Last modified: 2022-11-12 by rick wyatt
Keywords: shawnee nation | oklahoma | native american |
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image by Donald Healy, 13 January 2008
map image by Peter Orenski based on input from Don Healy
Shawnee - Oklahoma
One of America's newest federally recognized Tribes is the Loyal Shawnee Nation of Oklahoma. President Bill Clinton granted it in January 2001 shortly before leaving office, after years of legal wrangling. In 1866 the Loyal Shawnee signed a treaty with the Cherokee Nation and were absorbed into the larger Tribe. Although they retained their culture and tradition, they were considered legal members of the Cherokee Nation.
The last few years of the effort to separate and obtain recognition began in 1996. At that time, according to The Indian Observer, a Cherokee Tribal newspaper, "Leaders of the Loyal Shawnee Tribe presented a resolution to the Cherokee National Tribal Council executive and finance committee, at a July 25 meeting, seeking to dissolve the 1869 treaty which made their Tribe a part of the Cherokee Nation. The request comes after the Cherokee council rejected the Shawnees' proposal to build a bingo hall and casino during their regular meeting July 15." Principal Chief Joe Byrd denied that the desire to separate was caused by that rejection.
The Loyal Shawnee merged into the much larger Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma over 130 years ago as a matter of survival. Their separation can be viewed as the latest effort in that survival. The separation from the Cherokee had been relatively smooth, even though the Cherokee opposed the idea. According to Loyal Shawnee member Greg Pitcher, the major hurdle to separation was moot because "We are not expecting to have a land base in Oklahoma or anywhere else." Since they would not be requiring the Cherokee Nation to relinquish tribal lands, the Cherokee could more easily let them go.
In 1998 the Tulsa World reported that "[the Oklahoma] State Senate passed a joint resolution, Monday [March 2, 1998], unanimously, 48-0, stating the state of Oklahoma recognizes the Loyal Shawnee as a separate Nation". It was subsequently approved by the State Assembly and became law later that year.
On January 3rd, 2001 Indian Country Today reported that "more than 130 years after the Loyal Shawnees became a part of the Cherokee Nation, the United States Congress has finally given them federal recognition. It came as Title VII of the Omnibus Indian Advancement Act recently passed by Congress." By this time, the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma had become supporters of the effort by the Loyal Shawnee. Again Indian Country Today reports: "We have worked with the Shawnees for years to achieve this," Cherokee Principal Chief Chad Smith said. "They are proud of their heritage as Shawnees, and proud of the dignified way they have gained their federal recognition. Over the preceding four years, the Cherokee Nation passed two, separate resolutions which supported the Loyal Shawnee bid to be restored as a separate, federally recognized tribe".
© Donald Healy 2008
With restored federal recognition, the Loyal Shawnee Nation adopted a tribal flag, which is light blue with a white rectangle in slightly above the center of the flag. The rectangle is edged in red over nearly its entire perimeter, save
two small openings on either side. Within the rectangle are twelve four-pointed yellow stars (the bottom point is longer than the other three) in two staggered rows of six over six. In the center of the rectangle is the bottom point of a
much larger thirteenth star that extends well into the light blue field, almost reaching the top edge of the flag.
Below the rectangle are two leaves (plant species unknown) pointing towards the base of the large star. Below them, in black letters is the Tribe's name. The "Loyal" appearing centered above the "Shawnee Tribe". The wording fills the distance between the two leaves and the bottom edge of the flag. Unfortunately, the symbolism of the stars, rectangle and leaves is not known. This new flag, however, does make a distinctive emblem for an ancient and newly emerged Nation. Long may it wave!
© Donald Healy 2008
information provided by Peter Orenski, 12 January 2008