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The Worlds the Shawnees Made

Migration and Violence in Early America

Stephen Warren

Publication Year: 2014

In 1779, Shawnees from Chillicothe, a community in the Ohio country, told the British, "We have always been the frontier." Their statement challenges an oft-held belief that American Indians derive their unique identities from longstanding ties to native lands. By tracking Shawnee people and migrations from 1400 to 1754, Stephen Warren illustrates how Shawnees made a life for themselves at the crossroads of empires and competing tribes, embracing mobility and often moving willingly toward violent borderlands. By the middle of the eighteenth century, the Shawnees ranged over the eastern half of North America and used their knowledge to foster notions of pan-Indian identity that shaped relations between Native Americans and settlers in the revolutionary era and beyond.
Warren's deft analysis makes clear that Shawnees were not anomalous among Native peoples east of the Mississippi. Through migration, they and their neighbors adapted to disease, warfare, and dislocation by interacting with colonizers as slavers, mercenaries, guides, and traders. These adaptations enabled them to preserve their cultural identities and resist coalescence without forsaking their linguistic and religious traditions.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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Maps and Illustrations

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pp. ix-xii

Books, like people, have histories. And this book, in particular, is inextricably tied to T. Randolph Noe. A probate lawyer living in Louisville, Kentucky, Randy collected documents related to Shawnee history for more than a decade. His love of Shawnee history compelled him to travel vast distances, at his own expense, in search of everything that had ever been...

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1. Rethinking Place and Identity in American Indian Histories

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pp. 1-24

Viola Dushane’s decaying homesite sits on a wooded rise above the Quapaw powwow grounds, near the Spring River, in the northeastern corner of Oklahoma. Here the dense oak and hickory forests of the Ozark Mountain foothills descend to the river’s eastern banks. To the west of the allotment—a small parcel of family-owned land held in trust by the federal...

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Part 1. Continuity and Reinvention at the Dawn of Colonization

The peoples of Fort Ancient occupied the Middle Ohio River Valley from the falls of the Ohio River, near modern Louisville, to the western foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, in what is now West Virginia. For more than 700 years they lived in a series of stable, highly egalitarian villages in which corn agriculture was the predominant means of subsistence. Women...

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2. The Parochial Cosmopolitans of the Middle Ohio Valley

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pp. 27-56

Petersburg, in Boone County, Kentucky, is the perfect spot for a river town. Even during the great flood of 1937, when the Ohio River breached its floodplain, Petersburg remained dry. It is a stable and high spot of ground with rich soils, and human societies have recognized its virtues for millennia. Before Petersburg, Kentuckians called it Tanner Station, no...

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3. Nitarikyk’s Slave: A Fort Ancient Odyssey

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pp. 57-80

It was the winter of 1669. François Dollier de Casson, a French priest and member of the Sulpician order, spent the winter with an Indian “slave” and his captor, a Nipissing Anishnaabeg chief named Nitarikyk. Between daily mass, the baptism of dying infants, and hours of studying the Anishinaabe language, part of the Central Algonquian language family, Dollier...

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Part 2. The Lure of Colonial Borderlands

At first glance, violent borderlands do not seem like places of opportunity. But Shawnee villagers recognized that their survival depended on both their ability to trade with Europeans and their capacity to serve as guides, porters, slave hunters, mercenaries, and traders. Between 1673, when the first “Shawnees” appeared in the historical record, and the beginning of...

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4. A Ranging Sort of People: Migration and Slavery on the Savannah River

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pp. 83-106

In March 1670, John Carteret, an owner and governor of colonial Carolina, sailed with a delegation of Englishmen from their colony at Bermuda to modern Beaufort, South Carolina. Carteret was amazed by the friendliness of the Indian people who greeted them. He was “carried ashore by the Indians,” inhabitants of a town they called Sowee, one of many Siouan-speaking...

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5. The Grand Village of the Kaskaskias: Old Allegiances, New Worlds

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pp. 107-133

In September 1680, “a Chaouanon, Confederate to the Illinois,” rushed to the Grand Village of the Kaskaskias with an urgent message. He arrived just ahead of a war party led by the Iroquois but supported by Miamis and his own Shawnee kinsmen. He warned that more than 500 warriors were preparing to attack the Kaskaskias, the foremost tribe of the Illinois...

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6. “Mixt Nations” at the Head of the Bay: The Iroquois, Bacon’s Rebels, and the Peoples in Between

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pp. 134-154

In the spring of 1692, a mysterious band of Indians arrived at the head of Chesapeake Bay. They were an alarming collection of “strange Indians,” who seemed to be led by a Frenchman with the letters M C tattooed to his chest. Residents of Cecil County, Maryland, where the Susquehanna River drains into Chesapeake Bay, believed that this Frenchman...

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Part 3. Becoming Strangers: The Long History of Removal

As Native sojourners who moved every generation for more than 250 years, the Shawnees adopted a wide range of identities, and the differences among them accelerated over time. Within the parochial cosmopolitanism that had shaped their migrations lay new understandings of American Indian unity that were an inevitable by-product of long-distance migration. The...

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7. One Head and One Heart: Migration, Coalescence, and Penn’s Imagined Community on the Lower Susquehanna

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pp. 157-179

Between 1676 and 1710, Native peoples from the mid-Atlantic, the upper country, and South Carolina coalesced in colonial Pennsylvania. Indian migrants saw it as a refuge for oppressed people well before European immigrants redefined it as “the best poor man’s country.” William Penn certainly promoted their understanding of his colony. In 1701, while negotiating...

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8. One Colour and as One Body: Race, Trade, and Migration to the Ohio Country

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pp. 180-207

In 1733, an Iroquois diplomat named Sagohandechty, “a great man” of the Senecas, was murdered along the Allegheny River. He and four other representatives of the Iroquois Confederacy had been sent from their capital, Onondaga, to the mixed Shawnee, Delaware, and Iroquois towns along the Allegheny and Upper Ohio rivers to try to compel them to...

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9. Race, Revitalization, and Warfare in the Eighteenth-Century Southeast

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pp. 208-223

The Shawnees and the Creeks have been telling stories about each other for as long as either community can remember. Indeed, the relationship between them stretches back into “deep time,” to the period before Europeans began recording their histories. Archaeological and archival evidence shows that Shawnees have been living within the various Creek...

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Epilogue: Reconsidering the “Literary Advantage"

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pp. 224-230

Since the eighteenth century, eyewitnesses and historians have misunderstood both the causes of migration in the Eastern Woodlands and the varied motivations of migrants. For many American Indians and colonizers, long-distance migrants were inherently treacherous. The Shawnees have lived with these misconceptions for centuries. And because the...


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pp. 231-266


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pp. 267-290


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pp. 291-308

E-ISBN-13: 9781469612768
E-ISBN-10: 1469612763
Print-ISBN-13: 9781469611730
Print-ISBN-10: 1469611732

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2014