SENECA, Mo. — For what is believed to be the first time in history, a woman was sworn in Wednesday as chief of the Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma. Glenna J. Wallace, 68, of rural Seneca, Mo., was sworn in at the Bluejacket Complex of the Eastern Shawnee tribal grounds. "To the tribe's knowledge, I am the first female chief," Wallace said. Wallace joins a small circle of women chiefs that includes Wilma Mankiller, who was the principal chief of the Cherokee Nation from 1985 to 1995; Alice Brown Davis, who was principal chief of the Seminole Nation from 1922 to 1935; and Grace Goodeagle, from 1994 to 1996, and Tamara Summerfield, from 2000 to 2002, who each served as chairwoman of the Quapaw Tribe. In a low-key ceremony, Wallace quoted Tecumseh, a Shawnee chief, warrior and orator who died in 1813. "Tecumseh said the seventh generation shall bring my people back," Wallace said. "I am honored to say I am part of that generation, and as a people we want to be successful in returning to Ohio." The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, based on the Oklahoma-Missouri border, was removed from Ohio in 1832 and was the first tribe placed in Oklahoma after the 1830 federal Indian Removal Act.
"Tecumseh said the seventh generation shall bring my people back. I am honored to say I am part of that generation, and as a people we want to be successful in returning to Ohio."
Glenna J. Wallace
Tribe's history tracedWallace said the tribe, a mixed band of Indians, can trace its history to Ohio to the 1740s. "We want to return to Ohio to be a federally recognized tribe and to be restored in Ohio," Wallace said. The tribe filed suit in June in U.S. District Court in Toledo against the state. The tribe is seeking to reclaim 146 square miles of western Ohio to be used for casinos. "I connect with the seventh generation, I want to bring back good things." Wallace said. "I expect us to be very successful in business, as well as tribal endeavors." Wallace is stepping down as a college professor at Crowder College in Neosho, Mo., where she served as a communication instructor for 38 years. "This will be a full-time position and I intend to give full-time energy," Wallace said. Wallace won a runoff election in November by a margin of 320 votes, after falling short of a majority by one vote in September. Other changes Wallace hopes to implement include re- establishing the tribe's cultural heritage with two other Shawnee tribes. "I want to represent the tribe well and make their lives better," Wallace said. "I want to bring businesses into the tribe in addition to casinos." The tribe owns a 57,000-square-foot casino near its Oklahoma headquarters in Ottawa County. "We are a self-managed casino, but there are things we need to do to keep up with the technology," Wallace said. About 70 percent of casino profits go back into the tribe to help run a strong social program, including helping elderly tribal members, she said. Wallace said every tribal member over the age of 62 receives a yearly check for $3,000. "They can do with the check whatever they want to, including paying utilities," Wallace said. Wallace said she is most proud of the tribe's scholarship program, which provides students $2,500 scholarships per semester for undergraduate study and $4,000 per semester for graduate work. The Eastern Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, the Absentee Shawnee Tribe and the Cherokee-Shawnee Tribe all are federally recognized groups of the Shawnee Tribe in Oklahoma, she said. Wallace said the tribe has about 2,400 members, representing every state in the nation.
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