Black Bob, Hathawekela Shawnee chief

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Black Bob (Wa-wah-che-pa-e-hai or Wa-wah-che-pa-e-kar) was a chief of the Hathawekela division of the Shawnee indian tribe.

He was known for being one of the last Shawnee leaders to resist leaving for the Indian Territory, and for keeping his band together until his death, holding their lands in common, as they moved between Missouri, Arkansas, and the Black Bob Reservation in Kansas.

Black Bob was half Miami and half Shawnee. He had relatives among the Blackfeather people.

The Blackfeather Farm, in Overland Park, Kansas still exists as of 2013. “The original land patent of the Blackfeather Farm was awarded to To Wah Pea and her heirs on March 13, 1885. This site was part of the tract belonging to the Black Bob band.

Joseph and Johnson Blackfeather were some of the heirs, hence the Blackfeather name is associated with this land. Settlers moved onto the land as soon as the war was over, and disputes over the land continued for 20 years.

Black Bob and his Hathawekela band (also known as the Skipakákamithagî  band), the Cape Girardeau Shawnee, lived on land controlled by Spain in eastern Missouri on land granted to them about 1793 by Baron Carondelet, near Cape Girardeau.

The Black Bob Band became known as Skipakákamithagî’ in the Shawnee language meaning “blue water Indians”; because they lived on the Big Blue River. In 1808, Chief Black Bob and his band refused to remove with the rest of the tribe to Indian Territory.

The Cape Girardeau band believed that government commissioners had misled them about the 1825 treaty and argued that they had never agreed to allow any Ohio Shawnees to settle on the western lands.

As a result, a portion of the Shawnees under the leadership of Black Bob did not move to eastern Kansas and instead settled along the White River in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, the Rogerstown and Fish bands traveled directly to eastern Kansas, where successive parties of Ohio Shawnees joined them over the next several years. A more complete reunion in 1833 occurred only through intimidation. Black Bob’s band still had no desire to move to the Kansas River.

On Oct. 26, 1831, “General William Clark at Castor Hill in St. Louis County, Missouri, signed a treaty with representatives of the Delaware then in Kansas and the Cape Girardeau Shawnee (the Black Bob band) then in Arkansas, giving up all claim to the Cape Girardeau grant.

The Black Bob band had written directly to President Andrew Jackson, noting that “For the last forty years we have resided in Upper Louisiana,” (which was now called Missouri), “peaceably following our usual occupations for the support of our families” … explaining that the Shawnee lands in Kansas had “a climate colder than we have been accustomed to, or wish to live in,” and they would be “surrounded by people who are strangers to us.” However, in 1833, this petition was denied.

Eventually, Black Bob’s band removed to the area of Kansas. In an 1854 treaty with Black Bob, the United States gave them rights to land on the Shawnee Reservation in that state.

The reservation became home to 2,183 Shawnees from a variety of different bands between 1825 and 1834. This 1.6 million-acre reservation stretched from the confluence of the Kansas and Missouri rivers west toward present-day Topeka.

The Black Bob Reservation (or Black Bob Reserve) was located in the southeastern part of Johnson County, Kansas, at the sources of the Blue and Tomahawk creeks, lying in Oxford, Spring Hill, Aubry and Olathe townships, on 33,000 acres in the Tomahawk Creek area near the current intersection of 119th and Black Bob Road.

Black Bob kept the band together until his death in 1862 or 1864, but in 1867 the speculators induced the Indians to put their land in severalty.  In 1857, there was 136 Black Bob Indians left.

During the years of the Civil War, Shawnees from the Absentee-Shawnee and other bands fled to the 33,000 acre Black Bob Reservation as refugees. 

The tribe held its lands in common until 1866, and continued to live as had been their custom, making but little progress and spending most of their time in visiting other tribes and hunting, until the breaking out of the Civil  War.

Then, on account of the losses and sufferings to which they were subjected from bushwhackers on one hand, and Kansas thieves on the other, they left their homes and went to the Indian Territory in a body.

There they remained until peace was proclaimed, when about one hundred returned to dispose of their lands, only to find them taken over by sqatters in their absence.

Tribal members petitioned the US Government in the 1870s to “keep their land intact,” noting that since the war, the band had been “composed largely of women and children.” They also said that it is not their choice to divide their land, but “is an alternative urged on them by speculators who care nothing for our people, only so far as they can use us for selfish purposes.”

However, these petitions were not successful, the lands were sold to speculators. “The Black Bob Shawnee were expelled from their land and moved to Northeastern Oklahoma.” There they joined the Absentee-Shawnee, and claimed acreage that eventually turned out to have been previously assigned the Potawatomi.

The Black Bob Band became one of the predecessors to today’s Shawnee Tribe.

During the Civil War many of the Shawnee Tribe fought for the Union, which inspired the name, “Loyal Shawnee.” Instead of receiving compensation or honors for their service, they returned to their Kansas lands, only to find much of it taken over by non-Indian homesteaders.

Settlers were granted 130,000 acres (530 km2) of Shawnee land, while 70,000 acres (280 km2) remained to for the tribe, of which 20,000 acres (81 km2) were granted to the Absentee Shawnee.

One researcher states that the “Loyal Shawnee” is a later name for the “Black Bob Band.” The Black Bob Band’s records were kept by the Shawnee Agency. Members of the Black Bob Band joined with the Absentee Shawnees and the Cherokee.

In 1861 Kansas became a state, and the non-Indian people of Kansas demanded that all Indian tribes must be removed from the state.

The Loyal Shawnee made an agreement with the Cherokee Nation in 1869, allowing 722 to gain citizenship within the Cherokee tribe and receive allotments of Cherokee land. They predominantly settled in what is now Craig and Rogers County, Oklahoma.

They became known as the “Cherokee Shawnee,” primarily settling in the areas of Bird Creek (now known as Sperry); Hudson Creek (now known as Fairland); and White Oak. The Shawnee Reservation in Kansas was never legally dissolved and some Shawnee families still hold their allotment lands in Kansas.