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100 Years Ago

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Around the middle of the second millennium A.D., various Indian tribes began to repopulate Ohio unaware of the infighting and savagery that would engulf them over the next three hundred years. In the early 1600s, Ohio was considered the ancestral home of the Shawnee with the Miami occupying Indiana and western Ohio, including the counties in this area. The Kickapoo occupied parts of northwestern Ohio and the Mingo lived in parts of southeastern Ohio. Other Great Lakes area tribes were the Illinois, Ho-Chunk (Winnebago), Fox (Mescuakie), Menominee, Ojibwa, Chippewa, Nipissing, Huron (Wyandot), Petun, Neutral, Algonquian, Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Erie. Religion was important to all the Great Lakes tribes, and, when the Ojibwa began a Grand Medicine Society (Midewiwin) some of the area tribes joined, including the Shawnee.

In the middle of the 1600s, the Beaver Wars erupted among the Great Lakes Indians. It all began when the British, hoping to break the trapping monopoly the French had established, provided guns and shot to the Iroquois to destroy the French trading routes and the tribes that traded with them. The Iroquois were willing partners because if the British ruled the trading routes, the Iroquois would enjoy increased trade with the English along with controlling more of the Great Lakes territory. Most of the tribes were affected by the Wars, including the Miami who were forced from their homelands into southwestern Wisconsin.

In the 1670s, the Iroquois swarmed through Ohio, including Shelby County, destroying villages and burning corn crops, forcing Shawnee refugees to flee to areas south and west of the Ohio River. Small Shawnee groups spread in all directions and it would be nearly one hundred years before they would regroup and return to their ancestral roots in Ohio.

In the late 1600s, some of the combined tribes, including the Miami, were successful in pushing the Iroquois back. At the same time, tribes in the north were beginning to reclaim their homeland from Iroquois domination. The power balance began to shift. The Miami tribe returned to its traditional home in Indiana and west central Ohio counties, including Shelby County. It was not until the mid 1700s that Shawnee groups began filtering back into Ohio. At the same time the first English traders, most of them coming from Pennsylvania, began to arrive in the Ohio Valley.  

'Indian' segment written in December, 1997 by David Lodge


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