By Gabby Storey
Born in c. 1720 to Okowellos and Katee, a metís woman, Nonhelema later became a warrior of the Chilliothe division of the Shawnee nation. Her early years were spent in Pennsylvania before travelling with her family to George in 1725. The family returned to Pennsylvania in 1730.
Nonhelema married her first husband, a chief whom she had two daughters with. Her first husband died in 1754 and she married second husband, Moluntha, a cousin from her mother’s Maquachake clan, the same year.
She had two daughters and a son with Moluntha, and migrated with the Maquachake clan to Ohio, following the Shawnee practice of patrilocality. Nonhelema’s role as a chief ensured she exerted influence and leadership, particular over domestic production.
She was also known as a warrior: her actions in 1763 at the beginning of Pontiac’s Rebellion established her as a fearsome foe. After the rebellion, Nonhelema acted as an intermediary and pursued peace. She had two sons, one with Col. Alexander McKee and one with Col. Richard Butler.
Nonhelema often worked with her brother, Cornstalk, to ensure their people’s neutrality during the American Revolution. In 1785, Nonhelema petitioned Congress for a land grant in return for her service, and was allotted rations and clothing.
In 1786, Nonhelema and Moluntha were captured, with Moluntha killed and Nonhelema imprisoned. She was released later that year and died in December 1786.
James C. Klotter and Craig Thompson Friend, A New History of Kentucky (University Press of Kentucky, 2018)
Lisa Tendrich Frank, An Encyclopedia of American Women at War: From the Home Front to the Battlefields, 2 volumes (Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO, 2013)
Paul R. Misencik and Sally E. Miscencik, American Indians of the Ohio Country in the 18th Century (Jefferson: McFarland, 2020).