‘Open the land’: The Shawnee aim for a return to Ohio

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tags: Ohio, Native American, Shawnee Tribe



Attempts to right a wrong exacted on the Shawnee Tribe almost 200 years ago are running into headwinds and government inertia in Ohio as the Native American nation seeks to reclaim its lost homeland.

There’s scant trace of the tribe’s rich history in rural western Ohio. A little patch of land off State Route 235 near Lewistown was the final redoubt of the tribe there. The last Shawnee left in the 1830s, and treaties made with them about land ownership were broken.

Indian Lake High School, with its Native American mural outside, might be the closest thing to homage that the area pays to its past. South of the school, farmland fans out in all directions, some of it marshy bottomland from the often overflowing Great Miami River. 

But now this land could see a Native American nation officially return to Ohio for the first time, with the Shawnee reclaiming a tiny slice of their lost territory. Some 50 acres on the east side of Route 235 was recently purchased by the Eastern Band of the Shawnee and they are trying to get the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to recognize the parcel as restricted Indian Country.

“Our situation is that land was taken … We signed a treaty for what was then our reservation, and we were to come here to Indian territory,” said Chief Glenna Walker, who presides over the Eastern Shawnee, from the tribal headquarters in Oklahoma. “The government took additional land rather than just the reservation, land that belonged to [Nancy Stewart], a private tribal member.”




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