Thursday, February 9, 2012

Shawnee Indians on the Ohio River

Shawnee Indians on the Ohio River


Evidence of the early Shawnee can still be found in Ohio under the archaeological  guise of the Fort Ancient Culture.


After the Shawnee of Pennsylvania had fallen back upon the waters of the Ohio, they spread themselves from the Alleghenies as far westward as the Big Miami. One of their villages was seventeen miles below Pittsburg: it was called Log's Town, and was visited by Croghan, in 1765. Another, named Lowertown, also visited by the same traveler, stood just below the mouth of the Scioto. It was subsequently carried away by a great flood in that river, which overflowed the site of the town, and compelled the Indians to escape in their canoes. They afterwards built a new town on the opposite side of the river, but soon abandoned it, and removed to the plains of the Scioto and Paint creek, where they established themselves, on the north fork of the latter stream. They had also several other villages of considerable size in the Miami valley. One was "Chillicothe," standing near the mouth of Massie's creek, three miles north of Xenia. Another, called Piqua, and memorable as the birth place of TECUMSEH, the subject of our present narrative, stands upon the north-west side of Mad river, about seven miles below Springfield, in Clark county. Both of these villages were destroyed in 1780, by an expedition from Kentucky, under the command of general George Rogers Clark.
After the peace of 1763, the Miamis having removed from the Big Miami river, a body of Shawanoes 017established themselves at Lower and Upper Piqua, in Miami county, which places, being near together, became their great head-quarters in Ohio. Here they remained until driven off by the Kentuckians; when they crossed over to the St. Mary's and to Wapakanotta. The Upper Piqua is said to have contained, at one period, near four thousand Shawnee
From the geographical location of the Shawnee, it will be perceived that they were placed under circumstances which enabled them, with great facility, to annoy the early settlements in Kentucky; and to attack the emigrants descending the Ohio. In this fierce border war, which was waged upon the whites for a number of years, and oftentimes with extreme cruelty, the Delawares, Wyandots, Mingoes and Miamis, united: the Shawanoes, however, were by far the most warlike and troublesome.
The Shawnee were originally divided into twelve tribes or bands, each of which was sub-divided into families, known as the Eagle, the Turtle, the Panther, &c., these animals constituting their totems. Of these twelve, the names of but four tribes are preserved, the rest having become extinct, or incorporated with them. They are, 1st. the Mequachake,—2d. the Chillicothe,—3d. the Kiskapocoke,—4th. the Piqua. When in council, one of these tribes is assigned to each of the four sides of the council-house, and during the continuance of the deliberations, the tribes retain their respective places. They claim to have the power of distinguishing, at sight, to which tribe an individual belongs; but to the casual observer, there are no visible shades of difference. In each of the four tribes, except the Mequachake, the chiefs owe their authority to merit, but in the last named, the office is hereditary. Of the origin of the Piqua tribe, the following tradition has been recited: "In ancient times, the Shawnee had occasion to build a large fire, and after it was burned down, a great puffing and blowing was heard, when up rose a 018man from the ashes!—hence the name Piqua, which means a man coming out of the ashes." Mequachake, signifies a perfect man. To this tribe the priesthood is confided. The members, or rather certain individuals of it, are alone permitted to perform the sacrifices and other religious ceremonies of the tribe. The division of the tribe into bands or totems, is not peculiar to the Shawanoes, but is common to several other nations. One of the leading causes of its institution, was the prohibition of marriage between those related in a remote degree of consanguinity. Individuals are not at liberty to change their totems, or disregard the restraint imposed by it on intermarriages. It is stated in Tanner's narrative, that the Indians hold it to be criminal for a man to marry a woman whose totem is the same as his own; and they relate instances where young men, for a violation of this rule, have been put to death by their nearest relatives. Loskiel, in his history of the Moravian missions, says, the Delawares and Iroquois never marry near relatives. According to their own account, the Indian nations were divided into tribes for the sole purpose, that no one might, either through temptation or mistake, marry a near relation, which is now scarcely possible, for whoever intends to marry must take a person of a different totem. Another reason for the institution of these totems, may be found in their influence on the social relations of the tribe, in softening private revenge, and preserving peace. Gallatin, on the information derived from a former Indian agent among the Creeks, says, "according to the ancient custom, if an offence was committed by one or another member of the same clan, the compensation to be made, on account of the injury, was regulated in an amicable way by the other members of the clan. Murder was rarely expiated in any other way than by the death of the murderer; the nearest male relative of the deceased was the executioner; but this being done, as under the authority of the clan, there was no further retaliation. If the injury was committed by some one of another clan, it was not the injured party, but the 019clan to which he belonged, that asked for reparation. This was rarely refused by the clan of the offender; but in case of refusal, the injured clan had a right to do itself justice, either by killing the offender, in case of murder, or inflicting some other punishment for lesser offences. This species of private war, was, by the Creeks, called, 'to take up the sticks;' because, the punishment generally consisted in beating the offender. At the time of the annual corn-feast, the sticks were laid down, and could not be again taken up for the same offence. But it seems that originally there had been a superiority among some of the clans. That of the Wind, had the right to take up the sticks four times, that of the Bear twice, for the same offence; whilst those of the Tiger, of the Wolf, of the Bird, of the Root, and of two more whose names I do not know, could raise them but once. It is obvious that the object of the unknown legislation, was to prevent or soften the effects of private revenge, by transferring the power and duty from the blood relatives to a more impartial body. The father and his brothers, by the same mother, never could belong to the same clan, as their son or nephew, whilst the perpetual changes, arising from intermarriages with women of a different clan, prevented their degenerating into distinct tribes; and checked the natural tendency towards a subdivision of the nation into independent communities. The institution may be considered as the foundation of the internal policy, and the basis of the social state of the Indians."