Who are the Shawnee Indians?

Kelly Brooks

The Shawnee Indians is a Native American tribe that has been traced back to at least the 1500s. They lived in a region known as the Eastern Woodlands, which includes present-day Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee’s Cumberland River Valley, and stretches from the Atlantic Coast to the Mississippi River and from South Carolina to Canada. The Shawnee inhabited this area along with many other tribes including the Iroquois, the Delaware and The Cherokee. Today, most Shawnee tribes can be found in Oklahoma.

Shawnee Indians used to inhabit Ohio.
Shawnee Indians used to inhabit Ohio.

While living in the Eastern Woodlands, the Shawnee lived in wegiwas or wigwams, which are dome-topped huts constructed using tree poles covered with bark or animal skins. Each of the villages had a large council house for meetings and religious ceremonies. The women of the village were responsible for the planting and harvesting of crops as well as gathering other supplies such as nuts, berries, roots, firewood and bark. The men hunted, traded and fought in battle. The tribe’s language is one of many Algonquian languages. Shawun was the Algonquian word for Shawnee.

When the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, some Shawnee Indians were relocated to Missouri.
When the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, some Shawnee Indians were relocated to Missouri.

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When the European settlers arrived in the 1700s, the French and the English battled one another for trade with the American Indians. Fighting on the French side during the French and Indian War (1754-1763), the Shawnee Indians battled against the Iroquois tribe, who fought for the British. The British won the war in 1763, gaining control of all of North America, east of the Mississippi River.

When the American Revolution began in 1775, the Shawnee fought for the British in the hope of stopping the arrival of settlers in their territory. The British were defeated in 1783, and, after more battles, the Shawnee moved across the Mississippi River.

Tecumseh was an important leader in Shawnee history. The Shawnee chief sought to unite the American Indian tribes against the United States government, believing that he could protect the Shawnee lands from settlers. Using his leadership and speaking skills, Tecumseh visited every Native American tribe from the Great Lakes to Florida as he worked to unite the tribes. Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh’s brother, assisted him in these efforts. Tecumseh fought with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812 and lost his life in the 1813 Battle of Thames.

When the U.S. Congress passed the Indian Removal Act in 1830, most of the Shawnee Indians living in Ohio and Indiana relocated to Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma. Of the four Shawnee tribes that exist today, only the Piqua Shawnee remain east of the Mississippi River. The Loyal Shawnee, Absentee Shawnee, and Eastern Shawnee live in Oklahoma.

Shawnee women were responsible for replenishing supplies like firewood.
Shawnee women were responsible for replenishing supplies like firewood.

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