THE LITTLE PEOPLE
The Native American tribes who later settled in Indiana believed that they shared the land with several other types of wild forest people. These wildmen, the natives thought, straddled the line somewhere between living, physical men and mystical creatures of the spirit.
One group that was considered very real was a race of little people called the Pa-i-sa-ki by the Miami tribe, and the Puk-wud-jies by the Delawares. The name translates as "little wild men of the forest" and both the Miami and Delaware believed that the little people had occupied the areas before the arrival of Native Americans.
Described as being about two feet tall, with white skin and light brown hair, the Pa-i-sa-ki wore Shirt-like garments woven with long grasses, bark and sometimes fur. The little wild men of the forest lived in caves along the river banks, but would sometimes build small huts out of grass or tree limbs when they were away from their caves on hunting trips.
One old story about Indiana's little people concerned a Methodist minister who lived near Marion, Indiana in the early 1800s. The minister had heard tales from his congregation that a certain tree in the woods along the river was the entrance to an underground lair of little people. This story was confirmed by the few remaining Native Americans who still lived in the area.
The minister, in an attempt to prove that there was no validity to the local superstition, went to the tree with an ax and started to chop the huge tree down. After striking the tree a couple of times, a hole opened up at the base and a group of fifteen to twenty small men clambered out and began attacking the now frightened minister.
The little men quickly overcame their much larger foe and cut his throat with a flint blade. The minister survived his terrifying ordeal, despite the jagged cut to his neck. However, he never again made fun of his congregation when they told stories of the little wild men of the woods.
Paul Startzman of Anderson, Indiana, believes that the Native American stories are true. In fact, he believes that the little wild men of the forest have survived into present times because he has seen them himself. Paul was already familiar with the legends of the Pa-i-sa-ki. His grandmother, Mary Gunyan, was Native American and used to entertain his mother and her sister with tales of the little people who lived along the banks of the nearby White River.
Paul told about his personal encounters with the Pa-i-sa-ki on the popular TV show, Across Indiana, seen on WFYI-TV 20.
In 1927 when Paul was ten years old, he was hiking along an overgrown gravel pit when he came face to face with a little man who was no bigger than two feet tall. "We stopped about ten yards apart and looked at each other, he had thick, dark blond hair and his face was round and pinkish in color, like it was sunburned." Paul also observed that the little man was barefoot and wearing a long, light-blue gown that came down to his ankles.
Before Paul could move, the little man turned and quickly moved away into the underbrush. Later, Paul claimed that he and a school chum spotted another Pa-i-sa-ki following them as they walked near the same gravel pit. This little person too wore a long gown that Paul speculates could have been a man's shirt that the Pa-i-sa-ki might have stolen from a clothes line.
Paul Startzman speculates that the Pa-i-sa-ki were a race of pygmy-like men that existed in Indiana long before the first Native Americans occupied this part of the world. The Native American tribes believed it best to maintain friendly relations with the little people. Food and other gifts were left out in the forest, and the little people in return would warn the tribes of enemies or the whereabouts of game animals. The Pa-i-sa-ki were considered to be very shy and usually avoided contact with people. The little people are said to communicate with each other by making tapping sounds with rocks or sticks, or by imitating the whistles of songbirds.
Paul considers it possible that the Pa-i-sa-ki could have survived into modern times. "Wild deer and other animals still live along the wooded sections of the White River, why not small, intelligent humans with an old, well established society?" Paul still hikes along the banks of the White river with his camera, hoping that someday he'll finally catch a shot of the elusive, little wild people of Indiana.
THE HAIRY ONES