Information on the Shawnee and Delaware Indians
Recorded by Members of the Lewis and Clark Expedition 1803
The following excerpts from the journals of Lewis and Clark and their men present a picture of the Shawnee and Delaware people as the Anglo-Americans saw them. The modern reader must be careful to understand that what these white men saw and recorded was not necessarily correct from the Indian perspective. At the time of Lewis and Clark, the Shawnee had been driven from their homelands in what is today Ohio, Tennessee and Kentucky by the whites, and had moved across Illinois to take refuge in what was then Spanish Upper Louisiana, today's State of Missouri. The Delaware had been pushed even farther, for their original homelands were in what is today Pennsylvania and New Jersey. The Shawnee and the Delaware had sided often with the losing sides in wars against or between colonial powers in America, but had been very active in resistance to Anglo settlement west of the Appalachians. During the American Revolution, they fought against the United States, as they did during Little Turtle's War, which was lost in 1794 at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in Ohio. Due to these losses and the uprising of the Shawnee leader Tecumseh (1809-1811, which postdated the Lewis and Clark Expedition), the Shawnee were virtual refugees for a period of over 100 years. Today, these tribes are centered on a reservation in Oklahoma. Their flight before overwhelming numbers of white settlers and their efforts to preserve their cultures exemplify the history and tragedy of Native peoples and Anglo invasion in America.
The following passages have been freely adapted and excerpted from the original texts, and the spelling has been corrected to make them easier to read. For students wishing to quote these passages, the Journals of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, edited by Gary Moulton and published by the University of Nebraska Press, is the recommended source. For those who wish more in-depth information about Lewis and Clark's relations with various Indian tribes, including background from the Indian perspective, the best book is James P. Ronda's Lewis and Clark among the Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1984. The very best way to obtain accurate information from the tribal perspective is to contact tribal councils for individual tribes - in other words, to consult the people themselves.
President, Delaware Executive Committee
P.O. Box 825
Anadarko, Oklahoma 73065
Governor, Absentee-Shawnee Executive Committee
2025 South Gordon Cooper Drive
Shawnee, Oklahoma 74801-9381
Chief, Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma
P.O. Box 350
Seneca, Missouri 64865
[Lewis, writing at an area near the confluence of the Ohio and Mississippi rivers in what is today southeast Missouri]:
Passed the Mississippi this day and went down on the other side after landing at the upper habitation on the opposite side. We found here some Shawnees and Delawares encamped, one of the Shawnees, a respectable-looking Indian, offered me three beaver skins for my dog, with which he appeared much pleased. The dog was of the Newfoundland breed, one that I prized much for his docility and qualifications generally for my journey and of course there was no bargain. I had given $20 for this dog myself.
Nov. 23rd 1803
Landed at [Cape Girardeau, Missouri] and called on the commandant and delivered the letters of introduction which I had for him from Capt. Daniel Bissell and a Mr. Drewyer, a nephew of the Commandant's [Louis Lorimier]. On my arrival at the commandant's dwelling I was informed that he had gone out with his family to attend a horse race, he himself being as I afterwards understood a party to the race. I pursued him to the race ground, found him and delivered him my credentials. He treated me with much politeness in his way. The race was just over before I reached the ground & the commandant was busied for some time in settling the disputes which had arisen in consequence of odds being given among the by betters. The commandant's horse lost the main race, but won by six inches the by bets. . . The commandant is Canadian by birth, of French extraction; he was once a very considerable trader among the Shawnees & Delawares. He is a man about 5 feet 8 inches high, dark skin, hair and eyes. He is remarkable for having once had a remarkable suite of hair; he was very cheerful & I took occasion to mention this to him. He informed me that it was once so long that it touched the ground when he stood erect. Nor was it much less remarkable for its thickness; this I could readily believe from its present appearance. He is about 60 years of age, and yet scarcely a gray hair in his head, which reaches now when queued (the manner in which he dresses it) nearly as low as his knees, and it is proportionally thick. He appears yet quite active. This uncommon queue falls down his back to which it is kept close by means of a leather girdle confined around his waist. This man, agreeably to the custom of many of the Canadian traders, has taken to himself a wife from among the aborigines of the country. His wife is a Shawnee woman, from her complexion is half blooded only. She is a very decent woman, and if we may judge from her present appearance has been very handsome when young. She dresses after the Shawnee manner with stroud [woolen] leggings and moccasins, differing however from them in her linen which seemed to be drawn beneath the girdle of her stroud, as also a short jacket with long sleeves over her linen, with long sleeves more in the style of the French Canadian women. By this woman Lorimier has a large family of very handsome children, three of which have attained the age of puberty. The daughter is remarkably handsome & dresses in a plain yet fashionable style, or such as is now common in the Atlantic States among the respectable people of the middle class. She is an agreeable, affable girl, & much the most decent looking female I have seen since I left the settlements in Kentucky a little below Louisville. The Commandant pressed me to stay to supper, which I did, the lady of the family presided, and with much circumspection performed the honors of the table.
On this stream [Apple Creek, a tributary of the Mississippi River which which flows eastward out of the State of Missouri] about 7 miles from its mouth is a settlement of Shawnees, which more than any other in this quarter deserves the name of a village. I could not ascertain their number.
[This settlement of the Absentee Shawnee was located near the later village of Old Appleton, on Apple Creek in Cape Girardeau County, Missouri. It may have contained as many as four hundred persons in 1803].
[Clark, encamped on the Wood River in modern-day Illinois, about 18 miles north of St. Louis]:
Friday 23rd December 1803
Several Delawares passed, a chief whom I saw at the Greenville Treaty. I gave him a bottle of whiskey.
[Clark refers to and was apparently present at the signing of the Treaty of Fort Greenville on August 3, 1795, when General Anthony Wayne forced the Indians of the Northwest Territory to surrender much of present Ohio and parts of Indiana and Illinois].