lithograph of Hopeton earthworks
Ohio's First Humanists

Eastern Shawnee Nation: Civilization and Representation

After a long career as an educator and administrator at Crowder College in Missouri, in 2006 Glenna Wallace was elected Chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. She is the first woman to hold that important position. Although Chief Wallace resides several states away, Ohio remains a special place to her and other members of her tribe. Following the Indian Removal Act of 1830, the U.S. government forced the Shawnee to leave their Ohio Valley home for reservations in Oklahoma and Kansas — but in speaking about the relationship between the Shawnee and Ohio, Chief Wallace notes: “We are still here in a certain way. We are here in our hearts.”

Our Nation

The following are excerpts from the books Afterward. “History versus Legacy,” Chief Glenna Wallace, Settling Ohio: First Nations and Beyond, to be published by Ohio University Press:

“Let’s begin with history. The year was 1830. The Indian Removal Act was passed that year and we, the Mixed Band of Seneca and Shawnee living on a small reservation known as the Lewistown Reserve near Wapakoneta, Ohio, were chosen for removal. We were the Biblical ‘chosen few.’ We were the first to be forcibly removed from the Ohio Valley to a land faraway known as Indian Territory, a distance of some 700-800 miles in a land that almost 80 years later became the state of Oklahoma."

“After seeing Newark Earthworks and learning more about them, I realized their complexity and the knowledge their creators, my ancestors, had to possess to construct those earthworks and other mounds. They had to be proficient in astronomy, mathematics, geology, geography, science, arts, construction, spirituality. The more historical sites I visited in Ohio involving Native Americans, the more impressed I became with their accomplishments, their intellect, their understanding of the complexity of this world. Yet the word most commonly encountered in Ohio describing Native Americans was ‘savages.’ How can they constantly be referred to as savages with the complex, sophisticated, scientific, and artistic treasures they had constructed? Again, I knew I had to speak out."

“Perhaps it is time we think about how Native Americans were forced from Ohio. Perhaps it is time we think about how they were treated. I realize that those of us alive today were in no way responsible for past incidents in history. But we do have some responsibility for current practices. I ask you to think about Native Americans’ legacy in Ohio. I ask you to think about respecting sacred places, preserving historic landscapes, labeling people with negative words, being insensitive to cultural beliefs, condoning the number of unburied human remains in this state, permitting graves to be robbed, and not enacting stronger burial laws. I ask for your help in finding that balance between history and legacy. Let’s think about our lives and our responsibility in establishing accurate and appropriate legacies for all.”

Chief Glenna J. Wallace: “Taking Care of Business: Balancing History and Legacy”

Everyone needs balance in life. Easy to say, difficult to attain, especially when the history occurred nearly 200 or more years ago. What might have occurred in those 200 years that affects that balance of history and legacy—memory, perspectives, values, research, inaccuracies?

Chief Wallace came to Ohio University in February 2020 for a conference on Settling Ohio: First Nations and Beyond. She told her story, which can be viewed in the video above. View on YouTube for a chapter-by-chapter timeline.