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Indian artifacts showcased

October 07, 2002|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

About 400 people interested in American Indian artifacts attended the sixth annual Indian Summer Gathering on Saturday, organizer Gene Niswander said.

The event, at the St. Thomas Sportsman Club building on Appleway, just off U.S. 30 in St. Thomas, Pa., drew about 300 people last year, he said.

About 15 vendors displayed their artifacts at this year's event.

Authentic American Indian food, including fry bread and muffins, was served, he said.

Some people brought artifacts for Niswander and others to analyze.

For most of his life, Niswander, editor of "The Historical Indian Newsletter of Franklin County and the Surrounding Area," had an interest in the Indians who once occupied the land.

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One of the people showing off his collection of artifacts at Saturday's event was Norm Myers of Chambersburg, Pa. It was the third year he has participated in the event, he said.

Myers said he has found more than 300 Indian artifacts on 40 to 50 acres of land in Letterkenney township owned by his brother, who is among the fifth generation of his family to live on the property.

Most of the artifacts are arrowheads, but that name is misleading. Myers said he thinks many arrowheads were not used for arrows but were used as knives, which were needed for butchering animals, among other purposes.

Some of the artifacts he has found are more than 8,000 years old, he said.

He has never had to dig to find the arrowheads; they are on the ground's surface, perhaps moved by rain or plowing, he said. Many were probably discarded by Indians who no longer needed them, he said.

Niswander has scoured the county and surrounding area for nearly 30 years, continually adding artifacts to his collection. He and his wife, Connie, have found thousands of items, which they have given away to family members and schoolchildren and for display at locations throughout Franklin County.

The Niswanders go to schools and churches to teach about Indian culture and artifacts and the hardships they encountered.

Niswander said the last Indians - mainly Delaware, Tuscarora and Susquehannock Indians - left the area about 180 years ago, but the earliest settled between 8,000 and 10,000 B.C.

They left because they were driven out by early American settlers, he said.

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