Good Morning! Hope you are one and all doing well on this beautiful Tuesday after Easter!
In keeping with the theme of American heros, the next American Indian leader that I’d like to honor is Tecumseh. Tall and handsome, he held the respect not only of his people, but of those he fought, as well. Though he fought long and hard to save his land and his people, he fought just as hard against also the practice of torture and would not allow any torture of any prisoners. A great orator, he sought to unite the tribes against the encrouchment of settlers on their lands. To Tscumseh, all land belonged to all people. Sell the land? Why not sell the air that one breathes?
Tecumseh was Shawnee and was born in 1768 in the area that is now Ohio. He grew up in an era in which his people were in constant battle with the white settlers and his father died in a conflict in 1774 at the Battle of Point Pleasant. In 1779 Tecumseh’s mother moved westward, into what is now Indiana and Illinois, eventually coming to live in Missouri. Tecumseh stayed behind to be raised by his sister and elder brother. By 1808, Tecumseh was a chief.
In 1805, Tecumshe’s brother, Tenskwatawa, who would later come to be known as the prophet, had dreamed. He started a religious revival. Tenskwatawa preached that people should reject the ways of the whites — like Tecumseh, he urged people to keep their land and stop selling it. But there is always internal opposition to even the best plans. Another Shawnee leader, Black Hoof was trying to maintain peace with the United States. Tensions became so great that by 1808 Tecumseh and his brother moved further northwest, near the rivers The Wabash and Tippecanoe. It was Tecumseh’s dream to unite all the Indian tribes together, from Canada to the very southern tip of the United States. Only in this way could the Indian Nations counter the effect of the whites who were surrounding them.
Toward this end, he accomplished much.
In September 1809, William Henry Harrison negotiated a treaty wherein a delegation of half-starved, drunken Indians ceded 3 million acres of land that they did not own or live on. It was a scam. perpetuated by Harrison. Tecumseh was so angered over this that he journeyed to to Harrison’s home to denounce him publicly. But it had little effect on Harrison. In the end, nothing was done.
Tecumseh began to put his dream into effect. He began to travel widely. A great orator, he started to unite the different Indian tribes to one cause. Tecumseh said, “No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers…. Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn’t the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?” And, “….the only way to stop this evil is for the red man to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was first, and should be now, for it was never divided.”
|“||(Governor William Harrison), you have the liberty to return to your own country … you wish to prevent the Indians from doing as we wish them, to unite and let them consider their lands as common property of the whole … You never see an Indian endeavor to make the white people do this … Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Did not the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children? How can we have confidence in the white people?||”|
—- Tecumseh, 1810, ‘The Portable North American Indian Reader’
In 1811 Tecumseh again met with Harrison in Vincennes, Indiana to try to resolve the situation between them. However, Harrison had a father-in-law, John Cleves Symmes, who was a memeber of Congress and who was actively making a career out of being a land developer of the lands that Harrison acquired from Indian Treaties. Therefore it proved fruitless to try to negotiate with Harrieson. He had other interests rather than negotiate with American Indian tribes. Indeed, it was worth it to him to push the Indians off the land they had always owned. Tecumseh might have gone to war over this; however, he wanted peace and wanted to keep hold of his ancestral lands. He knew that only a solidarity of tribes might convince those in Washington, and so he set out on another journey to the south to try to convince warriors in the Five Civilized Tribes to come into his confederacy.
|“||Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun … Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws … Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields?||”|
—- Tecumseh, 1811, ‘The Portable North American Indian Reader’
While Tecumseh was in the South, Governor Harrison marched up the Wabash River to try to iintimidate Tecumseh’s brother, the Prophet. Tecumseh had left orders with his brother that he was not to engage any American army. However, the Prophet took matters into his own hands and fought Harrison. Although the match was really a draw, Harrison still had the field by morning and the Indians withdrew from the village after the battle. There were women and children to consider, after all. Because they withdrew, it was considered that Harrison won.
The loss of the battle was a severe blow for Tecumseh, but he determined to put his efforts once again into kuniting the tribes, and he might have succeeded had it not been for the War of 1812 intervening. Tecumseh joined the British in that battle and had he lived, he might have succeeded in uniting the tribes, as was his dream. At the very least, a united Indian front might have allowed the Indians to keep hold of their ancestral homes. Tecumseh lost his life in battle in the war of 1812. And so ended a career to unite the several Indian tribes.
Tecumseh was brilliant. He loved his homeland and his tribe. He fought for both and gave his life for both. That he didn’t win thim both is not the point. The point is that, against all odds, he stood for what he believed in — his people, his hom and his country.
Well, that’s all for today. So tell me what do you think of these American hero stories? And about this one in particular. Do you like them? Have they shed any light on history as we usually study and know it? About ten years ago there was a made for TV movie about Tecumseh and his brother. Did you see it?
So tell me what do you think you might have done had you been alive at the time and born to the Indian culture? Would you have joined Tecumseh, or would you have given up your homelands to the vasty superior culture coming in upon you, and gone West?
For myself, I think I might have stayed. After all, there are still some things worth fighting for — freedom, liberty, one’s way of life are some of those things. But come on in and let’s talk. Tell me your thoughts.