"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a
friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."
Chief Tecumseh, Shawnee Nation
[Note: This is a single part of what will be, by my classification, about 240 compact tribal histories (contact to 1900). It is limited to the lower 48 states of the U.S. but also includes those First Nations from Canada and Mexico that had important roles (Huron, Micmac, Assiniboine, etc.).
This history's content and style are representative. The normal process at this point is to circulate an almost finished product among a peer group for comment and criticism. At the end of this History you will find links to those Nations referred to in the History of the Shawnee.
Using the Internet, this can be more inclusive. Feel free to comment or suggest corrections via e-mail. Working together we can end some of the historical misinformation about Native Americans. You will find the ego at this end to be of standard size. Thanks for stopping by. I look forward to your comments...Lee Sultzman.]
Shawnee comes from the Algonquin word "shawun" (shawunogi) meaning "southerner." However, this referred to their original location in the Ohio Valley relative to other Great Lakes Algonquin rather than a homeland in the American southeast. Shawnee usually prefer to call themselves the Shawano - sometimes given as Shawanoe or Shawanese. South Carolina colonists knew them as the Savannah or Savannuca. Other names: Ani-Sawanugi (Cherokee), Chaouanons (Chauenon) (French), Chaskpe (Chaouesnon) (French), Chiouanon (Seneca), Cumberland Indians, Ontwagnnn (Iroquois "one who stutters"), Oshawanoag (Ottawa), Satana (Iroquois), Shawala (Lakota), and Touguenha (Iroquois).
Originally southern Ohio, West Virginia, and western Pennsylvania. The Shawnee were driven from this area by the Iroquois sometime around the 1660s and then scattered in all directions to South Carolina, Tennessee's Cumberland Basin, eastern Pennsylvania, and southern Illinois. By 1730 most of the Shawnee had returned to their homeland only to be forced to leave once again - this time by American settlement. Moving first to Missouri and then Kansas, the main body finally settled in Oklahoma after the Civil War.
Estimates of the original Shawnee population range from 3,000 to 50,000, but a reasonable guess is somewhere around 10,000. By 1700 they were still scattered, and accurate estimates were impossible ..perhaps 6,000. The first good count occurred in 1825 and gave
1,400 Shawnee in Missouri, 110 in Louisiana, and 800 in Ohio. There were also a couple hundred in Texas at this time, so the total should have been near 2,500. There was only a minor decline by the time of the 1910 census: Absentee Shawnee 481; Eastern Shawnee 107; and Shawnee (Cherokee Shawnee) with the Cherokee Nation 1,400. Currently, there are more than 14,000 Shawnee in the United States in four groups - three of which are in Oklahoma. The 2,000 Absentee Shawnee in the vicinity of Shawnee, Oklahoma organized in 1936 under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act and continue to be the most traditional of the Shawnee groups. The Eastern Shawnee in northeastern Oklahoma are descended from the mixed Seneca-Shawnee band which left Lewistown, Ohio and came to the Indian Territory in 1832. Recognized as a separate tribe in 1867, they organized as the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma during the 1930s and have 1,600 members.
The largest Shawnee group is the Loyal Shawnee, who constituted the main group of the Shawnee prior to the Civil War. Relocated to Oklahoma from Kansas, they purchased land and were incorporated into the Cherokee in 1869. A separate business council handles the affairs for 8,000 Shawnee, but the BIA still considers them as part of the Cherokee Nation. There is also the 600 member Shawnee Nation United Remnant Band (URB) which claims descent from Ohio Shawnee who somehow managed to avoid removal during the 1830s. Organized in 1971, they were recognized in 1980 by the state of Ohio and have since purchased 170 acres near Urbana and Chillicothe. However, they are neither federally recognized nor accepted by the three official groups of the Shawnee.
Algonquin. Southern Great Lakes (Wakashan) dialect closely related to Fox, Sauk, Mascouten, and Kickapoo.
Chillicothe (Calaka, Chalaakaatha, Chalahgawtha), Hathawekela (Oawikila, Thaawikila, Thawegila), Kispoko (Kiscopocoke, Kispokotha, Spitotha), Mequachake (Maykujay, Mekoce, Mekoche), and Piqua (Pekowi, Pequa).
A number following a name means there was more than one village of the same name, while a tribal name indicates a mixed population.
Auglaize (OH), Black Bob's (MO), Blue Jacket's Town (3) (OH), Bulltown (WVA), Captain Johnny's (OH), Chartierstown (PA), Chillicothe (5) (OH), Conedogwinit, Cornstalk's Town (OH), Coshocton (Koshachkink) (Delaware-Munsee-Mingo), Girty's Town (OH), Grenadier Squaw's Town (OH), Hog Creek (OH), Kagoughsage (OH), Lewistown (Mingo) (OH), Lick Town (OH), Logstown (Delaware-Mingo) (PA), Long Tail's Town (KS), Lowertown (Lower Shawnee Town) (2) (OH), Maguck (OH), Macachack (Mequachake) (OH), Nutimy's Town (Delaware-Mahican) (PA), Olathe (KS), Old Shawnee Town (OH), Paxtang (Delaware) (PA), Peixtan (Nanticoke) (PA), Pigeon Town (OH), Piqua (Pequea) (5) (PA-OH), Sawanugi (AL), Sawcunk (Delaware-Mingo) (PA), Scoutash's Town (Mingo) (OH), Sewickley (Delaware-Mingo) (PA), Shamokin (Delaware-Iroquois-Tutelo) (PA), Shawnee Mission (KS), Shawneetown (IL), Snake's Town (OH), Sonnioto (Sonnontio) (Delaware-Mingo) (OH), Tippecanoe (Prophetstown) (IN), Sylacauga (AL), Venango (Delaware-Ottawa-Seneca-Wyandot) (PA), Wakatomica (Mingo) (OH), Wakatawicks (OH), Wapakoneta (Wapaughkonetta) (OH), Will's Town (2) (MD-PA), and Wyoming (Delaware-Iroquois-Mahican-Munsee-Nanticoke) (PA).
The Shawnee considered the Delaware as their "grandfathers" and the source of all Algonquin tribes. They also shared an oral tradition with the Kickapoo that they were once members of the same tribe. Identical language supports this oral history, and since the Kickapoo are known to have originally lived in northeast Ohio prior to contact, it can safely be presumed that the Shawnee name of "southerner" means they lived somewhere immediately south of the Kickapoo. However, the exact location is uncertain, since the Iroquois forced both tribes to abandon the area before contact. The loss of their homeland has given the Shawnee the reputation of being wanderers, but this was by necessity, not choice. The Shawnee have always maintained a strong sense of tribal identity, but this produced very little central political organization. During their dispersal, each of their five divisions functioned as an almost autonomous unit. This continued to plague them after they returned to Ohio, and few Shawnee could ever claim to the title of "head chief." Like the Delaware, Shawnee civil chiefships were hereditary and held for life. They differed from the Delaware in that, like most Great Lakes Algonquin, the Shawnee were patrilineal with descent traced through the father. War chiefs were selected on the basis of merit and skill.
During their stay in the southeast, the Shawnee acquired a some cultural characteristics from the Creek and Cherokee, but, for the most part, they were fairly typical Great Lakes Algonquin. During the summer the Shawnee gathered into large villages of bark-covered long houses, with each village usually having a large council house for meetings and religious ceremonies. In the fall they separated to small hunting camps of extended families. Men were warriors who did the hunting and fishing. Care of their corn fields was the responsibility of the women. Many important Shawnee ceremonies were tied to the agricultural cycle: the spring bread dance at planting time; the green corn dance when crops ripened; and the autumn bread dance to celebrate the harvest. Besides Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (The Prophet), famous Shawnee include: Cornstalk, Blackfish, Black Hoof, and Bluejacket.
Little is known of the details of the Shawnee's expulsion from the Ohio Valley during the first part of the Beaver Wars (1630-1700). Blame is usually placed with the Iroquois, but the Shawnee may also have warred at some earlier period with the Erie and Neutrals. By 1656 the Iroquois had conquered and assimilated their Iroquian-speaking rivals except the Susquehannock and had started to clear the Algonquin tribes from the Ohio Valley and lower Michigan. Most of these enemies ended up as refugees in Wisconsin, but some of the Shawnee apparently were able to hold on for a few years as Susquehannock allies. In 1658 the western Iroquois (Seneca, Cayuga, and Onondaga) attacked the Susquehannock in what would be the final chapter of many years of warfare between them. It took the Iroquois until 1675 to defeat the Susquehannock, but the Shawnee lacked firearms and were forced to abandon most of the upper Ohio Valley during the late 1660s. Rather than retreat enmass to Wisconsin, they dispersed into four groups.
Two of these moved south towards the Cherokee in eastern Tennessee. Although relations between them had not always been friendly, the Cherokee were already beginning to have their own problems with the Iroquois and allowed one group of Shawnee (Chillicothe and Kispoko) to settle in the Cumberland Basin as a buffer against the Chickasaw (traditional Cherokee enemies). When the French began to explore the Ohio Valley in the 1670s, they first met the Shawnee on the Cumberland River, although they were told at the time the Shawnee had lived on Ohio. The Cherokee gave permission to the second Shawnee group (Hathawekela) to cross the Appalachians and settle on the Savannah River in South Carolina to provide protection from the Cherokee's Catawba enemies in the east. After the settlement of South Carolina in 1670, British traders first encountered Shawnee, who they called Savannah, on the upper Savannah River in 1674.
The other two Shawnee groups went in opposite directions. Following the Iroquois destruction of the Susquehannock, some of the Piqua moved east in 1677 and eventually found a refuge with the Delaware who allowed them to settle at the junction of Pequa Creek and the Susquehanna River in southern Pennsylvania. As part of their peace with the Susquehannock, the Iroquois apparently tolerated the presence of this small group of Shawnee, but there were confrontations between Shawnee and British colonists along Maryland's Gunpowder River. The last group of Shawnee retreated west towards the Illinois country, where they became known to the French as Chaskp (Chaouesnon). In 1683 there were almost 3,000 of this western group of Shawnee living in the vicinity of the French trading post at Fort St. Louis on the upper Illinois River. Allied with the Miami and Illinois, the Shawnee continued their war with the Iroquois, and in 1684 the Seneca attacked the Miami, because they had allowed some of these hostile Shawnee to settle near their villages in northwest Indiana.
For a period of 70 years following its conquest by the Iroquois during the 1660s, the Ohio Valley (Indiana, Lower Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky, and western Pennsylvania) was almost entirely uninhabited. The Iroquois never occupied the area but preferred to use it as a private hunting preserve. Freed from the pressure of its former human population, the Ohio Country quickly became a prime hunting territory. Although the Iroquois prevented permanent settlements, small groups of Shawnee returned frequently to the Ohio Valley to hunt, so during their many years of exile, the Shawnee never completely surrendered the claim to their homeland. Meanwhile, they were proving to be unwelcome guests in their new locations. Despite the common threat posed by the Iroquois at the time, the crowded conditions near the French trading posts in Illinois eventually provoked a violent confrontation between the Shawnee and Illinois Confederacy in 1689. The Shawnee soon left the area to join their relatives in Tennessee, but forever afterwards, they had a strong dislike for the Illinois and often returned to raid their villages.
Not all of the Shawnee from Illinois went south to the Cumberland in Tennessee. One band continued east until they reached eastern Maryland which is where a Munsee (Delaware) and Mahican hunting party found them in 1692. As the Algonquin "grandfathers," the Munsee were able to convince the Shawnee to accompany them back to northern Pennsylvania and settle in the Lehigh Valley. Although both the Mahican and Munsee had been Iroquois allies and members of the covenant chain since 1677, the Shawnee from Illinois were still on the Iroquois "hit list" as enemies. For obvious reasons, there were strong protests when they Munsee provided refuge, and the Iroquois were preparing to deal with the situation through force if necessary. The Mahican, however, intervened and still commanded enough respect in the League councils that the Shawnee were allowed to stay with the Munsee. After making peace with the Iroquois in 1694, the Shawnee in eastern Pennsylvania also joined the covenant chain.
After their first meeting in South Carolina, the Savannah quickly became an important part of the British trade pattern of deerskins and captured native women and children as slaves in exchange for trade goods (firearms and whiskey). Within a few years, the Carolina colonists became increasingly concerned by the Westo, an aggressive tribe which had only recently arrived in south Carolina which lived in a single fortified village very near the settlements. Probably either a band of Yuchi or Erie refugees, the small Cusabo tribes in South Carolina were afraid of them and warned the colonists the Westo were cannibals. In 1680 British traders armed the Savannah who attacked and destroyed the Westo fort. The Westo dropped from sight afterwards, and any Westo who survived were captured and disappeared into the slave system. Unfortunately, relations between the Savannah and the South Carolina colonists turned sour shortly afterwards.
The Cherokee had allowed the Shawnee to settle in the area as protection from the Catawba, and they did this job almost too well. As fighting erupted between the Savannah and Catawba, the British did not remain entirely neutral. The Savannah were less cooperative and seemed hostile to further settlement. Meanwhile, they were attracting Iroquois war parties to the area which posed a danger to everyone, including whites. Under constant attack from the Catawba and Yamasee who were well-armed by the British, the Savannah began to leave the area in small groups between 1690 and 1710. After the main body had been weakened by constant defections, the remaining Savannah met a final defeat by the Catawba in 1707, the date which marks their final expulsion from South Carolina. Some of the Hathawekela went north to Pennsylvania in 1706 and joined the Shawnee who were already part of the Iroquois covenant chain. Others found refuge with the Creek in Alabama settling first on the Chattahoochee and later the Tallapoosa. The rest joined their relatives in Tennessee. The Savannah never forgave the Catawba, and the war between them continued for 60 years. Meanwhile, they had left the Catawba in a second war with the Iroquois. By 1763 the Catawba were almost extinct.
The Cherokee also had problems with the Shawnee drawing Iroquois raiders to Tennessee, but thousands of new Shawnee from Illinois in the Cumberland Basin during 1690 changed their status from buffer against the Chickasaw to dangerous rival. During the winter of 1692, the Shawnee made a slave raid on a Cherokee village while its warriors were absent on a hunting trip. The incident was covered over at the time, but even more Shawnee arrived in the area from South Carolina in 1707, some of whom settled with their Creek enemies. The Shawnee had also began to trade with the French and allowed a trader named Charleville to build a post at Nashville near their villages. British allies and trading partners, the Cherokee allied with the Chickasaw (traditional enemies but also British allies) and defeated the Shawnee in 1715. A few Cumberland Shawnee found refuge with the Savannah living among the Creek, but by 1729 most had moved north into Kentucky - the Dark and Bloody Ground - and towards their old homeland in southern Ohio.
Meanwhile, the other Shawnee were leaving eastern Pennsylvania, but for different reasons. In 1737 Pennsylvania cheated the Delaware out of their last lands in the Lehigh Valley. The loss forced the Shawnee to also leave the area. They settled for a time with the Munsee and other Delaware on Iroquois lands in the Wyoming and Susquehanna Valleys, but the crowded conditions soon had them looking at western Pennsylvania. Except for the Wyandot, who the Iroquois were trying to lure away from the French alliance, and a few groups of Mingo (Iroquois descended from Huron, Neutrals, and Erie adopted during the 1650s), no tribe had occupied the area since the onset of the Beaver Wars. Small hunting camps on the upper Ohio were soon followed by permanent Shawnee villages, and the Mingo not only did not object to this, but even settled with them in the same villages. Encouraged, the Shawnee invited the Delaware to join them, and during the 1740s, thousands of Delaware and Shawnee left Iroquois domination on the Susquehanna and moved to western Pennsylvania.
After nearly a century of separation, the different bands of Shawnee were finally coming back to their original homeland, but the moves toward their eventual reunion were not always smooth. One group of Pennsylvania Shawnee continued south and, after making peace with the Cherokee in 1746, resettled the Cumberland Basin. The peace, however, did not include the Chickasaw, and the Shawnee were attacked and driven from Tennessee after a battle near Nashville in 1756. Afterwards, they moved north to Ohio where most of the other Shawnee were living at the time. Meanwhile, a large group of Cumberland Shawnee had settled in 1745 at Shawneetown which was near a new French fort on the Ohio in southern Illinois. The location proved to be too exposed to attack by the Chickasaw, and after only two years, they left and moved to western Pennsylvania. By 1758 all of the Shawnee, except for the few still with the Creek in Alabama, were living along the north side of the Ohio between the Allegheny and Scioto Rivers.
In 1740 Ohio and western Pennsylvania were claimed by the Iroquois by right of conquest, the French by right of "discovery," and the British since the treaty ending the King William's War (1688-97) had placed the Iroquois under British "protection" - a favor for which the Iroquois had never asked. The results of these conflicting claims were conflicting self-interests. Although an important member of the French-inspired Algonquin alliance which had driven them from the western Great Lakes between 1687 and 1701, the Iroquois chose to treat the Wyandot as their viceroy in Ohio. Shortly after the Shawnee and Delaware began to relocate to western Pennsylvania, the Wyandot indicated their approval and invited them to settle even further west in Ohio. The Iroquois made no objection since this placed members of the covenant chain in Ohio which would prevent its occupation by French allies. The French were pleased because they had been trying since the 1720s to draw the Shawnee north for purposes of trade and alliance, and the British saw it as an excellent opportunity to open the Ohio Valley to their traders.
Unfortunately, no one remained pleased for very long. By 1744 the Ohio tribes (Shawnee, Delaware, Mingo) had become too large and important to be ignored. Located in a large arc stretching from Sandusky River to northeastern Ohio and down the Ohio River, their mixed villages had a combined population approaching 10,000 with 2,000 warriors. There was little actually fighting in Ohio during the King George's War (1744-48), but there was increasing competition for its trade. The French continued to court the Shawnee using a Mtis, Pierre Chartier (French father and Shawnee mother). Chartier's efforts succeeded in getting some Shawnee to attack British traders, and the British worried that the Ohio tribes were coming under French influence and urged the Iroquois to order the Shawnee and Delaware to return to the Susquehanna. The League was angry that the British had interpreted the Lancaster Treaty in 1744 as the cession of Ohio when the Iroquois had only intended to give them permission to build a trading post. The Iroquois finally agreed to the British request to relocate the Ohio tribes, only to find its orders were ignored. Threats followed, but no one left Ohio, and it was the Iroquois' turn to become alarmed.
The French were also having serious problems. A British blockade of Canada during the King George's War had stopped the flow of trade goods, and as a result, their alliance with the Great Lakes tribes was coming apart. Taking advantage of this, British traders were all over the Ohio Valley. The Wyandot were openly trading with them, and other loyal allies were conspiring to do the same. To keep the British out, the French needed to keep its old allies and bring the Shawnee and Delaware over to themselves. Although the British still regarded the Shawnee and Delaware as subordinate to the Iroquois, their refusal to return to the Susquehanna obviously meant something was very wrong. At the Treaty of Lancaster in 1748, they urged the League to restore the Ohio tribes to the covenant chain as a barrier against the French, and the Iroquois created a system of "half kings" - Iroquois authorized to represent the Shawnee and Delaware in League councils. The new arrangement satisfied the Ohio tribes, and when a French expedition tried to expel British traders and mark the Ohio boundary with lead plates in 1749, the Mingo demanded to know by what right the French were claiming Iroquois land.
In desperation, the French decided to use force, but the Detroit tribes were friendly with the Ohio tribes and reluctant to attack them. In June, 1752 the Mtis, Charles Langlade, recruited a war party of 250 Ojibwe and Ottawa from Michilimackinac which destroyed the Miami village and British trading post at Piqua, Ohio. Stunned, their allies quickly rejoined the alliance, and the French followed their success with an attempt to block British access to Ohio with a line of new forts across western Pennsylvania. The Shawnee and Delaware had no wish to be controlled by the French and asked the Iroquois League to stop this. The Iroquois turned to the British, and in 1752 signed the Logstown Treaty confirming their land cessions in 1744 and giving the British permission to build a blockhouse at the forks of the Ohio (Pittsburgh). The French destroyed this before it was even completed and proceeded to build Fort Duquesne at the same location. Virginia sent Major George Washington to demand the French abandon their forts and stop building new ones. His first visit in 1753 met with a polite refusal from the French commander, but his second expedition in 1754 resulted in a fight with French soldiers and started the French and Indian War (1754-63).
Throughout the summer of 1754 the Shawnee, Delaware and Mingo stood ready to join the British against the French, but this changed in the fall when it was learned the Iroquois had ceded Ohio to the British during the Albany Conference in May. The Ohio tribes not only lost confidence in the Iroquois but decided the British were also enemies who wanted to take their land. However, they stopped well-short of allying with the French and refused to help them supply or defend their forts. The French were finally forced to assemble a force of 300 French Canadians and 600 allies from the St. Lawrence and Great Lakes tribes to defend Fort Duquesne against the British, but this would include only four Shawnee and no Delaware. The Shawnee and Delaware were angry but neutral while the British assembled an army to take Fort Duquesne. Unfortunately, they did not appear this way to the British. In 1753 The Pride, a Shawnee war chief, had been captured in South Carolina during a raid against the Catawba. After he died in a British prison, his grieving relatives retaliated in 1754 with raids against the North Carolina frontier.
In July, 1755 General Edward Braddock met disaster when his 2,200-man army was ambushed just before reaching Fort Duquesne. Half the command was killed (including Braddock himself) and when the news reached the colonies, disbelief was followed by a violent anger towards all Native Americans. Although the Shawnee and Delaware had not participated in the battle, they chose a very poor moment to send a delegation to Philadelphia to protest the Iroquois cession of Ohio. Pennsylvania hanged them, and the Shawnee and Delaware went to war against the British, not for the French, but for themselves. In 1755 war parties struck the frontiers in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Maryland in a wave of death and destruction that killed 2,500 colonists during the next two years. In the process, the Shawnee got their final revenge on the Catawba for their expulsion from South Carolina in 1707 when they killed Haiglar, the last important Catawba chief - an event generally regarded as the end of Catawba power. The Iroquois ordered the Shawnee and Delaware to stop but were ignored.
The raiding continued until a peace was signed with the eastern Delaware at Easton, Pennsylvania in October, 1758. Pennsylvania unilaterally renounced its claims to the land west of the Appalachians purchased from the Iroquois in 1754. Word of this agreement quickly reached Ohio, and the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo offered no resistance when the British captured Fort Duquesne in November. In July, 1759 the Shawnee and Ohio Delaware made peace with the British and ended their attacks on the frontier. Quebec and Fort Niagara fell in the fall, and with the surrender of Montreal in 1760, the war in North America was over. The Ohio tribes had taken over 650 white prisoners during the war. These were exchanged on Ohio's Muskingum River in 1761, but surprisingly, half refused repatriation and remained with the tribes which had adopted them. With the war ended, prisoners exchanged, and their claims to Ohio extinguished, the Shawnee and their allies expected the British to leave. Instead they built Fort Pitt at the site of Fort Duquesne and garrisoned it with 200 men. When the Shawnee and Delaware signed a final treaty at Lancaster in 1762, they felt betrayed.
No longer forced to compete with the French, Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the British military commander in North America, decided to treat the native allies of the French as conquered peoples. Annual presents to alliance chiefs ended and the supply of trade goods was restricted, particularly gunpowder and rum. Since the tribes had grown dependent on these items, there was a severe reaction. By 1761 the Seneca were circulating a war belt calling for a general uprising against the British. Only the Shawnee and Delaware responded, but the British Indian agent, Sir William Johnson, discovered the plot during a meeting at Detroit with members of the old French alliance. The unrest continued and by the spring of 1763 had collected around the leadership of Pontiac, the Ottawa chief at Detroit. The Pontiac Rebellion caught the British completely unaware with the sudden capture of six of nine forts west of the Appalachians. The Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo besieged Fort Pitt and hit the Pennsylvania frontier with a series of raids which killed 600 settlers.
Only an informer saved the garrison at Detroit, but Forts Niagara and Pitt were surrounded and isolated. In desperation, Amherst wrote the commander at Fort Pitt, Captain Simeon Ecuyer, suggesting he deliberately attempt to infect the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo besieging his fort with gifts of smallpox-infected blankets and handkerchiefs. Ecuyer took this as an order and did exactly that. It proved particularly effective because the Ohio tribes had little immunity having missed the 1757-58 epidemic among the French allies contracted during the capture of Fort William Henry (New York). The Shawnee were fighting the Cherokee in Tennessee at the time, and they carried the disease to them, and then the Shawnee living with the Creek Confederacy. From there it spread to the Chickasaw and Choctaw, and finally the entire southeast. Before it had run its course, the epidemic had killed thousands, including British colonists.
Pontiac's Rebellion collapsed after its failure to take Forts Pitt, Niagara, and Detroit, and the French refusal to help their former allies. In August the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo were defeated by Colonel Henry Bouquet in a two-day battle at Bushy Run which broke the siege of Fort Pitt. They retreated west into Ohio and continued to raid Pennsylvania, but Bouquet's army followed them west while Colonel John Bradstreet went after the Ojibwe, Wyandot, and Ottawa near Detroit. Pontiac was forced to retreat west into Indiana, and his allies began to defect to make their own peace with the British. Amherst was replaced by Thomas Gage who restored the supply of trade goods to previous levels, and in November the Delaware and Shawnee signed a peace with the British at Coshocton releasing 200 white prisoners. The British government was shaken by the uprising and issued the Proclamation of 1763 prohibiting further settlement west of the Appalachians. However, this provided little relief for the Ohio tribes and a great deal of grief for the British.
Unlike Pennsylvania, Virginia had never renounced its claim to Ohio and in 1749 had chartered the Ohio Company with a large land grant at the forks of the Ohio (Pittsburgh). Virginia's claims were far more extensive than Pennsylvania and included the entire Ohio Valley west to the Illinois River including Kentucky, West Virginia, and lower Michigan. Many colonists (including George Washington) had invested in Ohio land speculation, and the British refusal to open the area for settlement started many of the more wealthy colonists on the path towards revolution. Poor frontiersmen had a simpler solution - they ignored the proclamation and settled on lands in western Pennsylvania. Meanwhile, white settlement was beginning to encroach on the Iroquois homeland. This was the setting in 1768 when the British and Iroquois met at Fort Stanwix and produced a treaty where the Iroquois (who could no longer control the Ohio tribes) ceded Ohio to the British (who could no longer control the Americans).
Shawnee protests to the Iroquois went unanswered except for a threat of annihilation if they refused to accept the agreement forcing the Shawnee to take matters into their own hands. In what proved to be the opening moves towards the western alliance, they made overtures to the: Illinois, Wea, Piankashaw, Miami, Kickapoo, Potawatomi, Wyandot, Ottawa, Delaware, Mascouten, Ojibwe, Cherokee and Chickasaw. Meetings were held on the Sciota River in Ohio in 1770 and 1771, but William Johnson (also a land speculator) was able to prevent the formation of an actual alliance, which left the Shawnee, Delaware, and Mingo alone to face the Long Knives (Virginia and Pennsylvania frontiersmen). The Iroquois cession of Ohio had included Kentucky, but this area was also claimed by the Cherokee - no one bothered to consider the Shawnee claim to Kentucky as hunting territory. At Watonga (1774) and Sycamore Shoals (1775), the British were able to get the Cherokee to sell eastern and central Kentucky to the Transylvania Land Company (Henderson Purchase).
These agreements which opened the Ohio Valley to settlement were essentially private purchases by land speculators in violation of British law. After the treaty at Fort Stanwix, the British government had basically washed its hands of the whole affair other than invalidating the claim by the Wabash Company to lands in Indiana. The British closed Fort Pitt (only Michilimackinac, Kaskaskia, and Detroit had garrisons) and sat back "to watch the fur fly." By 1774 there were 50,000 frontiersmen west of the Appalachians spoiling for a fight. Most had been fighting Indians for several generations, and they could be as brutal and merciless as any warrior. When they sold their rights to Kentucky, the Cherokee had tried to warn Daniel Boone that the Shawnee would fight if the Americans tried to settle there, but Boone already knew this. They had killed his oldest son James during a hunting expedition in 1773.
Tensions were already high in the white settlements along the upper Ohio between Pittsburgh and mouth of the Muskingum. Both Virginia and Pennsylvania claimed the area around Pittsburgh and were almost ready to fight each other for it. Having seen this kind of thing before, the Delaware made plans to move and in 1770 obtained the permission of the Miami to settle in Indiana. Fighting started when Virginia sent survey crews west of the Kanawha River to map Kentucky for settlement. Knowing what this meant, Shawnee warriors harassed them, and that fall 650 Kispoko and Piqua Shawnee left Ohio and headed west towards Spanish Missouri. Early in 1774 Virginia militia took over the abandoned Fort Pitt to use as a supply base for a possible war against the Shawnee. There were more clashes between the surveyors and Shawnee in Kentucky that spring, and believing the war had already started, Michael Cresap and a group of vigilantes attacked a Shawnee trading party near Wheeling in April killing a chief.
The following month, another group of Long Knives massacred a peaceful band of Mingo at Yellow Creek (Stuebenville, Ohio). The victims included the Shawnee wife of Logan, a Mingo war chief. Several days later, Logan's brother and pregnant sister were also murdered. However, the Shawnee chief Cornstalk wanted to avoid a war and went to Fort Pitt to ask the Virginians to "cover the dead." Meanwhile, Logan went to the Shawnee-Mingo village of Wakatomica and recruited a war party. While Cornstalk was talking at Fort Pitt, Logan's gruesome revenge killed 13 settlers on the Muskingum River. Lord Dunmore's (Cresap's) War (1774) began in June. Logan tried to tell colonial officials in July the killing had ended, but the Virginians had gathered into forts awaiting reinforcements from the east. Rather than resolve matters through negotiation, the governor of Virginia, John Murray (4th Earl of Dunmore), raised a large army of militia and brought them west to Ohio.
Weakened by the recent defections of their tribesmen to Missouri, the Shawnee sent a war belt to the Detroit tribes which was refused. Most of the Delaware also chose to remain neutral, so the Shawnee and Mingo were badly outnumbered. Dunmore's militia destroyed Wakatomica and five other villages, and in October was gathering at Point Pleasant (West Virginia) on the Ohio for a second invasion, when Cornstalk and 300 warriors launched a sudden attack. The battle lasted most of the day with heavy casualties on both sides, but Cornstalk was finally forced to withdraw across the Ohio. A month later, he met with Virginia officials and signed the Treaty of Camp Charlotte relinquishing Shawnee claims south of the Ohio and promising not to settle there. Immediately afterwards, the remaining Hathawekela Shawnee left Ohio and moved to the Creek in northern Alabama. Lord Dunmore's War opened Kentucky for settlement, and in March, 1775 James Harrod founded Harrodstown, the first permanent American settlement in Kentucky. By the time Daniel Boone led a second party through the Cumberland Gap and settled at Boonesborough a month later, the first shots of the American Revolution had been fired at Lexington and Concord in Massachusetts.
True to his word, Cornstalk kept the peace with the Long Knives after 1774, but he could not speak for all Shawnee. With the beginning of the revolution, the British ceased being an interested observer and began urging the Shawnee and others to attack American settlements. Some tribes chose neutrality, but by arguing the Americans were going to take their land, the British succeeded with the Detroit tribes, St. Joseph Potawatomi, Mingo, and the Saginaw and Mackinac Ojibwe. They also got an alliance between the war factions of the Shawnee and Cherokee (Chickamauga). In July, 1776 the Chickamauga attacked two frontier forts in the Carolinas which provoked an American retaliation against all of the Cherokee. Meanwhile, Chickamauga and Shawnee war parties roamed through Kentucky attacking Americans. Before the Iroquois themselves were drawn into the war in 1777, the League demanded the Shawnee stop their attacks, but by this time, they almost expected to be ignored.
Besides encouragement, the British supplied arms and paid bounties for American scalps without regard to sex or age. The result was a vicious private war between the Ohio tribes and Kentucky settlements separate from the conflict east of the Appalachians. In July, 1776 near Boonesborough, Daniel Boone's 14-year-old daughter and two of her friends were captured by a Shawnee-Cherokee war party. Boone rescued them after a three-day chase and pitched battle. The situation deteriorated so rapidly into personal hatreds and reprisals that Cornstalk was losing control of his warriors. Accompanied by his son in 1777, he went to Fort Randolph (Point Pleasant) to warn the Americans the Shawnee were going over to the British. Rather than being grateful for this, the soldiers took Cornstalk hostage and later murdered him to avenge the killing of a white man. Cornstalk's successor was Blackfish, a bitter enemy of the Americans, who retaliated with raids throughout Kentucky and western Pennsylvania.
By July Boonesborough, Harrodsburg and St. Asaph's (Logan's Fort) were the only settlements left in Kentucky. The other settlers had either moved into the forts or returned east. However, even the forts were not safe. In September, Fort Henry (Wheeling) was attacked by 400 Shawnee, Mingo and Wyandot. Half of the 42-man garrison was killed before relief arrived, and before withdrawing, the war party burned the nearby settlement. In February, 1778 General Edward Hand left Fort Pitt with force of Pennsylvania militia on a punitive raid into Ohio. Hand never caught any hostiles, but his "Squaw Campaign" destroyed two peaceful villages and almost brought the Delaware into the war. Hand resigned and was replaced by General Lachlan McIntosh. Meanwhile, a white scout at Fort Pitt named Simon Girty became convinced the Americans would lose the war and deserted to the British. Known as the "Great Renegade," Girty would soon be leading Shawnee war parties and become one of Long Knives' most brutal enemies.
In May Blackfish and Half King led 300 Shawnee and Wyandot warriors in an attack on Fort Randolph to avenge Cornstalk. The fort's commander, however, refused to allow his men outside to fight, and frustrated after a week-long siege, the war party left and moved up the Kanawha River to attack settlements near Greenbrier. Daniel Boone had been captured by the Shawnee in February, but Blackfish refused to turn him over to the British and adopted him as his own son. Boone escaped in June to warn Boonesborough of an impending attack. This finally came in September, and while his warriors besieged Boonesborough for nine-days, Blackfish stood outside the walls and berated Boone's ingratitude and betrayal of his adopted father. Despite Hand's "Squaw Campaign," the Delaware went to Fort Pitt in September and signed a treaty of friendship and alliance with the Americans. They also agreed to the construction of an American fort on the west bank of the Tuscarawas in Ohio to "protect them from the British" but balked at joining an expedition to capture Detroit. This lack of cooperation made the Long Knives suspicious, and in November while escorting them to the site of the new fort, the Delaware head chief White Eyes was murdered by the Americans.
The Americans won a major victory in 1778 when George Rogers Clark captured the British forts at Vincennes (Fort Sackville) and Kaskaskia in August and took control of the Illinois Country. With the help of the Detroit tribes, the British re-occupied Fort Sackville in December, but Clark counterattacked and forced its surrender in February, 1779. British prisoners were spared, but Indians were executed by tomahawk. As if cursed by White Eyes' ghost, Fort Laurens on the Tuscarawas became a death-trap for the Americans. In January, 1779 a detachment was attacked a Mingo war party led by Simon Girty. A month later, 18 soldiers were killed directly in front of the fort, and the Mingo and Wyandot kept it surrounded until relief arrived from Fort Pitt in March. By August it had been abandoned as indefensible. The Kentuckians retaliated for Shawnee raids in May when John Bowman and 300 mounted volunteers crossed the Ohio River and burned Old Chillicothe. Blackfish was killed, and the Shawnee moved their villages from the Scioto farther north to the Mad River.
The Long Knives were in an ugly mood. They not only rejected a peace offer from the Wyandot and Shawnee but attacked a delegation of Delaware (American allies at the time) enroute to meet with the Congress at Philadelphia. Tired of the fighting, the last of the Kispoko and Piqua left for Spanish Louisiana leaving the Chillicothe and Mequachake as the last Shawnee in Ohio. At the beginning of 1780 the British were planning a three-pronged offensive to capture the entire Mississippi and Ohio Valleys. Captain Henry Bird left Detroit in April with 600 warriors, and by the time he reached the Ohio, there were 1,200. Throughout the summer American settlements burned while their residents were tortured and killed. Clark retaliated against the Shawnee villages on the Mad River in August. He took only seven prisoners, but for Clark this was a new record so far as mercy was concerned.
The cycle of atrocity and revenge continued during 1781, In the spring Daniel Brodhead burned the Delaware capital at Coshocton. Women and children were taken prisoner, but men were executed by tomahawk. By the time a war council met at New Chillicothe in June, there were no neutral tribes in Ohio. During the summer, war parties, often led by Simon Girty, struck throughout Kentucky and Pennsylvania. By August George Rogers Clark was gathering an expedition to capture Detroit, but a group of Pennsylvania militia coming to join him was ambushed near the mouth of the Miami River (Cincinnati) by Canadian Iroquois and Tories led by the Mohawk Joseph Brant. Afterwards, Brant waited to ambush Clark on the Ohio. Clark, however, avoided the trap and reached safety at Fort Nelson (Louisville), but Detroit remained in British hands until 1795.
In March, 1782 Pennsylvania militia massacred 90 peaceful Moravian Delaware at Gnadenhuetten (Ohio) giving the Delaware good reason for revenge. In June an American offensive against the Sandusky villages was defeated during a two-day battle in northern Ohio. The American commander, Colonel William Crawford was captured by the Wyandot and turned over to the Delaware. While Simon Girty watched and taunted him, the Delaware burned Crawford (a personal friend of George Washington) at the stake. In August Girty led another raid against Kentucky, this time at Bryan's Station. Pursued by militia, he ambushed them at Blue Licks on the Licking River. Sixty Americans were killed including Daniel Boone's son Israel. The Mingo burned Hannastown, Pennsylvania, and in October a 300-man war party attacked Fort Henry at Wheeling, West Virginia for a second time. The following month, Clark with 1,100 mounted riflemen defeated the Shawnee on the Miami River and burned six of their villages, including New Chillicothe.
The Revolutionary War ended in 1783 with the Treaty of Paris, but the war between the Ohio tribes and Long Knives continued with few interruptions until 1795. Although the British asked their allies to stop their attacks on the Americans, there was a great deal of hypocrisy in this request. The British continued to perform the old French role of resolving intertribal disputes while at the same time encouraging an alliance to keep the Americans out of Ohio. While there was never a formal military alliance between them, the British provided aid and arms to the Ohio tribes from forts on American territory which they continued to occupy in violation of the peace treaty. Nevertheless, the British were more of an opportunist than instigator in this conflict. After seven years of brutal warfare, both sides still had scores to settle. Although the United States and Great Britain had made peace, the Long Knives did not feel this changed anything between themselves and the Shawnee. There was only a lull in the fighting, while each party sized up the intentions of the other.
The western (Northwest) alliance formed during a meeting at Sandusky in 1783. The British did not actually attend, but they brought the Mohawk Joseph Brant from Canada which was even better. A delegation from the alliance visited Detroit afterwards and was assured of British support. The first council fire of the alliance was at the Shawnee village of Wakatomica. After it was burned by the Americans in 1787, and the capitol was moved to Brownstown (Sindathon's village), a Wyandot village just south of Detroit. The treaty signed in Paris gave the United States the Ohio Valley but said nothing about Native Americans who lived there. It is doubtful, however, the Americans would have accepted such a provision if it had been included. The American intentions became very clear in 1784, when they forced the defeated Iroquois to confirm their 1768 cession of the Ohio Valley through a second Treaty of Fort Stanwix.
The new American government needed to sell the land in Ohio to pay debts from the Revolutionary War, but 12,000 Long Knives were already north of the Ohio squatting on native lands. Squatters usually do not pay for the land they occupy, but they can still start costly wars. The American military could not stop this encroachment, so Congress needed to set a frontier with the Ohio tribes so that settlement by "paying customers" could begin. Since they considered the western alliance as a British plot, the Americans decided to negotiate only with the individual tribes. In January, 1785 representatives of the Delaware, Ojibwe, Ottawa and Wyandot signed the Fort McIntosh Treaty acknowledging American sovereignty in Ohio and agreeing to a frontier at the Cuyahoga, Tuscarawas and Muskingum Rivers. Congress then sold the land rights to the Ohio Company and a New Jersey syndicate. A similar agreement was signed with the Shawnee at Fort Finney (Greater Miami Treaty) a year later.
Neither the American government nor the chiefs who signed these agreements really spoke for their constituents. Many of the alliance warriors wanted the Ohio, not the Muskingum, as the boundary, while the Long Knives would not be satisfied until they had taken the entire Ohio Valley. Only Molunthy (Mequachake) signed at Fort Finney (which involved more than a little intimidation and threat), but Blacksnake and the other Shawnee were ready to fight. That spring the Iroquois attempted to convene a conference at Buffalo Creek (New York) to resolve the growing crisis, but none of the Ohio tribes attended. Representatives from the alliance came to League's meeting in July but only to request its help against the Americans in case of war. The Iroquois did not commit themselves, but the British at Detroit did.
By the spring of 1786, there were already 400 Americans squatting among the French population at Vincennes on the lower Wabash River. There were several confrontations with the Miami and Kickapoo, but in July a large war party arrived in Vincennes and announced to the French they had come to kill all of the Americans. The French stalled, while the Americans forted-up and sent to Kentucky for help. Just as in the "good old days," George Rogers Clark arrived in the fall with Kentucky militia, but just as in the "good old days," half of them soon quit and went home. The desertions did not prevent Clark from sending a detachment to Kaskaskia to arrest a British trader thought to be a Spanish agent. As Clark was on the brink of starting a really big war, the American military commander, Josiah Harmar ordered him to disband and go home.
At its November council, the Chickamauga (driven from Tennessee to Ohio by the Americans) formally joined the alliance during its November council. The membership now included: Iroquois (Canadian), Wyandot, Mingo, Miami, Kickapoo, Delaware, Shawnee, Ottawa, Ojibwe, Potawatomi, Chickamauga, Fox, Sauk, and Mascouten. Joseph Brant managed to get a consensus favoring the Ohio River as the boundary with the Long Knives. However, the council decided on a temporary truce to allow time for their demands to reach Congress. If no answer was received by the spring, the raids would resume. Unfortunately, the message did not reach Philadelphia until July, and by that time, the war had resumed. After several Mingo, Chickamauga, and Shawnee raids terrorized Kentucky during the spring and summer, Colonel Benjamin Logan attacked the Shawnee villages on the Mad River in Ohio. Wakatomica and Mequachake were burned, but the innocent were much easier to find than the guilty, and the wrong Shawnee had been attacked. Molunthy was killed by Logan while holding treaty he had signed at Fort Finney.
The Shawnee moved their villages even farther north to the headwaters of the Miami. In December, the alliance council met to consider a request from the American governor, Arthur St. Clair, for a meeting to be held at Fort Harmar to set a new boundary for settlement. The council was badly divided. Some were willing to accept the Fort McIntosh boundary on the Muskingum, but the Shawnee, Miami, Wabash, and Joseph Brant were strongly opposed to this. Brant demanded a repudiation of all treaties ceding land in Ohio, but when the Wyandot decided they would attend, he left in disgust and returned to Ontario. The divisions within the alliance continued throughout 1788. American soldiers constructing the meeting house at Fort Harmar were attacked in July by an Ottawa-Ojibwe war party. Meanwhile, the Kickapoo ambushed an army convoy near the mouth of the Wabash. The Americans were furious, but the Wyandot finally were able to convince the Delaware, Potawatomi, and Detroit tribes to join them at the conference.
The agreement signed at Fort Harmar (January, 1789) was the final attempt by both parties to resolve the issue by treaty. It established the Muskingum as the boundary, but since the Shawnee were conspicuous by their absence, the Wyandot also promised to take their lands and force them to leave Ohio if they did not remain at peace. There was little chance of this actually happening, and with half the alliance determined to ignore the agreement and the Long Knives ready to take all of Ohio, the Fort Harmar Treaty was worthless from the moment it was signed. After Patrick Brown's Kentucky militia attacked the Wabash villages that summer, the Shawnee and Miami were able to establish a consensus for war. A Shawnee delegation visited the Iroquois in New York to request their help against the Americans, but when Iroquois declined, they lost whatever influence they still had within the alliance. When it became apparent the militants had gained control of the alliance council, the Americans decided to use force.
With 2,000 warriors led by the Miami war chief Little Turtle, the alliance soon proved it was very capable of defending itself, and the initial American moves against the alliance villages in northern Ohio ended in terrible defeats. In October, 1790 Colonel Josiah Harmar's expedition was ambushed on the upper Wabash near present-day Fort Wayne, Indiana. A year later, Arthur St. Clair's army met an even greater disaster in western Ohio - 600 killed and 400 wounded, the worst defeat ever inflicted on an American army by Native Americans. The Americans, however, could not afford to quit, and President Washington sent "Mad Anthony" Wayne to Ohio. Wayne established himself at Fort Washington (Cincinnati) and began training his Legion, a large force of regulars, to back the frontier militia. At the same time, he started building roads and a line of forts to support a major offensive to the north.
As the alliance watched Wayne's careful preparations for their destruction, it began to come undone. The Fox and Sauk left because the alliance lacked the means to feed its warriors for extended periods. Meanwhile, the Americans had attacked the Wabash villages and captured many women and children. Holding them hostage in Kentucky, they were able to force the Wabash Miami and Kickapoo to sign a treaty in 1792 and withdraw from the alliance. In October the council met at Auglaize (Defiance, Ohio) to discuss its position in a meeting with American peace representatives. Joseph Brant and the British urged continued resistance, but the Shawnee cast their vote by intercepting and murdering two of the American commissioners on the Ohio River. A second delegation arrived in the summer of 1793 and, since it included Hendrick Aupamut (Stockbridge Indian), was protected by the Delaware. However, the talks failed to reach an agreement, and in October President Washington ordered Wayne to begin his advance into Ohio.
Although Little Turtle wiped out one of Wayne's supply detachments at Ludlow Springs, Wayne established himself at Fort Greenville 80 miles north of Cincinnati. In response, the British built Fort Miami at the falls of the Maumee in the spring of 1794. The alliance took this as a sign of support, but it was only a bluff, since the British government had already decided to reach an accord with the Americans. Wayne left Fort Greenville in July building more forts to support his advance. A Shawnee attack on Fort Recovery failed, and the Americans kept moving closer to the alliance villages on the Maumee River. At the council on August 13th, Little Turtle argued for caution but was overruled in the debate by the Shawnee war chief Bluejacket. The council decided to fight, and Little Turtle was replaced by Blue Jacket as the alliance war chief. When it finally faced Wayne's Legion at Fallen Timbers a week later, the alliance could field only 700 warriors. As the warriors retreated following the battle, the British at Fort Miami refused to open their gates to them.
Wayne spent the next three days destroying crops and villages in the area. Then in a show of force, he marched his Legion up to the gates of Fort Miami but turned around and went back to Fort Defiance. In October he destroyed the Miami villages on the upper Wabash and built Fort Wayne as a symbol of American authority in northeastern Indiana. Afterwards, Wayne returned to Fort Greenville and waited. In November the Jay Treaty was signed, and among other things, Britain agreed to abandon its forts in the Northwest. The following August, the alliance made peace with the United States and ceded all of Ohio except the northwestern corner. The treaty forced the Shawnee to surrender their lands on the Great Miami River. Some moved to the headwaters of the Auglaize, while others joined the Delaware on the White River in east-central Indiana. While the treaty was being signed at Greenville, the Americans failed to note the absence of a minor, but rising, Shawnee chief named Tecumseh (Tekamthi). However, Black Hoof and the other Shawnee chiefs noticed and knew it meant trouble.
In 1774 the Hathawekela Shawnee had left Ohio and moved to the Upper Creek in northern Alabama. Tecumseh's mother, who had just lost her husband (a Kispoko) at the battle of Point Pleasant, went with them but left her two sons to be raised by their older sister Tecumpease. Tecumseh and his brother grew up as orphans, but in many ways this mirrored the circumstances of the Ohio Shawnee. Large groups of Shawnee had left Ohio in 1773 and 1779 and settled in southeast Missouri. The Spanish appreciated them as a means of checking the Osage and a defense against the Americans east of the Mississippi. Spanish emissaries came to Ohio in 1788 to urge more Shawnee and Delaware to emigrate, and more groups left. In 1793 Baron de Carondelet, the Spanish governor of Louisiana, gave the Missouri Shawnee a 25 mile square land grant near Cape Girardeau. Groups of Ohio Shawnee unwilling to accept the Greenville treaty joined them, and two years later, the Hathawekela left the Creek in Alabama and immigrated to Spanish Louisiana.
By 1800 the Hathawekela, Kispokotha, and Piqua were in Missouri, and only the Chillicothe and Mequachake remained in Ohio. After fighting Shawnee in Ohio for 30 years, most Kentucky frontiersmen would have found it difficult to believe there were more Shawnee in Missouri than Ohio in 1795. The Missouri Shawnee maintained close ties to the Delaware who settled with them, but both tribes had problems with the Osage who had a nasty habit of taking other people's horses. There were also problems with the Kaskaskia (Illinois) east of the Mississippi who, because of memories of earlier wars with the Shawnee, usually refused to allow the Shawnee to hunt or travel across their territory to visit their relatives still in Ohio. This erupted into open warfare during 1802 when the Shawnee attacked a large Kaskaskia hunting party. The Kaskaskia lost so many of their few remaining warriors, they never again challenged the Shawnee's right to move as they pleased through southern Illinois.
The alliance just disintegrated after Fort Greenville, and most of the political and social organization of the individual tribes went with it with alcohol a major problem. Wayne recognized Bluejacket as the Shawnee chief, but after an attempt to revive the alliance failed in 1801, the leadership of the Ohio Shawnee passed to his rival Black Hoof, a Mequachake. Black Hoof may have been a "peace chief" favoring accommodation with the Americans, but he was no fool and was determined to keep his people's lands. During a visit to Washington in 1802, he startled Secretary of War Henry Dearborn by asking for a specific deed to the Shawnee lands in Ohio. After some frantic consultation, the request was denied. Meanwhile, almost as a challenge, Tecumseh had located his village on the deserted grounds of Fort Greenville. Individual Americans who met him found him friendly, intelligent, and even charming, but he was also absolutely determined to fight any farther expansion of settlement.
In 1805 a Shawnee drunk named Lalawethika ("the rattle" - the Shawnee did not intend his name as a compliment) underwent an spiritual awakening in which he received a religious vision. Afterwards, he stopped drinking and changed his name to Tenskwatawa (The Open Door) - Americans simply called him the Shawnee Prophet. His message was essentially the same as the Delaware prophet Neolin had been 40 years earlier: return to traditional ways and forsake the white man's whiskey and trade goods. However, unlike Neolin, Tenskwatawa did not have to wait for a Pontiac - his brother was Tecumseh! While his own people watched this sudden transformation with amazement, Tenskwatawa gathered a large following among the Shawnee and Delaware, but there was an ugly side to his movement. Americans were children of an evil spirit, the Great Serpent, and anyone who disagreed with him was likely to be killed as a witch or traitor. This side showed itself during his visit to the Delaware and Wyandot villages in the spring of 1806. The Delaware head chief and several Christian converts were burned as witches, and similar incidents occurred at the Wyandot villages in Ohio.
The witch hunts turned most of the Delaware and Wyandot against the Prophet and his followers. However, Tenskwatawa dramatically predicted a solar eclipse (some would say with the aid of a British almanac) in June, and his influence spread during the next two years as thousands visited him at Greenville. Tecumseh added a political element to his brother's religion: an alliance of all tribes to halt the surrender of land to the Americans. Perhaps the greatest of all Native Americans, Tecumseh was brave, respected, a skilled politician, and spell-binding orator. In the years following 1795, the Americans had been steadily chipping away at the Greenville Treaty line. The Delaware had sold a part of southern Indiana in 1803, and the Wyandot surrendered much of southeastern Michigan in 1807. Tecumseh believed that no chief had the authority to sign away his tribe's lands nor could any tribe sell lands that were used in common. By 1808 he had a promise of support from the British in Canada and had placed himself in direct opposition to Black Hoof, Little Turtle, and the other peace chiefs.
The dislike was mutual, and Black Hoof's opposition insured that Tecumseh and the Prophet had few followers among the Ohio Shawnee. With most of their support among the tribes in the western Ohio Valley, Tenskwatawa abandoned Greenville in the spring of 1808 and, with the permission of the Kickapoo and Potawatomi, established his new capitol at Prophetstown on Tippecanoe Creek in western Indiana. The chosen location was no accident and was intended as an insult and challenge to Little Turtle, the Miami peace chief. In August the Prophet visited Vincennes and met William Henry Harrison, the American governor of the Indiana Territory who would soon prove to be Tecumseh's nemesis. The meeting ended on a friendly note, but Harrison remained suspicious and in the spring sent spies to Prophetstown. Their reports confirmed his worst fears, for it appeared that Tecumseh had assembled almost 3,000 warriors, from different tribes, ready to fight American expansion.
Harrison had instructions from Congress to end native land titles in Indiana and Illinois. In 1809 he concluded treaties with the Delaware, Miami, Kaskaskia, and Potawatomi at Fort Wayne and Vincennes ceding 3,000,000 acres of southern Indiana and Illinois. When he heard what had happened, Tecumseh "went ballistic" and threatened to kill the chiefs who signed. The following June his followers executed Leatherlips, a Wyandot chief, and brought the wampum belts and calumet of the old western alliance to Prophetstown. The reaction of the Brownstown council was to denounce Tenskwatawa as a witch. Tecumseh met with Harrison at Vincennes in August, but the exchange of harsh words almost resulted in a fight between Harrison's soldiers and Tecumseh's escort. They met again during the summer of 1811, but by this time both were convinced war was only a matter of time. Immediately afterwards, Tecumseh left for the south to try to recruit the Chickasaw, Choctaw, Creek, and Cherokee. Before leaving, he gave his brother specific instructions that, during his absence, he was to avoid any confrontation with the Americans.
Unfortunately, he would probably have done better to have told this to Main Poche and the Potawatomi. Tecumseh was barely south of the Ohio River when they attacked settlements in Illinois bringing the frontier to the point of war. Harrison assembled 1,000 regulars and militia at Vincennes and in September moved against Prophetstown. After pausing to build Fort Harrison on treaty line just north of Terre Haute, he arrived at Prophetstown in November and camped just across Tippecanoe Creek from it. Shots had yet to be fired, but the Prophet ignored his brother's orders and decided to kill Harrison with a suicide squad. The ensuing battle ended in a draw, but the Americans lost 62 killed and 126 wounded. The warriors eventually were forced to withdraw, and Harrison burned Prophetstown. Tippecanoe was not significant as a military victory, but it destroyed Tensquatawa's reputation as a prophet. Angry Winnebago held him prisoner for two weeks, and when Tecumseh returned from the south in January, his alliance was in shambles, and the War of 1812 (1812-14) was only months away.
By the time of a formal declaration of war in June, Tecumseh had gathered over 1,000 warriors in Canada to fight for the British. However, after a council with Tecumseh and the Prophet on the Mississinewa River (Indiana) in May, the Shawnee, Delaware, and Wyandot decided to remain neutral. Some even supported the Americans, but few joined Tecumseh and the British. The war began with a series of disasters which sent the Americans reeling. General William Hull invaded Canada in July but, upon hearing a rumor 5,000 warriors were coming down Lake Huron by canoe, retreated to Detroit. In truth, Hull's opposition was only 800 of Tecumseh's warriors and 300 Canadians. After several detachments were attacked near Detroit, Hull surrendered in August without a fight - an act which earned him the dubious distinction of being the only American general ever court-martialed for cowardice and sentenced to death by firing squad. The victory at Detroit brought more warriors to Tecumseh and set off a series of raids against American forts and settlements across the frontier as far west as Missouri.
Following the death of Little Turtle in July, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa returned to northern Indiana to recruit warriors from the Miami. In September the Prophet ended the military side of his career with an unsuccessful attack on Fort Harrison - garrisoned by 50 regulars commanded by Zachary Taylor. William Henry Harrison was given command of the American army in the Northwest and launched a series of attacks which forced the Prophet and his followers to return to Canada. Early in 1813, Harrison built Fort Ferree on the upper Sandusky and moved the Delaware from Indiana to the Shawnee villages at Piqua and Auglaize in Ohio to preclude any chance of their joining Tecumseh. However, a unit of 900 Kentucky militia commanded by General James Winchester was ambushed on the Raisin River in southeast Michigan with 300 killed. After surrender, 50 prisoners were massacred while British officers just stood and watched. There would have been more victims if Tecumseh (who had a strong personal aversion to torture and massacre) had not arrived and personally intervened. Afterwards, he berated the British officers as cowards for their failure to protect American prisoners.
Despite the setback on the Raisin River, Harrison kept inching forward and built Fort Meigs on the Maumee River in February. Tecumseh, meanwhile, had returned to Indiana for more warriors and increased his force to almost 2,000. In May they joined the new British commander, Colonel Henry Procter, to attack Fort Meigs, but the Americans held on, and many of Tecumseh's warriors became discouraged with siege warfare and went home. Proctor was forced to end the siege but made a second unsuccessful attempt in July to take Fort Meigs. By August Harrison had assembled an army of almost 8,000 and, after Oliver Perry's naval victory on Lake Erie, was ready to take the offensive. Proctor's resources at Fort Malden (Amherstburg, Ontario) were already strained, not only with having to feed Tecumseh's 1,500 warriors, but also 12,000 members of their families. When Harrison began his advance, the British could offer only limited resistance.
Ultimately, Proctor was to prove every bit as incompetent and cowardly as the American's William Hull. Detroit surrendered, and Proctor abandoned Fort Malden without even bothering to inform his native allies. Tecumseh described him as "a fat animal, that carries its tail upon its back, but when affrighted ...drops it between his legs and runs off." Harrison pursued Procter east across Upper Canada. Tecumseh did his best to cover the British retreat and slow the American advance. The British attempted a stand at the Battle of the Thames (Moraviantown) on October 6th, but Proctor and his staff suddenly left the field abandoning their own troops and leaving Tecumseh and 600 warriors to make a last stand in a small patch of swampy woods. When Tecumseh was killed late in the afternoon of October 6th, 1813, the last possibility of united Native American resistance to American expansion died with him.
After the war, Tensquatawa remained in Canada, but most of his followers made peace with the Americans at Indian Springs in 1815 and returned to Ohio the following year. He was finally lured back to the United States by Michigan governor Lewis Cass in 1823 to encourage Black Hoof's Shawnee to surrender their Ohio lands and move to Kansas. In 1826 he left Ohio with a party of 200 Shawnee. Their two-year journey to Kansas was a horror tale of deprivation and hunger. When he died in 1836, the Prophet was hated as much as his brother was loved. Several hundred Missouri Shawnee and Delaware left the United States in 1815 and moved to Texas where, once again, they were welcomed by Spanish as a barrier against the Americans. They became known as the Absentee Shawnee. The Spanish had also invited groups of Cherokee to settle in eastern Texas for the same purpose. After Texas won its independence from Mexico in 1836, the loyalty of these Shawnee and Cherokee became suspect, and both were expelled into Oklahoma by military force during 1839. The Delaware, however, had managed an alliance with Texas. This lasted until 1859, when they also were forced to leave.
At the Second Treaty of Greenville in 1814, Harrison and the Delaware, Seneca, Shawnee, and Wyandot who had been American allies made peace with the Kickapoo, Miami, Ottawa and Potawatomi who had joined Tecumseh. Ohio had become a state in 1803, and with the British threat ended, the Americans proceeded to take the remaining native lands within its boundaries. In 1817 the Shawnee, Delaware and Wyandot signed the Fort Meigs Treaty ceding their remaining lands in Ohio in exchange for reservations. The Shawnee received three reserves totaling 173 square miles: Wapaughkonetta, Hog Creek, and a separate reserve for the mixed band of Shawnee and Seneca (Mingo) at Lewistown. These were enlarged slightly at the Treaty of St. Marys the following year. Missouri entered the union as the 24th state in 1821, and the federal government moved in 1825 to extinguish the Shawnee claims under the Spanish land grant.
In November the 1,400 Shawnee in Missouri agreed to a treaty signed at St. Louis with William Clark (Lewis and Clark fame and George Rogers' brother) exchanging their lands near Cape Girardeau for 2,500 square miles in eastern Kansas. They also received $ 14,000 in moving expenses plus $ 11,000 to pay debts owed to white traders. Further provision was made to allow any of the 800 Ohio Shawnee who so desired to join them in Kansas. When they settled on the south side of the Kansas River the following year, the Shawnee became the first of the eastern Algonquin tribes to settle in Kansas. Problems arose, however, when the very traditional Black Bob's band balked at uniting with the Ohio Shawnee. Instead of moving to Kansas after the treaty, they went south and settled in Arkansas. During the next two years, all efforts (including bribery) failed to persuade them to move. After threat of military force, they settled at Olathe in 1833.
However, the elderly Black Hoof fought every effort to make the Shawnee leave Ohio. Despite the defection of 200 who followed the Prophet to Kansas in 1826, most Ohio Shawnee respected his opinion and remained. Pressure mounted after the passage of the Indian Removal Act in 1830. The Seneca of the Sandusky (Mingo) were the first to accept removal in February, 1831 and agreed to relocate to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) next to the Western Cherokee. The mixed Seneca-Shawnee followed suit in July. After Black Hoof died in August, the 400 Shawnee at Wapaughkonetta and Hog Creek ceded their Ohio lands in exchange for 100,000 acres of the Shawnee Reserve in Kansas. By the time 85 Shawnee volunteered as scouts for the American army against the Florida Seminole in 1837, all of the Shawnee were in eastern Kansas - the only exceptions being the Absentees in Texas and the mixed Shawnee-Seneca band in Oklahoma.
However, after years of separation, factionalism was a serious problem in creating a workable tribal government. Most of the Ohio Shawnee had accepted Christianity and white ways, and this bothered many of the other Shawnee. After the Absentee Shawnee were expelled from Texas in 1839, they settled in central Oklahoma. In 1845 a large group of traditional Shawnee left the Kansas reserve and joined the Absentee near present-day Shawnee, Oklahoma bringing their number to about 300. Some of these eventually emigrated to northern Mexico with the Kickapoo. The other Shawnee adjusted quickly to their new homes on the Kansas prairie. Because they were serious farmers, few became professional buffalo hunters like the Delaware, and as a result, they had fewer problems with the plains tribes. This was not the case with their "civilized" white neighbors just to the east.
In 1854 preparations were underway to open Kansas and Nebraska for white settlement to facilitate construction of a transcontinental railroad. In April the Shawnee received a proposal from the government to purchase most of their reserve. The following month they signed a treaty surrendering 1,600,000 acres for $829,000 (less than $1.00 per acre) while receiving 200,000 acres to be distributed in individual allotments (no provision for citizenship). Only the traditionalist Black Bob Band continued to hold its land in common, and a portion of unallotted land was set aside for the Absentee Shawnee if they decided to relocate to Kansas. Within days, Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act, and immediately large numbers of white Americans moved into Kansas to fight each other over black slavery. For the most part, the Shawnee chose to side with the anti-slavery forces, but even abolitionists were willing to take Native American land, and the Shawnee were victimized by both sides. Allotment of the remaining Shawnee land was completed in 1857. Of the 200,000 acres granted by the 1854 treaty, the Shawnee were left with with only 70,000 acres (20,000 of which had been set aside for the Absentee Shawnee). The remaining 130,000 was sold for white settlement.
Congress authorized ownership patents for the Shawnee allotments in 1859, but by then the Shawnee had lost so much of their land to squatters and fraud, they were considering the idea of leaving Kansas. The following year, they requested that the government sell the lands reserved for Absentee Shawnee but Congressional approval was interrupted by the Civil War. Most Shawnee served with the Union Army during this conflict, and in 1862 Kansas Shawnee and Delaware attacked the Confederate Wichita Agency in Oklahoma. After their agency had been destroyed, the Tonkawa living there headed south for their old homes in Texas. Very few of them made it. Intercepted enroute by the Comanche (old enemies), most were massacred. In October Quantrill's Confederate guerillas retaliated for the attack on the Wichita Agency with a raid at Shawneetown, Kansas.
As the war continued, pro-Union tribes in Oklahoma fled to Kansas as refuges. Unfortunately, this did not prove a haven from violence, and in 1863 Black Bob's band went the opposite direction to join the Absentee Shawnee who had chosen to sit out the war in Oklahoma. Kansas statehood came in 1861, and within three years, the legislature was calling for the removal of all Indians from Kansas. Implementation had to wait until the end of the war, but in 1864 attempts were made to tax the Shawnee allotments. A two-year court battle ended in favor of the Shawnee, but it was obvious they were no longer welcome in Kansas. The 1866 treaty, forced upon the Cherokee as punishment for their support of the Confederacy during the war, allowed other tribes to purchase unoccupied Cherokee lands in Oklahoma.
This provided the Shawnee with an opportunity to leave Kansas. The removal of the emigrant tribes was virtually complete in 1867 after the Seneca-Shawnee, Illinois, Miami, Ottawa, Quapaw, and Seneca surrendered their last lands in Kansas. The treaty signed that year also provided for the separation of the mixed Seneca-Shawnee band into two tribes - the Shawnee portion becoming known as Eastern Shawnee. In 1869 Congress finally approved the sale of the Kansas lands which had been reserved for the Absentee Shawnee, and the Kansas Shawnee (now known as Loyal Shawnee for their service to the Union) used the proceeds to purchase land and membership from the Cherokee Nation and left for Oklahoma.
First Nations referred to in this Shawnee History: