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One Tank Trip: Pocono Indian Museum

In the beginning, well to get back there, it'll take awhile back to 10,500 B.C., back to a Paleolithic man, the beginning of the Lenni Lenape. They aren't here anymore, but they were here first, and an unassuming, off-the-road place in the Poconos keeps the spirit alive.

You'll find the Pocono Indian Museum inside an old farmhouse, which was built in 1840. The house has a story of its own.

"It was a house of ill repute," said Lorraine Rose, the museum's general manager. "It was a gamblers' joint, quite a few other things that went on around here."

It was a rumored safe house in the underground railroad during the Civil War, then a speakeasy during Prohibition.

In 1976, Malcolm and Margaret Law opened the first and only museum dedicated to portraying the history of the Lenni Lenape from prehistoric times to their first contact with Europeans. These were Native Americans who lived right where we live now.

It's Malcolm's voice you'll hear on the audio player that guides you through the museum's six rooms. It took more than 200 years to compile all the artifacts you'll see, and most were discovered within 20 miles.

"Lenni Lenape means ordinary or original people," said tour guide Jo Anne Strunk. "The white men called them Delaware Indians, so that's their English name."

Other tribes referred to them as grandfather. They were one of the first woodland tribes. Years ago, more than 10,000 were living in this region, but now there are no federally recognized tribes living in Pennsylvania.

The last-known, full-blooded Lenape passed away in the early 1980s. She's been here on the steps of the museum, so this is part of her story, too.

"I think it's just a sad story, but it is a story that is true for many North American Indian tribes today," Strunk explained. "I truly believe there's so much we could have learned and we could still learn from the Native Americans."

The stories are mixed in with finds like a buffalo hide that's almost hidden on a wall in a tiny, dark room. The placard tells you it was taken in 1884 by Theodore Roosevelt, who later became president of the United States.

Another room has a replica of Mising, whom you might know as Big Foot. What's interesting is that tribes in the East described Mising exactly the same way as tribes in the West described Sasquatch, even though they had no contact or communication with each other. They all describe the same mythical creature roaming the woods.

Strunk hopes those who come for a visit gain knowledge.

"A better understanding and be grateful for what we have today," she said.

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