Ottawa County, Oklahoma

Native  American  History



The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma are one of Oklahoma's three federally recognized Shawnee tribes of American Indians. Governed by a business committee, the Eastern Shawnee are headquartered at West Seneca in Ottawa County, where tribal revenue is generated by the Bordertown Bingo and Casino. There were 2,110 enrolled tribal members in July 2003.

The Indian Removal Act of 1830 pressured the Shawnee of Ohio to relocate west of the Mississippi River. Near Lewiston, Ohio, a small group of Shawnee resided with some Seneca. In 1831 they, the Mixed Band of Seneca and Shawnee of Ohio, ceded their domain for land within the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory.

Cherokee objections resulted in further negotiations. In December 1832 "the United Nation of Senecas and Shawnees" was granted a sixty-thousand-acre reservation north and east of the Cherokee in present Ottawa County, Oklahoma. In 1867 the U.S. government negotiated an additional treaty with the Seneca-Shawnee. Under that agreement the tribes sold portions of their land upon which the Peoria, Ottawa, Wyandot, Kaskaskia, Wea, and Piankashaw Indians were settled. The treaty also divided the Shawnee and Seneca into separate tribes and named the former "the Eastern Shawnee." The Eastern Shawnee lands were allotted in 1888.

The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma was organized under the Oklahoma Indian Welfare Act of 1936. Tribal leaders wrote a constitution that allowed members eighteen years of age or older to vote in Eastern Shawnee elections. Mainstreamed into the American way of life, few Eastern Shawnee observe such traditional Shawnee customs and ceremonies as the bread dance and the war dance. However, an Eastern Shawnee powwow is held at their tribal complex each September.
(Source: Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture)



The Stokes Commission was a three-member delegation appointed by Congress on July l4, 1832, to pacify the indigenous tribes of the newly created Indian Territory in preparation for the removal of eastern tribes to that region. Among eastern Anglo-Americans, pressure mounted to begin the Indian Removal, while the eastern tribes were reluctant to depart, fearing they would be harmed by what they perceived to be the "wild Indians" of the West.

In 1833 the commission members, Montfort Stokes of North Carolina, Henry L. Ellsworth of Connecticut, and John F. Schermerhorn from New York, established their headquarters at Fort Gibson in present Muskogee County, Oklahoma. Three companies of mounted rangers, led by Capts. Jesse Bean, Nathan Boone, and Lemuel Ford, were assigned to the commission for protection and to act as messengers and liaisons between the Americans and the western tribes. The first to arrive, Ellsworth, was accompanied by three distinguished sightseers, including the famous American writer Washington Irving, Charles Joseph Latrobe, a prominent English naturalist, and a Swiss aristocrat, Count Albert Alexandre de Portales.

In February 1833 the commission successfully settled a boundary dispute between the Cherokee and Creek along the Verdigris and Arkansas rivers. In March 1833 the commissioners assigned land in northeastern Oklahoma, in present Ottawa County, to remnants of the Seneca and Shawnee Indians, recently relocated from Ohio. In May 1833 the commission authorized land adjacent to the Seneca and Shawnee to two hundred homeless Quapaw Indians who were living with the Caddo along the Red River.

Turning to their main assignment, pacifying the western tribes (most notably the Comanche, Kiowa, Wichita, and Osage), the commissioners faced a daunting task. Tribal suspicions of the commission's intentions as well as the hostility among the tribes themselves, especially the Osage, created a less than ideal atmosphere for treaty negotiations. Adding to the confusion, the commissioners feuded with one another almost from the beginning. Consequently, their authority expired in July 1834 with little having been accomplished. The western tribes did, however, agree to attend a treaty counsel set to meet in the summer of 1835 at Camp Holmes (Mason) near present Lexington, Oklahoma.

In April 1835 the Stokes Commission was reconstituted to include, in addition to Montfort Stokes, Maj. Francis W. Armstrong, the superintendent of Indian affairs for the Western Territory, and Gen. Matthew Arbuckle, commandant at Fort Gibson. The commissioners, with renewed authority, met with the Comanche, Wichita, and Osage and negotiated the Treaty of Camp Holmes in August 1835. Armstrong died before talks began, but Stokes and Arbuckle spent several weeks in negotiations that led to most of the western tribes finally agreeing to share their hunting grounds and to live in peace with the immigrants from the east. The Kiowa, however, left the conference without signing the agreement. On May 26, 1837, the Kiowa finally signed the treaty in question, and with that, the Stokes Commission had finally accomplished what it was assigned to do when it was created in 1832.
(Source: Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture)

Spiritual Guidance of Missionaries

The Indian Territory was, at that time, a sequestered region and truly an Indian country. The Federal Government was concluding its removal of some 60,000 of its red proteges from the Southeastern States to the old Territory. There were few whites in this country at that time and, only in rare instances, was their presence tolerated. There were no missionaries of the Episcopal Church among the Indians of the Territory during those inceptive days, the spiritual concerns of these simple folk being influenced by missionaries of the Baptist, Presbyterian, and Methodist denominations. Among the Seneca Indians in what is today, Ottawa County, Oklahoma, it is known that lay-reading services of the Church had been maintained some years before.
(Source: Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 17, No. 3, Sept. 1939)



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