The Shawnee or Shawnee nation (Shaawanwaki, Ša˙wano˙ki and Shaawanowi lenaweeki) are an Algonquian-speaking people native to North America. In colonial times they were a semi-migratory Native American nation, at times inhabiting areas spanning present-day Ohio, Virginia, West Virginia, Western Maryland, South Carolina, Kentucky, Illinois, Indiana, and Pennsylvania in the United States.

They were removed to Indian Territory west of the Mississippi River in the 1830s. Today the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes: Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, and Shawnee Tribe, are all headquartered in Oklahoma. The United Remnant Band of the Shawnee Nation is a state-recognized tribe based in Ohio, where it has bought some land.


Many thousands of years ago groups known as Paleo-Indians lived in what today is referred to as the American Midwest. These groups were hunter-gatherers who hunted a wide range of animals, including the megafauna, which became extinct following the end of the Pleistocene age. Scholars believe that Paleo-Indians were specialized, highly mobile foragers who hunted late Pleistocene fauna such as bison, mastodons, caribou, and mammoths.

===Shawnee mound builder origins===

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. The Fort Ancient culture was once thought to have been an expansion of the Mississippian culture. Scholars now believe Fort Ancient culture developed independently and was descended from the Hopewell culture (100 BCE—500 CE), also a mound builder people.

The group of cultures collectively called Mound Builders were succeeding precontact societies in North America who constructed various styles of complex, massive earthworks: earthen mounds for burial, elite residential, and ceremonial purposes. These included the Pre-Columbian cultures of the Archaic period, Woodland period (Adena, Hopewell, Fort Ancient culture and the Mississippian cultures. They emerged as cultures from roughly 3000 BCE to the 16th century CE, and lived in regions of the Great Lakes, the Ohio River valley, and the Mississippi River valley and its tributaries, extending into the Southeast of the present-day United States.

Uncertainty surrounds the eventual 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 very 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 they became “a less 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, who 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 establish the transition from Fort Ancient society into 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 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 shaawa- does not mean “south” in Shawnee, but “moderate, warm (of weather)”. In one Shawnee tale, Shaawaki is the deity of the south.

===17th century===

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 Shawneee 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 (“Five Nations”) 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.

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 from modern Illinois and New York to Georgia. Among their known villages were Eskippakithiki, Sonnionto, 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.

===18th century===

By the time European-American settlers began to arrive in the Shenandoah Valley (c. 1730), 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, who would overtake them in the Shawnee-inhabited regions of the Valley.

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 court there. Several other Shawnee villages were located in the 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 to leave Virginia and cross the Alleghenies to join them, which they did the following year.

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.

The Treaty of Fort Stanwix in 1768, however, 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 to recognize the same Ohio River boundary established with the Haudenosaunee Confederacy (“Six Nations”) by the 1768 Fort Stanwix treaty, thus giving all Shawnee claim to the “hunting grounds” of West Virginia and Kentucky to the Virginia Colony. Many other Shawnee leaders refused to recognize this boundary, however. A Shawnee party attacked Daniel Boone in Kentucky in 1775.

Virginia declared independence from the British crown in that year. When the American Revolutionary War broke out in earnest in 1776, several Shawnee chiefs advocated joining the war as British allies, hoping to drive the colonists back east across the mountains. The Shawnee were divided: Cornstalk led those who wished to remain neutral, while war leaders such as Chief Blackfish and Blue Jacket joined the Chickamauga (Cherokee people) against the colonists during the Chickamauga Wars (1776-1794).

After the Revolution, in the Northwest Indian War between the United States and a confederation of Native American tribes, the Shawnee combined with the Miami into a great fighting force. 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 and migrated to Missouri, where they settled near Cape Girardeau.

===Tecumseh’s War and the War of 1812===

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 Pottawatomie, 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 Pottawatomie leaders convinced the Miami to accept the treaty as reciprocity, because the Pottawatomie 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 1811 a comet appeared. Tecumseh, whose name (Tekoomsē) meant “Shooting Star” or “Panther Across The Sky”, was traveling throughout the Southeast to build alliances with the tribes. He told the Choctaw, Chickasaw, Muscogee, and many others that the comet signaled his coming. McKenney reported that Tecumseh would prove that the Great Spirit had sent him by giving them a sign. Shortly after Tecumseh left the Southeast, the “sign” arrived in the form of a major earthquake.

During the next year, tensions between colonists and the 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, Tecumseh met with Harrison at Vincennes, assuring him that the Shawnee brothers meant to remain at peace with the United States. Tecumseh then traveled to the south on a mission to recruit allies among the “Five Civilized Tribes.”

In the months following his meeting with Tecumseh, 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 attacked Harrison’s army, in the Battle of Tippecanoe. Though outnumbered, Harrison repulsed the attack, forcing the Natives to retreat and abandon Prophetstown. Harrison’s men burned the town and returned home.

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.

The Muscogee who joined Tecumseh’s confederation were known as the Red Sticks. The Red Sticks were also involved in an internal conflict between more and less assimilated groups, leading to the Creek War. This became part of the War of 1812 when open conflict broke out between American soldiers and the Creek.

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 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, in which Tecumseh was killed. Tecumseh’s 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 conflict.


The Shawnee in Missouri became known as the “Absentee Shawnee”. Together with some Delaware, several hundred members of this tribe left the United States to settle in the eastern part of Spanish Texas. Although closely allied with the Cherokee led by The Bowl, their chief John Linney remained neutral during the 1839 Cherokee War.

In appreciation, Texan president Mirabeau Lamar fully compensated the Shawnee for their improvements and crops when funding their removal north to Arkansaw Territory. The Shawnee settled close to present-day Shawnee, Oklahoma. They were joined by Shawnee from Kansas who shared their traditionalist views and beliefs.

In 1817, the Ohio Shawnee 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.

Missouri joined the Union in 1821. After the Treaty of St. Louis in 1825, the 1,400 Missouri Shawnee were forcibly relocated from Cape Girardeau to southeastern Kansas, close to the Neosho River.

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 in 1826.

The main body followed Black Hoof, who fought every effort to force the Shawnee to give up their Ohio homeland. In 1831, the Lewistown group of Seneca–Shawnee left for the Indian Territory (present-day Oklahoma). 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.

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 was regarded as part of the Cherokee Nation by the United States because they were also known as the “Cherokee Shawnee”.

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 of the members of the Shawnee nation still reside in Oklahoma.

==Social and kinship groups==

Before contact with Europeans, the Shawnee tribe had a patrilineal system, by which descent and inheritance went through paternal lines.consisted of a loose confederacy of five divisions, who shared a common language and culture. The division names have been spelled in a variety of ways. The divisions are:

The war chiefs were hereditary and descended from their paternal line in the Kispoko division.

In addition to the five septs, the Shawnee belonged to 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:

The Shawnee had a patrilineal system of kinship; children were considered born into their father’s clan and descent went through paternal lines. 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 7584 enrolled Shawnee, with most living in Oklahoma.

===Shawnee in Ohio and other states===

Six bands of Shawnee are documented as residing in Ohio and other states:

These bands are not federally recognized.

The Piqua Shawnee Tribe are officially recognized by the states of Alabama, by the Alabama Indian Affairs Commission under the Davis-Strong Act; by Ohio by 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.