'Lost' Indian Village Discovery Topic of Archaeology Talk
Diligent research and methodical investigation has solved a long-standing local mystery.
Mary Ann Levine, associate professor of anthropology at Franklin and Marshall College, is convinced she's discovered Otstonwakin, the long-lost Woodlands Indian village once inhabited by "Madame" Catherine Montour along the Loyalsock Creek.
Levine will discuss her research and conclusions at 2 p.m. Saturday, March 16, at the Lycoming County Historical Society.
The talk is titled, "Uncovering Madame Montour’s Otstonwakin: Archaeological Excavations at an 18th-Century Native American Village."
Her visit and presentation, sponsored by Northcentral Chapter 8, Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology, will usher in the local archaeology chapter's spring season. NCC8 President Tank Baird hopes the event not only will stir interest in contact-period history, because Madame Montour was a significant political figure during the French and Indian War, but will bring volunteers out for the upcoming 2013 archaeology project.
"I saw her presentation at the fall SPA workshop and it was fascinating. This is big News at Eleven,' Baird said. "Her excavations in Loyalsock the past four years have virtually gone unnoticed by anyone locally. This is our history and a story like this, needs to be told."
Synopsis of Presentation
On July 10, 1748, a Moravian missionary named David Zeisberger arrived at the confluence of the Loyalsock Creek and the West Branch of the Susquehanna River to find the once thriving village of Otstonwakin abandoned, laid waste by a small-pox epidemic.
For decades prior, this village had been a key nexus of European and Native American interaction, a place for rest and negotiation for native and newcomer alike, and the home of one of the most important interpreters and cultural mediators of the day, Madame Montour.
Although its location was lost for centuries, Madame Montour's Otstonwakin has once again come to light with Levine's archaeological rediscovery of this significant 18th century multinational village.
Since 2006, Levine has undertaken an archival and archaeological study of Madame Montour and her village and has analyzed 18th century colonial entanglements throughout the lens of the artifacts recovered at Otstonwakin and an archival study of the life of Madame Montour.
Madame Montour was a Métis woman of French and Native American descent who negotiated compromises, hosted colonial emissaries, translated for colonial governments, and helped maintain peace between Native peoples and Europeans in colonial Pennsylvania by building diplomatic bridges between cultures.
The fragile Long Peace, established by William Penn at the colony’s founding in 1681, was maintained through the mid-1750s, largely through the agency of “go-betweens” like Madame Montour.
About Dr. Mary Ann Levine
A native of Huntingdon, Quebec, Levine earned a bachelor's degree in anthropology from McGill University, Montreal. She attended graduate school at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, focusing on North American Native American studies.
Following graduate school, she taught as a visiting assistant professor of anthropology at Ithaca College, then in 1998, Levine joined the faculty at Franklin and Marshall College.
According to Levine, her research has "sought to uncover and challenge unexamined assumptions about indigenous peoples, particularly hunter-gatherers, in the Northeast."
Since 2007, she has focused on her archaeological and ethnohistorical analysis of the life of Madame Montour.
"My research project focuses on early 18th century colonial encounters and considers the significance of Madame Montour’s Otstonwakin in the last decades of the Long Peace," Levine writes. "The Long Peace established by William Penn stretched from the Colony’s founding until the mid-1750s. After 1750, Penn’s Woods witnessed considerable bloodshed as the colonial landscape was forever transformed. My work focuses on early 18th century colonial entanglements just prior to the French and Indian War by examining the significance of one frontier diplomat (Madame Montour) and one site (Otstonwakin) in the last decades of the fragile long peace. Otsonwakin has been the site of several recent archaeological field schools."
About Northcentral Chapter 8, SPA
Northcentral Chapter 8 is the Lycoming County chapter of the Society for Pennsylvania Archaeology. From April-September, NCC8 hosts an archaeology dig for its members and the public.
During the winter, meetings are held at 6 p.m. the first Monday of the month, October through March, at Lycoming County Historical Society, 858 W. Fourth St., Williamsport, PA 17701.
NCC8 welcomes inquires and invites the public to to attend any meeting or any public dig scheduled.
Northcentral Chapter 8 is active with nearly three dozen members. Its mission is to discover and preserve the region's American Indian and Pioneer heritage. The chapter provides archaeological excavation training sessions for new members and teaches them how to identify artifacts.
NCC8 maintains an online archaeology handbook for the amateur, as well as slideshows and videos of previous excavations. Visitors to its website will learn much about Pennsylvania prehistory within its pages, as well as how to observe Archaeology Month, which occurs in October in Pennsylvania.
The 2 p.m. March 16 presentation, sponsored by NCC8 and hosted by LCHS at the Taber Museum, 858 W. Fourth St., is free and open to the public.
More information about the presentation is available by calling LCHS at (570) 326-3326.