The Middle Ohio Valley was once the ancestral homeland of the Shawnee people before the tribe was pushed east into present day Oklahoma. Swift travelers and prolific traders, Shawnee were kind friends to many, and equally fierce foes to others. One of the most renowned warriors and leaders among the Shawnee Indians was Tecumseh, born on the Scioto River in Ohio.
The Shawnee were one of the first tribes that Lewis and Clark encountered during their expedition, as the majestic Ohio River flowed through the heart of their homeland. At the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers the captains encountered “a great many” Shawnee and Delaware Indians. The party also explored Apple Creek, the largest stream on the Missouri side above the Ohio River, and Lewis noted in his journals a large village of Shawnee.
In addition to these encounters, a French-Canadian-Shawnee hunter named George Drouillard also accompanied the Lewis and Clark party. At the age of twenty eight, Drouillard was considered the most skilled hunter among all the men of the party. Drouillard’s language skills were also critical in communicating to numerous tribes during the expedition. In Jefferson City, Missouri, bronze sculptures near the state capitol commemorate the Lewis and Clark Expedition and include George Drouillard.
The present-day home of Shawnee tribal headquarters features wide-open expanses and stunning scenery. Native grasses sway in the breeze as bison herds roam, striking figures with thick brown fur contrasting against the deep blue Oklahoma sky. This land is home to white-tailed deer, bobcats, beavers, and other wildlife, offering exceptional opportunities for photographers.
There are three federally recognized Shawnee tribes: the Eastern Shawnee on the Oklahoma-Missouri border near Wyandotte, Oklahoma; the Absentee Shawnee near Shawnee, Oklahoma; and the Shawnee Tribe in Miami, Oklahoma.
Today’s Shawnee are active in a healthy and inclusive community history dialog, efforts to reawaken the language, and a burgeoning Shawnee arts renaissance. The Shawnee still practice many traditional lifeways and tell their stories in the Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center. The Center is a hub for students, educators, artists, citizens, and visitors who wish to explore and share Shawnee culture.