Shawnee Nations Take a Cultural Road Trip: Destination NMAI

This weekend is a historic first for the Shawnee Nations. All three Shawnee tribes from Oklahoma are coming together at the NMAI in Washington, D.C.

This weekend is a historic first for the Shawnee Nations. All three Shawnee tribes from Oklahoma are coming together at the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington D.C. for the first time to share their culture, language and history in a festival called “Shawnee: Living in Both Worlds.”

More than 60 members of the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes, Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and the Shawnee Tribe are riding a bus from Oklahoma to Washington D.C., passing through parts of their former homelands in Ohio. Before removal by treaty and U.S. government acts, the Shawnee originally lived in a vast area east of the Mississippi that included Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

ICTMN caught up with them in Ohio at the Ft. Ancient State Memorial Park and Museum in Oregonia, Ohio, a few miles north of Cincinnati.

Joseph Blanchard, Absentee Shawnee Cultural Preservation Director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer, explained that he got the idea for the national all-inclusive Shawnee festival several months ago. He imagined the event as a collaborative effort presenting Shawnee people and their culture as a contemporary group who still actively practice their traditions and speak their language.

“I wanted to convey this message on a national stage, that although we live in the modern world, we continue to hold on to our ways and are working to further revitalize our language and traditions and pass them on to our young people,” said Blanchard.

Leaders of the Eastern Shawnee tribe and the Shawnee tribe readily agreed to join the efforts and are taking their dances, art, history, storytelling and language to the NMAI. The museum will live stream some of the events on their website on Friday.

The Festival begins today and continues through Saturday, June 13. Citizens from the three Shawnee tribes will perform traditional dances and demonstrate crafts and games. Children will have an opportunity to make their own “Indian dice” out of wood. The Festival includes presentations about Shawnee history and treaties with the United States as well as a performance of “Tecumseh’s Vision,’ at the Rasumson Theater at the Museum.

The trip as well as the Festival is a historic experience for many who are traveling to D.C.

“Stopping here at Ft. Ancient has been an emotional experience for many of us. Our people lived here and prayed here,” Blanchard said.

The Ft. Ancient Ohio State Memorial is named for the Ft. Ancient culture who are believed to have built the earthworks at the site over 800 hundred years ago. The Shawnee lived in the area and believe they are descended from the civilization.

The Shawnee tribes are also working with the Ohio History Connection, the state organization that oversees Ft. Ancient, to present accurate information about the culture and history of the Shawnee at state sites.