The culture of the Shawnee Indians of Ohio and the way they played, worshipped and even the food they ate is very interesting. In 1835 the first census was taken and about 800 Shawnee were living in Ohio. Today the largest group is the loyal Shawnee and there are about 8,000. They are recognized by the United States Government however, as part of the Cherokee Nation. The word Shawnee comes from the Algonquin word “Shawun” meaning Southerner.
Shawnee children grew up as free as the animals around them. They engaged in sports such as running, swimming and jumping. This was encouraged by the elders to strengthen muscles and build stamina. They also practiced archery to develop their skills as hunters and warriors. The girls kept themselves busy playing pretend, doing things their Mother’s did such as making mud pies imitating their Mothers baking, and especially in molding vessels of clay.
Shawnee men were hunters and warriors. They enjoyed hunting very much. After a hunt they usually gathered around the fire and had long and friendly talks. During this time the women and children sat quietly and listened to the conversation.
The Shawnee women of the tribe did the domestic labor. They built the lodges, dressed the game, cooked, planted and cultivated the gardens, scraped and tanned hides which were tasks that took a lot of physical work and brains. First they fleshed the outer layers of fat and tissue, followed by scraping the hair off. This only began the process, the animals brains were pulled apart and mashed together into a type of pudding. Once the rawhide was stretched and soaked in water and the brains were thoroughly worked by hand into the hide, the hide was stretched and staked out with a wooden mallet until it was dried and softened. This took many long and hard boring hours but when complete the result was a softened flexible fabric that the women used to make clothing, shoes, pouches, knife sheaths and much more.
The women also made blankets, wove baskets and made vessels of clay such as plates, cups and more. The Shawnee women also cared for the ailments within the tribe and were very skillful at mixing herbs and setting fractured bones. Many plants provided resources for herbal teas and healing salves such as blueberry root tea it was used for treating cramps, hiccups and colic. Arrowheads when deeply embedded into the body could be taken out by forceps made from split willow and willow bark tea was used to treat colds it was also smoked to treat Asthma. As you can see by the hard work of the Shawnee women the saying “A woman can do anything a man can do” is very true. The Shawnee women did practically everything there was to do at the tribe.
The Shawnee cooked food by baking, boiling, and roasting open an open fire. They ate raccoon, rabbit, squirrel, deer, bear, muskrat, turkey, ducks, geese, snakes and if they had to they would also eat pigeon. In their gardens they raise beans, squash, maize (corn), pumpkins, melons, and wild berries and nuts. Bread, corn fritters and corn meal was made by grinding corn between two rocks until it turned into flour. They grew Sunflowers for the seeds.
At first the Shawnee didn’t wear any clothing but then the men started to wear a loincloth. The women saved clothes for special occasions, for shoes they wore moccasins in the summer and snowshoes in the winter. Men wore legging and breechcloths usually down to their knees. They also added caps of fur and skins in the winter months. Braves wore bandanas with feathers in them from a Hawk or an Owl.
The Shawnee had three main houses, wigwams, lodges and Seminoles. Wigwams were round and small; Lodges were rectangular and made of bark and sticks of wood. Seminoles were used in the summer when it was hot outside. The village had a wall around it so that other tribes and animals couldn’t get in.
The Shawnee believed in Moneto a supreme being who ruled the entire universe and gave blessings upon all who earned his favor and sorrow on those who merited his disfavor. Each Shawnee was judge of his own conduct and was held accountable for it. They lived by their own standards of conduct and ignored all value judgment placed on then by people outside of their tribe.
The one golden rule of the Shawnee was “Do not kill or injure your neighbor, because it is not him that you injure it is yourself that you injure. Do god to him and therefore add to his days of happiness and add to your own.”
The religious ceremonies of the Shawnee were tied up with the agricultural cycle. In the spring the Shawnee celebrated the Bread Dance which indicated planting time. The Green Corn Dance celebrated the ripening of the crops. The Autumn Bread Dance celebrated the harvest.
The most famous of the Shawnee was Tecumseh. From around 1768-1813, he was chief of the Shawnee in Clark county
Ohio. Among his people he became distinguished for his prowess in battle, but he opposed the practice of torturing prisoners.
In the War of 1812, Tecumseh allied himself with the British and was made a brigadier general. He led a large force of Native Americans in the siege of Fort Meigs, covered Gen. Henry Procter’s retreat after the American victory on Lake Erie, and lost his life in the battle of the Thames in which Gen. William Henry Harrison overwhelmed Procter and his Native American allies. Tecumseh had great ability as an organizer and a leader and is considered one of the outstanding Native Americans in American history. You can witness the epic life story of the legendary Shawnee leader as he struggles to defend his sacred homelands in the Ohio country during the late 1700’s. “Tecumseh!” has been labeled as one of the most mesmerizing dramas in the nation. You can see the show outside at the1,800 seat Sugarloaf Mountain Amphitheatre near Chillicothe, Ohio.
The Shawnee considered themselves as the descendants of the Delaware Indians who they considered their grandfathers. They also considered the Wyandot Indians as their nephew or younger brothers; they liked the Wyandot Indians a lot. They lived in Northern Ohio and as far south as Ross County where the Shawnee lived. Other groups could be allies for one day and enemies the next.