Thursday, October 21, 2021

Church Cousins

(updated as of 21 October 2021)

Having identified the fact that about 95% of the members of our church (Bethel Bible Fellowship Church in Emmaus, PA) were connected to each other in a giant web of family connections (see, I began turning to finding out how many of these individuals were connected to me (or my wife). But where our church is primarily individuals of German extraction, how would they connect to me as I have zero German blood flowing through my veins. But the answer is fairly simple, I can trace my ancestry to hundreds of individuals who came to America in the early 1600s. So, all I had to do is find a connection of one of the German ancestors of someone in church where they married someone of English extraction. This turned out to be more common than I would have expected.

 As an example, one of the people from church had an ancestor who lived not too far north of here, close to Luzerne County, PA. But Luzerne County was initially settled by folks from Connecticut. And a hundred or so years ago, a strapping young lad of a German family fell in love with a lovely English young maiden and married her, thus passing along through their children some of that English blood into what otherwise was a German family.

 Thus far, I have been able to document a cousin connection to nearly 2/3 of the people in our church. I have chosen to list them alphabetically by their current last name, i.e., married name for the women. For each I have listed the degree of connection using the code “8C” for 8th cousin or 9C2x for 9th cousin, twice removed. If the relationship is to my wife instead of to me, then I will append a “D”, e.g., 9C2xD. If the relationship is to both of us through a shared ancestor of both myself and my wife, then I will append an “*”, e.g., 12C*.


·        Atkins, Phil – 11C1x (plus multiple ways to Donna)

·        Behnke, Alan – 12C*

·        Behnke, Libby – 9C1xD

·        Benjamin, Mark – 10C2x

·        Benjamin, Sue – 9C1x*

·        Bishop, Laura – 9C1x

·        Blackman, Leon – 13C, 11C1xD

·        Boyle, Dianne – 10C/11C* (several ways)

·        Boyle, Gerry – 11C1x, 9C1xD

·        Bray, Bryan – 10CD

·        Breish, Joe – 13C1x

·        Brensinger, Sue – 11C* (Mayflower ancestor)

·       Burkholder, Jared – 10C

·        Capri, Mike – 13C1x

·       Cole, David – 9C2x

·       Collins, Katie – 9C2x (2 ways)

·       Coogan, Carol – 9C1x*

·       Davies, Bob – 8C1x

·        DeLong, Karen – 12C2x

·        DeLong, Lisa – 11C3x

·       Diehl, Kevin – 10C

·       Duncan, Jay – 11C, 9C1xD

·       Ebner, Barb – 11C

·       Edwards, Lorie – 10C1x

·        Engle, Dave – 11C

·       Engle, Jerry – 13C2x, 12CD

·       Engle, Sandy – 10C (2 ways), 13CD

·        Fitting, David – 11C

·        Fox, Wendy – 13C2x, 12CD

·        Frederick, Janet – 11C1x

·       Freeman, Paul, 10C2x, 10CD

·       Gavin, Aaron – 8C1x

·       Gavin, Ruth [Schoonover] – 9C2x (6 ways!)

·        Goff, George – 9C2x*

·       Gray, Mike – 13C

·       Gross, Shannon – 11C1x

·        Harley, Alvin and Kenny – 11C1x

·       Harrison, Ed – 10C1x

·       Heater, Linda – 11C*

·        Heckman, Gail – 10C

·       Hilbert, Nancy – 9C3x

·        Hodge, Phil – 13C2xD

·        Hoffner, Chris – 10C2xD

·        Hottenstein, Jane – 11C1x*

·       Howells, Rick – 11C1x

·        Huebner, John – 10C1x*

·        Jarratt, Nick – 10C2x

·        Karch, Gary – 12C1x

·       Kauffman, Becky [Fritz] – 10C1x

·       Kauffman, Rich – 11C, 11CD

·       Kauffman, Wanda – 10CD

·       Keiser, Marvin – 14C1x

·       Kohler, Gretchen – 11C

·       Kuhns, Annette – 13C

·        Kuhns, Liz – 9C2x

·        Labrie, Lou – 9C1x

·        LaFerney, Torey – 11C4x, 12C2xD

·        Lavalva, Susan – 9C2x

·        Lavoie, Shelley – 12C2xD

·       Lowmaster, Jeff – 10C1x, 10C2xD (3 ways)

·        Marks, Diane – 10C1x

·       Martrich, Bob – 9C1x (plus 4 other ways)

·        Mazza, Janet – 10C1x

·        Mehl, Linda – 12C

·       Merrick, Stephen – 10C1x

·       Mertus, Nancy – 10C, 9CD

·       Metz, Margaret – 9C1x*

·       Morrison, Phil – 10C1x

·       Nonnemacher, Holly [Newell] – 10C1x

·       Parker, Brian – 10C1x*

·       Paulsen, Joy, 8C/9C/10C (24+ ways!), 9CD

·       Perrin, Judy – 7C3x

·       Plarr, Barry – 12C

·       Plate, Mimi – 9C2x, 11C1x

·       Pritts, Jane – 12C1xD

·       Reichard, Linda – 8C/9C/10C (at least 8 ways)

·       Renzi, Anne – 10C2x

·       Reynolds, Jon – 9C1x

·       Rigdon, Laura – 9C3x (several ways)

·        Roth, Betty – 12C3xD

·        Roth, Lynn – 10C2xD

·       Roth, Maggie [Campbell] – 11C1xD

·        Roth, Sharon – 12C1x

·        Schenkel, Patti – 10C2x*

·        Schlonecker, Dave – 12C2x

·        Schoen, Dave – 10C2x, 11CD

·       Schultz, Barb, 8C1x

·       Scott, Steve – 13C*

·        Seibert, Linda – 11C2x

·        Sell, Dolores – 10C*

·        Shoemaker, Marlene – 10C*

·        Smith, David – 10C3x

·        Smith, Faith – 9C

·        Smith, Heidi – 9C1x

·        Smith, Leonard and Lyle – 10C1x*

·       Smith, Paul – 11C3x

·        Sorrick, Fred – 10C

·       Sorrick, Wilma – 8C1x

·        Stout, Cathy – 11C

·        Sulzer, Barb – 9C2x*

·       Tarver, Johnawane – 9C1x

·        Weiss, Jim – 8C2x

·        Weller, Dana – 9C1xD

·       Wengryn, Kathy – 12C*

·       Wilson, Scott – 9C1x

·       Williams, Sue – 10C

·       Wimble, Cathy – 9C1x

·        Wood, Krystle – 11C*

·       Zacharda, Richard – 12C

Saturday, October 16, 2021

Give Back to Indigenous People?

Depending on where you live (and perhaps your political persuasion), earlier this month we celebrated Columbus Day or Indigenous Peoples’ Day. While there are many aspects and controversies related to the current “cancel culture” of wanting to tear down statues of Christopher Columbus and renaming the holiday, I’d like to confine my comments here to just one aspect of the discussion – that of giving back the land to the “Indigenous People” who lived in North America before the arrival of the Europeans. You can read more about this in (1).

 [A few caveats – first, since there are so many different tribes of indigenous people and so many different areas they lived in, many of the statements below are necessarily generalizations. I will try to make these clear as I explore the different aspects, but space and available research time means that I cannot address all the various situations. Secondly, I am trying to use the current vernacular by using such words as “indigenous people” and “tribes”, but I recognize that there are still many who use other words. Even in (2), where two of the three authors are enrolled citizens of one of these “nations”, they use the term “American Indians and Alaska Natives”.]


Tribal Boundaries

North America is a very large area of land – roughly 9.5 million square miles. There are a number of different maps that attempt to show how this land was divided up among the various tribes prior to the arrival of the Europeans. One such map recently being shared is the following which is circulating on social media.

[Map of Tribes]


However, this map is way too simplistic in a couple of ways. For one, it shows the boundaries between tribes as clear lines of demarcation. While not the later rectangular shapes of the US states, there were no such clear boundaries. Secondly, it uses a common color for tribes that may have something in common – perhaps a similarity in language. But many of these tribes, despite having a similar language, frequently warred among each other. So, this use of a common color and without tribal boundaries would be like eliminating the border between Canada and the US, but putting borders around the province of Quebec.

Here is another attempt at such a map that may be found as part of (2) below.

[Map 2 of Tribes]


As you can see in this example, there are many more colors, boundaries often overlap, and it gives some idea of the complexity of the interrelationships between the various tribal entities.

On a smaller scale, here is a map of the tribal areas of the various tribes in the state of Connecticut from around 1625 (3). As you can see, there were 19 tribal areas just in this one small state.

[Map of CT Tribes]


But even this map is quite contrived (the key is the straight lines forming tribal boundaries). As you can see in a comparison of the two snips below, the area labeled as “Tunxis” purportedly from 1625 is actually the boundary of the early Connecticut town of Farmington (shown here in a 1766 map). But Farmington was not founded until two decades after the alleged 1625 Tunxis boundaries. And a closer examination reveals that the 1625 map was not produced until 1930. So, we really don’t know what the boundaries were in 1625.

[Map of Farmington] [Map of Tunxis Tribe]


Population Density

What is not shown on these types of maps is the population density. For an example of that, I’d like to just look again at one tribe, the Tunxis tribe in CT which occupied the area including the town I grew up in – Wolcott, CT. This tribal area is the roughly square area on the above CT map in the center-left. This area is about 20x20 miles or 400 square miles. But the number of members of the tribe in 1640 (the first estimate that was made) was about 100-150 members. It may have been somewhat larger previously, but not likely more than a few hundred individuals (4, 5). But even an optimistic estimate of 400 tribal members would have been only one individual per square mile. This needs to be taken into account as we’ll see below.

Also, the population density was not uniform over the entire area occupied by a tribe. Since the main source of food would be through hunting (small game on the east coast and larger animals such a bison in the middle of the continent), the tribe may have occupied just a few acres and the rest of the area attributed to them would be reserved for these hunting areas. Some tribes would have had a relatively stable area where they made their homes, but others were more nomadic and moved frequently for reasons such as not wanting to over-hunt/fish a particular area, or because the herds that were the source of their food also moved about.


Tribal Attrition Through Diseases

Articles about the impact on Indigenous People through the arrival of Europeans often mention the introduction of diseases that wiped out large numbers of these peoples. However, this oversimplification ignores two important aspects.

First, as (6) points out, North America was not a pristine, disease-free environment. Diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis, pertussis, and polio were already prevalent. It was true that many new, much more epidemic diseases such as bubonic plague, measles, smallpox, malaria, and others were not present so that the natives had no acquired immunity to these diseases. Smallpox was a particularly virulent disease.

Secondly, because the Europeans often had acquired immunity, they were not aware that their arrival would be introducing these new diseases. The “germ theory” of diseases was not introduced until several centuries later (7) by Louis Pasteur (1822-1895) and others. In the story of the Pilgrims (8), we see that some disease was inadvertently introduced by fisherman and traders into Maine where it swept down the east coast in Massachusetts. Thus, when the Wampanoag man, Tisquantum (also known as Squanto) had been kidnapped in 1614 and who then returned in 1619, he found his entire tribe had been wiped out.

However, this introduction of new diseases was primarily inadvertent. Except for a single instance in 1763 (9), the impact of diseases was not used as a method to help “conquer” the indigenous people, and even in that instance, there is no clear evidence that it was successful.

However, even before the arrival of the Europeans, diseases had an impact on individuals in North America just as they did in other parts of the world. But the arrival of the Europeans did result in a “spike” of various diseases, even if inadvertent. However, I do not believe that this cause should be included in the current discussion about “give back”.


Concept of Land “Ownership”

As I had noted in a prior blog (4), the Indigenous People generally did not have the same concept of “land ownership” as did the Europeans. Land was owned by the tribe as a whole and not by individuals/families. Thus, in those instances where a tribe “sold” land to a group of European settlers, they often viewed the transaction as simply allowing their new European “neighbors” to jointly hunt in these same extended lands and their original rights to hunt on these lands were retained. Some tribes “sold” their land multiple times.


Conquest or War between groups

It is true that there were many instances of outright war between the Europeans and the Indigenous Tribes. Since the Europeans often had the advantages of both numbers and more advanced weapons, they were usually victorious. But those advocating for the land to be given back to those who were conquered/ousted, ignore the fact that inter-tribal wars had been going on long before the arrival of the Europeans.

This leads to an interesting philosophical question. If a large tract of land belonged to tribe “A” in the distant past, but tribe “A” died out or moved on to another hunting ground and the land was subsequently taken over by tribe “B”, then tribe “B” was conquered by tribe “C” who went to war with the Europeans who killed many of them and took over the land, then who should the land be given back to? While tribe “C” had it taken away from them, does it rightfully belong to tribe “B” or even tribe “A”?


Other Issues

Besides infectious diseases and conquest through wars, there were other ways that some tribes were impacted.

One was through relocation. Some of these relocations were forced upon the tribe by the Europeans (such as the “Trail of Tears” (10) which took place in the 1830s). But others made the decision to move on their own, including the Tunxis tribe from CT (5) who moved west to NY in 1774.

Some other tribes became smaller and sold their lands for other reasons. As the Europeans introduced new crops and farming methods, the local tribes sometimes adopted these same methods for growing food and relied less upon hunting. Thus, they needed less land to support the same number of tribal members.

Finally, some tribal members made the decision to adopt the Christian religion of the Europeans and became more integrated into the local communities. Since this may have also included adoption of the type of dress and living situations, some even, over time, identified themselves less as Indigenous People and more like the Europeans.



Some tribes have gotten other concessions such as being allowed to have exclusive casino licenses (30 states now have “Indian” casinos with a total revenue of over $33 Billion in 2018 (11). After paying taxes, etc. these casinos return substantial sums to their tribal members (in addition to giving opportunities for employment). Two of the three largest casinos are in my home state of CT (Foxwoods and Mohegan Sun). These support the government of the Mashantucket Pequot and Mohegan tribes respectively.

I have a nephew and two nieces who are members of the Odawa tribe (12). Their casino generated over $40 million in revenue last year. The profit from this casino is used to help support the roughly 15,000 Odawa tribal members. They also work together with the local, county, and state governments so improve the part of Michigan they jointly oversee.


Moving Forward or Giving Back

At any rate, because of the number of different factors, including those mentioned above, it is difficult to lump all Indigenous Peoples together and to propose simple solutions such as “giving back” the land. It is a complicated situation and may require complicated and creative solutions. But simply ignoring this part of our history and ignoring the consequences of some of the decisions that have been made in the past is not the right solution.
















Sunday, September 5, 2021

Culture Clashes

In a recent news article about the aftermath of the US pullout from Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesperson was addressing the issue of women’s rights. He made the following statements:

“[T]here will be no issue about women’s rights.”

He opposes Western views that “women should have an education without [a] hijab.”

“That is a change of culture. Our culture … they can receive education with hijab. They can work with hijab.”

“There will be no issue about the women’s right. No problem about their education, their work. But we should not be after changing each other’s culture as we are not intending to change your culture, you should not be changing our culture.”

I recognize that there are many who have reason to doubt these statements, given the history of the often brutal way in which the Taliban has dealt with its citizens. But I’d like to focus on the last sentence regarding culture. So let me give a little of my own cross-cultural experience and then I’ll come back to Afghanistan at the end.


Some of My Cultural Experiences

I have had the opportunity not only to travel to other countries on work-related activities, but to get involved in investigating the culture of other countries and writing about it. You can read about some of that here. Over the years we produced a series of host family handbooks for these countries.

Culture can be illustrated as being like an iceberg in that most of it is “below the water line” and is not observable.

[Cultural Iceberg]


When two cultures clash, the clash most often is between the various components that are unseen. So, while we can easily see things like dress, food, etc. we are not aware of things like personal space, the importance of time (or lack thereof), etc. But these unseen aspects can be even more important than the ones that are unseen.

[Culture clash]


One can also think of culture as being the color of our glasses. When a person is wearing yellow-tinted glasses and sees something that is blue, it appears to them as green. But another person who might be wearing red-tinted glasses would see that same object as violet. Taking off your own glasses and putting on someone else’s (i.e., looking at the world through their lenses) is not easy.

[Culture lens]

Aspects of Culture

Here are some of the aspects of culture that we explored in these various handbooks. Not every topic is important in every culture, but this gives you an idea of the range of things we need to consider.

  • ·        Greetings
  • ·        Direct/indirect communication style
  • ·        Showing negative emotions
  • ·        Volume and tone of voice
  • ·        Eye contact
  • ·        Disagreements
  • ·        Conflict resolution
  • ·        Independence/dependence
  • ·        Religion and beliefs
  • ·        Life cycle customs (birthdays, weddings, deaths, etc.)
  • ·        Friendships
  • ·        Social values
  • ·        Personal hygiene
  • ·        Modesty/nudity/sexuality
  • ·        Diversity/prejudice/disability
  • ·        Personal space


Thailand Example: Greetings

During my first full day on my first trip, Noon [a former exchange student who had lived with us for a year] had told me that I should expect to be visited by a number of her relatives. After all, it’s not every day that one’s “American father” comes to visit. I was seated with her in their living room and could hear voices outside. She told me, that’s my uncle. He came in the room and walked toward me. I stood and was preparing to greet him with the traditional Thai wai (bow) – hands together, etc. Instead, I was surprised that he stuck out his hand to shake mine, to which I thought, “he’s going to greet me in the US tradition instead,” so I shook his hand. But the next words out of his mouth were, “How old are you?” I was a bit taken aback, as this is not the typical first question that anyone in the US asks, but I also quickly went through the reading on culture that I had done and realized why he was asking. Relative age is very important in Thailand and the younger person must honor the older person, including by bowing more deeply so that your head is below the other person’s. Since we were both older gentlemen with balding, white/grey hair, he did not know if I was older or younger and needed to know so that he knew how to address me. All this thinking went through my head in a fraction of a second, so I then answered him, to which he replied, “Ah, young man, young man.” (He was about a year older than I was.)

I’ve used this story many times to illustrate how culture plays a part in our lives. On the visit with the AFS-USA team a few years later I had told this story to the team at the beginning of our time there. The following day, we were visiting a school and the teacher asked the class if they had any questions for us. One of them finally got up the nerve to talk and asked, “How old are you?” which turned into a great teaching moment.

But I’d like to relate one other “greeting” incident where I did NOT do the right thing. Most of the Thai members of our AFS-USA-Thailand group were female, since most AFS volunteers in Thailand are teachers. They would address me with the Thai greeting, “Suwadee Kha”. So, I decided that I would greet them back by saying “Suwadee Kha” to them. But this only generated a lot of giggling on their part. It turns out that “Suwadee” mean not simply “Hello,” but something more like “Hello from,” and the “Kha” part is feminine. So “Suwadee Bangkok” on a t-shirt means “Hello from Bangkok” and “Suwadee Kha” means “hello from a female!” Thus, when I say hello, I need to use the male ending and say, “Suwadee Khrap.” They quickly corrected me and I added to my knowledge of cultural mistakes!


Germany Example: Nudity

In 2007, I was part of a group who travelled to Germany to confer with our German counterparts in writing the first of a series of handbooks that addressed culture specific issues for host families of students from that country. One of the volunteers had acquired two magazines designed for young teens. One was in German and was for a German audience, the other was published by a US subsidiary of the same company and was designed for a US audience. They were both for the same month in the summer of that year.

The US version had its lead article devoted to Selena Gomez, a young actress who was about 15 and who had recently begun working on shows on the Disney Channel. Like most such magazines, there was a picture of her on the cover. The article inside had several more pictures with captions, but not a lot of text to go with it. All were in keeping with the wholesome image that one would expect of Disney.

The German version also had a picture of Selena on the cover, but there was more text in the article as well as additional pictures. However, the pictures were designed for a German audience which has different cultural norms – so there were pictures in various phases of undress and one where she was nude from the waist up.

I was startled enough by that, but turning over a few pages my cultural norms received a further shock.

There was an article, which apparently was a regular feature, with the title being something like “All About Me” (but in German of course). Taking a full page was a full-frontal nude picture of a teenage girl, about 15 or so. Around the edge were facts about her – age, hobbies and interests, etc. She was evidently a reader of the magazine and had submitted it for publication. In the US that kind of thing would be labeled as child porn, but since nudity in Germany is fairly common (coed saunas, changing on the beach in full view of others, etc.) it was not out of the ordinary. Flipping over the page, one encountered another such picture, but this time a full-frontal nude male about the same age and similarly marked.


Applicability to Afghanistan

Now, let’s look back at the last sentence in the quote from the Afghani spokesperson:

“But we should not be after changing each other’s culture as we are not intending to change your culture, you should not be changing our culture.”

Afghanistan has a long and storied history. There is evidence of human activity dating back 52,000 years and of urbanization dating back 4000-5000 years ago. Although landlocked, its position at the crossroads of central and south Asia made it the target of conquest by many different empires over the centuries. Thus, at various times, the dominant religion (Hindu, Buddhist, Islam) was a product of whomever controlled the area at the time. But these times of occupation each lasted hundreds of years, the time required for introducing a change of culture.

Those of us in the West make a great number of mistakes in our relationships with places like Afghanistan. These include at least the following:

o   Our view of the world is overly influenced by the modern-day boundaries of countries. But in the case of Afghanistan, those boundaries were only established in the late 1800s by agreement between the British and Russians. Thus, the current country includes areas which have had different tribes over the centuries and these differences in historic control mean that there is still much internal conflict.

o   Afghanistan has been a Muslim country for a millennium and a half. Change takes a long time.

o   The Afghani people rightfully have a negative view of outsiders. Much of their history has been one of being overrun by others – whether those from Iran to the west, India to the east, Russia to the north, or the British during their empire-building time.

o   All past changes in culture were imposed by conquering armies who then occupied the land (or at least part of it) for centuries afterwards.

Against this background, we see the recently-ended US occupation – a scant 20 years. And we see the typical US philosophy – not of wanting to conquer and control, but to enter in order to find and root out those who dared to attack us on 9/11/2001 and then leave once we had accomplished our purpose.

And then we have the expectation that simply because we were there for 20 years that they will change their culture in areas such as women’s rights, religion, etc. and simply ignore the prior centuries! No! Their culture includes warring tribes within an externally imposed border, reliance on Islam, disdain for “outsiders” and only changing if those changes are imposed upon them for several centuries. And we have the audacity to think that our being there for 20 years will cause change! It doesn’t work that way.

I’ve written many times in the past that when we ignore the events of the past and are not students of history, that we are setting ourselves up for failure. In this case, as much as I may disagree with some things that the Afghani spokesperson represents, his statement on culture change is correct. The influence of the 20 years of US occupation will be but an insignificant footnote in the history of this part of the world.