The Sorrow and Shame of Gnadenhutten

From a post originally made to Facebook on July 7, 2022.

Gnadenhutten, Ohio was not the first place I visited on my pilgrimage, but it is the first place I visited that held a sacred purpose.

Gnadenhutten is a story about one group of indigenous people from Pennsylvania (the Lenape) who migrated to Ohio and lived peaceably and communally with a few Mohicans and Moravians in the late 1700s. (Moravians are a pacifist Christian sect who had/have a center in Bethlehem, PA.)

The ancient village of Gnadenhutten is now surrounded by the current town’s cemetery. The cemetery includes graves of Lenape and Mohicon as well as Moravian folks. Pictured here is the mound where there are remains of massacred natives. The museum is behind the cross.

There was, of course, an enormous amount of tension between the indigenous people who had lived on this continent for many thousands of years and the more recently arrived land-hungry white settlers who usually viewed native people with varying amounts of fear, disrespect, contempt, and outright hatred and hostility.

This already fragile situation was made worse during the Revolutionary War. Which side were the native people on? Who were they assisting, fighting with, spying on?

Then, as often happened, one (usually small) group of native people attacked and killed a (usually small) number of white people. Fueled with intense rage, a white militia was formed to retaliate. The problem was this militia never bothered to check (or care) about whether it was the same group, or even same tribe, of people.

In this particular case, one man organized a militia to round up the Lenape and Mohicans at Gnadenhutten and to execute them, supposedly for being spies, although that recent attack by others was probably what got him so riled up.

Sadly, these Lenape and Mohican were not only devout Christian converts but also pacifists who took no side in this white man’s war. That mattered not one whit to the revenge-hungry leader of this militia.

The native people asked to be given one night to pray, which they were granted. They spent the whole night praying and singing hymns. And the next day, though they were utterly non-resistant, they were brutally slaughtered anyway. Not just men, but women, children, and babies. Over 90 people.

As someone from Lenapehoking, the land of the Lenape, I wanted to pay my respects and offer prayers. I went four times to the site, each time attempting a deeper layer of prayer for healing.

It feels important to acknowledge and remember not only the horrible way they died, but also the beautiful way they lived.

May their spirits be at peace.

About the Author

Cynthia Greb

Cynthia Greb is a writer, Nature lover, Dreamer, interfaith minister, and occasional artist. She has a great love for this beautiful planet and a deep connection to the ancient people who once lived so respectfully upon this Earth.
You can find her on Facebook, on YouTube, and occasionally on Instagram.

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