In 1779, Shawnees from Chillicothe, a community in the Ohio
country, told the British, "We have always been the frontier."
Their statement challenges an oft-held belief that American Indians
derive their unique identities from longstanding ties to native
lands. By tracking Shawnee people and migrations from 1400 to 1754,
Stephen Warren illustrates how Shawnees made a life for themselves
at the crossroads of empires and competing tribes, embracing
mobility and often moving willingly toward violent borderlands. By
the middle of the eighteenth century, the Shawnees ranged over the
eastern half of North America and used their knowledge to foster
notions of pan-Indian identity that shaped relations between Native
Americans and settlers in the revolutionary era and beyond.
Warren's deft analysis makes clear that Shawnees were not anomalous
among Native peoples east of the Mississippi. Through migration,
they and their neighbors adapted to disease, warfare, and
dislocation by interacting with colonizers as slavers, mercenaries,
guides, and traders. These adaptations enabled them to preserve
their cultural identities and resist coalescence without forsaking
their linguistic and religious traditions.