonished the community by coming out of the trance and describing a vivid set of visions in which he saw the afterlife and observed two paths, each with people moving along it, one leading to paradise and the other leading into a place of torment. He realized that the way he was then living would lead him to that place of torment, and he determined that not only was he in error, but so were his people. He began to prophesy with extraordinary power that his people needed to rid themselves of wickedness, renounce various superstitious practices, and renounce all influence of white people.
Over the next several months, his image in the Indian community completely transformed, and he gained broad following as a religious leader. He led a movement to establish a new town near the site where the Greenville Treaty had been signed ten years before. This town was simply called the Prophet’s Town, and there the Prophet began gathering with hundreds of followers by the Fall of 1806. There they built an immense timber structure which served as a meeting house for preaching and religious rituals. The Prophet ceased going by his given name of Lalewethika and began going by the new name Tenskwatawa, which meant, “the Open Door,” a name intended as an allusion to his ability to see into the spirit world.
A momentous change is upon us. In his groundbreaking book The Biology of Belief, Dr. Bruce Lipton outlined the evidence…smile.amazon.com
We believe it [preaching to the Indians] ought to be done by some of the young believers, that… have not much gift in relation to white people and then leave them [the Indians] to act for themselves, & by no means gather them, for they are Indians & will remain so, therefore cannot be brought into the order of white people, but must be saved in their own order & Nation, we believe that God is able to raise up them of their own Nation that will be able to lead & protect them, by receiving some council from them that is Set in order, therefore we believe it to be wisdom not to meddle much with them, but [honor] them in their own order.