Originally the Shawnee were believed to be located in Southern Ohio, West Virginia and Western Pennsylvania. In the mid 1600s the Iroguois, from the north, drove them from their homes and they were scattered to the Carolinas, Tennessee, Eastern Pennsylvania and Southern Illinois. Later, just before the mid 1700s, they manage to return to their homelands only to be driven out again. This time by the European invaders who were bent on settling this new land and claiming it as their own.
Shawnee comes from the Algonquin word "shawun," meaning "southerner." Shawnee usually call themselves the Shawano or Shawanoe or Shawanese.
Currently there are more than 14,000 Shawnee located on reservations in four distinct groups The absentee Shawnee, the Eastern Shawnee and the Cherokee Shawnee, with the Cherokee Nation, all of which are in Oklahoma. The largest of these groups is what is called the Loyal Shawnee who were incorporated into the Cherokee in the 1860s. They received the name "Loyal" for having served the union during the Civil War.
The fourth is called the Shawnee Nation Remnant Band which is said to have descended from the Ohio Shawnee. Although not recognized by the federal government nor accepted by the other three groups of Shawnee, they were officially recognized by the State of Ohio in 1980 and purchased close to 200 acres near Urbana and Chillicothe. This group appears to have managed to avoid removal during the 1830s.
The following is excerpted from The Life of a Shawnee by W. L. Mundell:
"Shawnee children grew up as free as the animals that roamed the forests around them. Young boys were encouraged by elders to engage in sports of running, swimming and jumping in order to strengthen muscles and build stamina, and to practice archery to develop their skills as hunters and warriors… The young girls busied themselves imitating their mothers, making mud pies, and particularly developing their skills in molding vessels of clay.
Shawnee men were hunters and warriors. The women of the tribe did the domestic labor. They built the lodges, dressed the game, cooked, planted and cultivated the gardens, scraped and tinned hides, made clothing and blankets, wove baskets and made vessels of clay… The women also cared for the ailments within a tribe, and were extremely skillful at mixing herbs and setting fractured bones.
The Shawnee believed in Moneto, a supreme being who ruled the entire universe and distributed blessings upon all who earned his favor, and desperate sorrow upon those who merited his disfavor. The Great Spirit of the Shawnee was a grandmother who ruled the destinies of her children. She eternally wove a great net which, when finished, would be dropped over the world. She would then draw the net back up to the heavens. Those who had proven themselves worthy would be caught up in the net and taken to a better life, those who fell back through the net would suffer an unspeakable fate as the world came to an end. Each Shawnee was judge of his own conduct and was held accountable for it. They lived by their own standards, and shrugged off value judgments placed among them by people outside of their tribe.
The "Golden Rule" of the Shawnees was: "Do not kill or injure your neighbor, for it is not him that you injure, you injure yourself. But do good to him, therefore add to his days of happiness as you add to your own. Do not wrong or hate your neighbor, for it is not him that you wrong, you wrong yourself. But love him, for Moneto loves him also as he loves you."
Training in history, codes of conduct, and traditions were carried on by the elders, who memorized the creeds and passed them on from generation to generation. Additionally, every father was a teacher of his sons; every mother taught her daughters.
The men enjoyed communal hunts greatly. These were usually followed by long and friendly talks around the glowing embers of a campfire. The talks covered everything from national history and current events to the light wit of bantering about someone's umsoma, or a bad shot taken during a hunt. The women and children sat quietly and respectfully nearby, listening intently to the conversation.
An Indian tribe consisted of the entire body of a nation. A clan represented a group within the tribe. The principal chief of the Shawnee could be compared with the President of the United States, with the clan chiefs as governors.
Of the original twelve clans of the Shawnee tribe, history finds them with only five clans left in existence: the Thawegila, Peckuwe and Kispokotha, who generally stood together on tribal matters; and the Chalahgawtha and Maykujay, who were likewise closely related in their activities. Each clan had its duties to the tribe. The Peckuwes were responsible for warfare and the training of warriors for battle. The Maykujays answered for matters pertaining to food, health and medicine. The two most powerful clans, the Thawegilas and Chalahgawthas, were responsible for overall tribal government and politics…"
Well known leaders in the Shawnee Nation were Tecumseh and his brother Tenskwatawa (The Prophet), Cornstalk, Blackfish, Black Hoof, and Bluejacket.