Skip to main content

Shawnee Language Collection

Identifier: NALC-SLA
“I first taught Shawnee language to 88 people in Little Axe, OK. The Absentee Shawnee Tribe’s funding priorities shifted and interest dropped dramatically. There are very few that I could walk up to and talk Shawnee for half a day. We’ve got to do something. There’s no tomorrow.” — George Blanchard, ESTO language specialist, tribal elder, and former governor of the Absentee Shawnee in a 2009 PBS documentary titled“We Shall Remain.”

The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma (ESTO) began offering language classes in 2012 based on the results of a Community Needs Survey that showed 91 percent believe Shawnee language classes would be beneficial to sustain tribal culture. According to the same 2012 survey, 98 percent believe the tribe should provide opportunities for families to learn together, including educational classes. However, there are no educational materials available to the entire tribe. One hundred percent of those surveyed believe the tribal community is in need of learning tribal languages in order for the language to not be lost; however, the Cultural Preservation Department recognized a lack of professional development and training to teach the Shawnee language.

Language carries with it an unspoken network of cultural values, which builds our identity and encourages our community to move toward social unity and self-sufficiency. There is a dramatic decline of Shawnee speakers. According to a survey compiled by Mary Linn of the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History, there were only 200 Shawnee speakers in 2004. George Blanchard, native Shawnee speaker, tribal elder, and language specialist for the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, believes that number is fewer than 100 today. With most fluent speakers over the age of 50, many languages are on the brink of extinction. Culturally appropriate staff training in professional development and the duplication of a language workbook with a companion CD is needed for tribal members to sustain or grow in knowledge of the Shawnee language as they hear, see and speak it. Funding for this project will create a nation of learners while preserving and sharing our culture, heritage and knowledge of the Shawnee language.

The Shawnee language is a Central Algonquian language spoken in parts of central and northeastern Oklahoma by the Shawnee people. It was originally spoken in Ohio, West Virginia, Kentucky and Pennsylvania. It is closely related to other Algonquian languages, such as Mesquakie-Sauk (Sac and Fox) and Kickapoo. The French name of the language is algonquines, langues. The German name of the language is Algonkin-Sprachen.

The ESTO aims to create a nation of learners enhancing cultural opportunities. With fewer than 100 Shawnee speakers and a diaspora population across the entire nation, a project began with a focus on enhancing the technique of teaching the language by providing a language workbook and companion CD with Shawnee words, phrases and expressions pronounced by a native language speaker.

The ESTO published a 48-page language workbook and companion CD in September 2017. The contents of the workbook include the Shawnee alphabet and pronunciation key followed by five chapters of common phrases and situational conversations. For example, Chapter 1 includes the various greetings while Chapter 2 teaches various ways of welcoming and greeting someone in the Shawnee language. However, Chapter 5 builds upon the foundation laid by the previous chapters and includes basic routines, commands and other topics. The companion CD is narrated by George Blanchard (Absentee Shawnee) and Kathleen Moore (Eastern Shawnee). This project was made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Following the publication, the Shawnee Language Collection at the Sam Noble Museum was established with a deposit of the aforementioned Shawnee language workbook and companion CD, a four-part series of books for counting in Shawnee, and a copy of “The Story of Our Corn.” The materials were produced in both physical and electronic print form with contributions by George Blanchard, Renee Gokey, Kathleen Moore and Carrie Silverhorn of the ESTO.

In 2018, a second addition to the collection was made, featuring children’s books about farm and forest animals written in the Shawnee language.


  • 2016 - 2017

Language of Materials

The collection materials are in Shawnee and English.

Conditions Governing Access

The materials are open for research. Contact the NALC at (405) 325-3332 or


1 Boxes


The Shawnee Language Collection features illustrated story and workbooks in both tangible and electronic formats intended to assist researchers in learning the Shawnee language.

Repository Details

Part of the Native American Languages Collection Repository