BRIEF HISTORY OF VINYARD INDIAN SETTLEMENT
From time immemorial, the people of the Vinyard Indian Settlement (VIS) of Shawnee Indians lived in the area now known as the Ohio River Valley and the States of Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. In this area, members of VIS lived in woodland communities, practiced agriculture and harvested fish from the rivers. Upon contact with Euro-American colonists, members of VIS began to move west and live in the more westerly portion of their ancestral lands – southern Illinois.
In the decades before 1800, historians began to note that Shawnee Indians from Ohio were moving to and concentrating in what would become southern Illinois. See Jeff Biggers, Reckoning at Eagle Creek, p. 64. This movement of Shawnee Indians and members of VIS to southern Illinois occurred due to increased settlement of Euro-Americans in Ohio and the loss of salt wells and trade grounds in the Greenville Treaty of 1795. Id. Southern Illinois was familiar territory to members of VIS and other Shawnee Indians as it has always been a part of their ancestral territory.
“The old trace that runs near the Ohio river crossing the Wabash and on the saline regions of the Illinois has been a regular pass way for Indians from time when none know. The Shawnees under *Chief Setteedown [Sedowii] have, as you know, a straggling settlement along this trail……Our scouts from this place have often been over the route and visited some white people located on the north bank of the Ohio.”
*” His village from 1807 to 1811 was near the mouth of Cypress creek Warrick County. In 1811 he was implicated in the murder of the Meeks family of Spencer county (east of the Wabash Indiana side) and killed.” Illinois State Museum, Indian Villages of the Illinois Country, (Captain William Hargrove, Commanding Rangers), Scientific Papers, Volume II, Part 2, 1958
These refugees found refuge with the original family of Vinyard immigrants. “Homes” were built in local “hollows.” The “refugees” appropriated the Vinyard surname but kept their household cultures distinct. Numbers of these families with other Native refugees removed to Missouri during the first half of the 1800s, eventually into Kansas, then Indian Territory (Oklahoma). History records that citizens from here and the western bands were enlisted to fight against the Seminoles in Florida.
During this period, the two Vinyard communities raised common Indian foods: corn, several varieties of beans, squashes, sweet potatoes and cabbages (from the German Vinyards). The Vinyards taught the Shawnee ancestors how to make sauerkraut, and the Shawnees taught the real Vinyards how to make hominy (dah-qual-a-quah), dry corn, collect herbs and taught them planting skills in the river bottoms rather than on the hills. A woman from this community discovered the cure for milk sickness. During this time, milk cows and mules (for plowing) were acquired. Relatives took food and seed back to the west when they visited. During the Dawes Act period, numerous Indians to the west gave up tribal citizenship for individual allotments of land and accepted white designations on birth records. In southeast Illinois, this was already being done.
People who took the Vinyard surname were added to church rolls as if they were members of that family. Traditional ceremonies were practiced unannounced and not practiced in public. For events such as Green Corn or Bread Dance, people committed to these ways went to Oklahoma. Such visitations occurred through the Korean Conflict.
During this time, the American Civil War enlisted numerous native people, many from the Vinyard Settlement (as it was commonly known). Records show that most served the North, although records also show many served with the South. As exist numerous
records, history also tells us that records were falsified, and names were changed. Many of the Vinyard cemeteries in Hardin County indicate Civil War service as well as other military services. The Vinyard Indian Settlement must still rely a great deal upon oral history.
“Writing in the Journal of the Illinois State Historical Society in 1931, William Nelson Moyers referred to such settlements as the “Isolated Indians, Natives who quietly blended in to the hunting trade areas. “” What became of them?”” Moyers asked his readers. “” It is the opinion of one writer that they were absorbed by amalgamation, and that their descendants are still here--some of the descendants being proud of their ancestry, others very sensitive about it, and a majority, indifferent.”” Biggers, Reckoning on Eagle Creek.
During this period, many of the Vinyard Settlement Natives attended grade school. Many, after eighth grade, attended college for a summer and acquired certification in the Indian Service and taught school at Haskell in Kansas, Chillocco and Bacone in Oklahoma, Holy Rosary in South Dakota and at Rocky Boy’s Reservation in Montana and others. Mainstream education became an important segment of survival for citizens of the VIS, as well as inter-marriage with non-Indians and with other tribal peoples.
During this time, a former Senator from Illinois, Paul Simon, became friends with the pastor Clyde Vinyard and his father Iley Vinyard. Senator Simon spoke publically at a lecture at Southern Illinois University about how he had attempted to persuade Vinyard elders to apply for federal recognition. At the time, such a suggestion appeared to be too much, too soon, and the discussion was tabled until 1996 when a non-profit was formed.
Elders from the old school of the Vinyard Indian Settlement as well as visitors from Oklahoma begin dying off and taking their knowledge with them. Local descendants were becoming concerned about VIS history being able to continue evolving. Three ceremonies remained, and the language was down to simple words. VIS began contacting Oklahoma Shawnees and getting promises of help from those who still had traditions intact. VIS quickly held elections for council members and a chair. A constitution was drawn up and ratified in 2000, the same year that the Shawnee Tribe of NE Oklahoma received its federal recognition.
Since 2000, VIS has conducted multitudes of workshops, inviting tribal people from all over Indian country to participate as well as those who support its reorganization. The three ceremonies Reconnection Days (September), Mid-Winter Feast Days (January/February) and Wild Onion Feast Days (April) have been held annually with traditional workshops for kids. Currently, these events are maintained as “feast days.” Plans are made to build an elder living center, child day-care, language class rooms and organize other small businesses to raise funds for a cultural center and provide badly needed employment in this part of the world with NO casinos in the planning. VIS is currently seeking Illinois State Recognition. The first attempt passed the House unanimously and by the Senate with one “no” vote. Lack of experience on VIS’s part allowed the bill to die in committee. VIS has raised funds for scholarships to students here and in the West.
Currently, the enrolled citizens of the Vinyard Indian Settlement are involved in numerous community activities that have a motive: buying back our homelands along the Ohio River. Our council meets twelve times a year in its current headquarters near Herod, Illinois. A five-year plan calls for the construction of a number of small ecologically oriented businesses that will provide jobs for both Native and non-Native citizens.
The business plan for the development of an elder living center with a child daycare, in which children and elders may interact, is in the works; this includes a home health care for elderly, disabled members and others. The VIS is also working on a Cultural & Business Center to store what remains of our cultural history. We welcome all donations of money, material supplies, land, and historical photos and documents related to our history.
All are welcome to our headquarters, but please call first to ensure a pleasant and well-informed visit! We still practice traditional living standards that include massive gardening, fishing, hunting, gathering of herbs - besides maintaining regular jobs. Ceremonial life is still a serious part of our culture and life. Other tribal peoples and visitors are welcome.
-The Tribal Council of the Vinyard Indian Settlement
Friends & Family of the Vinyard Indian Settlement
Past & Present Contributors
The Council of the Vinyard Indian Settlement would like to thank the following people and organizations that contributed time, money, and/or advice:
Pam and Lan Richart
Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ
Pearl Casias of the Southern Ute Tribe
Indiana State Historical Society
Illinois State Historical Society
Delta Gateway Museum
Judy and Glen Kellan
Lisa Schnorff Henson
Bill & Chi Carr
Eric Marten & Family
Governor George Blanchard & the Absentee Shawnee Tribal Council of Oklahoma
James Bond of the Money Stretcher
James R. Carr
Pope County Board of Commissioners
Phil & Vivian Bush
Roy Wasson & Family
Sam & Geneil Stearns
Terri Deneal (In Memory)
The Elder Council of the Vinyard Indian Settlement
The Hardin County Independent
The Harrisburg Daily Register
The Herald Enterprise
The Native American Church of Pearl River Choctaw of Mississippi
The Southern Illinoisan
The Trails of Awareness Project
The Vinyard Indian Settlement Executive Council