Shawnee is a spoken language that pre-dates first contact with European explorers. Shawnee was first documented by the French in the early to mid-1600. Shawnee comes from the Algonquian Language Family and is said to be part of the South Central Algonquian language group which includes Illinois, Peoria, Miami, Shawnee, Kickapoo, Mascouten, Sauk and Fox. The languages closest to Shawnee are Kickapoo with Sauk and Fox having similar words. Researchers have indicated there may have been two dialect groups of Shawnee language, a Southern (or Western) and an Eastern dialect. Absentee Shawnees who can speak Shawnee intermittently or fluently are said to be speaking the Southern dialect.
Of the South Central Algonquian language group, only Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Sac & Fox are still spoken today. Our relatives, the Miami and Peoria, are working to revitalize their languages to keep them from going extinct. For us, the Absentee Shawnee, the number of known first language fluent speakers is alarming at less than 30 speakers. Regardless of how or where we learn to speak Shawnee, we do not ever want to get to the point of language extinction.
Our Shawnee elders that have passed used to say “learn at least four words so the Creator can hear you and know we are still here”. Although four words are good, don’t stop at four! Learn and speak Shawnee as much as you can to help carry on our Shawnee language.
To hear select words and phrases, click “lexicon” under Resources