“Punxsutawney’s Groundhog legend pre-dates the area’s first white settlers. The first inhabitants of the area, the Delaware Indians, shared in the Punxsutawney “Groundhog” roots with their own Indian version of “legend and lore.”
Punxsutawney was originally a campsite halfway between the Allegheny and Susquehanna rivers. It is located on the earliest known trail to the East, the Shamokin path. The area was, at times, occupied by Shawnee or Delaware Indians and, sometimes, by Senecas or Iroquois.
According to the original “Creation” Story of the Delaware Indians, the “Lenni Lenape” (or original people), who were their forebears, began life as animals in “mother earth” and emerged centuries later to hunt and live as men. Thus it was that Oijik (Wejak), or Wojak, which was carried over to us as “‘Woodchuck”, came to be recognized as the “grandfather” of the earliest known inhabitants of this area.
Although the area previously served as a “border” between Indian nations, the displaced Delawares settled in large numbers about 1723 because of the pressures from white men in the East and Iroquois intrigue. The main move toward the west followed between l740 and l760 as the result of further pressure.
It was during this period that an Indian sorcerer first appeared in various forms and attacked travelers from the East. He was hunted and killed in combat by a young chief. His body was burned to destroy the “evil medicine” but miraculously turned to searing sandflies, or “ponksad,” which plagued the area and the Indians. From that time the Indians called the location, ” Ponksaduteney,” which meant the “town of the sandflies.” The sandflies are now gone, but the “ghost of the spelling” is with us to stay.”