Shawnee Indians

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Shawnee Tribe.jpg

The Shawnee Indians were living in the Ohio Valley as early as the late 1600s. The Iroquois Indians were unwilling to share these rich hunting grounds and drove the Shawnees away. Some went to Illinois; others went to Pennsylvania, Maryland or Georgia. As the power of the Iroquois weakened, the Shawnee Indians moved back into Ohio from the south and the east. They settled in the lower Scioto River valley.

The Shawnees spoke one of the languages of the Algonquian Indians, and so they are related to the Delaware Indians, the Miami Indians, and the Ottawa Indians. The Shawnees had a special friendship with the Wyandot Indians. They referred to the Wyandots as their “uncles.”

The Shawnee Indians were allies of the French until British traders moved into the Ohio Country circa 1740. The French pushed the British out of Ohio and the Shawnees became allies of the French again until the British victory in the French and Indian War. As French trading posts turned into British forts, the Ohio Indians, including the Shawnees, fought the British and their colonists. A Shawnee leader named Cornstalk led the Shawnees against British colonists during Lord Dunmore's War in 1774. During the American Revolution, the Shawnees fought alongside the British against the Americans. The Shawnees believed that England would prevent the colonists from encroaching further upon the natives' land. After the war the Indians continued to fight the Americans.

The Shawnees were fierce warriors. They were among the more feared and respected of Ohio's Indians.

General Anthony Wayne defeated the Shawnees and other Ohio Indians at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The Shawnees surrendered most of their lands in Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville.

Many of the Shawnees moved into the Indiana Territory. Some of these people, however, hoped to reclaim their Ohio lands. Chief among them was Tecumseh, who hoped to unite together all native tribes west of the Appalachian Mountains against the Americans. Due to the advanced technology of the whites and the Indians' failure to put aside their traditional differences, Tecumseh's efforts at confederation failed. General William Henry Harrison defeated the Shawnees and their allies at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. Other Shawnees, like Black Hoof, assimilated to white customs, in the hope that the whites would allow the natives to continue to live on the land if the Indians adopted white customs.

Between 1831 and 1833, the United States forced the Shawnees to give up their land claims in Ohio. The American government sent the natives to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas.

The Shawnees divided themselves into different clans. The principal leader of the Shawnees could only come from one clan. The name of this clan was “Chillicothe.” When a village was called Chillicothe, it meant that it was home to the principal chief -- the “capitol city” of the Shawnees. Chillicothe was also the name of Ohio's first state capitol.

See Also


  1. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.