"We're still here," Miami and Shawnee cultural educators speak with the public in Clark County
Cultural educators from the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and two Shawnee tribes (Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma and The Shawnee Tribe) held events over the weekend in Clark County. The weekend was titled Hito Henekinike, which means “Hello, my friend” in saawanwaatoweewe (the Shawnee language).
Silverhorn is a Citizen of The Eastern Shawnee Tribe and the Cultural Programs Manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources–he is working closely on the development of Great Council State Park in Oldtown.
“We want to have a conversation about what Ohio means to tribal people and our history here,” he said to the crowd at the beginning of the Friday, August 19 event. “But not just the history, we want to talk about the modern day tribal citizens who are living with the realities of what unfolded here.”
The events were held at George Rogers Clark Park – named after the eighteenth century American militia officer. The park is on the site of the Shawnee town that was destroyed by Clark in 1780. Soon thereafter, the Shawnee were forced out of the region by settlers. The Miami Tribe and the three federally recognized Shawnee tribes are now based in Oklahoma.
“I think it fades into myth, it fades into legend and local stories for a lot of people that are living in these historic places today,” Silverhorn said. “But for us who have been removed from Ohio, who have gone through things like the Indian Act, who have gone through boarding schools, that history is extremely real.”
Some attendees were also given an interpretive historical tour of the park led by Turner. He showed the crowd where the council house may have once stood, the spring that served as the town’s water source, and the fields where the Shawnee grew their food,
“It bugs me that this place, which was one of our towns, our heartbeats, the families that lived here, the kids that were raised here, the things that happened in that council house for 12 years, to have one day in history become the name of this area,” Turner said. “To name this place for the people that burnt this town to the ground, it infuriates me. It absolutely infuriates me that it is named George Rogers Clark Park. So I hope one day the citizens of Ohio will be as infuriated as I am and we can do something about that.”
The Miami and the Shawnee's homelands are in Ohio. The tribes and their ancestors lived in the Ohio River Valley for close to 20,000 years. Silverhorn said tribes like the Miami and Shawnee are reuniting with their homelands.
"Think about how exciting the opportunity is that we can come back here and we can share our stories and we can have eight tribal citizens on the site of a Shawnee town from the 1700s,” Silverhorn said. “We can stand here and say, no, Mr. Clark, you lost because we're still here."
Silverhorn is holding two more community conversations next month in Xenia.
The event was sponsored by Caesar’s Ford Theatre Inc– a non-profit that is working to bring historical outdoor theatre to the area. Right now, the theatre is fundraising for a Shawnee Living History Tour.
Chris Welter is a reporter and corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.