Van Swearingen legend

In 1877, decades after Blue Jacket's death, a story was published which claimed that Blue Jacket had actually been a white man named Marmaduke Van Swearingen, who had been captured and adopted by Shawnees in the 1770s, around the time of the American Revolutionary War.[1] This story was popularized in historical novels written by Allan W. Eckert in the late 1960s.[2] An outdoor drama based on the Van Swearingen story, Blue Jacket, White Shawnee War Chief, was performed in Xenia, Ohio, beginning in 1981.[2] Performances of the play ended in 2007.

Beginning with historian Helen Hornbeck Tanner in 1978,[3] a number of historians have argued that it is unlikely that Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen were the same person.[2] The historical record indicates that Blue Jacket was much older than Marmaduke Van Swearingen and was already an established chief by the time that Van Swearingen was supposedly captured. Furthermore, no one who personally knew Blue Jacket left any records referring to him as a white man. According to Blue Jacket biographer John Sugden, Blue Jacket was undoubtedly a Shawnee by birth.[4]

DNA testing of the descendants of Blue Jacket and Van Swearingen has given additional support to the argument that Blue Jacket was not Van Swearingen. After an initial test in 2000, results of a DNA test using updated equipment and techniques was published in the September 2006 edition of The Ohio Journal of Science. The researchers tested DNA samples from four men descended from Charles Swearingen, Marmaduke's brother, and six who are descended from Blue Jacket's son George Blue-Jacket. The DNA from the two families did not match, and so the study concluded that, "Barring any questions of the paternity of the Chief's single son who lived to produce male heirs, the 'Blue Jacket with-Caucasian-roots' is not based on reality."[5]