Frequently Asked Questions

I am interested in knowing…

We are glad you have found us and are delighted that you would like to learn more about our people. We are happily overwhelmed with inquiries from folks wanting information, and because of this, we cannot realistically respond to everyone’s request. We hope you find the answers you are looking for with the references below. We also have a link to a bibliography of books that we know to be accurate. We recommend you consult these resources to see if it answers your questions. Your local library can help you obtain these books even if they do not have it on hand. Interlibrary loan is amazing. Alternatively, most of the books are readily available for purchase or for e-reading. We will be expanding this list, so please check back.

Bibliography                Virtual Presentation Resources

We also are currently working on the Sharing History project, which will result in an online database of materials that the citizens and public may consult. To read more: IMLS grant awarded - Shawnee Tribe Cultural Center (shawneeculture.org)

I grew up in Ohio/West Virginia/Indiana/Kentucky/Virginia and my family has a story that our heritage is Shawnee

We are often approached by people interested in learning about their ancestry. In fact, we receive thousands of inquiries from people residing in Shawnee ancestral areas who claim to have Shawnee heritage. If you are truly interested in learning more about your ancestry and your family, then old-fashioned genealogy is the answer. If you are just beginning your genealogical project, here is a site we found that offers a good introduction:


There are many online resources available, however, we have found that there are false entries on some popular websites, as they have cited a source that is commonly used but often incorrect. The best way to track your ancestors is through birth and death records. Those can usually be found in the state or country of residence. There is also the Dawes Act Rolls of 1887, which lists individuals. The Rolls are readily available online. You can read more about the Tribe’s history of removal here: https://www.shawnee-tribe.org/about. For information about enrolling in the federally recognized Shawnee Tribe, please visit www.shawnee-tribe.com. Please keep in mind that the United States government removed all Shawnee communities with the passing of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Shawnee communities were forced to move to Kansas and Oklahoma and the Shawnee Tribe is just one of three federally recognized Shawnee nations.

I took a DNA test, and the results indicate I have Indigenous American ancestry, what does that mean?

Many people today are taking DNA tests and finding that they have Native American ancestry. It is interesting to learn about one’s genetics, but it does not inform enrollment into the federally recognized Shawnee Tribe. Having a DNA percentage also does not equate to being a part of an Indigenous community. Shawnees have knowledge and experiences that are meaningful and significant. Members of the Shawnee community and their families have been gathering together for generations, sharing their culture, history, and language. Shawnee culture is a living culture with many citizens actively practicing traditions. We encourage you to explore Shawnee culture and honor it by understanding core values and basic information such as the meaning of tribal sovereignty. You could also demonstrate respect by contributing to the community.

I am a researcher/author/potential partner...

“I remember as a kid when we were at the ceremonial grounds at White Oak, a researcher from a university was there. He had spent a couple weeks with some of our old men and old ladies interviewing them. The researcher took those stories back with him, now stored in a distant location unavailable to us. He used only what he wanted and just did not understand some things. How can someone spend a brief time among us and think they know what questions to ask or how to interpret our lifeways?” –Ben Barnes, Shawnee Tribe Chief

For hundreds of years non-Indigenous people have studied and written about Native American peoples, often without their involvement or consent, treating Indigenous communities as research subjects rather than partners. Such studies often present skewed or incorrect results that do not consider the knowledge, values, or worldview of Native people. Each year the Shawnee Tribe is contacted by hundreds of authors, historians, non-Indigenous people, many of whom reside in Shawnee ancestral lands, with questions about Shawnee culture or with requests from the Tribe to participate in their project.

When it comes to research, publications, and projects, the Shawnee Tribe leads initiatives, identifies questions, and determines methods that are relevant and respectful to their community. The Shawnee community places priority on assisting individuals and working with partners who offer questions and projects based on the principle of reciprocity. Ask yourself:

  1. What is the role of STCC and the Shawnee Tribe in determining the project goals and outcomes?
  2. What is the role of STCC and the Tribe in determining culturally appropriate methodology and outcomes?
  3. How does it benefit the Shawnee Tribe and its citizens now and in the future?
  4. How does the project foster respect for the Shawnee community and tribal sovereignty?
  5. How the project facilitates co-learning and builds community capacity.
  6. What is goal of the project and how does it relate to STCC’s mission?
  7. What is the project’s audience and intended outcomes?
  8. What are the final products and distribution methods?
  9. What services may STCC/Tribe provide, e.g. staff time, and what is the funding for those services?
  10. What are the services that Tribal citizens may provide and funding for those services?
  11. What are the risks of the project?
  12. What is the proposed copyright and data ownership?
  13. What is the anticipated schedule?
  14. What is the partner’s knowledge of the subject matter and what the partner will gain from the project?

When asking a question or seeking partnership with STCC or the Tribe, please consider the following guidelines. All projects should:

  1. Be Native centered, meaning that the Shawnee community and people are the driving force of the research.
  2. Put Indigenous knowledge at the heart of the research endeavor. Shawnee people are the leaders and voice. “Nothing about us without us.”
  3. Focus on issues that are central to the Shawnee community, not the researcher, sponsoring institution, or agency.
  4. All projects must be reciprocal. Projects will result in a positive outcome for STCC, the Tribe and its citizens.
  5. Allow for STCC or the Tribe to retain copyright or other rights as determined by the Tribe.
  6. Are conducted as staffing allows. Fees may be assigned to cover the cost of services.
  7. Ensure that appropriate consents are acquired, including permission from participants. During the course of the project, the partner recognizes the rights of people being studied, including the rights not to be studied, to privacy, to anonymity, to confidentiality, and to fully informed consent. The researcher recognizes the primary right of informants and suppliers of data and materials. The researcher assumes responsibility to make the subjects in the research fully aware of their rights and the nature of the research and their involvement in it.
  8. Ensure that the use of any copyrighted material will be permitted.
  9. Provide copies of any products produced, published or otherwise finalized, as determined by STCC.
  10. Submit to the jurisdiction of the Shawnee Tribe including any court or legislative branch.


My hometown sports team uses an Indian mascot. Is changing the mascot something we should consider?

The stereotypical image that is often associated with Indian mascots is that of a “chief” wearing a “headdress”. These types of logos and team names support the vast misunderstanding and cultural misappropriation of the Indigenous people of North America, simultaneously ignoring the violent past of colonialism. Sports enthusiasts don faux attire, intone faux chants, while making chopping motions meant to evoke the act of using a tomahawk, a tool that is often distorted in popular American culture. Stereotypical narratives of Native Americans run so deep in contemporary American culture that most of the information available on the world wide web, in literature, and film is fictitious, often repeating the same falsehoods over hundreds of years.

It is important to understand the United States forced Shawnees and citizens of other tribal nations from their homelands with the passing of the 1830 Indian Removal Act. Natives Americans are not a lost ancient people. They are citizens of 574 federally recognized sovereign nations spread throughout the United States. Each nation has their own identity, beliefs, religion, and language. Citizens of the Shawnee Tribe are nurses, teachers, first responders, lawyers, scientists, chefs, language speakers, language learners, culture bearers...They do not look, dress or speak in a certain way. The stereotypical Indian mascot is disrespectful to Shawnee people.  

Perhaps consider finding something new to chant! Create a new logo. Be creative. The alternative is to perpetuate racial stereotypes and ignore the history of your community.  

Links for further consideration: