It was at the close of May, 1801, that the Moravian missionaries came to Wah'-pi-kah-me'-kunk, standing where the city of Muncie now is, or rather on the bluffs across the river from Muncie. This was the easternmost of the Delaware towns on White River, and that was the cause of its name, for the trails from the east and north and south all struck it first, and so it was by pre-eminence the White River Town. This is what the name means, for in the early times the Delawares adopted the Miami name of the river, Wah'-pi-kah-me'-ki (White Waters — varied to O'-pee-ko-me'-kah in the Unami dialect) though in later times they commonly called it Wah'-pi-ha'-ni, which in their own language means literally White River.
The missionaries were Brother John P. Kluge and his wife, and Abraham Luckenbach, a young man of twenty-four years, all of whom had been called to the work from Pennsylvania, and had passed the preceding winter with Zeisberger at Goshen, on the Muskingum, learning the Delaware language. They had reached this point from Goshen after a wearisome journey of nine weeks, partly by water down the Ohio, then up the Miami and Whitewater, and across through the woods. They were accompanied by two Delaware converts, one named Thomas, and the other an old man named Joshua, who had formerly lived at the mission at Wyalusing (Place of the Aged Warrior — the same name was afterward given to a stream in southern Indiana).
They were hospitably received, but the Indians, who were pagans, pointed out a place for them to settle some twenty miles farther down the river. The truth is that the pagans regarded the Christian Indians as a sort of inoffensive idiots, who did not have sense enough to protect themselves — the Moravians being non-combatants—rand who might be murdered by whites, as their brethren had been at Salem and Gnadenhuetten on the Muskingum, if they did not have a surrounding cordon of Indians of more warlike character.
This location was favorably situated for their labors, being only two miles east of the large town of the chief known to the whites as Anderson. His Indian name was Kok-to'-wha-nund, which may be translated Making a Cracking Noise, i. e., as of a house or a tree about to fall, for that is the meaning of Kok-to'wha, and the ending nund indicates that the noise is caused by some person.
The whites have given the name of Anderson to the place, but the Indians did not call it by the chief's name, as they did many other places, but gave it the special name of Wah'- pi- mins'- kink, or Chestnut Tree Place. Some botanists have doubted that the chestnut tree is native to Indiana, but the earliest surveyor's notes show that they were common in some regions. The section center one and a half miles east of Anderson was marked by "a chestnut thirty inches in diameter."
Indeed, the location was about the only encouraging feature of the case, for these pagan Delawares had an ancient religion of their own to which they were much attached. It was (and is, for it still continues) founded on the vision of a boy who was ill- treated at home and wandered off one night heartsore and very hungry, until, almost exhausted, he began moaning and supplicating the Great Spirit. As he cried out "O-oo" he heard twelve voices repeat the sound, one after another. Then he fell asleep and a manitou appeared to him as a man, with one side of his face painted red and the other black. He told the boy all about the spirit world, and that the troubles of his people were due to their wickedness and their failure to worship the manitous for their goodness.
In answer to an inquiry about the twelve voices he said these were the voices of the manitous ruling in the twelve spheres of heaven, through which one must pass to reach the Great Spirit; and all prayers are thus passed in by them, from one to another, until the twelfth delivers them to the Great Spirit.
He gave the boy full instructions for the religious rites the Indians must observe, especially the annual thanksgiving feast, and also for the temples orcouncil-houses they must erect for worship. These were to be long and large, and to be divided into twelve parts, in each of which must be a post with a face carved on it, and painted red on one side and black on the other, representing the twelve ruling manitous. In the center there must be a post with four faces carved on the four sides, representing the Great Spirit who sees and knows all things.
To these houses the people must enter by the east door and retire in the same way, always passing to the right, and never going between the center post and the east door. After entering, the Turtle clan or Unami (People Down the River), commonly known among themselves by their totem name, Pa- ko-an-go (The Crawler), were to be seated on the south side. On the west are the Turkey clan, or Unalachtigo (People Near the Ocean), commonly known among themselves as Chi-ke-la-ki ( from chik-e-no, a turkey), or sometimes by their other name of the turkey, Pullaeu (It Does Not Chew — referring to the bird's manner of eating). On the north are the Wolf clan, known to us as Monseys or Munsees, but properly Minsi or Minthiu (People of the Stony Country), whose totemic name is p'tuk-sit, or round foot, because they did not make a picture of a wolf for their totem, but only of its foot.
Of these houses on White River Luckenbach says : "In each of these towns there was a council-house, about forty feet in length and twenty feet in breadth, where they usually celebrated their sacrificial feasts and dances. These houses were built of split wood, piled up betwixt posts set in the ground, covered with a roof made of laths and the bark of trees, and having an entrance at either end; but there was neither floor nor ceiling; three fireplaces stood in a straight line from end to end, with large kettles suspended over them in which a mess of Indian corn and meat, boiled together, was prepared for the guests to eat, after the dance was over. Platforms one foot high and five feet wide were raised all along the sides of the house, which were covered first with bark and then long grass on top of that, to serve as couches for the guests to sit or recline upon while smoking their pipes and witnessing the dancing of the rest. These dances were invariably got up in the night, and sometimes continued for weeks together. The whole was concluded by a sacrificial feast, for which the men had to furnish the venison and bear's meat, and the women the cornbread; and everything had to be prepared in the council-house before all feasted together amidst the observance of certain rites."
And the superstitions of these pagans were very real to them. They regarded dreams and visions as supernatural visitations quite as fully as Pharaoh did. They believed absolutely and fearfully in witches, which is not very surprising when one considers.that Blackstone had defended the English laws against witchcraft less than fifty years earlier. They were perversely argumentative, conceding that the whites had acted very wickedly in crucifying the Savior when he came to them, but urging that they had never treated the manitous thus, and that they did not see how they were concerned in the offense of the whites.
But, with all their failings, they at least preached fairly well, for Luckenbach says: "On such occasions the chiefs usually address speeches to their people of both sexes, and rigidly enforce abstinence from all gross sins, especially drunkenness (although they themselves are very far from practicing what they teach), while recommending them to practice hospitality, love and concord, as things that are well pleasing to God. This proves that even savages are capable of distinguishing between good and evil, and are, therefore, possessed of a conscience that either accuses or else excuses them, and that will judge them at the last day."
Obviously the missionaries had a hard task before them, but at least they were promised an open field. Luckenbach says that soon after their coming they "were visited and welcomed by the two oldest Delaware chiefs, Packantschilas and Tetepach- sit," and, although both were pagans, "both of these chiefs assured us they had given their people permission to visit us and to hear the Word of God, and that they would order them not to molest us in any way, nor to pass through our place when they were drunk." These were gratifying assurances, for the former, known to the whites as Buckongehelas, was the head war chief of the nation, and Ta-ta-pach-sit, sometimes mentioned as "The Grand Glaize King," was the head chief in time of peace. His name is given in an old Pennsylvania treaty as "Tatabaugsuy, the Twisting Vine," but there is nothing in it like the Delaware words for "twisting" or "vine." Ta-ta is a Delaware double negative, making it emphatic, and the verb pachan (p5ch-5n) means to divide, separate, sunder; making the literal meaning, "It can not be divided or pulled apart." Such a name would not be applied to any fragile vine, and the one woody twisting vine in the old Delaware country was the American Woodbine, of which this is presumably the specific name.
Encouraged by the assurances of these chiefs, the missionaries proceeded with the erection of a permanent dwelling. They lived in hastily-constructed bark huts during the summer, but by November they completed a substantial log cabin sixteen feet square, which gave them comfortable shelter for the winter.
The work of conversion did not proceed with much success, and it was not long until they discovered that they were contending against an influence even more adverse than the ancient Delaware religion. It was a spirit of opposition to the whites in all things, that arose chiefly from the land question — the continual demand of the white man for more land. Only half a dozen years had passed since the treaty of Greenville, when the boundaries between American and Indian were "fixed for all time," as the Indians understood, but immediately after the treaty there was a great flood of immigration to the new lands, and soon there was talk of more land being needed.
Some of the Indians promptly opposed this, and among them none was more prominent than the young Shawnee Tecumtha. A born orator, with eloquence as great as that of any man his race has produced, and absolutely fearless, he proclaimed everywhere the doctrine that the Indians were one people, that the land was their common inheritance and that no tribe could give any part of it away without the consent of all.
This doctrine was soon widely adopted, for in 1802 General Harrison wrote that he did not believe that he could obtain land cessions without a general assembly of the chiefs, for: "There appears to be an agreement amongst them that no proposition which relates to their lands can be acceded to without the consent of all the tribes, and they are extremely watchful and jealous of each other lest some advantage should be obtained in which they do not all participate."
Nevertheless he proceeded to treat with individual tribes. From September, 1802, to December, 1805, he negotiated seven treaties with "chiefs and head men," by which were ceded about 46,000 square miles of territory in southern Indiana and Illinois. No tribes were represented but those asserting ancient proprietary rights, although the Wyandots and Shawnees had been assured a part in the Indian lands at the treaty of Greenville. Te- cumtha and his coadjutors denounced these treaties, and the chiefs who made them, and factions in all the tribes joined with them.
At some time prior to 1805 a number of Shawnees, including Tecumtha and his brother Law-le-was-i-kaw (The Loud Voice) came to live with the Delawares on White River, and it was here that Law-le-was-i-kaw took the name of Tems-kwah-ta- wah (He Who Keeps the Door Open) and assumed the role of a prophet. He was readily accepted in this function, and under his teaching the tribes were soon stirred to the work of purification, which consisted chiefly of abandoning the clothing and costumes of the whites and driving out witchcraft. It was notable that those accused of the latter were chiefs who had signed the treaties or persons who were known as friendly to the whites. The Indians were taught that the Great Spirit had made them a different race from the whites, and that they must keep themselves distinct. The tendency of the new religion was to create hostility to the white man in all lines.
In the spring of 1806 the situation became so unpleasant that the missionaries decided to remove. PSch-gont'-she-he'-los had died in 1804, and Ta-ta-pach-sit was in disfavor on account of friendship to the whites. They were occasionally visited by drunken youths who shot and carried off their hogs, and showed hostility in other ways. Early in March Luckenbach and Joshua made a trip to the Mississinewa towns to look for a more favorable location.
As they passed through Wah-pi-kah-mekunk they found the Delawares assembled in large numbers holding council as to how they should rid the tribe of witches. Following the plan of Tecumtha, the young men — the warriors — had taken the reins of government into their own hands; and, following the teaching of The Prophet, they had determined to remove all witches. If those who were accused of witchcraft would confess and abandon their practices they would be forgiven, but if not they would be turned over to "Their Grandfather, the Fire."
Immediately after the return of Luckenbach and Joshua, seven Indians painted black appeared at the cabin of the missionaries and announced that they had come to take Joshua before the tribunal. Old Ta-ta- pach-sit had been arraigned for witchcraft and had confessed, on promise of forgiveness if he would surrender his witch bag — the sack in which Indian medicine men profess to carry the media of their magic. He had declared that in the previous winter he had given his witch bag to Joshua, who must now confront him. Joshua went with them, calm and unterrified in his consciousness of innocence.
The statement as to Ta-ta-pach-sit was true. The old chief had probably given way under the weakness of old age and had hopelessly involved himself and others.It was simple enough, though weak, to admit the practice of witchcraft, of which he was entirely innocent; but when it came to surrendering or accounting for a witch-bag that he never possessed, he was lost. He had said it was hidden at various places, but search did not reveal it. He then confessed giving it to his wife, to his nephew and to Joshua, but these all denied it convincingly, and the old chief promptly brought forward some new story.
The old Munsee woman who had been serving as judge in such matters declined to decide these cases. Aside from the difficulties involved, she had had a wonderful vision in which she had devoured a light that appeared to her three times, and she construed this to be a divine reflection on her judicial standing. It was, therefore, decided to hold the accused until The Prophet, who was expected the next day, should come and decide as to their guilt in person.
On the next day, March 17, the missionaries were startled by a party of black-painted Indians who came to their place with Ta- ta-pach-sit in custody. Hastily taking a firebrand from one of the Indian lodges, they passed on to a tree, under which the old man had now indicated the place where the witch- bag was concealed. They dug at the place he pointed out, but found nothing. With gathering fury they built a fire and threatened him with instant death if he did not give up his poison. <
The frenzied dotard pointed out one place after another and they dug in vain. It was hopeless. He was self-convicted. His own son struck him down with his tomahawk. They stripped him and cast his body into the flames. After finishing their work they came to the cabin of the missionaries, and the son, displaying his father's belt of wampum, said: "This belonged to him who discarded my mother and his oldest children and took him a young wife."
But what of Joshua? The missionaries were beginning to feel alarmed about him, and ventured some words in his defense. To this the ominous reply of the Indians was that they ought not to speak in his behalf, because he was a bad man who had doubtless brought many persons to death by his magic powers. When the Indians had gone their fears increased as they discussed the situation, and in the morning Luckenbach started to Wah-pi-kah-me-kunk to do what he could for the aid or comfort of their friend. About half way there he met the chief Kok-to-wha-nund, who informed him that Joshua had been killed at Wah-pi-kah-me-kunk on the preceding day. The missionary was overcome by grief, and lamented that they had slain an innocent man; but the chief sternly answered that he deserved his doom, and that other wicked people who made way with their fellow-men by poison or magic would meet the same fate.
To a protest against the barbarity of such executions, he replied: "You white people likewise try your criminals, and whenever you find them guilty you hang them or execute them in some other way, and we are now doing the same among us. Another of our chiefs, Hackin-pom-ska, is now under arrest on a similar charge, but his fate still remains undecided."
There had indeed been exciting times at Wah-pi-kah-me'-kunk on that St. Patrick's day. The Prophet had returned and had confronted Joshua in the council-house. Joshua protested his innocence. Unable to furnish any proof against him, The Prophet declared that while it was true that he did not have the witch-bag of Ta-ta-pach-sit, he had magic powers of his own by which he was able to destroy a man's life when he wished to offer a victim to his god. This was equivalent to a judgment of guilty. The Indians conducted Joshua to a large fire which they had built. They formed a ring about him and demanded that he confess how many men he had destroyed by his magic. Joshua calmly and solemnly avowed his complete innocence.
There was a momentary halt. An Indian stepped from the circle, went to the fire, and lighted the tobacco in his tomahawk-pipe. As he passed behind Joshua he suddenly sank the tomahawk in his brain. With wild yells the others then sprang forward and rained blows on the senseless body. Then they stripped his body and threw it in the flames, where it burned to ashes.
There remained three others under accusation. The nephew of Ta-ta-pach-sit was a Christian Indian, commonly known as Billy Patterson, who had lived among the whites until he acquired considerable skill as a gunsmith. He was a strong and courageous man, with a queer mixture of religious faith and Indian stoicism and he received The Prophet's condemnation with composure. They offered him pardon if he would confess, and abandon his magic practices, but he answered with scorn: "You have intimidated one poor old man, but you can not frighten me; go on, and you shall see how a Christian and a warrior Can die." He was at once burned at the stake. Bible in hand, praying, chanting hymns, and defying all the powers of evil until his voice was stifled, his brave soul passed out as from one of the martyrs of apostolic times.
The failure to elicit any confession or evidences of guilt from him was somewhat disquieting. When the council had resumed its session and was considering the case of Ta-ta-pach-sit's wife her brother entered the council-house, went forward, took her by the hand and led her out of the house. He then returned and declared in a loud voice: "The evil spirit has come among us and we are killing each other." No further attempt was made to try the woman, and the case of Hack-ink-pom'-ska (He Walks on the Ground) was taken up.
This chief was of different stuff from the others. He did not wait for any additional accusation. Advancing to The Prophet, he denounced him as a liar and an impostor, and threatened him with personal vengeance if he made any charge of witchcraft against him. This was a very practical test of divine protection, from the Indian point of view, to which The Prophet was not prepared to submit, and after some discussion Hack-ink-pom-ska was remanded to custody to await further proceedings, but without being deprived of his standing and authority as a chief. No further action was taken against him.
The news of these tragedies was slow in reaching Governor Harrison at Vincennes — up the trail to Ft. Wayne by runner, and down the Wabash by boat — reaching him in April. He at once sent a strong letter to the Delawares, in which he said: "Who is this pretended prophet who dares to speak in the name of the Great Creator ? Examine him. Is he more wise or more virtuous than you are yourselves, that he should be selected to convey to you the orders of your God ? Demand of him some proofs at least of his being the messenger of the Deity. If God has really employed him, He has doubtless authorized him to perform some miracles, that he may be known and received as a prophet. If he is really a prophet, ask of him to cause the sun to stand still — the moon to alter its course — the rivers to cease to flow — or the dead to rise from their graves. If he does these things, you may then believe that he has been sent from God." This reached the Indians after they had ended their crusade against witchcraft, but it probably served to lessen somewhat the influence of The Prophet, for in the succeeding troubles the Delawares were generally loyal to the Americans.
And the missionaries ? After learning the situation at Wah-pi-kah-me-kunk, Lucken- bach decided to go at once before the council, which was still in session, and ask what was the sentiment as to them. He entered the council-house, announced that he had heard rumors that the Indians meant to drive the missionaries away, and asked them to express their minds freely concerning their future stay.
The head men replied that the rumors had not originated with them, but possibly with some of the young men; that they had no especial preference in the matter, and had not, in fact, called for any white teachers, but had merely requested that some of their relatives at the Muskingum move out to them ; of these, however, not the families expected — the White Eyes and the Killbucks — but only a few others had come. The missionaries were free to come or go as they liked ; no obstacles would be put in their way. The council then advised him to consult Hack-ink-pom-ska, and this chief coincided with the council in the view that their services were not particularly desirable to the Indians, especially in view of the surplus of religion furnished by The Prophet.
On consultation with Brother and Sister Kluge it was decided to ask the authorities at Bethlehem permission to leave, although this involved a wait of five or six months. A messenger was sent and they waited through the summer, frequently annoyed by drunken and quarrelsome Indians, until at last the permission for their return came. On September 16, with their little belongings, they left the White River mission and turned back to their Pennsylvania homes. <
Their cabin remained standing for a number of years, but even that did not preserve their memory. A few years later, when the white settlers came and found the Indian town known as Little Munsee sprung up about the place, it was assumed that the cabin must have been built by the Indians as a fort, because it was so much more substantial than ordinary Indian structures, and so the tradition passed down.
Source:True Indian Stories By Jacob Piatt Dunn 1908
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