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Penn-Trafford

Bushy Run's 'History Speaks' series to begin with Native American culture

Patrick Varine
| Tuesday, April 24, 2018, 11:48 a.m.
Arrowheads that date to the late prehistoric period, found at the site of an ancient Monongahela Indian village in Sewickley Towship on Thursday, July 3, 2014. Latrobe archaeologist Robert Oshnock will give a May 16 presentation on the Native American tribe that lived in the region.
Brian F. Henry | Tribune-Review
Arrowheads that date to the late prehistoric period, found at the site of an ancient Monongahela Indian village in Sewickley Towship on Thursday, July 3, 2014. Latrobe archaeologist Robert Oshnock will give a May 16 presentation on the Native American tribe that lived in the region.

Say “Monongahela,” and most people think of the river.

But the same name has been applied to the Native Americans who lived along the river and its tributaries.

In the absence of surviving members who could provide the tribe's actual name, “the people were named after the river,” said archaeologist Robert Oshnock, 74, of Latrobe. “There's a heavy concentration of sites along the Monongahela as well as the Youghiogheny, Loyalhanna Creek and the Conemaugh River.”

Oshnock will host a discussion about the Monongahela Native Americans on May 16 as the first entry in the Bushy Run Battlefield Historical Society's “History Speaks” series.

Since 2000, Oshnock has been excavating and writing about a Sewickley Township site near Herminie.

“We knew there was an Indian village there, but it had never been tested,” Oshnock said. “We put one shovel in the ground, and eventually it expanded into two entire villages.”

The villages date back to the 1300s and 1400s, Oshnock said.

The villages would likely have been laid out in a circle, with round, dome-shaped houses surrounding a central plaza, according to “The Mystery of the Monongahela Indians,” a document prepared from an archaeological survey of land intended for the U.S. 219/Meyersdale Bypass project in Somerset County.

That survey identified 68 archaeological sites, 21 of which were evaluated for their eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. Eight sites ultimately were selected for intensive data recovery excavations. Artifacts recovered from the archaeological excavations belong to the state and are permanently stored at the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in Harrisburg.

In 2014, Oshnock and his brother Jim also donated to the museum about 15,000 artifacts they'd excavated from Westmoreland and Bedford counties.

“We want to give people just a little window into who these people were that lived here, how and where they lived, what kind of game they were killing and eating,” he said.

Oshnock's presentation will be at 7 p.m. on May 16 at the Bushy Run Battlefield Museum, 1253 Bushy Run Road in Penn Township. Future presentations include:

• June 20: “Eighteenth Century Clothing” with Jessica Young.

• Sept. 19: “Life of Eastern Woodland Indians” with Dana Knezevich.

• Oct. 17: “Celtic Ceol: A Musical Journey” with the Celtic Ceol quartet.

The cost for each “History Speaks” program is $8 in advance, $10 at the door, or $25 for the entire series.

For more, email secretary@bushyrunbattlefield.com or call 724-527-5584.

Patrick Varine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2862, pvarine@tribweb.com or via Twitter @MurrysvilleStar.

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