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Absentee Shawnee

Absentee Shawnee

By Wendy Weitzel

When fighting broke out during the American Revolution, many Shawnee left Ohio to seek peace in Spanish Louisiana. They settled near present-day Cape Girardeau, Mo., and were later joined by other tribal members from Alabama and Ohio, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

The band accepted a reservation in Kansas in 1825, but by then many of its members had scattered to Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana.

By 1840 many of the scattered groups had migrated to Indian Territory and lived along the Canadian River in the Choctaw and Creek nations. Their absence from their Kansas reservation caused them to become collectively known as the "Absentee Shawnee."

The Absentee Shawnee were joined on the Canadian River by Kansas Shawnee who had Southern sympathies before the Civil War, then by other Absentees from Texas.

Most lived as refugees in Kansas during the Civil War, but returned to Indian Territory immediately afterward, claiming acreage assigned to the Potawatomi. The U.S. government gave them title to that land in 1872.

The tribe is based in Shawnee and has about 4,000 members. Of Oklahoma’s three recognized Shawnee tribes, the Absentee has the largest number of members who speak their native Algonquian language, according to the Oklahoma Historical Society.

Wendy Weitzel is a reporter with Gaylord News, a reporting project at the University of Oklahoma Gaylord College of Journalism and Mass Communication.