Shawnee Tribe: Genealogy

Shawnee Tribe

Updated: January 13, 2015 | , , , , , , , , , , ,

Shawnee Indians (from shawŭn, ‘south’; shawŭnogi, ‘southerners.’ ). Formerly a leading tribe of South Carolina, Tennessee, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. By reason of the indefinite character of their name, their wandering habits, their connection with other tribes, and because of their interior position away from the traveled routes of early days, the Shawnee were long a stumbling block in the way of investigators. Attempts have been made to identify them with the Massawomec of Smith, the Erie of the early Jesuits, and the Andaste of a somewhat later period, while it has also been claimed that they originally formed one tribe with the Sauk and Foxes. None of these theories, however, rests upon sound evidence, and all have been abandoned. Linguistically the Shawnee belongs to the group of Central Algonquian dialects, and is very closely related to SaukFox. The name “Savanoos,” applied by the early Dutch writers to the Indians living upon the north bank of Delaware river, in New Jersey, did not refer to the Shawnee, and was evidently not a proper tribal designation, but merely the collective term, “southerners,” for those tribes southward from Manhattan island, just as Wappanoos, “easterners,” was the collective term for those living toward the east. Evelin, who wrote about 1646, gives the names of the different small bands in the south part of New Jersey, while Ruttenber names those in the north, but neither mentions the Shawnee.

Shawnee History

Payta Kootha

The tradition of the Delawares, as embodied in the Walam Olum, makes themselves, the Shawnee, and the Nanticoke, originally one people, the separation having taken place after the traditional expulsion of the Talligewi (Cherokee) from the north, it being stated that the Shawnee went south. Beyond this it is useless to theorize on the origin of the Shawnee or to strive to assign them any earlier location than that in which they were first known and where their oldest traditions place them in the Cumberland basin in Tennessee, with an outlying colony on the middle Savannah in South Carolina. In this position, as their name may imply, they were the southern advance guard of the Algonquian stock.

Their real history begins in 1669-70. They were then living in two bodies at a considerable distance apart, and these two divisions were not fully united until nearly a century later, when the tribe settled in Ohio. The attempt to reconcile conflicting statements without a knowledge of this fact has occasioned much of the confusion in regard to the Shawnee. The apparent anomaly of a tribe living in two divisions at such a distance from each other is explained when we remember that the intervening territory was occupied by the Cherokee, who were at that time the friends of the Shawnee. The evidence afforded by the mounds shows that the two tribes lived together for a considerable period, both in South Carolina and in Tennessee, and it is a matter of history that the Cherokee claimed the country vacated by the Shawnee in both states after the removal of the latter to the north. It is quite possible that the Cherokee invited the Shawnee to settle upon their eastern frontier in order to serve as a barrier against the attacks of the Catawba and other enemies in that direction. No such necessity existed for protection on their northwestern frontier. The earliest notices of the Carolina Shawnee represent them as a warlike tribe, the enemies of the Catawba and others, who were also the enemies of the Cherokee. In Ramsey’s Annals of Tennessee is the statement, made by a Cherokee chief in 1772, that 100 years previously the Shawnee, by permission of the Cherokee, removed from Savannah river to the Cumberland, but were afterward driven out by the Cherokee, aided by the Chickasaw, in consequence of a quarrel with the former tribe. While this tradition does not agree with the chronological order of Shawnee occupancy in the two regions, as borne out by historical evidence, it furnishes additional proof that the Shawnee occupied territory upon both rivers, and that this occupancy was by permission of the Cherokee.

De l'Isle Map Detail 1700