Event sheds light on Indian history

WARREN — Scholar Dan Cutler will provide visitors to Ohio Chautauqua in Warren a look at an often overlooked perspective of America’s history — American Indian history.

He will portray Chief Cornstalk, a prominent leader of the Shawnee nation prior to the American Revolution who lived from 1720 to 1777.

Cutler of Elton, W.Va., said his interest in history came from researching events that happened in his own backyard and from historian and writer Allan Eckert, whose historic novels incorporated large amounts of research while presenting the information to readers in an entertaining way.

“The first thing you have to do is make people listen to you, because they want to be entertained,” Cutler said. “Then you slip in some education.”

For 17 years, Cutler portrayed another American Indian leader, Chief Logan, a member of the Cayuga people. That eventually led to him taking on the role of Chief Cornstalk because of the dichotomy of the two leaders. In Logan’s case, he was an American Indian leader who tried to be peaceful and was killed in war, while in Cornstalk’s case, he was a warrior who was murdered while trying to negotiate peace.

“He (Chief Cornstalk) had a story, and that story needed to be told,” Cutler said. “He seemed interesting enough because it involves a lot of history that happened in our neck of the woods.”

To help stay in character, Cutler has a map based on information from roughly 1774 that allows him to refer to places as they would have been known during the time period, like Fort Duquesne, which is Pittsburgh now. By referring to cities by their old names, Cutler can remain historically accurate while connecting history with familiar locations to make it relevant to audiences.

Cutler will perform June 21. The free week-long event starting June 20 includes other performances from physicist and chemist Marie Curie; zoologist and author of “Gorillas in the Mist” Dian Fossey; reformist president and outdoorsman Theodore Roosevelt; and Gothic novelist Mary Shelley. Each performance begins at 7:30 p.m. under the Chautauqua tent at 303 Mahoning Ave. NW.

Cutler also will do daytime programs for kids and adults.

The kids program, “Prehistoric People: How Primitive Were They?,” will explain to kids American Indian society and what tools were used before the arrival of the Europeans. It will be 10 a.m. June 24 at the Warren-Trumbull County Public Library, 444 Mahoning Ave. NW.

The program for adults, “How the Skin Trade Changed Traditional Native Values,” will explore how the introduction of goods, weapons and trade with the Europeans irrevocably changed Indian society. The program will be June 20 at the library.

Chautauqua is hosted by the Tribune Chronicle and the library, in partnership with Trumbull 100 and the Trumbull County Tourism Bureau, with support from the Warren Library Association.