Chief Netawatawees sculpture to be placed in December

Chief Netawatawees sculpture to be placed in December

Image Credit: Teri Stein

Members of the Ohio Arts Council recently visited the site of the Lenape Diaspora Memorial in Newcomerstown to check on the status of the project and meet with sculptor Alan Cottrill of Zanesville and others.

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency whose mission is to fund and support quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically. The OAC is one of many supporters of the memorial.

The OAC members were pleased with the progress so far, for the project will have local and national significance. It was announced the first sculpture, "Chief Netawatawees," is scheduled to be set sometime Dec. 15-23.

The Lenape Diaspora Memorial project consists of six 7-foot-high bronze figures of the same family over six generations. It also will have plaques installed to help tell the story. Diaspora is the dispersion from one’s original homeland.

“This project is amazing. And it just speaks volumes of Newcomerstown and Tuscarawas County. I've got goosebumps thinking about what it's going to look like in the end,” said Patrick Roehrenbeck, organizational programs coordinator for the Ohio Arts Council. “I know my colleagues appreciate getting the view before it's completed to kind of get an idea of what it's all going look like. We are here to help in any way we can in the future.”

Also attending from the OAC was Brianna Dance, an organizational programs coordinator, and Jarred Small, arts learning coordinator. In addition to Cottrill, members of the Newcomerstown Historical Society, county commissioner Kerry Metzger, Dee Grossman of the Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Newcomerstown Mayor Pat Cadle and project manager Rob Guentter were all in attendance.

It was learned the OAC is already considering another grant for the project for phase two.

The site of the memorial is located at the corner of West Canal Street and River Street, next to the Temperance Tavern Museum on the lot previously occupied by the Cooley Hotel.

Cottrill is excited to bring the Lenape Diaspora Memorial to life.

“I think it's a powerful story with many layers of meaning,” Cottrill said. “And we forget they were here for at least 15,000 years. We've only been here for (about 220-230) years, and they're almost forgotten. It’s a great way to pay homage to them.”

Attendees of the meeting were pleased to find site preparation for the diaspora was completed by Riedl Construction of Dover and Morgan Landscaping of Newcomerstown. The site was designed by Cottrill and the Newcomerstown Historical Society. The six 7-foot-tall bronze statues to be installed should last hundreds of years or more to honor the Lenape people.

The project was originally planned to be placed in Zanesville but was moved to Newcomerstown, which is named after Netawatawees. Netawatawees also was known as “The Newcomer.” Newcomerstown was once the site of the Lenape village, Gekelmukpechunk.

It was Netawatawees who invited Moravian missionary David Zeisberger to establish Moravian missions for Christian Indians near the village. Zeisberger later established Schoenbrunn and Gnadenhutten in 1772. Both sites celebrated their 250th anniversaries this year.

Other figures will be added as soon as additional funding is secured including Chief Tamanend, 1625-1701, who will be depicted holding a peace treaty, and Chief Nutimus, 1650-1756, the son-in-law of Tamanend, who will be shown in a distressed state after realizing how much land he had given away by signing the Walking Purchase Treaty in 1735. Netawatawees will be the next figure, and then to his right will be Bemino "John Killbuck, Sr.," 1704-79, who is believed to be the son of Netawatawees. He will be shown in a war-making pose representing the Native Americans who chose to fight back against the taking of their ancestral homeland.

The next figure will be Cottrill’s great, great, great grandmother, Miatoka Nyeswanon, 1740-79, who is the daughter of Bemino. She married a white man, John Schoolcraft. She is shown in an anguished pose during a raid where she and nine of her children are killed and five other children are captured. She is reaching out to her son, Jacob.

Jacob Schoolcraft, 1761-1850, son of Nyeswanon, is the final figure, who is reaching out to his mother. After five years in captivity by an unknown tribe, he and his brother Andrew escaped and returned to their father. Jacob is representing many of the Lenape Tribe now as most if not all are of mixed-race heritage.

The relationship with Cottrill has been beneficial for the community.

“Many Newcomerstown and Tuscarawas County residents have made their way to Zanesville (to Cottrill’s studio) to view Netawatawees in the various design stages,” said Harley Dakin, vice president of the Newcomerstown Historical Society. “We are particularly proud of our founding father and the role he played in early settlement of the Ohio frontier and the Tuscarawas Valley.”

In 2021 the Newcomerstown Historical Society sponsored and paid for local high school art classes to visit Cottrill’s studio, where they not only learned about his work, but also the history of the founding of their hometown.

Unfortunately, due to the economy, there has been about a 20% rise in the cost of the project, taking the total needed to build the memorial to about $700,000. Donations are still needed.

The NHS thanks those who have donated to the project including the OAC, ARPA grant (Tuscarawas), Newcomerstown Rotary, Tuscarawas County Convention and Visitors Bureau, Vietnam Vets of America Chapter 532, the North America Cultural Center, and other individual donors.

Donations for the Lenape Diaspora Memorial can be made to the Newcomerstown Historical Society. Add Account #8454 on the check note line and mail to Park National Bank, 220 E. State St., Newcomerstown, OH 43832. The Newcomerstown Historical Society is a nonprofit organization.