Nonhelema (or Grenadier Squaw) (Native American Warriors/Scouts/Intermediaries)

(ca. 1720-1786)

An important cultural mediator and Shawnee leader. White people called her the Grenadier or Grenadier Squaw because of her bearing and height (nearly six foot six).

Nonhelema married first a Shawnee, then a white captive named Richard Butler, and finally the Shawnee Moluntha. Probably born in Maryland, Nonhelema, also know as Katherine, lived in Pennsylvania before she and her brother, Cornstalk, moved to Ohio, where they each led neighboring villages on the Scioto Creek.

Nonhelema was a warrior woman, whose participation in the colonial frontier wars (including the Battle of Bushy Run in 1774), convinced her that Shawnee survival depended on peace. During the American Revolution, many Shawnee aided the British, but Nonhelema and her brother Cornstalk led a peace faction. After her brother’s murder by militia at Fort Randolph in 1777, Nonhelema separated from her tribe to support the Americans. She warned Fort Randolph of a Shawnee attack in 1778, negotiated with the attackers for the Fort, and disguised messengers, who were sent to warn Fort Don-nally that a Shawnee attack was imminent. Her large herd of cattle and horses were destroyed during the Fort Randolph siege. In 1780, she served as guide and translator for Lieutenant-Colonel Augustin Mottin de la Balme, the U.S. inspector general of cavalry, when he traveled to Illinois to treat with Indians.

The frontier war continued after the Anglo-American Treaty of 1783. Nonhelema petitioned Congress in 1785 for a 1,000-acre grant of the land in Ohio as compensation for her service during the war and the loss of livestock. Instead, Congress voted her a pension of daily rations for life and an annual allotment of a set of clothes and a blanket. In 1786, when General Benjamin Logan led Kentucky militia against the Ohio Shawnee, Nonhelema and her husband and family surrendered to the troops. After they were in army custody, a soldier killed Moluntha, and the Americans detained Nonhelema at Pittsburgh. While at Fort Pitt, she helped the commander compile a dictionary of Shawnee words. She died sometime after her release in December 1786.

Next post:

Previous post: