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April 11, 2014

Big Jim, Absentee Shawnee leader

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Big Jim was the popular name of a noted full-blood Shawnee leader, known among his people as Wapameepto, “Gives light as he walks”. His English name was originally Dick Jim, later corrupted into Big Jim. He was also known as White Road.

Big Jim, Absentee Shawnee leader

Wapameepto was born on the Sabine Reservation in Texas in 1834. His grandfather was Tecumseh, and his father was one of the signers of the Sam Houston treaty between the Cherokee and affiliated tribes and the Republic of Texas, signed on February 23, 1836.

In 1872 Big Jim became chief of the Kispicotha band of Shawnee, commonly known as Big Jim’s band of Absentee Shawnee. He was probably the most conservative member of his tribe. In the full aboriginal belief that the earth was his mother and that she must not be wounded by tilling of the soil, he refused until the last to receive the allotments of land that had been forced upon his band in Oklahoma in 1890 and 1891, and used every means possible to overcome the encroachments of civilization.

For the purpose of finding a place where his people would be free from molestation, he led his band of traditionalists to Mexico in 1900, and while there was stricken with smallpox in August, and died. He was succeeded by his only son, Tonomo, who was about 30 in 1905.

After Big Jim’s death, his band later became known as the Little Axe band.

Famous Shawnee
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