Which Tribe?

Posted By BrokenClaw on June 30, 2007

This post is in response to an email question I received about Charles George Shunatona. An article was published online by Tim Giago about The Great Horse of the Pawnee Nation, which describes a legend passed down to Shunatona by his great-grandfather. The person writing to me was apparently confused by the fact that the original Shunatona was an Otoe, as described on my Genealogy site, but the story is written about a Pawnee.

The question was, “Can you tell me whether Chief Shunatona is Otoe or Pawnee? I want to use the story about Great Horse and cannot find the tribe for Shunatona.”

The answer is, Chief Charles George Shunatona (1917-2001) was a Pawnee Indian. Having said that, I can qualify it by explaining that his father, Richard Shunatona, was Otoe. I have several photos of him on the Otoe-Missouria Photos page; he is buried in the Otoe-Missouria Tribal Cemetery. Richard Shunatona married Jenny Bayhylle, who was Pawnee. They raised their family among the Pawnee, so their children were absolutely Pawnee. However, I am not sure if the “Great Horse” tale handed down to Charles Shunatona was from his mother’s Pawnee side of the family, or if Mr. Giago was simply unaware of the paternal Otoe ancestry and mistakenly attached the story to the Pawnee. The name Shunatona is an Anglicized version of their ancestor Chief Chongatonga of the Otoe, whose name does in fact mean, Great Horse.

It may be difficult for people today to understand that a person’s tribe or clan is as much a cultural or spiritual designation as it is a blood designation. For example, if your parents came from different religions, or different countries, or even different states, you wouldn’t describe yourself as half-this and half-that. You would describe yourself in the context of where and how you were raised.

For a time, my great-grandfather was married to Dora White Mule. She was considered to be the last survivor of the now-extinct Snake Clan of the Otoe-Missouria. The truth is, she was born to two white parents but adopted into the tribe as an infant when her mother died. She was raised Otoe-Missouria, so she was Otoe-Missouria.


5 Responses to “Which Tribe?”

  1. Missou says:

    The tribes like I noticed Ioway and Otoe-Missouria have all the same names AHO MashyiManyi Wiyawe nampo misinje sunje thrka chine cousin

  2. gabrielle says:

    Hi my name is gabrielle and I have a question…..maybe you can give me some insight??? my great grandmother, as well as my grandmother, and grandfather,were native american…from missouri area originally..i remember asking them for information of what tribe they were from…and they never wanted to talk about it (bad memories) they say…might you know of a sight that can help me to find the tribe we are from, and what info i would need to have….
    thank you

  3. Mary Elder says:

    My great-grandfather was James Arkeketah (my grandmother was Mary) – it is my understanding that Richard Shunatona and James Arkeketkah were raised as brothers and that Richard was adopted by Arkeketah and was Pawnee.

  4. BrokenClaw says:

    Just to clarify, I did NOT write the article about the “Great Horse” of the Pawnee. I merely included a link to the original article by Tim Giago because someone asked me to clarify something about Chief Charles Shunatona. My response was to address the question of his tribe.

    However, I did write the article and take the photos on the Pawnee School which was referenced in Giago’s article.

  5. jennifer redcorn hartfelder says:

    I just want to thank you for your recent article [about] “The ‘Great Horse’ of the Pawnee Nation” and your website with photos of Pawnee Indian School. My father attended this school and many fond stories of his youth and friendships fill my memories. He was Osage and was born and raised in Pawhuska when his mother had to send him to Pawnee and I smile when I think of his weekend trips “with a pocket full of biscuits to keep their bellies full” on their journey. I may even have some old photos with fellow students and old buildings if you need them. Thanks again for the trip down memory lane.

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