Native Village
Youth and Education news
March 1, 2010     Volume 1

Grant to uncover Moravian, Native American history
By Julia Ferrante

Condensed by Native Village

Pennsylvania: Along the Susquehanna River in a place called Shamokin, a group of Moravians from Central Europe formed an alliance with the Iroquois Indian Tribes. That area was known as Shamokin.  Katie Faull, a Bucknell University Professor, is working to make this history known.

Faull, a professor of German and humanities, has been awarded a $100,000 grant from the National Endowment for Humanities for her research and translations of mid 18th-century Moravian diaries. Most were written in German. 

The project is also being funded as an NEH "We the People" project. The goal of "We the People" is to encourage and strengthen the teaching, study and understanding of U.S. history and culture.

"I am especially happy about that designation," Faull said. "The area of Shamokin which is today Sunbury is largely ignored in terms of its significance as a Native American capital in the 18th century. The Moravian diaries provide more day-to-day than other records do."]

Faull will work on the project with students and scholars from Vassar College, the State University of New York at Cortland, and Indiana and Bloomsburg universities.

 "The work on the Moravians brings new light to the historical and geographic importance of the Susquehanna Confluence and establishes the confluence as a place with as distinctive and significant an early history in its own way as more familiar places such as Jamestown and Williamsburg," said associate professor, Alf Siewers.

 The Moravians came from a small Protestant church founded by Count Nicholas von Zinzendorf. In 1742, they were invited to Sunbury by Iroquois Chief Shikallamy after they ran into problems with Colonial authorities for aiding Native Americans.  The Moravians' diaries include accounts about the their daily activities and interactions with Chief Shikellamy, the Oneida vice-regent sent by the Iroquois to oversee a trading post and political treaties with the British.

There are some gaps in the story, Faull said. Sections of the diaries, in particular the period from 1744 to 1755, are crumbling or missing. But they provide evidence that the Moravians and their Native American friends forged an unusually cooperative relationship.

"With an empathy uncharacteristic for many European settlers, the Moravian men and women shared their resources of food and knowledge with the Native people, just as the Native people did with them," Faull wrote in Bucknell Magazine. "But most startling are accounts of cultural encounters that occur between the parties on an equal footing. In a section by David Zeisberger, a well-known missionary, is a detailed account of Shikellamy's death.

"In 1754, when, just months before the outbreak of the French-Indian war, the missionaries describe their journey along the North Branch of the Susquehanna, the river is seen as a place of cultivation, plenty and great natural beauty," Faull wrote. "Here, the Shawnee come to greet their European visitors, invite them to a sweat lodge and conclude the evening with songs and music from Europe."

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