During the American Revolution, many of the Shawnee people left Ohio to seek peace in Spanish Louisiana.
They settled near present-day Cape Girardeau, Mo., and later were joined by other tribal members from Alabama and Ohio, according to Oklahoma Historical Society.
The band accepted a reservation in Kansas in 1825, but by then many of its members had scattered to Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.
By 1840, many of the scattered groups had migrated to Indian Territory and lived along the Canadian River in the Choctaw and Creek nations. Their absence from their Kansas reservation caused them to become known as the “Absentee Shawnee.”
The Absentee Shawnee were joined on the Canadian River by Kansas Shawnee who had Southern sympathies before the Civil War, then by other Absentees from Texas.
Most lived as refugees in Kansas during the Civil War, but returned to Indian Territory immediately afterward, claiming acreage assigned to the Potawatomi. The U.S. government gave them title to that land in 1872.
The tribe is based in Shawnee and has about 4,000 members. Of Oklahoma’s three recognized Shawnee tribes, the Absentee has the largest number of members who speak their native Algonquian language, according to Oklahoma Historical Society.
The Shawnee once lived throughout the region east of the Mississippi River. They were a wide-ranging, highly mobile nomadic people.
By the early 19th century, they had been confined to northeastern Ohio.
The encroachment of white settlers crowded Shawnee lands further, causing one band, later to be known as the Absentee Shawnee, to relocate to Missouri.
In about 1813, the progenitor group of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe came into being. This group was known as the Lewistown Band of Shawnee, after the Band’s leader Qua-ta-wa-pea (or Colonel Lewis as the Americans called him). The Lewistown Band of Shawnee was granted a reserve is western Ohio in 1817.
Their reservation was one of three in Ohio granted to the Shawnee remaining in Ohio by the Treaty of Fort Meigs.
In 1830, the Indian Removal Act was passed and declared illegal shortly afterward. Nevertheless, 1831 brought the Lewistown Treaty, which exchanged Lewistown lands in Ohio for a reservation in Indian Territory and forcibly removed the Lewistown band from Ohio. Exactly when the Eastern Shawnee Tribe became formally organized is unclear, although it happened sometime after May 1937.
The effects of this process were detrimental.
According to Chief Glenna Wallace in an article she wrote in 2010, Eastern Shawnee tribal membership dropped to just 69 in the 1870s. Today, the Eastern Shawnee have about 3,000 citizens, and the tribe is headquartered in Wyandotte.
Gaylord News is a reporting project of the University of Oklahoman Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.