One of the most recognized Indian tribe names in the Ohio country was the Shawnee. They were known to be fierce warriors and to occupy much of the Ohio river valley. They were involved in every major war that took place in the Americas up until the War of 1812. Their names show up during the French and Indian Wars, American Revolution, and they were well-known by pioneers such as Daniel Boone.
Shawnee Tribe Facts: Early Years to War of 1812
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 Dunmore signed agreements with the Iroquois 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 Revolutionary War, 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 Greenville.
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; one in Hog Creek (near Lima); and one in Lewistown. These reservations were shared with the Seneca.
Shawnee Tribe Facts: Later History
The Shawnee Tribe is an Eastern Woodland tribe. They originally came from Ohio and Pennsylvania, and were the last of the Shawnee to leave their traditional homelands there. In the late 18th century, European-American encroachment crowded Shawnee lands in the East, and one band migrated to Missouri — eventually becoming the Absentee Shawnee. Three reservations were granted to the Shawnee in Ohio by the 1817 Treaty of Fort Meigs: Wapakoneta, Lewistown, and Hog Creek. After the Indian Removal Act of 1830 passed, another Shawnee band relocated to Indian Territory in the July 1831. The final band, who would become the Shawnee Tribe, relocated to Kansas in August 1831. Their Kansas lands were drastically reduced in 1854 and broken up into individual allotments in 1858.
During the Civil War many of the Shawnee Tribe fought for the Union, which inspired the name, “Loyal Shawnee.” Instead of receiving compensation or honors for their service, they returned to their Kansas lands, only to find much of it taken over by non-Indian homesteaders. Settlers were granted 130,000 acres of Shawnee land, while 70,000 acres remained to for the tribe, of which 20,000 acres were granted to the Absentee Shawnee.