Shawnee Indians

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Shawnee Tribe.jpg
Shawnee with spear. The Shawnee were in Ohio in the 1600s. They were fierce warriors, fighting with the French until the French trading posts turned British. They fought with the British against the Americans during the American Revolution. Tecumseh -- a leader of an Ohio band of the Shawnee who organized a pan-tribal resistance movement against the Treaty of Fort Wayne -- tried to reunite Ohio-based American Indian peoples, but was defeated by General Anthony Wayne in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. In 1817, under the treaty of Fort Meigs, Ohio Shawnee -- joined by some Seneca -- were sent to live on three reservations in Northwest Ohio. Between 1831 and 1833, following the defeat of the Tecumseh resistance movement, Ohio-based Shawnee continued to organize to resist removal from their lands by the U.S. government. By the mid-1830s, via the U.S. Government's policy of forced removal of American Indians West of the Mississippi, most Shawnee were relocated to reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas.

The Shawnee were living in the Ohio Valley as early as the late 1600s. The Iroquois -- also in the area during this time -- 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, members of the Shawnee nation moved back into Ohio from the south and the east. They settled in the lower Scioto River valley.

The Shawnees spoke an Algonquian language, and so they are related to the Lenape (Delaware) people, the Miami, and the Ottawa -- all fellow speakers of Algonquian languages. The Shawnees had a special friendship with the Wyandots. They referred to the Wyandots as their “uncles.”

The Shawnee 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, Ohio American Indian peoples, 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. In the aftermath of the war, Virginia's Royal Governor Lord Dunsmore signed agreements (1774's Treaty of Camp Charlotte) with the Iroquouis which ceded the "hunting ground" across the Ohio River -- including today's Kentucky and West Virginia -- to the British. Although these agreements were made with the Iroquois, the Shawnee were also held party to the treaty.During the American Revolution, the Shawnees fought alongside the British against the Americans. The Shawnees believed that Britain would prevent the colonists from encroaching further upon Shawnee land. After the war the Shawnee continued to resist Anglo-American settlement onto Shawnee land.

The Shawnee were active in the Northwest Indian War of the 1790s, and allied with the Miami. General Anthony Wayne defeated the Shawnees and other American Indian peoples living in Ohio at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794. The Shawnees were forced to surrender most of their lands in Ohio with the signing of the Treaty of Greeneville.

Some Shawnee, however, hoped to reclaim their Ohio lands. Chief amongst them was Tecumseh -- a veteran of the Battle of Fallen Timbers -- who hoped to unite together all American Indian peoples west of the Appalachian Mountains against the United States. Angered by the Treaty of Ft. Wayne, which gave away much of the Potawatomi and Miami strongholds in the western Ohio territory (near present-day Vincennes, Indiana), Tecumseh attempted to unite American Indian peoples with ties to Ohio Territory lands in resistance to Anglo-American settler encroachment. Due to the advanced technology of the whites and the Native American's failure to put aside their traditional differences, General William Henry Harrison defeated the Shawnees and their allies at the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. The Treaty of Ft. Meigs (1817) effectively ceded all Shawnee lands to the U.S. government, and placed the Shawnee on three reservations in present-day Ohio: one near Wapakaneta (Wapaughkoneta); one in Hog Creek (near Lima); and one in Lewistown. These reservations were shared with the Seneca.

Many of the Shawnee moved into the Indiana Territory -- one group relocated to Missouri, then to Texas, before being forced into the Neosho River Reservation in Kansas under the Treaty of St. Louis (1825). This reservation was shared with the Ohio Seneca and Ohio Cayuga. These groups were later forced into Oklahoma under the Indian Removal policies of the mid-19th century. In 1833, Shawnee leader Black Bob lead a resistance movement based in Olathe, Kansas, to which many Ohio Shawnee defected Other Shawnees, like Black Hoof -- leader of a popular Shawnee resistance movement on Treaty of Fort Meigs-appointed lands in Northwest Ohio -- adopted white customs, in the hope that assimilationist efforts would protect the Shawnee rights to their Ohio lands.

Between 1831 and 1833, the United States forced the Shawnee to give up their land claims in Ohio. The Lewiston Shawnee band migrated directly to Oklahoma; and, shortly thereafter, the Wapakoneta and Hog Creek groups moved to the Shawnee Reservations in Kansas. After the Civil War, the Shawnee, like most of American Indians, were expelled from Kansas and sent to the Indian Territory, in present-day Oklahoma.

The Shawnee 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 “capital city” of the Shawnees. Chillicothe was also the name of Ohio's first state capital.

Today, descendants of Ohio's Shawnee are organized into several bands. Three federally-recognized bands are incorporated in the state of Oklahoma, including the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and the Shawnee Tribe (also known as the Loyal Shawnee), who were previously federally recognized as the Cherokee Shawnee and are descended from the Black Bob band of Shawnee who led a resistance movement on their lands near Cape Girardeau, Missouri. The state of Ohio also recognizes severally bands of Shawnee with claims to land in Ohio, including the United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation (recognized in 1979).

See Also


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