An American Hero

Good Morning!  Hope you are one and all doing well on this beautiful Tuesday.

War.  Probably more crimes are perpetuated in our world today than all the crimes in the world combined because of what to me is a worldwide insanity.  Interestingly enough, although many of my titles include the word, Warrior, in most American Indian languages, there is no such word as Warrior.  Men fought to protect their families and their tribe.  Men fought to seek revenge for being injured.  Men sometimes fought to preserve their reputation.  Only rarely did a man purposely go out to cause havoc or to kill someone from another tribe (unless he needed to marry and needed honors to do this, and even then it was more honorable to touch an enemy rather than kill him).  Don’t get me wrong.  I support those men and women who are abroad and are giving their all.  I do, however, believe that war is a true insanity, upon which the extremely rich of the world profit.

This post is about a real American hero.  Some might call him a prophet, some might call him a “warrior.  What he was was a man who could see that the ways of his ancestors were coming to an end unless he did something.  His name was Tecumsah.  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 also fought just as hard against 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?tecumseh1

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.

“Tecumseh’s War”

In 1805, Tecumshe’s brother, Tenskwatawa, who would later come to be known as the prophet, had a dream.  That was the start of a new life for him.  He created what was to become 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_harrison1

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’[6]

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.

This 1848 drawing of Tecumseh was based on a sketch done from life in 1808. Benson Lossing altered the original by putting Tecumseh in a British uniform, under the mistaken (but widespread) belief that Tecumseh had been a British general. This depiction is unusual in that it includes a nose ring, popular among the Shawnee at the time, but typically omitted in idealized depictions.

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’[7]

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 uniting 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 is not the point.  The point is that, against all odds, he stood for what he believed in — his people, his home and his country.

Well, that’s all for today.  It’s interesting that having become an historical romance author, my love of history has increased tenfold.  There is one thing I have discovered,  however.  And that is that we are not often taught the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.  Rather it appears to me that propaganda about what the “powers that be” might like us to believe finds its way into our history books.  But the truth is there as surely as the day is long, all it takes is a little research.  For me, it’s an adventure into the past — and a lesson in how much real history (which remains unknown to the people) repeats itself over and over and over.

  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?  Would you have stayed and fought, or perhaps gone West?

For myself, I think I might have stayed so long as I didn’t have young ones to protect.  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.


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KAREN KAY aka GEN BAILEY is the multi-published author of American Indian Historical Romances. She has written for such prestigious publishers as AVON/HarperCollins, Berkley/Penguin/Putnam and Samhain Publishing. KAREN KAY’S great grandmother was Choctaw Indian and Kay is honored to be able to write about the American Indian Culture.
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17 thoughts on “An American Hero”

  1. What a great story, Kay. Tecumseh was a remarkable man by any definition.
    There’s a fictional biography of Tecumseh, written years ago. It’s called PANTHER IN THE SKY, by James Alexander Thom, one of the best historical authors ever. Incredible research and writing. Has anybody else read it?

  2. I read one time that the difference between the native people of America and of China was that somehow Genghis Kahn was able to unite all the tribal people to fight for their country against invaders. And because of this, they held the country for themselves.
    The American Indians weren’t able to do this, with a few notable moments where it did work.

    I wonder why that was?

  3. Hi Minna!

    You know I don’t have and don’t watch television. My own silent protest against some of the ads on TV that I believe are some of the most unethical advertising the world has ever seen. However, I do have the DVD’s — I forget how many there are — of the 500 nations. When I first got them, I was up all night watching them. Fascinating. Thanks for your thoughts.

  4. Hi Mary!

    Perhaps it’s because Genghis Kahn was an extremely suppressive character. There’s a true story about Genghis Kahn where a people were so afraid of him that they gave in to him without even attempting to fight. He took over that city and killed them to a man. He couldn’t stand a person who wasn’t willing to fight.

    Native America was of the belief that a man had a right to make up his own mind about things — not be coerced to do the bidding of another. That’s why oratory was so important. Perhaps that’s the difference.

  5. I think the American Indian was a more peaceful people as opposed to maybe Genghis Kahn.

    Always a though provoking post, Karen. If someone can figure it out, I have no doubt they would sell the air we breathe. In fact, when it’s so polluted they just may have to. Unfortunately I’ve turned into such a cynic in my old age.

  6. Hi Cats Lady!

    Interesting post. You know, of course, that they’ve already figured out how to tax our air. It’s in the works in our Congress right now — call carbon tax. Interestingly, people don’t know their science. Plants breathe out oxygen and take in carbon dioxide. We breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. God made it so that it’s a pretty much even exchange.

    If there is such a thing (which I doubt — I think it’s a scam), it might be industry in there polluting the air — but industry will buy their carbon credits and continue to pollute without conscience.

    I do believe that God does a better job than our science, which often seems to be nothing more than junk science. But watch out — carbon credits are going to be the in thing more and more — California (where I live) has already bought into the ponsi scheme.

    Interesting…

  7. Your question about staying or going West is an interesting one. I also feel that if I had children I might leave. But, I don’t know. I would have to stay and take my chances.
    Great post. I am learning a lot from you. Sometime you should tell your views on writers using the term “squaw” in their stories. I shudder every time I read the word. Another time???

  8. Mary J. you so made me laugh. I’ve heard many things about that word, but from the records that I’ve been able to find, it is a derogatory word, one that means a woman’s private parts. The Indians themselves never referred to their women in this way — I don’t care what Hollywood movies say. It was the incoming civilization that described their women in such a way.

    Men would say “my woman” or children, “my mother” or “my aunt” or so and so’s wife. But never “squaw.” That came with the incoming civilization who used many curse words.

    That’s my research on it.

  9. Thank you. The Winnebago useage means a diaper type of material for a baby. Weird. I just shudder when I hear it used—-as in a movie.

  10. Hey Kay,

    I love it when you post your information on some many different tribes. I love the research, and I do a lot of it.

    I hate the word “squaw” too. I would have loved to have lived in that time frame. I would have stayed and fight for my land, my people, and for my freedom.

    Walk in harmony,
    Melinda

  11. Hi Mary J.,

    Me, too. Especially when they have some Indian man saying this about his wife. It’s one of those things that never would have happened. I usually lose interest in the movie after that. 🙂

  12. Hi Melinda!

    So good to see you here. Yes, provided I didn’t have small children who could be hurt, I think I would have stayed and fought, also. I know you do alot of research also.

    Hope you are doing well. My God Bless!

  13. Amongst many clichés in the world of literature is the concept of the Great American Novel. Some argue that it is still waiting to be written, and some argue that it was written long ago and no piece of fiction that follows will ever touch it. This article aims to examine some of the novels that are generally considered top contenders for the title of Great American Novel.

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