The extensive migration of the various Shawnee divisions and bands brought them into contact with a large number of other Indian groups. Some of these encounters were brief and relatively insignificant, but others were extensive and played an important role in influencing the Shawnee. Unfortunately, except for a few references in the speeches of Shawnee chiefs, one must rely for information about these encounters on the accounts left by European observers. Many important intertribal ties were never recorded or observed, and those that were recorded are often sketchily described. Intertribal wars are better documented than peaceful relations and economic arrangements.
Two things should be observed in Shawnee migration into territories already occupied by other tribal groups. One is the use of the migrating Shawnee by other political units, both white and indian, as buffers against troublesome enemies. The other is the reaction of other tribes to Shawnee occupancy of their territory.
The Shawnee role as a buffer against troublesome natives is a recurrent one. They had early gained a reputation, perhaps of necessity, as fierce warriors. It has been suggested that they were invited to the Savannah River by the Cherokee for protection from Catawba. There is no doubt that they were used in the same fashion by South Carolina whites against the Westo. In fact, Shawnee relationships with the Delaware, Conestga, Miami, and even the Creek were each predicated on mutual defense against common enemies. As the Shawnee moved west of the Mississippi River they were used by the Spanish as a check against the troublesome Osage. The Shawnee who settled in Texas were used by the republic against the Wichita. In exchange for a place to settle, the Shawnee had become wandering mercenaries.
It is this role as mercenaries which determined the reactions of other tribes to Shawnee occupancy of territory claimed by these other tribes. Where they served as buffers and allies the Shawnee were welcomed. As allies of the Creek, Delaware, Miami, and Wyandot the Shawnee were granted land on which to establish their villagaes. But where they protected whites against other Indians, intertribal relations were generally hostile. Shawnee relations with the Iroquois, Osage , and Wichita as allies of the French, Spanish, and Texans, respectively, were of a hostile nature.
In the South the Shawnee had significant contacts with the Cherokee, Chickasaw, Creek, and Catawba. The Cherokee are an Iroquoian tribe which in the mid-seventeenth century occupied the mountainous region of the western Carolinas, eastern Tennessee, northeastern Alabama, and the adjacent area of northwestern Georgia. This location placed them directly between the Shawnee settlements in the Cumberland region and those in South Carolina. The most direct route for the Shawnee moving between the Cumberland River and South Carolina, and later between Pennsylvania and the Creek country, passed through Cherokee territory. Therefore, contact between the Shawnee and Cherokee was inevitable.
It has even been suggested that the Cherokee and the Shawnee lived together in the same villages south of the OhioRiver in prehistoric times. Although archaeological evidence cannot confirm this, relations between these tribes undoubtably began before Europeans ever set foot in this region.
Since Shawnee locations on the Cumberland and at the headwaters of the Carolina rivers were on land claimed by the Cherokee, it can be assumed that the Shawnee had permission, or at least were allowed, to locate at these places. Shawnee settlements on the Savannah River may have been made at the invitation of the Cherokee, who desired to have their frontier protected against the Catawba. Yet most of the reports of political relations between the Cherokee and Shawnee before the American Revolution describe hostile encounters.In 1693 some of the Carolina Shawnee were raiding Cherokee villages for slaves. But most of the hostilities occurred during the French and Indian War, when Virginia employed Cherokees to help resist the Shawnee attacks on her frontier. Relations must have been mutually beneficial much of the time. Besides protecting the Cherokee's eastern frontier against Catawba, the Shawnee also served as messengers between the Cherokee and the Creek, who were often at war with each other. It was therefore useful for the Cherokee to maintain friendly relations with the Shawnee. The advantages of such a position for the Shawnee are obvious. Communications and travel could have been made difficult by a hostile Cherokee nation.
Shawnee settlements on the Cumberland River were also in close proximity to the Chickasaw, a Muskogean tribe located along the Mississippi River in the western part of the present states of Tennessee and Mississippi. The Chickasaw were often at odds with the Shawnee. Around 1700 the two tribes allied against the Tamaroa, an Illinois tribe, but this alliance was short-lived. In 1715 the Chickasaw and Cherokee united to drive the remaining Shawnee from the Cumberland Valley.
The Chickasaw were being courted by the French at this time, and it has been suggested that the war was a result of Chickasaw efforts to bring the Shawnee more closely under French influence. But it is doubtful that pressure for establishment of French ties would have occasioned sufficient grounds for a Shawnee confrontation with the Chickasaw; Shawnee bands had themselves established ties with the French more than two decades earlier in Illinois. But if this attempt at imposing French influence included the Chickasaw as middlemen, the Shawnee resistance is understandable. Such a situation would have placed the Shawnee in a subordinate role.
The next time there is mention of Shawnee-Chickasaw relations is in 1756, when Peter Chartier and a band of Shawnee attempted to establish a village along the Tennessee River but were driven north by the Chickasaw. About this same time, according to Shawnee tradition, the French and Shawnee allied in a war against the Chickasaw in which the latter were nearly annihilated.
The Shawnee and the Siouan-speaking Catawba, situated in South Carolina, were engaged in almost constant warfare. This fighting may have begun as early as 1670 when the Catawba are believed to have lived farther west, perhaps as far as the Kentucky River. But the continued hostilities were perpetuated largely by the Carolina traders and government.
Because of the constant wars many captives were taken, and the Indians found a ready market for them among the Charles Town slave dealers. Hostilities were originally aimed at the Spanish Indians from Florida, but the unsatiable demand for slaves soon meant that the Indians who were allied with Carolina turned against each other. This situation was not discouraged and in fact was probably desired by the South Carolina authorities. Armed tribes, even allies, so close to the white settlements could be troublesome. If they could be worn down by intertribal warfare they would be less of a threat. To accomplish this the Carolina government supported the weaker tribes against the stronger ones. Just as the Shawnee had been given support and encouragement to make war on the Westo, the Catawba were later supported in order to keep the Shawnee in check.
The numerous raids by the Catawba, who sold the Shawnee captives into slavery, caused many Shawnee to leave South Carolina for Pennsylvania. Hostilities between the two tribes did not cease, however, as the Catawba continued to send war parties to Ohio and Pennsylvania while the Shawnee returned to raid the Catawba until at least 1762.
"Shawnee History 2 ["Nowhere Left to Go"
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