Delaware Indian tells story of his ancestors’ plight
Delaware re-enactor Ralph Arms of Mount Vernon has a laugh with a real Delaware Indian, Bob Pace, after the commemorative gathering to honor the people and events of September 1812 on the Black Fork River during the War of 1812. / Dave Polcyn/News Journal
PERRYSVILLE — Two centuries after the Delaware Indians were driven from Greentown, Michael Pace says nothing has changed for the tribe.
“Every day, we have to fight to protect our language, our culture, our history,” he said Saturday.
Pace, a member of the Delaware Indian tribe in Oklahoma, was the featured speaker at the second annual commemorative gathering of the Greentown Preservation Association at the site of the historical Delaware Indian village off Ohio 39, just north of Perrysville.
The Delaware settled Greentown — in today’s Green Township, Ashland County — as early as 1782. They chose the site for its strategic defensive position. It was presumably named for British loyalist Thomas Green.
By 1812, there were more than 150 family dwellings in Greentown. Although they were considered peaceful, the Greentown Indians were questioned during the War of 1812. They were removed from Greentown by American militia for fear they might help “unfriendly” Indians. The expulsion happened Sept. 2, 1812.
James Copus promised them that Greentown’s property would be protected until peace was restored. In reality, a faction of militiamen stayed behind and set fire to the village, setting the stage for further conflicts, including attacks on the Zimmer family (Sept. 10) and the Copus family (Sept. 15).
The Greentown Preservation Association is devoted to resurrecting and protecting Greentown.
“We have an incredible opportunity to do something important,” said William Jones, president of the association. “Those of us who are involved are dedicated to resurrecting Greentown.”
Jones, wearing period garb, presided over a special ceremony to commemorate the bicentennial of the burning of the village. He introduced Bobbi Harpster, a Copus family descendant.
“Rev. Copus loved the Delaware tribe and was saddened when he looked back and saw the village burning,” Harpster said.
Harpster said her great-grandmother regaled the family with the story of Greentown every year.
“We cherish those memories. We still talk about it,” she said. “It’s still been a big part of our history.”
Pace began his address by speaking in the Lenape language.
“People don’t want to speak Lenape anymore,” he lamented. “That’s because the white man owns the world. Everybody wants to be like him.”
Donning clothing similar to what his tribe wore 200 years ago, Pace said the Delaware always wore bright colors. He sported an orange and brown top and a shiny red scarf, in addition to black leggings with ribbons.
His wife, Ella, wore a bright red — or big Bertha — blouse, which the Delaware got from Dutch women, and a shawl. She carried a six-sided tulip purse, which looked like a tulip when opened. It was another product introduced by the Dutch.
Pace recounted how the Delaware were driven west by early settlers. The tribe had a word for them that translated to white man alligator.
“They were always gobbling up everything and moving us west,” Pace said.
While their forefathers were victims, Pace said that no longer applies.
“Today we are all native Americans,” he said. “We have the same opportunities as everybody else. No one today can hold you back.”
Anyone interested in volunteering for the Greentown Preservation Association can call Peggy Mershon at 419-989-1679. For information, go to info@ greentownpreservation.org.