A Story of the Shawanoes
George Bluejacket was the son of the great Shawnee chief Blue Jacket. He later became a chief himself. Between 1829 and 1831, he wrote his history of the Shawnee Indians. This document is of special importance because it presents an Indian's version of Ohio's early history. Many people have noted that history can be one-sided because usually the winners write it. George Bluejacket's history gives us the unique and invaluable perspective of a Shawnee Indian whose father was one of the most influential Indian participants in the momentous events of Ohio's tragic Indian wars.
The manuscript was transcribed and edited by John Allen Rayner in 1886. Shortly thereafter, the original document was lost. John Rayner's typescript copy is in the library of the Ohio History Connection (call # 970.92 R 218). George Bluejacket's history includes several Shawnee words. John Rayner's translation of each Shawnee word is provided in brackets at the first occurrence of the word. In addition, some of Rayner's editorial notes and clarifications of the text, along with notes added by Ohio History Connection editors, also are put in brackets. Rayner's original preface to the document is included as an appendix to George Bluejacket's history.
A Story of the Shawanoes
I have been told by Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] to write a story of our tribe. Nath-the-wee-law is our brother and friend of our people. My father [Bluejacket] was great Chief and told us many things of the old Shawanoes [Shawnees].
Other old Chiefs have told us many things too.
I was born two winters after the Gin-e-wane Al-ag-wa ["rain of stars" - the spectacular meteor shower of 1800] at our Pe-quaw town [Piqua] on Big Miami Se-pe [Great Miami "River"].
My father was Head-Chief then at that town.
My Father Chief was buried there by our White Father [John Johnston] near the school-house.
Many of our people [are] buried there.
Our White Father has told us to go sit by our dead on his farm any time. Some of our tribe go there every summer. We all love that place.
We all love our White Father John Johnston too.
I now tell about our tribe.
Old Chief Black-hoof has told us that our tribe came from the great salt water, where Ke-sath-wa ["the sun"] came out of the Kitch-e-ca-me ["lake"] in the morning, and hid in the Me-to-quegh-ke ["forest"] at night.
We were a great people. Our men were great warriors. They fought many tribes and always beat them.
The beginning of the Shawanoe tribe was when the Co-cum-tha ["Grandmother"] of our people come up out of the great salt water holding to the tail of the Me-she-pe-she ["panther"].
Her Wash-et-che ["husband"] was carried to the shore by a very big Wa-be-the ["swan," or "goose"].
The land where their people had lived was swallowed up in the great salt water by Watch-e-me-ne-too ["bad spirit", or "devil"], but Mish-e-me-ne-toc ["the great god", or "good spirit"] saved these two and they were the first of our tribe. <p>Many animals and birds were saved too, so there was plenty hunting in the new Me-to-quegh-ke ["forest"].
This was many Te-pa-wa-Ko-te ["hundred seasons", or years] ago, and our people soon became many.
They have always been called Shawanoes ["Water People"] and the Me-she-pe-she ["panther"] and Wa-be-the ["swan"] have always been the signs [or totems] of this tribe.
After a time the white people got too many for [the] red men and then we followed the best hunting toward the north.
The Al-wa-ma-ke ["bottom land"] was good for the corn, and the Ma-vuegh-ke ["hills"] full of game.
The Mean-e-lench ["young men"] hunted and ran on the warpath.
The Pash-e-to-the ["old men"] caught A-ma-tha ["fish"] in the Bo-with-e ["small streams"] and the E-qui-wa ["women"] worked in the Da-me ["maize", or corn].
Then many seasons passed, the tribe always going to the north, to when Black-hoof was a Mean-e-lench ["young man"] and they were all north of the Great Se-pe [Great "River" or, the Ohio River].
Here we were given much land by our brothers, the Wyandots. We built many towns and lived long time in peace, till the white men behind the Great Se-pe tried to drive us away.
They sent their Shem-a-noes ["Long Knives"] to our lodges and killed our E-qui-wa and A-pe-to-the ["women" and "children"].
Then our great Chief called all our warriors to a Big Council at the Chillicothe Town.
Here they made talk to use the war-paint till all the bad spirits of our enemies were dead.
Black Hoof told us all this. My father told me, and so told me too that himself he remember these wars along the Big Se-pe [Ohio River].
Then he spoke to me too about [the] great army of General Clarke [George Rogers Clark] and Logan [Benjamin Logan]; how the Watch-e-men-e-toc ["evil spirit"] was with the warriors at our Pe-quaw town on Mad River, where many of us were killed and our town burned; how we came to the Big Miami [Great Miami River] and built a new Pe-quaw town; how many died in the winter from hungry and cold, though our brothers, the Wyandots, gave us some corn and beans.
He told me too how angry our warriors were and how they made war medicine; how they went in the summer to the pale-face houses, killed many and took many scalps.
How after two summers Clarke come again and burned our towns on Big Miami; then how all the tribes above the Great Se-pe [Ohio River] met in council at Pe-quaw town; how all the war-chiefs struck the war-post and made words that the pale-face people must stay behind [south and east of] the Great Se-pe.
My Father Bluejacket, Little Turtle and Tarhe made much talk at council, and for many summers our war bands camped along the Great Se-pe.
Then came a time when an army of Shem-a-ga-ne ["soldiers"] come over the old salt trail to the Miami towns, but our tribes beat them so they ran home [Harmar's Defeat - 1790].
The next season a great army come up back [west] of the Big Miami [Great Miami River] to the Maumee towns, and our warriors killed so many that some only got back home [St. Clair's Defeat - 1791].
My Father show me many many scalp from that big battle. My Father told me too that all the tribes now much angry and make all ready to go on war-path over the Great Se-pe into Kentucky, but Simon Girty tell them another big army coming, so our warriors stay home and wait.
They wait one, two seasons, then Tota [a Frenchman] tell them big army coming up old trail and camp on Greenville Creek.
My Father Chief Bluejacket tell me this: He send runners [scouts] to see this big army and tell him how many. He keep runners all time watch this army, and all tribes wait on Maumee Se-pe ["river"].
He send war band to catch Big White Chief [Anthony Wayne] sleepy, but that army never sleepy, so wait for him come to fort on Maumee where British Chief [Maj. William Campbell] say they help Indians beat Wayne [Fort Miamis].
This time Indian get beat and also get no help from fort army [Battle of Fallen Timbers - 1794].
My Father Chief Bluejacket told me British fort army all liars, and next season most all tribes go to big council at Greenville [Treaty of Greenville].
Here they make treaty with Wayne, bury tomahawk, and give much land to Shem-a-noes [Americans].
My Father Chief Bluejacket never after dig up tomahawk against Shem-a-noes , but after a few times [years] Tecumseh and his Brother [The Prophet] make war medicine with the British Chief at Detroit and try [to] make our tribe fight Shem-a-noes [Americans] but my father say no, and other tribes say yes, but get beat by Big White Chief Harrison [William Henry Harrison] at Tippecanoe on Wabash Se-pe. [Battle of Tippecanoe - 1811: Tecumseh Sites].
Our tribe then live at Wapaughkonnetta, above treaty line [Treaty of Greenville Line], but soon when British want us [to] make war medicine our great White Father at Washington [President James Monroe] move our tribe back to our old Pe-quaw Town [Upper Piqua], where some of Delawares, Wyandots, Ottawas, and Senecas stay peaceful under council of our white Father, John Johnston.
This I know myself, for I was then big boy [10 years old] and many time play at post with John Johnston A-pe-to-the ["children"].
Captain John Logan and some more [of] our tribe were runners for General Harrison, and were all brave men.
Some time after this war [was] over we were moved back to Wapaughkonnetta, but our White Father, John Johnston, [was] still our agent and many time come [to] talk with our people there.
My Father Chief Blue Jacket, Black-Hoof, [and] Wi-wel-i-pea were big friends with John Johnston and many times went to his post at Pe-quaw [Upper Piqua], and I too sometime went with them too. For many seasons [years] we live peaceful at Wapaughkonnetta, then when I am young man [19 years old - 1821] John Johnston take me to his post and let me go [to] school-house on his farm.
I live in John Johnston post, and our master [school teacher] live there too.
Our master [James Laird - an Irishman] much red-head man and beat everybody with stick, but we soon know how read, write, [and] spell like he himself.
Some boys name Winans, Widney, Russell, McIntire, Bill Johnston, [and] Steve Johnston go same time to school-house I do, and get beat too.
I like to live at John Johnston, but one, two, three winter, then I go back [to] Wapaughkonnetta and other boys go back down to school-house.
Not much go past [happens] for some seasons [years] then Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] buy trading-store of Skip-a-ge-tha [Nicholas Greenham] at Wapaughkonnetta and me I sometime make help in store.
We make big friends together, and he have me write some all [the] time.
Frank Duchouquet [Francis Duchouquet, an early French trader among the Ohio Indian tribes], George Moffett [a European-American raised by the Shawnee from childhood], [and] John Elliott [official blacksmith at John Johnston's post] were big friends with us too, and sometimes we make big hunt all together in the Mis-ke-ko-pe ["swamp-land"] toward the Maumee Se-pe [River].
George Moffett's Indian name [is] Kit-er-hoo; Frank Duchouquet's [is] So-wah-quo-the, and both belong to our tribe.
In the last moon myself, Geo. Moffett, and Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] make big deer hunt near to the big Kitch-e-ca-me [Lake Erie] and brought in 63 skins.
Many of us kill a-magh-qua ["beaver"], Osh-as-qua ["muskrat"], and ki-ta-te ["otter"] in the cold season.
Jan. 9, 1830.
I have not make much write in book for two moons. Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] and Skip-a-ge-tha [Nicholas Greenham] with some head chiefs of our tribe and Wyandots, make long walk to see our Great White Father at Washington, and tell him about Indians trouble since John Johnston no more Father [agent] for our tribes.
Our now White Father [agent] make much talk about our goods, but no make goods come to Indian.
Our tribe get much winter goods from John Johnston anyway, for John Johnston always friend of poor Indian.
One time in corn season some many white people come form Piquatown to our New Corn Dance. Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] dance with us a make them people much laugh.
We had much good time but some Indians drink much fire-water and fight one [an]other till one two die.
Also we make some big race and shoot at post but Geo. Moffett too *****
[Here an entire leaf was missing from the "Diary" and the following was probably written in the Fall of 1830, for they were congregated at St. Marys in December of that year. J. A. Raynor, editor]
***** have come to tell us all Indians must move right away to Girty's Town [St. Marys] to make more ready to go to new Indian land on big Ta-was-ko-ta ["prairie"] near "Night Lodge of Ke-sath-wa " [Sun].
Our old people make much sorry [sorrow] for they not wish to leave old home.
Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] and John Johnston sorry too, but say Indian must do like the Great White Father at Washington say, for white people must have all land before the Big Se-pe [East of the Mississippi River].
Our tribe is no more a great people. Our old chiefs most all gone.
Our warriors sit down most like E-qui-wa ["women"]. We take what our White Father gives us. Now we must go to new land. Soon more times we will have to move again. Soon there will be no more Shaw-anoes. Our hearts [are] full of sorry [sorrow] for all the tribes.
But we will listen to the voice of our Mish-eme-ne-toc ["good spirit"] in the great Me-to-quegh-ke ["forest"] and he tells his A-pe-to-the ["children"] when they all gone from this Mel-che-a-sis-ke ["poor land", or "poor earth"] he will lead them to their their We-che-a-sis-ke ["good land"] where all place is for Indian; where pale-face never come.
Then poor Indian more again be happy.
Girty's Town [St. Marys, Ohio] June, 1831
Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston] tell me to write more in book. Soon Nath-the-wee-law go back home to Piquatown. When our White Father [agent] have plenty much Me-she-wa ["horses"] then Indian start on long walk to new home.
Our tribe [will] go down to old Pe-quaw Town at John Johnston post, and sit sometime on the graves of our fathers.
Then we will tell good-by to John Johnston and Nath-the-wee-law [Geo. C. Johnston].
Then we will tell good-by to the Me-to-quegh-ke ["forest"] by the Se-pe ["river"], and leave our old home forever.
Note added by John A. Rayner:
From other authority we learn that just previous to their removal west, and by special invitation of their former agent, Col. John Johnston, this tribe did come down in a body to their old home at Upper Piqua and remained several days on the site of their old home and burial grounds.
Their parting from these old-time scenes, and especially their final farewell to their kindly old Agent and his family, was very affecting, and was the occasion of much shedding of tears by all the participants.
Not long after the removal of this tribe to their western reservation, Bluejacket became Chief, and according to Major Stephen Johnston, is still living at this date.
Original Preface to George Bluejacket's narrative:
An Indian's Own Story
Transcribed and Edited by John Allen Rayner In March, 1886.
Among the papers, accounts, and manuscript left by the late Geo. C. Johnston, were several important documents relating to that period in his life when he conducted a licensed trading post at "Wapaughkonnetta", and later at St. Marys.
His dealings were confined principally to the Indian trade, especially with the Shawanoes, for the members of this tribe far outnumbered all the others at these posts just previous to their removal to the West.
These tribes had been under the guidance and protection Col. John Johnston at Upper Piqua for many years, but a new administration at Washington had removed him from office and placed them under the control of his successor at Wapaughkonnetta.
Geo. C. Johnston had been adopted into this branch of the Shawanoe tribe, so when they were taken away from Upper Piqua he soon followed them to their new post above the treaty line.
One interesting relic of this period, with dates running from Nov. 8, 1829 to June 1, 1831, is a large number of unpaid notes (in book form) given by the different members of the tribe to Johnston for goods, and as they went west so after this date these notes undoubtedly stand for a large loss sustained by the trader.
But the most interesting is the "Diary" or "Story of the Shawanoes" written by George Bluejacket, one of their own number.
Bluejacket was a son of the Old Chief of that name, and was one of the many Indian boys who were placed in school at Upper Piqua by Col. John Johnston in the early twenties.
Young Bluejacket must have spent several winters at school, for although his orthography is poor and his punctuation minus, the handwriting is very good.
But the poor quality of the paper, the faded ink, and the general dilapidation of the manuscript, makes the task of editing it considerable.
All I can claim in rendering this old story readable, is better spelling, some punctuation, and the interpretation of the Indian words and metaphor which he has used extensively.
Instead of using foot-notes for the interpretations I will place the words in parenthesis directly after the Indian form, and thus avoid detraction from the point of interest.
The white men that Bluejacket speaks of as being at the post, were Francis Duchouquet, an early French trader among the Ohio tribes, and later Indian interpreter for Col. John Johnston at Upper Piqua.
George Moffett, a great hunter and an excellent rifle shot, had been a captive in this tribe when a young boy.
John Elliott, the official black-smith at the post, afterward moved to Piqua.