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Friday, April 4, 2014

The Next Time You Drive Past A Native American Casino

How successful were the Moravians in helping American Indians start businesses? Today's Native Americans are famous for casinos in my state. What happened?  To answer, I must share something shameful I was not taught in US history class.

The Moravians were successful in establishing prosperous villages of Christian Indians. William Danker, in Profit For the Lord, describes one such Moravian Indian village, Friedenshütten, in Pennsylvania:

"The Indians lived in log houses with windows and chimneys like the homesteads of the settlers. The streets and alleys were kept scrupulously clean. In the center of the town stood the chapel with a school house as its wing. Behind the houses were fruitful gardens and orchards. Stretching down the river were cultivated fields and meadows. The converts had large herds of cattle and hogs, and poultry of every kind." 

These Christian Indians sold corn, maple sugar, butter, and dugout canoes made from white pine. Other Moravian Indian villages included Shekomeko in New York, Indian Pond on the Connecticut border, and Gnadenhütten in Ohio.

But during the Revolutionary War, the Christian Indians, along with Moravians, tried to preserve neutrality. They were suspected by both the British and the Americans as double-dealing. Indian war parties were hard to trace, but settled Christian Indians in villages were easy prey. They became scapegoats many American settlers wanted to eliminate.

Danker tells of 150 men from Pittsburgh moving against the village of Gnadenhütten: They "bound the peaceful inhabitants and murdered them two by two in two buildings they wantonly called 'slaughter houses.' White men, some of whom must have been baptized as Christians, scalped Christian Indians with biblical names who lived in white men's houses, wore white men's clothing, and used civilized utensils and tools in their homes and their work. Some of the Indians pleaded for their lives in fluent German and English. Yet the pitiless settlers spared not a single one." 

Six missionary assistants and their wives were butchered that day. In total, 96 defenseless people were scalped by whites: 28 men, 29 women, and 39 children. 

In time, all Moravian Indian villages came to an end. Danker concludes: "One cannot help wondering what the future of the Indian American and the future of Indian missions might have been if the Moravian experiment had not been choked in blood."

Think about this the next time you drive past a Native American casino.   

This mass grave mound of Christian Indians massacred at Gnadenhutten, Ohio, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Indians' bodies were first piled in mission buildings by the killers, and then the village was burned down. No criminal charges were ever filed. Years later, a missionary by the name of John Heckewelder collected the remains, and buried them in this mound, just south of the old village site. Left click on the photo one time to enlarge it. What lies on the other side of the street is quite a contrast. [This photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unreported license. Attribution: Bwsmith84 at en.wikipedia.]
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