Shawnee Indian Tribe
Meaning "southerners," the best-known variants of the name being the
French form Chaouanons, and that which appears in the name of Savannah
by the Cherokee.
Ontwagana, "one who stutters," "one whose speech is
unintelligible," applied by the Iroquois to this tribe and many others.
Oshawanoag, by the Ottawa.
Shawala, by the' Teton Dakota.
The Shawnee belonged to the
Algonquian linguistic stock, their closest relatives
being the Fox, Sauk, and Kickapoo.
There was scarcely a tribe that
divided so often or moved so much as the Shawnee, but
one of the earliest historic seats of the people as a
whole was on Cumberland River. (See also Alabama,
Maryland and the
District of Columbia,
There were five subdivisions of long standing,
Chillicothe, Hathawekela, Kispokotha, Mequachake, and
Piqua. The Hathawekela, Kispokotha, and Piqua later formed one body known
as Absentee Shawnee.
The following names of villages have been preserved:
Bulltown, or Mingo, on Little Kanawha River, W. Va.
Chillicothe, 3 or 4 towns:
(1) on Paint Creek on the site of Oldtown, near Chillicothe in'Ross
(2) on the Little Miami about the site of Oldtown in Greene County,
(3) on the Great Miami River at the present Piqua in Miami County;
(4) probably the native name of Lowertown (see below).
Conedogwinit, location unknown.
Cornstalk's Town, on Scippo Creek opposite Squaw Town, Pickaway
Girty's Town, on St. Mary's River, east of Celina Reservoir,
Auglaize County, Ohio.
Grenadier Squaw's Town, on Scippo Creek, Pickaway County, Ohio.
Hog Creek, on a branch of Ottawa River in Allen County, Ohio.
Kagoughsage, apparently in Ohio or western Pennsylvania.
Lewistown (and Seneca), near the site of the present Lewistown,
Lick Town, probably Shawnee, on upper Scioto River, probably near
Logstown, with Delaware, and later Iroquois, on the right bank of
Ohio River about 14 miles below Pittsburgh, in Allegheny County, Pa.
Long Tail's Settlement, in Johnson County, Kans.
Lowertown, 2 towns;
(1) on Ohio River just below the mouth of the Scioto and later built
on the opposite side of the river about the site of Portsmouth,
(2) in Ross County, also called Chillicothe.
Mequachake: There were several towns of the name occupied by people
of this division; they also had villages on the headwaters of Mad
River, Logan County, Ohio.
Old Shawnee Town, on Ohio River in Gallia County, Ohio, 3 miles
above the mouth of the Great Kanawha.
Peixtan (or Nanticoke), on or near the lower Susquehanna River in
Dauphin County, Pa., possibly on the site of Paxtonville.
Pigeon Town, Mequachake division, on Mad River, 3 miles northwest of
West Liberty, Logan County, Ohio.
Piqua, 4 towns:
(1) Pequea on Susquehanna River at the mouth of Pequea Creek, in
Lancaster County, Pa.;
(2) on the north side of Mad River, about 5 miles west of
Springfield, Clark County, Ohio;
(3) Upper Piqua on Miami River 3 miles north of the present Piqua in
Miami County, Ohio, and
(4) Lower Piqua, a smaller village on the site of the modern town of
that name, Ohio.
Sawanogi, on the south side of Tallapoosa River in Macon County,
Ala.; but see Muskogee in Alabama.
Scoutash's Town (or Mingo), near Lewistown, Logan County, Ohio.
Shawneetown, on the west bank of Ohio River about the present
Shawneetown, Gallatin County, Ill.
Sonnioto, at the mouth of Scioto River, Ohio, perhaps the same as
Lowertown. Tippecanoe, on the west bank of the Wabash River, just
below the mouth of Tippecanoe River in Tippecanoe County, Ind.
Wapakoneta, on the site of the present Wapakoneta, Auglaize County,
Will's Town, at the site of Cumberland, Md.
Tradition and the known linguistic connections of the Shawnee
indicate that they had migrated to the Cumberland River Valley from the north
not long previous to the historic period. They were on and near the Cumberland
when French explorers first heard of them, although there are indications that
they had been in part on the Ohio not long before. Shortly after 1674 the Hathawekela or that part of the Shawnee afterward so called, settled upon
Savannah River, and in 1681 they proved of great assistance to the new
colony of South Carolina by driving a tribe known as Westo, probably part
of the Yuchi, from the middle
Savannah. Early in the following century, or possibly very late in the
same century, some of these Hathawekela began to move to Pennsylvania and
continued to do so at intervals until 1731. Meanwhile, however,
immediately after the Yamasee War, a part had retired among the
Creeks, settling first on
Chattahoochee River and later on the Tallapoosa, where they remained until
some years before the removal of the Creeks to the west. Of the remaining
bands of Shawnee-those which had stayed upon the Cumberland-part of the
Piqua moved eastward into Pennsylvania about 1678, and more in 1694, so
that they were able to welcome their kinsmen from the south a few years
later. A French trader named Charleville established himself at Nashville
among the rest of the tribe, but soon afterward they were forced out of
that region by the Cherokee and Chickasaw. They stopped for a time at
several points in Kentucky, and perhaps at Shawneetown, Ill., but about
1730, by permission of the Wyandot, collected along the north bank of the
Ohio between the Allegheny and Scioto Rivers. Shortly after the middle of
the eighteenth century they were joined by their kinsmen who had been
living in Pennsylvania. One Pennsylvania band continued on south to the
Upper Creeks with whom they lived for several years before returning
north. Their return must have occurred soon after 1760, and they are said
to have settled for a time in the old Shawnee country on the Cumberland
but were soon ejected by the Chickasaw, this time unassisted by the
Cherokee. From the beginning of the French and Indian War to the treaty of
Greenville in 1795 the main body of Shawnee were almost constantly
fighting with the English or the Americans. They were the most active and
pertinacious foes of the Whites in that section. Driven from the Scioto,
they settled upon the headwaters of the Miami, and later many of them
assisted the Cherokee and Creeks in their wars with the Americans. In
1793, however, one considerable body, on invitation of the Spanish
Government, occupied a tract of land near Cape Girardeau, Mo., along with
some Delaware. After the
treaty of Greenville, the Shawnee were obliged to give up their lands on
the Miami, and part retired to the headwaters of the Auglaize, while the
more hostile element swelled the numbers of those who had gone to
Missouri. In 1798 a part of the Shawnee in Ohio settled on White River,
Ind., by invitation of the Delaware. Shortly afterward a Shawnee medicine
man named Tenskwátawa,
known to the Whites as "the Shawnee prophet," began to preach a new
doctrine which exhorted the Indians to return to the communal life of
their ancestors, abandoning all customs derived from the Whites. His
followers increased rapidly in numbers and established themselves in a
village at the mouth of Tippecanoe River, Ind. Their hostile attitude
toward the Whites soon becoming evident, they were attacked here in 1811
by Gen. W. H. Harrison and totally defeated. While this war was going on
Tenskwátawa' s famous brother, was in
the south endeavoring to bring about an uprising among the tribes in that
section. In the war between the Americans and British which broke out in
Tecumseh acted as leader of the hostiles and was killed at the battle of
the Thames in 1814. In 1825 the Shawnee in Missouri, who are said to have
taken no part in these wars, sold their lands, and most of them moved to a
reservation in Kansas, but a large part had previously gone to Texas,
where they remained until expelled by the
American colonists in 1839. About 1831 the Shawnee still in Ohio joined
those in Kansas, and about 1845 the Hathawekela, Kispokotha, and Piqua
moved from Kansas to Oklahoma and established them selves on Canadian
River, becoming known later as the Absentee Shawnee. In 1867, a band which
had been living with the Seneca also moved to what is now Oklahoma and
came to be known as Eastern
Shawnee; and still later the main body became incorporated with the
Cherokee. One band, known as Black Bob's band at first refused to remove
from Kansa, but later joined the rest. All have now become citizens
Owing to the number of separate bodies into which of this
tribe became divided, and their complex history, history, Shawnee population in
early times are difficult. Mooney (1928) places their entire number at 3,000 in
1650. Estimates made by various writers during the eighteenth and early
nineteenth centuries vary between 1,000 and 2,000, 1,500 being the favorite
figure. In 1760 the Abihka and Tallapoosa bands numbered 100 warriors. In 1909
the Eastern Shawnee numbered 107; the Absentee Shawnee, 481; and those
incorporated with the Cherokee Nation about 1,400. The census of 1910 returned
only 1,338. In 1923, 166 Eastern Shawnee were enumerated and 551 Absentee, but
no figures were given for that
part of the tribe in the Cherokee Nation. The census of 1930 gave 1,161,
most of whom were in Oklahoma. There were 916 in Oklahoma in 1937.
Connection in which they have become noted
Although prominent by virtue of its size, the Shawnee tribe
is noteworthy rather on account of numerous migrations undertaken by its various
branches and the number of contacts established by them, involving the history
of three-quarters of our southern and eastern States. They constituted the most
formidable opposition to the advance of settlements through the Ohio Valley, and
under Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa attempted an extensive alliance of native tribes
to oppose the Whites. The name Shawnee is preserved in various forms in
Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Kansas, New York, Ohio, Oklahoma, Missouri,
and Illinois, and most conspicuously of all, perhaps, in the name of the river
Savannah and the city of Savannah, Ga. There are places called Shawnee in Park
County, Colo.; Johnson County, Kans.; Perry County, Ohio; Pottawatomie County,
Okla.; and Converse County, Wyo.; Shawnee-on-Delaware in Monroe County, Pa.; Shawanee in Claiborne County, Tenn.; Shawanese in Luzerne County,
Pa.; Shawano in Shawano County, Wis.; Shawneetown in Gallatin County,
Ill., and Cape Girardeau County, Mo.
Notes About the Book:
Source: The Indian Tribes of North America, by John R. Swanton, 1953, Bureau of
American Ethnology, Bulletin 145, US Government Printing Office, Washington DC.
Online Publication: The manuscript was scanned and then ocr'd. Minimal editing
has been done, and readers can and should expect some errors in the textual