Archaeological and linguistic evidence suggests that the Shawnees are descendants of the “Fort Ancient” peoples who inhabited the Ohio Valley for hundreds of years prior to European contact.The Shawnees abandoned Ohio in the face of Iroquois attacks in the seventeenth century,
but many returned in the eighteenth.
Although Tecumseh fought for the British during the War of 1812, most Shawnees fought on the side of the United States. Nevertheless, under the terms of the 1817 Foot of the Rapids Treaty, they agreed to limit themselves to small reserves.
The Shawnees were not interested in Christian doctrine, but they were willing to adopt other elements of Euro-American culture such as plough agriculture.
Catahecassa (Black Hoof) was the foremost Shawnee political leader during the rst three decades of the nineteenth century. He supported a strategy of accommodation with white settlers. Since Ohio’s Indians were already experienced and effective agriculturists and traders, he reasoned that it should not be impossible for the Shawnees to adapt to the ways of the new white majority without moving. He supported Quaker missionaries’ efforts to teach Shawnee men to use ploughs and women to make textiles. The Quakers did not promote Christian doctrine, so Shawnee beliefs predominated.
"The Great Spirit [has] already furnished [us] with a religion suited to our nature and capacity...and it is best for each [Shawnees and Americans] to keep the ways which the Great Spirit [has] given them." —Black Hoof
Shawnee home Life About 1890 by Ernest Spybuck, ca. 1908-1910
Image courtesy Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution
Unlike Black Hoof,Quatawapea (Colonel Lewis) was a supporter of removal. He pointed out the discrepancies between traditional Shawnee beliefs and their new way of life surrounded by whites. He and his faction wielded more in uence at Lewistown, where Shawnees and Senecas cohabitated. His willingness to move west garnered him much attention and support from government of cials.
Catahecassa by Charles Bird King from Thomas McKenney and James Hall, History of the Indian Tribes of North America (Philadelphia, 1836-44)
Quatawapea by Charles Bird King from Thomas McKenney and James Hall, History of the Indian Tribes of North America (Philadelphia, 1836-44)
SHAWNEE-SENECA MIXED BAND TREATY
JULY 20, 1831
Several Seneca communities had moved to Ohio in the 1700s from western New York as white settlers pressed toward their homeland. One of these lived with the Shawnees at the time of removal.They became known as the “Mixed Band.” They numbered about 300 in all and lived near Lewistown.
Although the Indians at all the Ohio reservations made great progress in the adoption of plough agriculture, their communities were plagued by alcoholism. Whites who settled in the vicinity felt contempt toward the Natives, and thefts and violence between the two groups was common. Ohio’s courts would not punish those who stole from or assaulted the Indians, leading many to conclude that their situation was hopeless.
By this treaty, they relinquished their land to the U.S. government and agreed to move west.The U.S. government committed itself to providing the full cost of removal, supplies for one year upon arrival, and $6,000. Although the Mixed Band moved west, the U.S. did not provide all the funds it had promised.