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Sept. 11 show
Fall Creek Massacre
When white men were found guilty by a jury and executed for the slaughter of nine Native Americans in March 1824, it was a milestone in American history. Following what became known as the Fall Creek Massacre, whites for the first time were convicted and executed for the murders of Indians under American law.
To explore all aspects of the brutal crimes in the swampy woods of Madison County - where Native Americans (including three women and four children) were gruesomely murdered - Nelson will be joined in studio by David Thomas Murphy, author of a new book, Murder in Their Hearts: The Fall Creek Massacre (Indiana Historical Society Press).
A professor of history at Anderson University, David has spent four years researching the massacre, trial and subsequent developments, including the social history of pioneer Hoosiers (Indiana only had been a state for about seven years at the time of the massacre) and of the Native Americans in the region.
"The slaughter in the soggy Indiana creek bottoms created a short-lived but serious national security crisis," David writes, referring to concerns across the country that warfare would erupt across newly developing states.
Noting that tensions had been brewing between whites and Native Americans for weeks prior to the massacre, David says the attitudes of many white settlers toward Indians were complex and nuanced, mixing respect, fear, tolerance and suspicion.
In researching the tragedy, David explored why the federal government devoted great efforts and resources to prosecuting the perpetrators; Nelson will ask him to share his intriguing conclusions during the show.
They also will discuss how David reconciled conflicting accounts of the events (the tribal origins of some of the victims remain unclear) as well as the motivations involved in the cold-blooded crimes, which involved shooting some of the Native Americans in their backs and mutilating several of the corpses.
"Madison County was shocked by the killings at Fall Creek ... because deliberate, deadly violence, as opposed to spontaneous scuffles or fistfights, was not especially common on the farming frontier," according to Murder in Their Hearts.
Fears of retaliation and of a disruption of the "wary co-existence" between white settlers and Native Americans were widespread.
"Hysteria swept through Madison County and then through the northern half of Indiana," David writes.
Within three days of the killings, six of the gang of seven killers were apprehended. To imprison and then hold a trial for the perpetrators, frontier Madison County had to build both a jail and a courthouse.
The brutal crimes and their aftermath involve many sensational incidents. They included the designation of Indiana's best-known politician (U.S. Sen. James Noble) as the prosecutor and, at the gallows, a last-minute pardon by Indiana's new governor, James Ray. On horseback, Gov. Ray galloped up to spare the life of a teenage member of the murderous gang.
The carnage of the Fall Creek Massacre drew national attention at the time, but the slaughter and judicial outcome often are not even mentioned in subsequent accounts of white-Native American relations, David says. An exception involved the late author Jessamyn West, an Indiana native who wrote a best-selling novel, The Massacre at Fall Creek (1975), about the shocking episode in Hoosier history.
David says he spent more than four years researching and writing Murder in Their Hearts. At Anderson University, he chairs the history and political science department; he also has directed the university's honors program.
History Mystery question
Among the worst tragedies in Indiana history was the so-called Trail of Death involving the Potawatomi tribe in 1838. A key figure in the tragedy was the leader of the Potawatomi, who were forced to leave their village in the "Twin Lakes" region of north central Indiana by soldiers under the command of Gen. John Tipton. The soldiers led about 860 Potawatomi men, women and children on a 900-mile march to Kansas known as the Trail of Death.
The Potawatomi chief, a convert to Catholicism who was known as a peacemaker, was put in a cage for the march. A statue of the chief stands today near his beloved "Twin Lakes" region; the tragic and courageous story of the Potawatomi is remembered every September in Fulton County with a Trail of Courage Living History Festival.
Question: Name the Potawatomi chief.
To win the prize, you must call in with the correct answer during the live show. The call-in number is (317) 788-3314, and the prize is two tickets to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art, and two tickets to the Indiana Experience, courtesy of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association.
Chris Gahl of the ICVA suggests we head up to the 37th annual Indianapolis Greek Festival at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Carmel for authentic Greek cuisine, live music and dancing, and church tours. Tickets are only $7, and the festival will run until 11 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11.
You'll be able to enjoy savory dishes of gyros and lamb, or satisfy your sweet tooth with baklava. Be sure to check out the Hellenic dance performances with dancers from elementary to high school ages. Learn more about the Greek Orthodox Church with church tours available all afternoon.
Your team on the Hoosier History Live! e-project,
Nelson Price, host and creative director
Molly Head, producer, (317) 927-9101
Chris Gahl, Roadtripper
Richard Sullivan, webmaster and tech director
Pam Fraizer, graphic designer
Garry Chilluffo, creative consultant
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Upcoming: Sept. 18
Hoosier History Live! will be pre-empted by WICR’s coverage of Yom Kippur services
We'll be back on the air live on Saturday, Sept. 25, with another great new show!
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