May 27, 2007

Ohio plays feature Indians

Staging history outdoorsLike all lands along the Western frontier, Ohio couldn't wait to push native people beyond its newly drawn borders. Now, two centuries later, the state welcomes theatrical "American Indians" back each summer as stars of its long-running outdoor dramas.

Ohio has three granddaddy productions, dating back to "Trumpet in the Land" in 1970, a tragedy about Ohio's first European settlement and the Delaware Indians they came to convert.

"Blue Jacket," about a white choosing to live as a Shawnee, and "Tecumseh!" about the great Shawnee leader, followed on the outdoor stages, exploring Ohio's once-powerful Shawnee nation on the land they once revered.


GinaB said...

While I haven't seen "A Trumpet in the Land," I'd like to comment on "Blue Jacket" and "Tecumseh"

Since the plays have been staged, new information shows that Blue Jacket was Shawnee, not the white boy Marmaduke Von Swearengin. (DNA tests and references in Ohio Company journals of John Owens.)

Tecumseh is filled with innacuracies. He never romanced Rebecca Calloway, and his body wasn't carried off to his people but secretely buried on (some say) Walpole Island.

The new information which came to light has been presented to the Tecumseh author, Alan Eckert, but he has not changed the original script to reflect the truth.

Those are the major conflicts I recall.

Rob said...

Thanks for the info. I don't know much about Blue Jacket, but I never heard anything about his being white. Here's the scoop on the story from Wikipedia:

In 1877, decades after Blue Jacket's death, a story was published which claimed that he was in fact a white man named Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who had been captured and adopted by Shawnees in the 1770s, around the time of the American Revolutionary War. This story, popularized in historical novels written by Allan W. Eckert in the late 1960s, remains well known in Ohio, where an outdoor drama celebrating the life of the white Indian chief is performed each year in Xenia, Ohio.

Despite the persistence of this tale, many have questioned its authenticity. Historians such as Reginald Horsman, Helen Hornbeck Tanner, and Blue Jacket biographer John Sugden have argued that the known historical facts about Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen make it unlikely that they were the same person. The historical record indicates that Blue Jacket was much older than Marmaduke Van Swearingen and was already an established chief by the time that Van Swearingen was supposedly captured. Furthermore, no one who personally knew Blue Jacket left any records referring to him as a white man. According to Sugden, Blue Jacket was undoubtedly a Shawnee by birth.

DNA testing of the descendants of Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen has given additional support to the argument that Blue Jacket was not Van Swearingen. After an initial test in 2000, results of a DNA test using updated equipment and techniques was published in the September 2006 edition of The Ohio Journal of Science. The researchers tested DNA samples from four men descended from Charles Swearingen, Blue Jacket's supposed brother, and six who are descended from Blue Jacket's son George Blue-Jacket. The DNA from the two families did not match, and so the study concluded that, "Barring any questions of the paternity of the Chief's single son who lived to produce male heirs, the 'Blue Jacket with-Caucasian-roots' is not based on reality."