A sculptor honors his roots with the Lanape Diaspora Memorial


ZANESVILLE – Six figures, bathed in golden afternoon light, rest on a table in the Zanesville studio of sculptor Alan Cottrill. They represent one of the artist’s most personal projects to date.

The figures, approximately 18 inches tall, are models for a larger project planned for downtown Newcomerstown called Lenape Diaspora Memorial. Cottrill is linked to each of the figures depicted, having traced his family tree for over 300 years.

The figures tell the story of the Lenape, or Delaware tribe of Native Americans. Driven from their original home in the mid-Atlantic region, they continued to move as white settlers pushed them further west. Eventually, around 1759, they settled in Newcomerstown, known as Gekelmukpechunk to the Lenape.

The six statues will be seven feet tall and will represent some of the most important figures in Lenape history. The first is Chief Tamanend (1625-1701), who signed treaties with William Penn, founder of Pennsylvania. Both believed that natives and white settlers could coexist in peace.

Tamanend’s son, Chief Nutimus (1650-1756), signed the famous Foot Purchase Treaty, which took the tribe away from the Delaware River Valley between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Nutimus’ son, Chief Netawatwees (1686-1776), moved the tribe into modern-day Ohio, settling in both Newcomerstown and Coshocton.

Bemino “John Killbuck Sr.” (1704-1779), the son of Netawatwees, aligned the tribe with the French in the French and Indian War, fighting primarily in eastern West Virginia.

Miatoka Nyeswanon (1740-1779) was Bemino’s daughter. She married John Schoolcraft and had several children, including Jacob Schoolcraft (1761-1850). Schoolcraft was captured by another tribe in a raid. He escapes four years later.

As part of his family’s oral history, Cottrill always heard Jacob Schoolcraft marry an Indian princess. Miatoka was the daughter of Bemino, who was known as the King of Delaware by white settlers despite the fact that Delaware had no royalty. Thus, Miatoka would have been a princess.

The completed clay bust of Tamanend is in the Zanesville studio of sculptor Alan Cottrill.  When cast in bronze, a seven-foot-tall statue of Tamanend will form part of the Lenape Diaspora Monument in Newcomerstown.

Miatoka married an American, and the family settled near Buchanan in New West Virginia. She and 10 of her 14 children were killed in a series of Indian raids and Jacob was captured. “Fortunately for me, he and his brother Simon escaped,” Cottrill said. Schoolcraft’s granddaughter married Cottrill’s great-grandfather, Henry.

Cottrill remembers finding arrowheads wandering the fields and woods around Zanesville growing up and reading every book he could find about Native Americans. “I felt a connection,” he said. “I would take something and think ‘someone did this thousands of years ago.'”

Cottrill said the timing of the memorial was appropriate. “Right now we have all these Confederate statues falling, the oppressors, but here we’re putting one on the oppressed.”

The monument will be placed on a grassy field near the Temperance Tavern Museum on West Canal Street in downtown Newcomerstown. In addition to the characters, 20 bronze plaques will detail both the story of each character and that of the Lenape people.

The Newcomerstown Historical Society had been considering ways to honor the Lenape for many years, said Harley Dakin, the society’s vice president. “Netawatwees was the founder of our city, so this helps us honor him.”

It will also dispel some misconceptions about the origin of the village’s name, he said, including stories once published early in the telephone book linking the town to Mary Harris, an early settler in the area. of Coshocton, and of which Whitewoman Street in Roscoe Village Was named after. “We’re going to clear up a lot of these inaccuracies,” he said.

Dakin said the project has begun to attract donations, including one from as far away as Massachusetts. “We got a lot of attention,” he said.

Fundraising for the $584,000 project has begun under the auspices of the Newcomerstown Historical Society. To donate, send a check to Park National Bank 220 East State St. Newcomerstown OH 43832. Add account number 8454 in the note line of the check.

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