SHAWNEE CULTURE


Technology

Clothing of European weave was worn, but it was slow in replacing dressed skins for regular use. Although there are accounts of men preparing skins, this was normally an activity of the women. Deer hide was the most common material used for clothing. But before the extinction of the buffalo east of the Mississippi, the hide of this animal was made into winter robes and the thin belly skin was tanned to a chamoislike softness. After the skin was stretched and the hair and fat scraped off, it was dressed with animal brains to soften it. These dressed skins were made into several articles of clothing. In the winter both sexes wore moccasins, leggings to the top of their thighs, a breech-cloth between the legs, a girdle around the waist, and a hat. Men wore a loose shirt while the women wore a longer overblouse. In the summer the men wore only a breech-cloth and the women wore a loose overblouse. Often the shirts and blouses were decorated with dyed porcupine quills, bright colored feathers, and paints. Later as the Shawnee obtained items of European manufacture they decorated their clothing with silver trinkets and glass beads. Calico shirts gradually replaced skin shirts as hides were increasingly needed for trade purposes.

Shawnee women were also engaged in several other craft activities. They made rope of wild hemp and wove bags for carrying food and other items. Rugs and tapestries were woven from dyed straw and feathers. Unfortunately, little is known about these activities. Once the Shawnee obtained manufactured goods from European traders, these traditional crafts were abandoned.

The making of sieves for sifting meal or separating grain into different sizes gives a clue as to the ingenuity of Shawnee basket-making, which early became a lost art. Material was obtained by cutting down a hackberry tree, stripping off the bark, and pounding the trunk until thin layers were woven into sifters of various sizes, and tradition has it that Shawnee women at one time could make watertight baskets in this fashion.

Other items reflect the ingenuity of the Shawnee in working with wood. The use of wooden bowls and spoons is often mentioned by captives and others who encountered the Shawnee. These were carved from the knots of hardwood trees. Henry Harvey, a missionary to the Shawnee in Ohio, describes a sophisticated system of trapping animals which kept them alive until the hunter could return to retrieve his quarry and reset the trap's triggering mechanism. The traps consisted of wooden poles placed along streams and marshes. The animals, as they crossed the poles, would trip the trigger made of deer sinew and cause other poles to fall into place trapping the quarry.

The Shawnee at Wapakoneta, Ohio, were early influenced by technological change. The Quaker mission introduced saw and gristmills, and some of the Shawnee began to take on the trappings of civilization. Board houses and furniture replaced the wegiwas. Corn was ground at the mill, which freed women from such labor. Carpentry was learned and tools were accumulated with which plows, harrows, wagons, bedsteads, tables, bureaus, and other farm and household items were made. After reaching Oklahoma most of the remaining Shawnee adopted these changes.

"Shawnee Culture"(Part 1)

"Shawnee Culture"(Part 2)

"Shawnee Culture"(Part 3)

"Shawnee's Reservation"

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