|7,584 enrolled, 14,000 self-identified|
|Regions with significant populations|
|United States ( Oklahoma); formerly Kentucky, Ohio, and West Virginia)|
|traditional religions and Christianity|
|Related ethnic groups|
The Shawnee (Shaawanwaki, Ša˙wano˙ki and Shaawanowi lenaweeki) are an Algonquian-speaking ethnic group indigenous to North America. In colonial times they were a semi-migratory Native American nation, primarily inhabiting areas of the Ohio Valley, extending from what became Ohio and Kentucky eastward to West Virginia, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Western Maryland; south to Alabama and South Carolina; and westward to Indiana, and Illinois.
Pushed west by European-American pressure, the Shawnee migrated to Missouri and Kansas, with some removed to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) west of the Mississippi River in the 1830s. Other Shawnee did not remove to Oklahoma until after the Civil War. Made up of different historical and kinship groups, today there are three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, all headquartered in Oklahoma: the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and Shawnee Tribe.
The Shawnee language, an Algonquian language, was spoken by 200 people in 2002, including over 100 Absentee Shawnee and 12 Loyal Shawnee speakers. The language is written in the Latin script. It has a dictionary and portions of the Bible were translated into Shawnee.
Some scholars believe that the Shawnee are descendants of the people of the precontact Fort Ancient culture of the Ohio region, although this is not universally accepted. Fort Ancient culture flourished from 1000 to 1650 CE among a people who predominantly inhabited lands along the Ohio River in areas of southern Ohio, northern Kentucky and western West Virginia. They were mound builders. Fort Ancient culture was once thought to have been an extension of the Mississippian culture. But, scholars now believe Fort Ancient culture developed independently and was descended from the Hopewell culture (100 BCE—500 CE), also a mound builder people.
Uncertainty surrounds the fate of the Fort Ancient people. Most likely their society, like the Mississippian culture to the south, was severely disrupted by waves of epidemics from new infectious diseases carried by the first Spanish explorers in the 16th century. After 1525 at Madisonville, the type site, the village's house sizes became smaller and fewer, with evidence showing the people changed from their previously "horticulture-centered, sedentary way of life".
There is a gap in the archaeological record between the most recent Fort Ancient sites and the oldest sites of the Shawnee. The latter were recorded by European (French and English) explorers as occupying this area at the time of encounter. Scholars generally accept that similarities in material culture, art, mythology, and Shawnee oral history linking them to the Fort Ancient peoples can be used to support the connection from Fort Ancient society and development as the historical Shawnee society.
The Shawnee traditionally considered the Lenape (or Delaware) of the East Coast mid-Atlantic region, who were also Algonquian speaking, as their "grandfathers." The Algonquian nations of present-day Canada regarded the US Shawnee as their southernmost branch. Along the East Coast, the Algonquian-speaking tribes were mostly located in coastal areas, from Quebec to the Carolinas.
Algonquian languages have words similar to the archaic shawano (now: shaawanwa) meaning "south". However, the stem šawa- does not mean "south" in Shawnee, but "moderate, warm (of weather)": See Voegelin "šawa (plus -ni, -te) MODERATE, WARM. Cp. šawani 'it is moderating...". In one Shawnee tale, "Sawage" (šaawaki) is the deity of the south wind. Curtin translates Sawage as 'it thaws', referring to the warm weather of the south. šaawaki is attested as the spirit of the South, or the South Wind, in this account, in one of Voegelin's tales, and in a song collected by Voegelin.
Europeans reported encountering Shawnee over a widespread geographic area. One of the earliest mentions of the Shawnee may be a 1614 Dutch map showing some Sawwanew located just east of the Delaware River. Later 17th-century Dutch sources also place them in this general location. Accounts by French explorers in the same century usually located the Shawnee along the Ohio River, where the French encountered them on forays from eastern Canada and the Illinois Country.
A Shawnee town might have from forty to one hundred bark-covered houses similar in construction to Iroquois longhouses. Each village usually had a meeting house or council house, perhaps sixty to ninety feet long, where public deliberations took place.
According to one European legend, some Shawnee were descended from a party sent by Chief Opechancanough, ruler of the Powhatan Confederacy 1618–1644, to settle in the Shenandoah Valley. The party was led by his son, Sheewa-a-nee. Edward Bland, an explorer who accompanied Abraham Wood's expedition in 1650, wrote that in Opechancanough's day, there had been a falling-out between the Chawan chief and the weroance of the Powhatan (also a relative of Opechancanough's family). He said the latter had murdered the former. The Shawnee were "driven from Kentucky in the 1670s by the Iroquois of Pennsylvania and New York, who claimed the Ohio valley as hunting ground to supply its fur trade. The explorers Batts and Fallam in 1671 reported that the Shawnee were contesting control of the Shenandoah Valley with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (Iroquois) in that year, and were losing.
Sometime before 1670, a group of Shawnee migrated to the Savannah River area. The English based in Charles Town, South Carolina were contacted by these Shawnee in 1674. They forged a long-lasting alliance. The Savannah River Shawnee were known to the Carolina English as "Savannah Indians". Around the same time, other Shawnee groups migrated to Florida, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and other regions south and east of the Ohio country. d'Iberville, writing in his journal in 1699, describes the Shawnee (or as he spells them, Chaouenons) as "the single nation to fear, being spread out over Carolina and Virginia in the direction of the Mississippi."
The historian Alan Gallay speculates that the Shawnee migrations of the middle to late 17th century were probably driven by the Beaver Wars, which began in the 1640s. The Shawnee became known for their widespread settlements, extending from Pennsylvania to Illinois and to Georgia. Among their known villages were Eskippakithiki in Kentucky, Sonnionto (also known as Lower Shawneetown) in Ohio, Chalakagay near what is now Sylacauga, Alabama, Chalahgawtha at the site of present-day Chillicothe, Ohio, Old Shawneetown, Illinois, and Suwanee, Georgia. Their language became a lingua franca for trade among numerous tribes. They became leaders among the tribes, initiating and sustaining pan-Indian resistance to European and Euro-American expansion.
Some Shawnee occupied areas in central Pennsylvania. Long without a chief, in 1714 they asked Carondawana, an Oneida war chief of the Iroquois, to represent them to the Pennsylvania provincial council, which accepted the Shawnee choice. About 1727 Carondawana and his wife, a prominent interpreter known as Madame Montour, settled at Otstonwakin, on the west bank at the confluence of Loyalsock Creek and the West Branch Susquehanna River.
By the time European-American settlers began to arrive in the Shenandoah Valley (c. 1730) of Virginia, the Shawnee were the main residents of the northern part of the valley. They were claimed as tributaries by the Haudenosaunee or Six Nations of the Iroquois, who had helped some of the Tuscarora people from North Carolina resettle in the vicinity of what is now Martinsburg, West Virginia. Also at this time, Seneca and Lenape war parties from the north often fought pitched battles with pursuing bands of Catawba from Virginia, who would overtake them in the Shawnee-inhabited regions of the Valley.
By the late 1730s pressure from colonial expansion produced repeated conflicts. Shawnee communities were affected by the fur trade in which furs were often traded to European traders for rum or brandy, leading to serious social problems related to alcohol abuse. Several Shawnee communities in the Province of Pennsylvania, led by Peter Chartier, a métis trader, opposed the sale of alcohol in their communities, resulting in a conflict with colonial Governor Patrick Gordon. As a result, in 1745 some 400 Shawnee migrated from Pennsylvania to Ohio, Kentucky, Alabama and Illinois.
Prior to 1754, the Shawnee had a headquarters at Shawnee Springs at modern-day Cross Junction, Virginia near Winchester. The father of the later chief Cornstalk held his council there. Several other Shawnee villages were located in the northern Shenandoah Valley: at Moorefield, West Virginia, on the North River, and on the Potomac at Cumberland, Maryland. In 1753, the Shawnee on the Scioto River in the Ohio country sent messengers to those still in the Shenandoah Valley suggesting that they leave Virginia and cross the Alleghenies to join the people further west, which they did the following year. The community known as Shannoah (Lower Shawneetown) on the Ohio River reached a population of around 1,200 by 1750.
Ever since the Beaver Wars, the Haudenosaunee Confederacy ("Five Nations") had claimed the Ohio Country as their hunting ground by right of conquest, and treated the Shawnee and Lenape who resettled there as dependent tribes. Some independent Iroquois bands from various tribes also migrated westward, where they became known in Ohio as the Mingo. These three tribes—the Shawnee, the Delaware, and the Mingo—became closely associated with one another, despite the differences in their languages. The first two were Algonquian speaking and the third Iroquoian.
After taking part in the first phase of the French and Indian War (also known as "Braddock's War") as allies of the French, the Shawnee switched sides in 1758. They made formal peace with the British colonies at the Treaty of Easton, which recognized the Allegheny Ridge (the Eastern Divide) as their mutual border. This peace lasted only until Pontiac's War erupted in 1763. Later that year, the Crown issued the Proclamation of 1763, legally confirming the 1758 border as the limits of British colonization, with the land beyond reserved for Native Americans. But, it had difficulty enforcing the boundary, as European colonists continued to move westward.
The Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768 extended that line westward, giving the British colonists a claim to what is now West Virginia and Kentucky. The Shawnee did not agree to this treaty: it was negotiated between British officials and the Haudenosaunee Confederacy ("Six Nations"), who claimed sovereignty over the land, although Shawnee and other Native American tribes also hunted there.
After the Stanwix treaty, Anglo-Americans began pouring into the Ohio River Valley for settlement. Violent incidents between settlers and Indians escalated into Dunmore's War in 1774. British diplomats managed to isolate the Shawnee during the conflict: the Iroquois and the Lenape stayed neutral. The Shawnee faced the British colony of Virginia with only a few Mingo allies. Lord Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia, launched a two-pronged invasion into the Ohio Country. The Shawnee chief Cornstalk attacked one wing but fought to a draw in the only major battle of the war, the Battle of Point Pleasant.
In the Treaty of Camp Charlotte ending this war (1774), Cornstalk and the Shawnee were compelled by the British to recognize the same Ohio River boundary as that established with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy ("Six Nations") by the 1768 Fort Stanwix treaty. The Shawnee ceded all claims to the "hunting grounds" of West Virginia and Kentucky. Many other Shawnee leaders refused to recognize this boundary, however. A Shawnee party attacked Daniel Boone in Kentucky in 1775.
When the United States declared independence from the British crown in 1776, the Shawnee were divided. They did not support the American rebel cause, but Cornstalk led the minority who wished to remain neutral. The Shawnee north of the Ohio River were also unhappy about the American settlement of Kentucky. Colin Calloway reports that most Shawnees allied with the British against the Americans.
War leaders such as Chief Blackfish and Blue Jacket joined Dragging Canoe and a band of Cherokee people along the lower Tennessee and Chickamauga Creek against the colonists in that area. Some colonists called them Chickamauga because they lived along that river at the time of what became known as the Cherokee–American wars, during and after the American Revolution.
The Shawnee later combined with the Miami into a great fighting force in the Ohio Valley, after the Revolution, during the Northwest Indian War between the United States and a confederation of Native American tribes. After being defeated at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, most of the Shawnee bands signed the Treaty of Greenville the next year. They were forced to cede large parts of their homeland to the new United States. Other Shawnee groups rejected this treaty, migrating independently to Missouri west of the Mississippi River, where they settled along Apple Creek near Cape Girardeau.
In the early 19th century, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh gained renown for organizing his namesake confederacy to oppose American expansion in Native American lands. The resulting conflict came to be known as Tecumseh's War. The two principal adversaries in the conflict, chief Tecumseh and American politician William Henry Harrison, had both been junior participants in the Battle of Fallen Timbers at the close of the Northwest Indian Wars in 1794. Tecumseh was not among the Native American signers of the Treaty of Greenville, which had ended the war, when the Shawnee and other Native Americans ceded much of their historic territory in present-day Ohio to the United States. However, many Indian leaders in the region accepted the Greenville terms, and for the next ten years pan-tribal resistance to American hegemony faded.
In September 1809 William Henry Harrison, then governor of the Indiana Territory, invited the Potawatomi, Lenape, Eel River people, and the Miami to a meeting in Fort Wayne, Indiana. In the negotiations, Harrison promised large subsidies and payments to the tribes if they would cede the lands he was asking for. After two weeks of negotiating, the Potawatomi leaders convinced the Miami to accept the treaty as reciprocity, because the Potawatomi had earlier accepted treaties less advantageous to them at the request of the Miami. Finally the tribes signed the Treaty of Fort Wayne on September 30, 1809, thereby selling the United States over 3,000,000 acres (approximately 12,000 km²), chiefly along the Wabash River north of Vincennes, Indiana.
Tecumseh was outraged by the Treaty of Fort Wayne, believing that American Indian land was owned in common by all tribes, an idea advocated in previous years by the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant. In response, Tecumseh began to expand on the teachings of his brother, known as The Prophet, who called for the tribes to return to their ancestral ways. He began to associate the teachings with the idea of a pan-tribal alliance. Tecumseh traveled widely, urging warriors to abandon the accommodationist chiefs and to join the resistance at Prophetstown.
In August 1810, Tecumseh led 400 armed warriors to confront Governor Harrison in Vincennes. Tecumseh demanded that Harrison nullify the Fort Wayne treaty, threatening to kill the chiefs who had signed it. Harrison refused, stating that the Miami were the owners of the land and could sell it if they so chose. Tecumseh left peacefully, but warned Harrison that he would seek an alliance with the British unless the treaty was nullified.
In March the Great Comet of 1811 appeared. During the next year, tensions between American colonists and Native Americans rose quickly. Four settlers were murdered on the Missouri River and, in another incident, natives seized a boatload of supplies from a group of traders. Harrison summoned Tecumseh to Vincennes to explain the actions of his allies. In August 1811, the two leaders met, with Tecumseh assuring Harrison that the Shawnee intended to remain at peace with the United States.
Afterward Tecumseh traveled to the Southeast on a mission to recruit allies against the United States among the "Five Civilized Tribes." His name Tekoomsē meant "Shooting Star" or "Panther Across The Sky." He told the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee, and many others that the comet of March 1811 had signaled his coming. He also said that the people would see a sign proving that the Great Spirit had sent him.
While Tecumseh was traveling, both sides readied for the Battle of Tippecanoe. Harrison assembled a small force of army regulars and militia in preparation to combat the Native forces. On November 6, 1811, Harrison led this army of about 1,000 men to Prophetstown, Indiana, hoping to disperse Tecumseh's confederacy. Early next morning, forces under The Prophet prematurely attacked Harrison's army at the Tippecanoe River near the Wabash. Though outnumbered, Harrison repulsed the attack, forcing the Natives to retreat and abandon Prophetstown. Harrison's men burned the village and returned home. This was the end of Tecumseh's dream of a united native alliance against the whites.
On December 11, 1811, the New Madrid earthquake shook the Muscogee lands and the Midwest. While the interpretation of this event varied from tribe to tribe, they agreed that the powerful earthquake had to have meant something. The earthquake and its aftershocks helped the Tecumseh resistance movement as the Muscogee and other Native American tribes believed it was a sign that the Shawnee must be supported and that this was the sign Tecumseh had prophesied.
|“||The Indians were filled with great terror ... the trees and wigwams shook exceedingly; the ice which skirted the margin of the Arkansas river was broken into pieces; and most of the Indians thought that the Great Spirit, angry with the human race, was about to destroy the world.||”|
|— Roger L. Nichols, The American Indian|
The Muscogee (Creek) who joined Tecumseh's confederation were known as the Red Sticks. They were the more traditional part of the people, as their communities in the Upper Towns were more isolated from European-American settlement. They did not want to assimilate. The Red Sticks rose in resisting the Lower Creek, and the bands became involved in civil war, known as the Creek War. This became part of the War of 1812 when open conflict broke out between American soldiers and the Red Sticks of the Creek.
Portraits of the Choctaw chief Pushmataha (left) and Tecumseh.
—Pushmataha, 1811 – Sharing Choctaw History.
After Hull's surrender of Detroit during the War of 1812, General William Henry Harrison was given command of the U.S. Army of the Northwest. He set out to retake the city, then defended by the British Colonel Henry Procter together with Tecumseh. A detachment of Harrison's army was defeated at Frenchtown along the River Raisin on January 22, 1813. Procter left the prisoners with an inadequate guard; they could not prevent some of his Native American allies from attacking and killing perhaps as many as 60 Americans, many of whom were Kentucky militiamen. The Americans called the incident the "River Raisin Massacre." The defeat ended Harrison's campaign against Detroit, and the phrase "Remember the River Raisin!" became a rallying cry for the Americans.
In May 1813, Procter and Tecumseh set siege to Fort Meigs in northern Ohio. American reinforcements arriving during the siege were defeated by the Natives, but the fort held out. The Indians eventually began to disperse, forcing Procter and Tecumseh to return to Canada. Their second offensive in July against Fort Meigs also failed. To improve Indian morale, Procter and Tecumseh attempted to storm Fort Stephenson, a small American post on the Sandusky River. After they were repulsed with serious losses, the Ohio campaign ended.
On Lake Erie, the American commander Captain Oliver Hazard Perry fought the Battle of Lake Erie on September 10, 1813. His decisive victory against the British ensured American control of the lake, improved American morale after a series of defeats, and compelled the British to fall back from Detroit. General Harrison launched another invasion of Upper Canada, which culminated in the U.S. victory at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813. Tecumseh was killed there, and his death effectively ended the North American indigenous alliance with the British in the Detroit region. American control of Lake Erie meant the British could no longer provide essential military supplies to their aboriginal allies, who dropped out of the war. The Americans controlled the area during the remainder of the conflict.
The Shawnee in Missouri became known as the "Absentee Shawnee" after migrating from the United States into Mexico, in the eastern part of Spanish Texas. They were joined in the migration by some Delaware. Although they were closely allied with the Cherokee led by The Bowl, their chief John Linney remained neutral during the 1839 Cherokee War.
In appreciation, in the late 1840s Texan president Mirabeau Lamar fully compensated the Shawnee for their improvements and crops at the time of forcing their removal from Texas north to Arkansas Territory. The Shawnee settled close to present-day Shawnee, Oklahoma. They were joined by Shawnee pushed out of Kansas (see below), who shared their traditionalist views and beliefs.
In 1817, the Ohio Shawnee had signed the Treaty of Fort Meigs, ceding their remaining lands in exchange for three reservations in Wapaughkonetta, Hog Creek (near Lima), and Lewistown, Ohio. They shared these lands with some Seneca who had migrated west from New York.
During 1833, only Black Bob's band of Shawnee resisted removal. They settled in northeastern Kansas near Olathe and along the Kansas (Kaw) River in Monticello near Gum Springs. The Shawnee Methodist Mission was built nearby to minister to the tribe. About 200 of the Ohio Shawnee followed the prophet Tenskwatawa and joined their Kansas brothers and sisters here in 1826.
The main body of Shawnee in Ohio followed Black Hoof, who fought every effort to force the Shawnee to give up their homeland. After the death of Black Hoof, the remaining 400 Ohio Shawnee in Wapaughkonetta and Hog Creek surrendered their land and moved to the Shawnee Reserve in Kansas. This movement was largely under terms negotiated by Joseph Parks (1793-1859) who had been raised in the household of Lewis Cass and had been a leading interpreter for the Shawnee.
In 1831, the Lewistown group of Seneca–Shawnee had left for the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma).
In the mid-1830s two companies of Shawnee soldiers were recruited into United States service to fight in the Seminole War. One of these was lead by Joseph Parks, who was given the rank of captain. Parks was a significant landholder in both Westport, Missouri and in Shawnee, Kansas. He was also a Free Mason and a member of the Methodist Episcopal Church. In Shawnee, Kansas a Shawnee cemetery was started in the 1830s and remained in use until the 1870s, with Parks being among the most prominent buried there.
In the 1853 Indian Appropriations Bill, Congress appropriated $64,366 for treaty obligations to the Shawnee such as annuities, education, and other services. An additional $2,000 was appropriated for the Seneca and the Shawnee together.
During the American Civil War, Black Bob's band fled from Kansas and joined the "Absentee Shawnee" in Oklahoma to escape the war. After the Civil War, the Shawnee in Kansas were expelled and forced to move to northeastern Oklahoma. The Shawnee members of the former Lewistown group became known as the "Eastern Shawnee".
The former Kansas Shawnee became known as the "Loyal Shawnee" (some say this is because of their allegiance with the Union during the war; others say this is because they were the last group to leave their Ohio homelands). The latter group appeared to be regarded as part of the Cherokee Nation by the United States because they were also known as the "Cherokee Shawnee" and were settled on some of their land in Indian Territory.
In 2000 the "Loyal" or "Cherokee" Shawnee finally received federal recognition independent of the Cherokee Nation. They are now known as the "Shawnee Tribe". Today, most members of the three tribes of the Shawnee nation reside in Oklahoma.
Before contact with Europeans, the Shawnee tribe had a patrilineal system, by which descent and inheritance went through paternal lines. Their government is by kings, which they call sachema, who reign by succession, but always of the mother's side: for instance, the children of him who is now king, will not succeed, but the sons of his brother, by the mother, or the sons of his sister, (and after them, the sons of her daughter) will reign, for no woman inherits. The reason they use this system of descent is that their issue may not be spurious. The five divisions of tribes commonly known are:
The war chiefs were hereditary and descended from their maternal line in the Kispoko division.
In addition to the five septs, the Shawnee are divided among six clans or subdivisions according to kinship; each clan represented spiritual values and had a role in the overall confederacy. Each name group is common among each for the five divisions, and each Shawnee belongs to a clan or name group. The six group names are:
Each division had a primary village where the chief of the division lived. This village was usually named after the division. By tradition, each Shawnee division and clan had certain roles it performed on behalf of the entire tribe. By the time these kinship elements were recorded in writing by European Americans, these strong social traditions were fading. They are poorly understood. Because of the scattering of the Shawnee people from the 17th century through the 19th century, the roles of the divisions changed.
Today the United States government recognizes three Shawnee tribes, all of which are located in Oklahoma:
As of 2008, there were 7,584 enrolled Shawnee, with most living in Oklahoma.
The Piqua Shawnee Tribe is a state-recognized tribe in Alabama, recognized by the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission under the Davis-Strong Act; in an honorary manner by Ohio in Ohio Senate Resolution 188, adopted February 26, 1991, and by the Ohio House of Representatives 119th General Assembly Resolution No. 83, adopted April 3, 1991; and Kentucky, by Governor's Proclamation dated August 13, 1991. The Piqua Shawnee tribe performed the Green Corn Dance in Cumberland Gap National Historical Park in 2011.
The Piqua Shawnee are the only state-recognized tribe that claims Shawnee descent.
Self identified groups that consider themselves Shawnee reside in Ohio and other states:
These bands are not federally recognized. Neither Ohio or Kentucky have formal process for recognition of tribes, but its legislature has acknowledged some groups in an honorary way by resolution.
Flag of the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma
Flag of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
Flag of the Shawnee Tribe
Ohio in any event does not officially recognize Indian tribes.Watson cites legal opinions that the resolution by the Ohio Legislature recognizing the United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation was ceremonial and did not grant legal status as a tribe. But, confirmation of the Remnant Band's recognition was referred to in official letters and presented to the Bureau of Indian Affairs and The President of the United States in 1981.
Ohio recognizes one state tribe, the United Remnant Band. . . . Ohio does not have a detailed scheme for regulating tribal-state relations.
There was no Blue Creek Band in Indiana...that's our Band here indigenous to Ohio...documented as late as 1870. You are looking for the Blue River Band.
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