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

De l’Isle’s map of 1700 places the “Ontouagannha.” which here means the Shawnee, on the headwaters of the Santee and Pedee rivers in South Carolina, while the “Chiouonons” are located on the lower Tennessee river. Senex’s map of 1710 locates a part of the “Chaouenons” on the headwaters of a stream in South Carolina, but seems to place the main body on the Tennessee. Moll’s map of 1720 has “Savannah Old Settlement” at the mouth of the Cumberland 1, showing that the term Savannah was sometimes applied to the Western as well as to the eastern band.

The Shawnee of South Carolina, who included the Piqua and Hathawekela divisions of the tribe, were known to the early settlers of that state as Savannahs, that being nearly the form of the name in use among the neighboring Muskhogean tribes. A good deal of confusion has arisen from the fact that the Yuchi and Yamasee, in the same neighborhood, were sometimes also spoken of as Savannah Indians. Bartram and Gallatin particularly are confused upon this point, although, as is hardly necessary to state, the tribes are entirely distinct. Their principal village, known as Savannah Town, was on Savannah river, nearly opposite the present Augusta, Ga. According to a writer of 1740 2 it was at New Windsor, on the north bank of Savannah river, 7 miles below Augusta. It was an important trading point, and Ft Moore was afterward built upon the site. The Savannah river takes its name from this tribe, as appears from the statement of Adair, who mentions the “Savannah river, so termed on account of the Shawano Indians having formerly lived there,” plainly showing that the two names are synonyms for the same tribe. Gallatin says that the name of the river is of Spanish origin, by which he probably means that it refers to “savanas,” or prairies, but as almost all the large rivers of the Atlantic slope bore the Indian names of the tribes upon their banks, it is not likely that this river is an exception, or that a Spanish name would have been retained in an English colony. In 1670, when South Carolina was first settled, the Savannah were one of the principal tribes southward from Ashley river. About 10 years later they drove hack the Westo, identified by Swanton as the Yuchi, who had just previously nearly destroyed the infant settlements in a short but bloody war. The Savannah seem to have remained at peace with the whites, and in 1695, according to Gov. Archdale, were “good friends and useful neighbors of the English.” By a comparison of Gallatin’s paragraph 3 with Lawson’s statements 4 from which he quotes, it will be seen that he has misinterpreted the earlier author, as well as misquoted the tribal forms.

1710 Senex Map Portion