In the Algonquian language, the meaning of this name is "southerner" or "from the south".
This tribe was almost migratory in nature in the early years. Although some archaeological studies place the Shawnee in the Ohio River area in pre-historic times, at the first European contact the tribe was living in South Carolina and south Georgia. Their migrations from South Carolina to the Cumberland region (1715), then into what is now Kentucky was a result of the various wars with the Cherokee and Chickasaw, as well as their "cousins", the Muskhogean (Creek) tribe.
Three main groups of Shawnee Indians live in Oklahoma:
- the Eastern Shawnee in Ottawa County, Oklahoma (see Seneca)
- a large group living among the Cherokee in Craig, Rogers and other northern counties who formerly were a part of the Cherokee Nation
- the Absentee Shawnee near the city of Shawnee in Pottawatomie County and east of Norman in Cleveland County