Shawnee Culture

" Shawnee doctors had an excellent reputation and were reported to have performed feats that seemed almost magical. John Heckewelder, a Moravian missionary, noted that a Shawnee woman in half an hour cured his injured finger that white doctors had been unable to remedy. He also said that missionary women often sought Shawnee women doctors to cure complaints "peculiar to their sex." Their surgeons excelled in the curing of external wounds that were beyond the skill of white practitioners. The uses of curative roots and herbs were known by virtually all the Shawnee. The Creek Indians had an almost mystical faith in Shawnee doctors and attributed to them powers only a little less than devine.

A belief in witches and the practice of withcraft were also part of Shawnee life. Incurable illnesses were often blamed on witches, and persons suspected of practicing witchcraft were put to death. Incisions were made in the one who was bewitched so as to extract the matter the witch had thrown into him.

Shawnee funeral services were usually lenghty vigils that included songs, ceremonial dances, and speeches recollecting and honoring the deceased's life. Bodies of tribe members were always buried uncremated, most commonly in an east-west orientation, and great efforts were made to retrieve the corpses of warriors after battles, as it was considered highly disrespectful to leave a body unburied.

Shawnee burial practices changed very little throughout their history. Certain practices changed over time and varied among their divisions, but in many details Shawnee mortuary practices remained the same. The body of the deceased was kept covered inside the dwelling for half a day after death; then it was prepared for burial by the blood kin. The kin chose a funeral leader and two or three corpse handlers who also served as gravediggers. None of the gravediggers could be related to the deceased nor be of the same name group. The funeral rites lasted four days and included purification rites, burial addresses, feasts, vigils, and condolence ceremonies.
Graves were dug about four feet deep and had an east-west orientation. The interior of the grave was sometimes lined with stone slabs,( in New Manchester, W.Va., I have seen this) but most references indicate that wood and bark were used. The body was wrapped in a skin or covered with bark. Poles were laid across the top of the grave, bark was laid over the poles, and the earth taken from the grave was piled over the bark covering. A grave house made of logs or bark was erected over the grave. No cemeteries existed prior to 1830; most graves were dug near the dwellings.

Shawnee music and dance were greatly influenced by the Cherokee and Creek. Most songs were sung as an accompaniment to a wide variety of social and ceremonial dances. The singing was largely a male activity and was comprised of steady rhythmic chanting at various tempos depending on the nature of the dance. Many of the dances are couples' dances, but they begin with the men dancing in a circle and the women gradually entering, choosing a partner as they do. The women's dance and the war dance are restricted to women and men respectively. The war dance includes a series of solo performances with each dancer recounting his own exploits in song. Songs and dances are accompanied by skin drums, gourd rattles, or both, depending on the dance. There are accounts of the use of reed flutes among the Shawnee, but apparently these were not used for the group songs and dances.

"Shawnee Culture"(Part 2)

"Shawnee Culture"(Part 3)

"Shawnee Culture"(Part 4)

"Shawnee's Reservation"



Thank U Koalasue for the background!!!
Indian Backgrounds

For us, our lives are in the hands of the Great Spirit. We are determined to defend our lands, if it be His will, we wish to leave our bones upon them.
Shawnee Chief Tecumseh

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