Know Mount Nittany as Both a Cultural and Environmental Landmark
Mount Nittany has long been a place alive with the spirit of those who have come before. As with so many idyllic places in the early America that settlers came to call home, there was a feeling that the spirit of the American Indians who had come before them in some sense still lingered in spots throughout the land, and in their folklore they paid tribute to that spirit.
The folklore surrounding Mount Nittany in the late 19th and early 20th century helped shaped the identity of Penn State, and it is shared here in the hope that it enlivens many hikes upon the Mountain’s lovely face. The following is adapted from Chapter 1 of The Legends of the Nittany Valley by Henry Shoemaker.
I. Nita-Nee: A Tradition of a Juniata Maiden
The legend of Princess Nittany has been the most fruitful of all the legends penned by Henry W. Shoemaker. Penn State’s official website declares the story to be “invented by the author,” and “purely fictitious,” having “no basis whatever in fact.” But even if true, it doesn’t matter. It has inspired the creation of two major organizations—the Lion’s Paw Alumni Association and the Mount Nittany Conservancy—to raise hundreds of thousands of dollars to preserve Mount Nittany as Penn State’s proudest landmark. Thousands of students, alumni, townspeople, and visitors to the area climb Mount Nittany every year just to experience its magic. Indeed, our very identity as people of the “Nittany Valley” and as “Nittany Lions” springs from these legends that have helped to bind us in spirit.
Since first published by Henry W. Shoemaker in his book Juniata Memories in 1916, the legend of Princess Nittany has been retold in two additional versions. The first version below is Shoemaker’s original recounting of the legend, as he claims to have heard it from an aged Indian named Jake Faddy. Ben Novak narrates:
One of the last Indians to wander through the Juniata Valley, either to revive old memories or merely to hunt and trap, his controlling motive is not certain, was old Jake Faddy. As he was supposed to belong to the Seneca tribe, and spent most of his time on the Coudersport Pike on the border line between Clinton and Potter Counties, it is to be surmised that he never lived permanently on the Juniata, but had hunted there or participated in the bloody wars in the days of his youth. He continued his visits until he reached a very advanced age. Of a younger generation than Shaney John, he was nevertheless well acquainted with that unique old redman, and always spent a couple of weeks with him at his cabin on Saddler’s Run.
Old Jake, partly to earn his board and partly to show his superior knowledge, was a gifted story teller. He liked to obtain the chance to spend the night at farmhouses where there were aged people, and his smattering of history would be fully utilized to put the older folks in good humor.
For while the hard-working younger generations fancied that history was a waste of time, the old people loved it, and fought against the cruel way in which all local tradition and legend was being snuffed out. If it had not been for a few people carrying it over the past generation, all of it would now be lost in the whirlpool of a commercial, materialistic age. And to those few, unknown to fame, and of obscure life and residence, is due the credit of saving for us the wealth of folklore that the noble mountains, the dark forests, the wars and the Indians, instilled in the minds of the first settlers. And there is no old man or woman living in the wilderness who is without a story that is ready to be imparted, and worthy of preservation. But the question remains, how can these old people all be reached before they pass away? It would take an army of collectors, working simultaneously, as the Grim Reaper is hard at work removing these human landmarks with their unrecorded stories.
Out near the heading of Beaver Dam Run, at the foot of Jack’s Mountain, stands a very solid-looking stone farmhouse, a relic of pioneer days. Its earliest inhabitants had run counter to the Indians of the neighborhood for the possession of the beavers whose dams and “cabins” were its most noticeable feature clear to the mouth of the stream, and later for the otters who defied the white annihilators a quarter of a century longer. Beaver trapping had made the stream a favorite rendezvous for the red men, and their campgrounds at the springs near the headwaters were pointed out until a comparatively recent date.
But one by one the aborigines dropped away, until Jake Faddy alone upheld the traditions of the race. There were no beavers to quarrel over in his day, consequently his visits were on a more friendly basis. The old North of Ireland family who occupied the stone farmhouse was closely linked with the history of the Juniata Valley, and they felt the thrill of the vivid past whenever the old Indian appeared at the kitchen door. As he was always ready to work and, what was better, a very useful man at gardening and flowers, he was always given his meals and lodging for as long as he cared to remain. But that was not very long, as his restless nature was ever goading him on, and he had “many other friends to see,” putting it in his own language. He seemed proud to have it known that he was popular with a good class of white people, and his ruling passion may have been to cultivate these associations. On several occasions he brought some of his sons with him, but they did not seem anxious to live up to their father’s standards. And after the old man had passed away none of this younger generation ever came to the Juniata Valley.
The past seemed like the present to Jake Faddy, he was so familiar with it. To him it was as if it happened yesterday, the vast formations and changes and epochs. And the Indian race, especially the eastern Indians, seemed to have played the most important part in those titanic days. It seemed so recent and so real to the old redman that his stories were always interesting. The children also were fond of hearing him talk; he had a way of never becoming tiresome. Every young person who heard him remembered what he said. There would have been no break in the “apostolic succession” of Pennsylvania legendary lore if all had been seated at Jake Faddy’s knee.
Of all his stories, by odds his favorite one, dealt with the Indian maiden, Nita-nee, for whom the fruitful Nittany Valley and the towering Nittany Mountain are named. This Indian girl was born on the banks of the lovely Juniata, not far from the present town of Newton Hamilton, the daughter of a powerful chief. It was in the early days of the world, when the physical aspect of Nature could be changed over night by a fiat from the Gitchie-Manitto or Great Spirit. It was therefore in the age of great and wonderful things, before a rigid world produced beings whose lives followed grooves as tight and permanent as the gullies and ridges.
During the early life of Nita-nee a great war was waged for the possession of the Juniata Valley. The aggressors were Indians from the South, who longed for the scope and fertility of this earthly Paradise. Though Nita-nee’s father and his brave cohorts defended their beloved land to the last extremity, they were driven northward into the Seven Mountains and beyond. Though they found themselves in beautiful valleys, filled with bubbling springs and teeming with game, they missed the Blue Juniata, and were never wholly content. The father of Nita-nee, who was named Chun-Eh-Hoe, felt so humiliated that he only went about after night in his new home. He took up his residence on a broad plain, not far from where State College now stands, and should be the Indian patron of that growing institution, instead of Chief Bald Eagle, who never lived near there and whose good deeds are far outweighed by his crimes.
Chun-Eh-Hoe was an Indian of exact conscience. He did his best in the cruel war, but the southern Indians must have had more sagacious leaders or a better esprit de corps. At any rate they conquered. Chun-Eh-Hoe was not an old man at the time of his defeat, but it is related that his raven black locks turned white over night. He was broken in spirit after his down-fall and only lived a few years in his new home. His widow, as well as his daughter, Nita-nee, and many other children, were left to mourn him. As Nita-nee was the oldest, she assumed a vicereineship over the tribe until her young brother, Wo-Wi-Na-Pe, should be old enough to rule the councils and go on the warpath.
The defeat on the Juniata, the exile to the northern valleys and the premature death of Chun-Eh-Hoe were to be avenged. Active days were ahead of the tribesmen. Meanwhile if the southern Indians crossed the mountains to still further covet their lands and liberties, who should lead them to battle but Nita-nee. But the Indian vicereine was of a peace-loving disposition. She hoped that the time would never come when she would have to preside over scenes of carnage and slaughter. She wanted to see her late father’s tribe become the most cultured and prosperous in the Indian world, and in that way be revenged on their warlike foes: “Peace hath its victories.”
But she was not to be destined to lead a peaceful nation through years of upward growth. In the Juniata Valley the southern Indians had become overpopulated; they sought broader territories, like the Germans of to-day. They had driven the present occupants of the northern valleys out of the Juniata country, they wanted to again drive them further north.
Nita-nee did not want war, but the time came when she could not prevent it. The southern Indians sought to provoke a conflict by making settlements in the Bare Meadows, and in some fertile patches on Tussey Knob and Bald Top, all of which were countenanced in silence. But when they murdered some peaceable farmers and took possession of plantations at the foot of the mountains in the valley of the Karoondinha, then the mildness of Nita-nee’s cohorts came to an end. Meanwhile her mother and brother had died, Nita-nee had been elected queen.
Every man and boy volunteered to fight; a huge army was recruited over night. They swept down to the settlements of the southern Indians, butchering every one of them. They pressed onward to the Bare Meadows, and to the slopes of Bald Top and Tussey Knob. There they gave up the population to fire and sword. Crossing the Seven Mountains, they formed a powerful cordon all along the southerly slope of the Long Mountain. Building block houses and stone fortifications—some of the stonework can be seen to this day—they could not be easily dislodged.
The southern Indians, noticing the flames of the burning plantations, and hearing from the one or two survivors of the completeness of the rout, were slow to start an offensive movement. But as Nita-nee’s forces showed no signs of advancing beyond the foot of Long Mountain, they mistook this hesitancy for cowardice, and sent an attacking army. It was completely defeated in the gorge of Laurel Run, above Milroy, and the right of the northern Indians to the Karoondinha and the adjacent valleys was signed, sealed and delivered in blood. The southern Indians were in turn driven out by other tribes; in fact, every half century or so a different race ruled over the Juniata Valley. But in all those years none of the Juniata rulers sought to question the rights of the northern Indians until 1635, when the Lenni-Lenape invaded the country of the Susquehannocks and were decisively beaten on the plains near Rock Springs, in Spruce Creek Valley, at the Battle of the Indian Steps.
As Nita-nee wanted no territorial accessions, she left the garrisons at her southerly forts intact, and retired her main army to its home valleys, where it was disbanded as quickly as it came together. All were glad to be back to peaceful avocations, none of them craved glory in war. And there were no honors given out, no great generals created. All served as private soldiers under the direct supervision of their queen. It was the theory of this Joan of Arc that by eliminating titles and important posts there would be no military class created, no ulterior motive assisted except patriotism. The soldiers serving anonymously, and for their country’s need alone, would be ready to end their military duties as soon as their patriotic task was done.
Nita-nee regarded soldiering as a stern necessity, not as an excuse for pleasure or pillage, or personal advancement. Under her there was no nobility, all were on a common level of dignified citizenship. Every Indian in her realm had a task, not one that he was born to follow, but the one which appealed to him mostly, and therefore the task at which he was most successful. Women also had their work, apart from domestic life in this ideal democracy of ancient days. Suffrage was universal to both sexes over twenty years of age, but as there were no official positions, no public trusts, a political class could not come into existence, and the queen, as long as she was cunning and able, had the unanimous support of her people. She was given a great ovation as she modestly walked along the fighting line after the winning battle of Laurel Run. It made her feel not that she was great, but that the democracy of her father and her ancestors was a living force. In those days of pure democracy the rulers walked: the litters and palanquins were a later development.
After the conflict the gentle Nita-nee, at the head of the soon to be disbanded army, marched across the Seven Brothers, and westerly toward her permanent encampment, where State College now stands. As her only trophy she carried a bundle of spears, which her brave henchmen had wrenched from the hands of the southern Indians as they charged the forts along Long Mountain. These were not to deck her own lodge house, nor for vain display, but were to be placed on the grave of her father, the lamented Chun-Eh-Hoe, who had been avenged. In her heart she had hoped for victory, almost as much for his sake as for the comfort of her people. She knew how he had grieved himself to death when he was outgeneraled in the previous war.
In those dimly remote days there was no range of mountains where the Nittany chain now raise their noble summits to the sky. All was a plain, a prairie, north clear to the Bald Eagles, which only recently had come into existence. The tradition was that far older than all the other hills were the Seven Mountains. And geological speculation seems to bear this out. At all seasons of the year cruel and chilling winds blew out of the north, hindering the work of agriculture on the broad plains ruled over by Nita-nee. Only the strong and the brave could cope with these killing blasts, so intense and so different from the calming zephyrs of the Juniata. The seasons for this cause were several weeks shorter than across the Seven Mountains; that is, there was a later spring and an earlier fall. But though the work was harder, the soil being equally rich and broader area, the crops averaged fully as large as those further south. So, taken altogether, the people of Nita-nee could not be said to be an unhappy lot.
As the victorious queen was marching along at the head of her troops, she was frequently almost mobbed by women and children, who rushed out from the settlements and made her all manner of gifts. As it was in the early spring, there were no floral garlands, but instead wreaths and festoons of laurel, of ground pine and ground spruce. There were gifts of precious stones and metals, of rare furs, of beautiful specimens of Indian pottery, basketry and the like. These were graciously acknowledged by Nita-nee, who turned them over to her bodyguards to be carried to her permanent abode on the “Barrens.” But it was not a “barrens” in those days, but a rich agricultural region, carefully irrigated from the north, and yielding the most bountiful crops of Indian corn. It was only when abandoned by the frugal redmen and grown up with forests which burned over repeatedly through the carelessness of the white settlers that it acquired that disagreeable name. In those days it was known as the “Hills of Plenty.”
As Nita-nee neared the scenes of her happy days she was stopped in the middle of the path by an aged Indian couple. Leaning on staffs in order to present a dignified appearance, it was easily seen that age had bent them nearly double. Their weazened, weatherbeaten old faces were pitiful to behold. Toothless, and barely able to speak above a whisper, they addressed the gracious queen.
“We are very old,” they began, “the winters of more than a century have passed over our heads. Our sons and our grandsons were killed fighting bravely under your immortal sire, Chun-Eh-Hoe. We have had to struggle on by ourselves as best we could ever since. We are about to set out a crop of corn, which we need badly. For the past three years the north wind has destroyed our crop every time it appeared; the seeds which we plan to put in the earth this year are the last we’ve got. Really we should have kept them for food, but we hoped that the future would treat us more generously. We would like a wind-break built along the northern side of our corn patch; we are too feeble to go to the forests and cut and carry the poles. Will not our most kindly queen have some one assist us?”
Nita-nee smiled on the aged couple, then she looked at her army of able-bodied warriors. Turning to them she said, “Soldiers, will a hundred of you go to the nearest royal forest, which is in the center of this plain, and cut enough cedar poles with brush on them to build a wind-break for these good people?”
Instantly a roar arose, a perfect babel of voices; it was every soldier trying to volunteer for this philanthropic task.
When quiet was restored, a warrior stepped out from the lines saying, “Queen, we are very happy to do this, we who have lived in this valley know full well how all suffer from the uncheckable north winds.”
The queen escorted the old couple back to their humble cottage, and sat with them until her stalwart braves returned with the green-tipped poles. It looked like another Birnam Wood in process of locomotion. The work was so quickly and so carefully done that it seemed almost like a miracle to the wretched old Indians. They fell on their knees, kissing the hem of their queen’s garment and thanking her for her beneficence. She could hardly leave them, so profuse were they in their gratitude. In all but a few hours were consumed in granting what to her was a simple favor, and she was safe and sound within her royal lodge house by dark. Before she left she had promised to return when the corn crop was ripe and partake of a corn roast with the venerable couple. The old people hardly dared hope she would come, but those about her knew that her word was as good as her bond. That night bonfires were lighted to celebrate her return, and there was much Indian music and revelry.
Nita-nee was compelled to address the frenzied mob, and in her speech she told them that while they had won a great victory, she hoped it would be the last while she lived; she hated war, but would give her life rather than have her people invaded. All she asked in this world was peace with honor. That expressed the sentiment of her people exactly, and they literally went mad with loyalty and enthusiasm for the balance of the night. Naturally with such an uproar there was no sleep for Nita-nee.
As she lay awake on her couch she thought that far sweeter than victory or earthly fame was the helping of others, the smoothing of rough pathways for the weak or oppressed. She resolved more than ever to dedicate her life to the benefiting of her subjects. No love affair had come into her life, she would use her great love-nature to put brightness into unhappy souls about her. And she got up the next morning much more refreshed than she could have after a night of sleep surcharged with dreams of victory and glory.
As the summer progressed, and the corn crop in the valleys became ripe, the queen sent an orderly to notify the aged couple that she would come to their home alone the next evening for the promised corn roast. It was a wonderful, calm, cloudless night, with the full moon shedding its effulgent smile over the plain. Unaccompanied, except by her orderly, Nita-nee walked to the modest cabin of the aged couple, a distance of about five miles, for the cottage stood not far from the present village of Linden Hall. Evidently the windbreak had been a success, for, bathed in moonlight, the tasseled heads of the cornstalks appeared above the tops of the cedar hedge. Smoke was issuing from the open hearth back of the hut, which showed that the roast was being prepared. The aged couple were delighted to see her, and the evening passed by, bringing innocent and supreme happiness to all. And thus in broad unselfishness and generosity of thought and deed the great queen’s life was spent, making her pathway through her realm radiant with sunshine.
And when she came to die, after a full century of life, she requested that her body be laid to rest in the royal forest, in the center of the valley whose people she loved and served so well. Her funeral cortege, which included every person in the plains and valleys, a vast assemblage, shook with a common grief. It would be hard to find a successor like her, a pure soul so deeply animated with true godliness.
And it came to pass that on the night when she was buried beneath a modest mound covered with cedar boughs, and the vast funeral party had dispersed, a terrific storm arose, greater than even the oldest person could remember. The blackness of the night was intense, the roar and rumbling heard made every being fear that the end of the world had come. It was a night of intense terror, of horror. But at dawn, the tempest abated, only a gentle breeze remained, a golden sunlight overspread the scene, and great was the wonder thereof! In the center of the vast plain where Nita-nee had been laid away stood a mound-like mountain, a towering, sylvan giant covered with dense groves of cedar and pine. And as it stood there, eternal, it tempered and broke the breezes from the north, promising a new prosperity, a greater tranquility, to the peaceful dwellers in the vale that has since been called John Penn’s Valley, after the grandson of William Penn.
A miracle, a sign of approval from the Great Spirit, had happened during the night to forever keep alive the memory of Nita-nee, who had tempered the winds from the corn-patch of the aged, helpless couple years before. And the dwellers in the valleys adjacent to Mount Nittany awoke to a greater pride in themselves, a high ideal must be observed, since they were the special objects of celestial notice.
And the name of Nita-nee was the favorite cognomen for Indian maidens, and has been borne by many of saintly and useful life ever since, and none of these namesakes were more deserving than the Nita-nee who lived centuries later near the mouth of Penn’s Cave.
II. Nittany: The Legend of the Valley
The second version of the legend of Princess Nittany appeared shortly after Henry Shoemaker’s Juanita Memories. Although Penn State students may have heard the story independently of Shoemaker, the modern presumption is that when they came across Shoemaker’s account, they liked it so much they decided to adopt elements of the story for their own special legend. In any event, the second legend below appeared in the 1916 student yearbook, LaVie. This rendition of the legend omits some of the salient facts of Shoemaker’s story, such as the victory won by Princess Nittany’s tribe over the southern tribes, and is told in much more flowery and elegant language reflecting the literary tastes of the student body at that time.
Long, bright, ribbon of gold, blending, graying, into the deep blue of a twilight sky, set atop of a mountain line, rugged irregular; the breath of a night wind, soft, uncertain, rustling faintly across the broad expanse of tree tops; a thread of shining white in the valley just below her, all this Nittany saw and was thankful. Many were the moons and long, since her warrior went out to battle. Many were the flocks of wild geese that had flown northward and southward above her, and still, he had not returned. Manitou, Manitou the Mighty, was cruel, and yet-the south wind grew bolder and kissed her brown cheek, withered now and old; the dying light in the west lingered on her face, kindled answering lights in her eyes—another day was gone.
Down in the valley, lived an old warrior and his squaw. Weak, feeble, scarcely able to grind the corn or gather the berries which were their food, they lived alone, the remnant of a people once great and powerful. Frequently it had happened that just when the maize they had planted with so much labor was ready to reap, the north wind had come, bending the oak trees in his strong fingers, and had wrested it from them so that in the long winter there was little to eat. And this Indian maid, since she was good and kind, had come down from her hilltop into the valley when all was dark, and had built a shield for them against the northwind, a barrier that even his strong fingers could not break. The old people saw this with wonder the thing that she had done, and called her Nittany, which means “wind breaker.”
Then a great sickness came upon her and she died, and the old warrior and his squaw mourned her, and all who had known her mourned her; called her pious, called her good. And they built a mound over the place where she lay that her resting place might be remembered. Then in the night came the Great Spirit with thunderings and lightnings; the earth shook, great trees came crashing down and the people were sore afraid. After a time, the thunders grew duller and duller, the lightnings flashed less and less often, and peace, dark, silent, brooded over the valley. When the dawn came, the first pale light of morning, the people came forth and marveled; for in the place where they had builded the mound, now rose a great mountain. And they called it Nittany in honor of her who was called pious and good.
The snows of many winters had lain on the valley, many summers have come and gone. A new people had come up from the southward and taken possession of the land. Men with white faces had come from the eastward. There arose among this new people a great warrior chief named Woap-a-lanne, whom the men with white faces called Bald Eagle. He lived in this same broad valley, and he extended his hunting grounds far to the northward. Brave was he and led his warriors to victory, and many were the songs that the singers made in his honor of his bravery and his daring. Woap-a-lanne loved his brothers with the pale faces and made treaties with them and bartered with them under a great pine tree which still is standing. And when the time came that he should go to the Happy Hunting Grounds, even the white men mourned him and in his honor named mountains and valleys and even the creek that flowed thru his native valley with his name.
And again many snows and rains came. The people of Woap-a-lanne, they of the tribe of Lenni-Lenape grew fewer and fewer; the white brothers came and took their hunting grounds; and their mountains and valleys saw them no more. Then in this broad valley, there rose the Great Mother, not of men but of minds of men. To her came the young men from many miles, and she taught them the wisdom of times past, taught them the use of tools, taught them the art of working. With her teaching was the sweetness, the gentleness, the goodness of Nittany, and into their hearts she instilled the bravery, the courage of Woap-a-lanne. And her sons went out into the world and worked with the arts she had taught them and brought back to her, honor and glory. The world knew them; for in their minds was the gentleness of Nittany, in their hearts, was the strength of Woap-a-lanne.
III. The Legend of Mount Nittany
The third version of the legend of Princess Nittany is of unknown authorship and date, but was adopted by the Mount Nittany Conservancy, Inc., to accompany the Conservancy’s sale of engraved deeds to a square inch of Mount Nittany. The square inches are real—a piece of land 20’x20’ was properly surveyed and divided into 57,600 square inches, and legally recorded in the Office of the Recorder of Deeds of Centre County. This legend, however, differs in several respects from both the Shoemaker and student versions, especially in that it has Mount Nittany arising over the burial mound of Princess Nittany’s beloved, an Indian Brave named Lion’s Paw, who was killed fighting the “wicked wind of the North.”
The famed Nittany Lion still strides the ledges and vales of the legendary Mount Nittany. It is as though he embodied the restless spirit of the mysterious Indian Princess Nit-A-Nee who gave her name to the Mountain, the Valley, and the Lion.
According to legend an old Indian warrior and his squaw once lived in the broad valley between the Tussey and Bald Eagle Mountains. Each year the crops they planted were wrested from their fields by a wicked North Wind in the autumn before the harvest. The valley was being deserted in the face of this Wind until a mysterious Indian maiden appeared who taught the tribe to build shields to hold against the wicked winds of the North.
The appreciative Indian tribe called the maiden Nit-A-Nee, which means “wind-breaker,” and made her their Princess.
This Indian Princess fell in love with a handsome Indian brave of the tribe called Lion’s Paw. This fearless Brave was killed in a fierce battle with the wicked wind from the North after his shield was stolen from him while he slept.
When she heard of Lion’s Paw’s death, Princess Nit-A-Nee searched every hill and dale of the land until she found the fearless Indian Brave’s body, still standing even after he had died. She enfolded him in her arms and carried his still erect body back to a place in the center of the Valley where she laid the strong Brave in his grave and built a mound of honor over his strength.
On the last night of the full moon, after she had finally raised the last of the soil and stone over his high mound, a terrible storm came up unleashing itself with thunder and lightening and the wailing of a horrendous wind from the depths of the earth. Every Indian in the Valley shuddered and all eyes were directed to the Indian Brave’s high mound upon which the beautiful maiden Princess Nit-A-Nee was mounted with arms outstretched to touch the sources of the lightning bolts in the sky.
Through the night they watched with awe as the Indian Brave’s burial mound grew and rose into a Mountain penetrating the center of the big valley between the two legs of the Tussey and Bald Eagle ridges. When the dawn finally came a huge Mountain was found standing erect in the center of the Valley.
A legend had been born. The mound and the maiden had given place to a Mountain, and standing on its summit was a Lion surrounded by eleven orphaned male cubs, each of whom had the courage of the fearless Indian Brave and the heart of the mysterious Indian Princess.
From that day forward every place in the valley was safe, and the wind wrested nothing from the fields on which these Lions strode as fearless heroes from the Mountain. The people of the Valley from that date forward knew only happiness and bounteous plenty.
In the fullness of time men came from across the farthest seas to build a college at the foot of this Mountain. The strength and courage of the students of this college became known far and wide. In memory of the fearless Indian Brave and the mysterious Indian Princess, the students of the college erected posts on a field and fought their way across this field as the North Wind had once ravaged the fields of the ancient Indian warrior and his squaw.
As each student learned the destructive power of the North Wind across the fields, he also learned the strength of the Princess known as Wind Breaker, called in her language Nit-A-Nee, and the courage unto death of the Indian Brave called Lion’s Paw. As long as this strength and courage is known in the Valley, Mount Nittany will stand as a breaker against the wicked Wind of the North.
It is passed on from generation to generation that, as long as the fields of the Valley resound each year to the reenactments of the battles between the wicked North Wind and the Indian Brave, the people who live in the valley will be happy and prosperous and safe.
But if the reenactments ever stop, Mount Nittany will lose its strength and disappear, and the wicked Wind of the North will stream down through the valley between the legs of the Tussey and Bald Eagle ridges, searing the land, wresting away all that has been planted and grown there, and scattering the tribes who live there. All the warriors and squaws of the place will then have to abandon the Valley and seek their homes in other places and climes, and learn the customs and ways of strangers.
This is the legend of Mount Nittany. May it stand forever high and strong in our midst, our breaker against the harsh winds of destiny and fate which sweep down from the North, the source of fearless courage and deathless love, both father and mother of the games by which we live.
May Mount Nittany ever rise above us as the Guardian before the gates of Old Penn State. May the mysterious Indian Princess ever stand in our midst as breaker and shield against the destructive power of the winds of fate. And may the Nittany Lion’s cubs forever join in the games which are the guarantee of the life of the land we love.
While Henry Shoemaker’s 1927 “Indian Folk-Songs of Pennsylvania” is a product of its time, its many creative songs can still make it a fitting companion for a Mountain hike and carefree and unselfconscious singing, especially at sunrise. A complete copy of this book can be downloaded here, or checked out from the Penn State Libraries.