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Origin of the Shawnee Indians

Origin of the Shawnee Indians as told by Kahanah Monetoo M’wawa or Friend Spirit Wolf

Many ages ago when the Great Spirit had formed this world He thought it best to create humans to inhabit it and with this Thought He created the first Indians, a man and a woman. He then taught them the knowledge of their creation and the purpose for which they were brought into existence. This first man was called Kwee-koo-la, the First Made.

So that He would be with them always, He placed a small piece of His heart within them so there would always be some Good in each of them and so that He could feel in His heart what they were feeling. This piece of His heart would never leave them and even though it would pass from parent to child, each would have the same portion as the first 2 created.

As He had eyes to see, He gave them eyes to see with and so He could see through them what they were seeing.

As He had ears to hear with, He gave them ears so that they could hear and so that He could hear what they were hearing.

As He had a tongue to speak with, He gave them tongues to talk to one another with and so that He could speak to them through one of their own if needed.

Within about a year the woman delivered a child and he was called Mah-kwee-kee-lau, the First Born and as he would also need a wife the Great Spirit created him one as well. So it went that living there with Him their number increased until there were 12 of each living in the home of the Great Spirit, the first two pair, 10 men and 10 women.

They were all Shawnee and they were the roots of the 12 original tribes.

He told them then that it was now time to come down and live on this world and that in 12 of His days He would send them to this Island. In preparation of their leaving He made all manner of life for their subsistence on this world; of Plants He made the first 4, being Corn, Beans, Squash and Sunflower, of Meats He made the first 6, being Elk, Deer, Buffalo, Bear, Turkey and Raccoon. Of the vegetables He made 12 and of the animals He made 12. In each He placed a portion of His heart, just as He had with the 12 couples, so that all things would be His and subject to Him.

He then told them that their years would number 200 and by then their hair would be white like His and then they would fall down to sleep and return to Him.

The Great Spirit told them at that time; “Remember always who it is that has made you, never forget that or give credit for your creation to none but me.”

The Great Spirit gave them this rule also to live by; “Do no thing to any other that you would not have done to you, for when you harm another you have blackened and hardened my heart within you.”

Additionally He told them “Avoid all Evil thoughts, words, acts and people so your heart, which is part of Me, will rest well each night, for as you think, speak and act so is your heart within you.”

He told them as well, “Strive with all your heart and being to remain on the White Path of Peace that leads back to me and after this life is done you will find your great reward.”

To make their lives to be more perfect He told them as well, “Respect and honor your parents and Aged for their gifts of wisdom and love will be treasures to you. Permit none to harm the Old Ones among you.”

That their lives would be a tribute to His love for them He then said, “Love, care for and protect your children as I have done for you and they will be your gifts to this world. Permit no harm to be done to them nor suffer anyone that harms a child to live.”

He then gave them too a bag of His Great Medicine for use when one of them should become injured or fall down before reaching the age of 200, with instructions to apply it to their body, then pray to Him and when He heard, the fallen would get back to his feet.

As He could not watch over them every minute, He gave them the sun to warm them by day and the moon to guide them by night.

He then took some white hairs from His head and placed them on the heads of the first man formed and on the first child born, saying this one will be your first Old Man called Kwee-koo-la the first man made and this one shall be your second Old Man called Mah-kwee-kee-lau, the first man born. They shall be called your Grandfathers, Kwee-koo-la shall be the head of the nation of Indians and Ma-kwee-kee-lau shall be second after him. When He had caused the heads of these 2 to turn white with wisdom, He created 2 more men to replace them as husbands of their wives.

He then placed the 2 Old Men and the 12 Shawnee families in a basket and set them down on this world. The Old Man Kwee-koo-la, the first made carried in a bundle on his shoulders all the good things the Great Spirit had entrusted him with for the benefit of the Indians. As then the whole of the world was then covered with a great flood, He sat the basket down on the waters and for some time the Shawnee inside floated upon the waters.

Eventually it came to rest on the peak of a very high mountain and the Great Spirit caused doors to open in 4 directions. The 12 couples by then had many children so 3 families went out each door and down the mountain in the 4 directions. The 2 First Old Men accompanied their families out the same door.

When they came out of the basket they were overlooking the Great Water that the sun sets in each day but Kwee-koo-la then told them that their home was to be on the other side of the water and when they had walked down the mountain to the shore of the Great Water they stopped to rest. They could see nothing but water and knew not how they would be able to cross it.

The first Old Man, Kwee-koo-la took from his bundle a gourd rattle and began to sing. The others joined in singing with him and for 12 days and 12 nights they sang, eating nothing but a few of the 12 Roots the Great Spirit had made for their use. At the end of the 12 days and 12 nights the Old Man Kwee-koo-la told them that the Great Spirit had heard their songs and would make the water hard so they could walk to this Island.

When the Great Spirit had worked His Will on the Great Water, Kwee-koo-la told them he was too tired now to lead them further and would remain on there on that shore, for his heart within him was at home in that cold place. He then appointed his second son Cha-la-ka-tha, the Second Born to take his place as leader. The children of Cha-la-ka-tha today still bear his name as Chalakatha Shawnee.

So the young leader led the band off, leaving Kwee-koo-la, the first made sitting on the shore of the Great Water. It was a long, hard, cold walk but after walking for 12 moons at last the band, which by now had become quite numerous; 12 times 12 times 12 it is said, arrived in this land and removed them a little way from the shore.

Mah-kwee-kee-lau, the first born then took the gourd rattle from the bundle that Kwee-koo-la had passed on to him and began to sing. All the others joined in the singing and they sang for 12 days and 12 nights, eating only a few of the 12 Roots the Great Spirit had made for their use.

They then returned down to the shore to call back to Kwee-koo-la but found that the water had now returned to its’ original form. Mah-kwee-kee-lau, the first born then made a speech to the Shawnee, telling them to travel further to the south but that he would remain behind, looking back at his father and friend across the Great Water. The First 2 Old Men have since turned into great stones facing each other across the Great Water and will remain thus as long as this world stands.

Cha-la-ka-tha then led the band off to the south, for 12 times 12 moons they walked until while camped on the shore of a river one night, the Great Spirit came to visit Cha-la-ka-tha and told him that this was to be their home and the place was to be called Shawannoa; the home of the Shawnee and the river would be called Shawano-we-thee-pee; the river of the Shawnee.

The Great Spirit then told Cha-la-ka-tha that while He might not come to visit them as often as in times past, He would leave His Sun to pray to during the day and His Moon to pray to by night.

At this time it was decided that someone needed to be responsible for the care of the Great Medicine given by the Great Spirit to Kwee-koo-law then passed on to Mah-kwee-kee-lau and then to Cha-la-ka-tha. The first born son of Mah-kwee-kee-lau was called Mah-ko-at-shah; the Third born then arose and said he should be entrusted with the Great Medicine for his soul was as white and pure as his body. And so the Great Medicine was entrusted to Mah-ko-at-shah, his children today are the Mekoche Shawnee. 4 days after the appearance of the Great Spirit, Cha-la-ka-tha and Mah-ko-at-shah sent some young men out to hunt.

So the young men hunted for 2 days until they met a stranger in the forest who spoke their language. When they had returned with this new man the old men questioned him but he could give no account of himself except his people were from further south and his name was Way-pe-kay-wah-kay, the Gray-eyed Man and he was the ancestor of the We-pay-ko-we or Pekowi Shawnee. His people, who said they were led to this land by Was-koo-me-sah another son of Kwee-koo-la, shortly joined with the others as one people.

Only a short time later as the joined people were in their village another strangler came to them from the west and saluted them in their own tongue. When questioned he said his name was Kish-poo-koo and his people had been led to this land over the mountains of ice by their Old Man, a son of Kwee-koo-la and were now only a short distance from there. The hardship they had endured in their long hard journey had made his people strong, hard and fierce and so they became the warriors to protect the other 3 tribes of Shawnee. Their descendants today are the Kishpoko Shawnee. The 4 tribes then all lived, hunted and traveled as one from that day hence.

One day as a strong wind blew in on them from the southeast another stranger came to them and hailed them in their language. They invited him to return to his own people and bring them to their capitol village, which he did. His name was Thau-we-kee-lau and his people could only recollect that they had come across the Great Water in the past but knew not how, for their Old Man had returned to the Great Spirit long ago. The families of these people became the Thawikila Shawnee of today. And so now the 5 became as one, though each was as different as any 2 individuals might be.

Some time later some hunters returned to say they had seen the smoke from campfires across the mountains to the east. Then a group was sent to find these strangers and meet them. The leader of these new people said they were the Sha-wah-no and they had lived between the Great Water and the mountains ever since their Old Man had led them there from the cold northern lands in times long forgotten. The Sha-wah-no were a numerous and successful people and for this their name was later given to the combined group of tribes, all the descendants of Kwee-koo-la. Though their name still lives this great people were the ones to suffer first and suffer the most upon the coming of the whites much later.

Due to their growing numbers the 6 tribes divided into 12 villages of 36 Clans or families that spread far and wide but remained in communication and trade with one another until the coming of the whites.

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Richard Thornton is a professional architect, city planner, author and museum exhibit designer-builder. He is today considered one of the nation’s leading experts on the Southeastern Indians. However, that was not always the case. While at Georgia Tech Richard was the first winner of the Barrett Fellowship, which enabled him to study Mesoamerican architecture and culture in Mexico under the auspices of the Institutio Nacional de Antropoligia e Historia. Dr. Roman Piňa-Chan, the famous archaeologist and director of the Museo Nacional de Antropologia, was his fellowship coordinator. For decades afterward, he lectured at universities and professional societies around the Southeast on Mesoamerican architecture, while knowing very little about his own Creek heritage. Then he was hired to carry out projects for the Muscogee-Creek Nation in Oklahoma. The rest is history. Richard is the Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the KVWETV (Coweta) Creek Tribe and a member of the Perdido Bay Creek Tribe. In 2009 he was the architect for Oklahoma’s Trail of Tears Memorial at Council Oak Park in Tulsa. He is the president of the Apalache Foundation, which is sponsoring research into the advanced indigenous societies of the Lower Southeast.

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