As published in the Official Newsletter of the Piqua Shawnee (Fall 2018)
By Barbara Lehmann, Piqua Shawnee Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
Barbara’s History Corner:
On De l’Isle’s map, also, we find the Savannah River called “R.des Chouanons,” with the “Chaouanons” located upon bothbanks in its middle course. As to Gallatin’s statement that the name of the Savannahs is dropped after Lawson’s mention in 1701, we learn from numerous references, from old records, in Logan’s Upper South Carolina, published after Gallatin’s time, that all through the period of the French and Indian war, 50
years after Lawson wrote, the “Savannahs” were constantly making inroads on the Carolina frontier, even to the vicinity of Charleston. They are described as “northern savages” and friends of the Cherokee, and are undoubtedly the Shawnee. In
1749 Adair, while crossing the middle of Georgia, fell in with a strong party of “the French Shawano,” who were on their way, under Cherokee guidance, to attack the English traders near Augusta. After committing some depredations they escaped to
the Cherokee. In another place he speaks of a party of “Shawano Indians,” who, at the instigation of the French, had attacked a frontier settlement of Carolina, but had been taken and imprisoned. Through a reference by Logan it is found that these prisoners are called Savannahs in the records of that period. In 1791 Swan mentions the “Savannas” town among the Creeks, occupied by “Shawanese refugees.” Having shown that the Savannah and the Shawnee are the same tribe, it remains to be seen why and when they removed from South Carolina to the north. The removal was probably owing to dissatisfaction with the English setters, who seem to have favored the Catawba at the expense of the Shawnee. Adair, speaking of the latter tribe, says they had formerly lived on the Savannah River, “till by our foolish measures they were forced to withdraw northward in defense of their, freedom.” In another place he says, “by our own misconduct we twice lost the Shawano Indians, who have since proved very hurtful to our colonies in general.” The first loss referred to is probably the withdrawal of
the Shawnee to the north, and the second is evidently their alliance with the French in consequence of the encroachments of the English in Pennsylvania.
Their removal from South Carolina was gradual, beginning about 1677 and continuing at intervals through a period of more than 30 years. The ancient Shawnee villages formerly on the sites of Winchester, Virginia, and Oldtown, near Cumberland, Maryland, were built and occupied probably during this migration. It was due mainly to their losses at the hands of the Catawba, the allies of the English, that they were forced to abandon
their country on the Savannah; but after the reunion of the tribe in the north they pursued their old enemies with unrelenting vengeance until the Catawba were almost exterminated. The hatred cherished by the Shawnee toward the English is shown
by their boast in the Revolution that they had killed more of that nation than had any other tribe.
The first Shawnee seem to have removed from South Carolina in 1677 or 1678, when, according to Drake, about 70 families established themselves on the Susquehanna adjoining the Conestoga in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, at the mouth of Pequea
creek. Their village was called Pequea, a form of Piqua. The Assiwikales (Hathawekela) were a part of the later migration. This, together with the absence of the Shawnee names Chillicothe and Mequachake east of the Alleghanies, would seem to show that the Carolina portion of the tribe belonged to the first named divisions. The chief of Pequea was Wapatha, or Opessah, who made a treaty with Penn at Philadelphia in 1701, and more than 50 years afterward the Shawnee, then in Ohio, still preserved a copy of this treaty. There is no proof that they had a part in Penn’s first treaty in 1682.
In 1694, by invitation of the Delawares and their allies, another large party came from the south probably from Carolina and settled with the Munsee on the Delaware, the main body fixing themselves at the mouth of Lehigh river, near the present Easton, Pennsylvania, while some went as far down as the Schuylkill. This party is said to have numbered about 700, and they were several months on the journey. Permission to settle on the Delaware was granted by the Colonial government on condition of their making peace with the Iroquois, who then received them as “brothers,” while the Delawares acknowledged them as their “second sons,” i. e. grandsons. The Shawnee today refer to the Delawares as their grandfathers. From this it is evident that the Shawnee were never conquered by the Iroquois, and, in fact, we find the western band a few years previously assisting the Miami against the latter. As the Iroquois, however, had conquered the lands of the Conestoga and Delawares, on which the Shawnee settled, the former still claimed the prior right of domain. Another large part of the Shawnee probably left South Carolina about 1707, as appears from a statement made by Evans in that year 5, which shows that they were then hard pressed in the south. He says: “During our abode at Pequehan [Pequea] several of the Shaonois Indians from ye southward came to settle here, and were admitted so to do by Opessah, with the governor’s consent, at the same time an Indian, from a Shaonois town near Carolina came in and gave an account that
four hundred and fifty of the flat headed Indians [Catawba] had besieged them, and that in all probability the same was taken.
To Be Continued
Piqua Shawnee Tribe