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NATIVE AMERICAN HISTORY

logoAs shown on old maps, an Indian path from Frankstown, at that time the First Nations town of Assunepachla, their oldest settlement on the Juniata River, converged with an Indian path from Standing Stone, the present site of Huntingdon. The joint paths then traversed the Kitchinaki, or Great Spruce Pine Land, in a northwest direction from the fording on Spruce Creek, to Oligonunk, the Lenape name for "The Place of the Cave". This was known as a "sleeping place", and offered grateful shelter to weary travelers. Today, Oligonunk is known as Franklinville, the location of Indian Caverns.

The following is an extract from a 1931 article by Dr. George P. Donehoo, State Librarian of Pennsylvnia, Secretary of the Pennsylvania Historical Commission, contributor to the Smithsonian Institution's  Handbook of American Indians and author of The Indian Trails of Pennsylvania:

     Pennsylvania offers one of the most interesting fields for study of the American Indian to be found in the entire United States. ... One of the most interesting and beautiful sites yet found in the entire state is Indian Caverns, near Tyrone. The author has examined the specimens of Indian artifacts unearthed in this cave. He has never seen more perfect or beautiful specimens of Indian relics found in Pennsylvania. During the summer of 1916, it was a great pleasure to accompany Dr. Warren K. Morehead and Alanson Skinner, in the "Susquehanna Expedition," down the entire length of that river. The sites of Indian villages and burial grounds were examined. Many hundred specimens of Indian artifacts were found. But, in all of the territory covered by this expedition, no relics were found showing more perfect or beautiful workmanship, than those found in Indian Caverns. ...
      The cave is situated on one of the main Indian trails leading from the Iroquois habitat in western New York to the Juniata Valley. The cave was beyond all question a favorite gathering place of the Indians of the far distant past, as well as of the historical period, as the artifacts found in the cave reveal. The relics belong to the Iroquoian and Algonquin groups of tribes, and all of the relics belong to the period before these tribes were in contact with the white traders or settlers.
 
1929 relic displayThe artifacts found in Indian Caverns reveal that the cave was used by the Indians throughout their history in this part of the country. Some of the relics date back as far as 8000 BC. The earliest tribe known to have inhabited the cave were the Susquahannocks, nomads who used the cave as winter quarters until about 1600 AD. They left behind pottery shards and triangular points dating back to 900 AD.

The Lenni Lenape (an Algonquian tribe) used the cave in the mid-17th century, having moved to the area as refugees displaced by European settlements in New Jersey and eastern Pennsylvania. Most of the stone tools and weapons, as well as piles of discarded flint chips and an ancient council fire pit, were Lenape artifacts.

current relic displayThe most recent tribe to have used the cave were the Mohawks, who used the cave through about 1715. They most likely established settlements nearby, using the cave for storage, for ceremonial purposes, and as shelter during harsher weather. They left behind several artifacts as well as
a tablet of petroglyphs or picture-writing. Like most members of the Iroquois Confederacy, the Moshawks eventually settled in northeastern Pennsylvania and upstate New York.

In addition to the artifacts and petroglyphs that are on display in the cavern, deposits of smoke from campfires and pine-knot torches can be seen on several of the cave walls. The native peoples have disappeared from this part of the country - and the Susquahannocks have died out altogether - but, while they were careful to leave no permanent footprint on the landscape, their history lives on in the few traces they did leave behind. 
 
 
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