Shawnee Tribe

The Occom Circle

Shawnee Tribe

Name (variant)

Shawanees; Shawanese; Shawaneses; Shawanies


The Shawnee Tribe is an Algonquian-speaking people, who originally occupied lands in southern Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania. Their name comes from the Algonquian word “shawum” meaning “southerner,” and refers to their original location in the Ohio Valley south of the other Great Lakes Algonquian Tribes. Their history is one of displacement, wandering, and rebellion. The Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) drove them from this region around the 1660s because they wanted their rich hunting lands, and the Shawnees scattered. By 1730, most of them had returned to their ancestral homeland in the Ohio Valley, where they became embroiled in the unrest that characterized that period. In 1761, the Senecas circulated a war belt calling for a general uprising against the British, and the Shawnees were one of only two tribes who responded. This rebellion was discovered and stopped by Sir William Johnson, the British Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The Shawnees also joined the Ottawa Chief Pontiac in his uprising against the British in the spring of 1763. Lord Jeffrey Amherst, the British military commander in North America, ended the siege. Joseph Woolley writes to Wheelock in 1765 about the Shawnees and Delawares coming to Johnson Hall to “polish the covenant chain” with the Haudenosauanees. The Shawnee Tribe participated in the large congress at Fort Stanwix in 1768, and in the summer of 1774, Occom records in his journal that the Shawnees fought with the Virginians in what would become Lord Dunmore’s War, and were rousing other tribes to join them. But because they were severely outnumbered, their chief Cornstalk signed a treaty relinquishing all Shawnee claims south of the Ohio River. Eventually, the tribe scattered again. One band migrated to Missouri, becoming the Absentee Shawnee. Another settled in eastern Oklahoma, and the band that is called the Shawnee Tribe (or Loyal Shawnee, because they fought on the side of the Union during the Civil War) relocated to a small reservation in Kansas. The Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his brother the Shawnee Prophet led another ill-fated uprising against American settlers in the border wars of the Ohio Valley at the turn of the 19th century, founding the pan-Indian Prophetstown settlement in 1808 and fighting on the side of the British in the War of 1812. After Kansas became a state, the non-Indian citizens demanded the removal of all Indians; in 1869 the Loyal Shawnee moved to land in Oklahoma offered to them by the Cherokees, though some Shawnees remained on the reservation in Kansas. In the 1980s, the Shawnees began the process of gaining a separate tribal status; they became a federally recognized tribe in 2000.


”Shawnee History,”;