Elder members of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma recently returned from a trip that gave them a first-hand perspective of their ancestors’ history, and put them on the paths taken by one of the most recognized chiefs in the history of American Indians.


Elder members of the Absentee Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma recently returned from a trip that gave them a first-hand perspective of their ancestors’ history, and put them on the paths taken by one of the most recognized chiefs in the history of American Indians.
Ewell Longhorn, treasurer of the tribe, began planning the trip in January that would take him and the group of elders as far as Canada. The trip was designed to trace the path of tribal ancestors, he said, as they moved from Ohio to Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma.
“We wanted to identify significant historical sites for our tribe and tribal members,” Longhorn said. “Since it was so significant, we wanted to take some of the elders.”
An emphasis was placed on Chief Tecumseh, Longhorn said, because he is not only a Shawnee ancestor but an influential chief of the Shawnee tribe. The majority of the stops the group made during the weeklong trip had been visited by Tecumseh.
“The places we visited outside of Shawnee, Kan., were sites that he had been to in his lifetime,” Longhorn said.
Among them were Tecumseh’s birth site in Xenia, Ohio, and where he died in battle during the War of 1812. The battle took place on the Thames River near what is now Chatham-Kent, Ontario, Canada.
Many of the tribal elders from the Shawnee area are direct lineal descendants of Tecumseh, Longhorn said.
“That’s one of the driving motivations for us to go up there and travel that distance, and basically honor his memory,” Longhorn said.
The trip spanned more than 3,000 miles. Packing so many miles and stops into a week made the trip a whirlwind, Longhorn said.
“We really pushed the elders,” he said of the fast-paced journey. “I’m really proud of them. They stood up to the demands of the trip.”
Among those who participated were Mildred Switch, tribal elder and Shawnee language speaker; Mary Birdtail, tribal elder and vice president of the Tribal Elder Council; Richard Birdtail; JoAnne Walker, tribal elder and treasurer of the Tribal Elder Council; Will “Pancho” Walker; Cynthina Longhorn, tribal elder and former secretary of the tribal executive committee; Betty Watson, tribal elder and former tribal business committee member; and Glenna Wallace, chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma.
The group left Shawnee for Cape Girardeau, Mo., on June 8, and visited Xenia, Ohio, June 10 and 11. They traveled to Chillicothe, Ohio, on June 11; Greenville, Ohio, on June 12; and Chatham-Kent, Ontaria, Canada, on June 13.
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Jason Smith may be reached at 214-3932 or william.j.smith@news-star.com.