Tecumseh lived between March 1768 and October 5th, 1813. He was a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy (known as Tecumseh’s Confederacy) which opposed the United States during Tecumseh’s War and the War of 1812. Tecumseh has become an iconic folk hero in American, Indian and Canadian history. Being from Chillicothe, Ohio, Tecumseh was the first Indian (Native American) I ever learned about. Also, here in Chillicothe, we hold an outdoor drama in his honor that goes on through the summers. It's one of the biggest community theaters in the united states. A launching pad for local actors. Auditions are intense, but a great play to have on your resume for those who are trying to break into the business. I actually went to an audition during my sophmore year in high school, however, when offered a part, I turned it down to concentrate on high school football. (My height - six foot three inches - and my Native American ancestry - my grandfather was 1/4 Cherokee nation - was a plus) That was also the last summer for football as during the season, I hurt my knee and ankle. I often wondered what my life path would have been had I chose acting. I only wish I had the "bug". As it currently stands, I am considering auditioning again sometime in the next few years. (But only considering it)
Tecumseh grew up in the Ohio Country during the American Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War, where he was constantly exposed to warfare. With Americans continuing to encroach on Indian territory after the British ceded the Ohio Valley to the new United States in 1783, the Shawnee moved farther northwest. In 1808, they settled Prophetstown in present-day Indiana. With a vision of establishing an independent American Indian nation east of the Mississippi under British protection, Tecumseh worked to recruit additional tribes to the confederacy from the southern United States.
During the War of 1812, Tecumseh's confederacy allied with the British in The Canada’s (the collective name for the colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada), and helped in the capture of Fort Detroit. American forces killed Tecumseh in the Battle of the Thames, in October 1813. His confederation fell apart, the British deserted their Indian allies at the peace conference that ended the War of 1812, the dream of an independent Indian state in the Midwest vanished, and American settlers took possession of all the territory south of the Great Lakes, driving the Indians west or into reservations.
Tecumseh's father was Puckshinwa (in Shawnee, Puckshinwa, meaning “Alights from Flying“, “Something that drops” or “I light from flying“, also known as Puckeshinwa, Pucksinwah, Pukshinwa, Pukeesheno, Pekishinoah, Pooksehnwe and other variations), a minor Shawnee war chief of the Kospoko (“Dancing Tail” or “Panther“) band and the Panther Clan of the tribe. Puckshinwa's father was Muscogee (Creek) and his mother was Shawnee. Either because his father died when he was young or because among the Creeks a husband lives with his wife's family, Puckshinwa was considered a Shawnee.
Tecumseh's mother was Methotaske (in Shawnee, Methotaske, meaning “One who Lays Eggs in the Sand” or “A turtle laying eggs in the sand“, also known as Methoataske, Meetheetashe, Methotase and Methoatase), Puckshinwa's second wife. She is believed to have been Shawnee through her father and her mother, possibly of the Pekowi band and the Turtle Clan. Some traditions hold that she was Creek, because she had lived among that tribe prior to marriage; some hold that she was Cherokee, having died in old age living among that tribe; still others hold that she was a white captive, as family stories claim that Puckshinwa had been married to a white captive.
Shawnee lineage was recorded paternally, which made Tecumseh a member of the Kispoko.
At the time Tecumseh's parents married, their tribe was living somewhere near modern Yuscaloosa, Alabama. The tribe had lived in that region alongside the Creek tribe since being driven from their homes in the Ohio River Valley by the Iroquois (based in New York and Pennsylvania) during the 17th-century Beaver Wars.
About 1759, the Pekowi band decided to move west into the Ohio Country. Not wanting to force his wife to choose between him and her family, Puckshinwa decided to travel north with her. The Pekowi founded the settlement of Chillicothe where Tecumseh was likely born. During the 1760s, Puckshinwa took part in the French and Indian War.
Tecumseh, meaning “Shooting Star” or “Panther Across The Sky“, (also known as Tecumtha or Tecamthi) was born about March 1768. His birthplace, according to popular tradition, was Old Chillicothe (the present-day Old-town area of Xenia Township, Greene County, Ohio, about 12 miles (19 km) east of Dayton.) As Old Chillicothe was not settled by the Shawnee until 1774, it is believed that Tecumseh may have been born in a different “Chillicothe” (or as the Shawnee say, Chalahgawtha), which was the tribe's name for its principal village, wherever it was located. Tecumseh is believed to have been born in a Chillicothe along the Scioto River, near the present-day city of Chillicothe, Ohio. Not long after Tecumseh's birth, the family moved to the village of Scioto.
When Tecumseh was a boy, his father Puckshinwa was “brutally murdered” by white frontiersmen who had crossed onto Indian land in violation of a recent treaty, at the Battle of Point Pleasant during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774. Tecumseh resolved to become a warrior like his father and to be “a fire spreading over the hill and valley, consuming the race of dark souls.”
At age 15, after the American Revolutionary War, Tecumseh joined a band of Shawnee who were determined to stop the white invasion of their lands by attacking settlers’ flatboats traveling down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania. In time, Tecumseh became the leader of his own band of warriors. For a while, these Indian raids were so effective that river traffic virtually ceased.
At least five times between 1712 and 1782, Tecumseh's village was attacked by colonials and later American armies, as the Shawnee had allied with the British during the American Revolutionary War. Following his father's death, his family moved back to Chief Blackfish’s nearby village of Chillicothe. The town was destroyed in 1779 by Kentucky militia in reprisal for Blackfish's attack on Boonesburough. His family fled to another nearby Kispoko village, but this was destroyed in 1780 by forces under the command of George Rogers Clark. The family moved a third time to the village of Sanding Stone. That village was attacked by Clark in November 1782, and the family moved to a new Shawnee settlement near modern Bellefontaine, Ohio.
Violence continued on the American frontier after the Revolution as the Northwest Indian War. A large tribal confederacy, known as the Wabash Confederacy, which included all the major tribes of Ohio and the Illinois Country, formed to repel the American settlers from the region. As the war between the confederacy and the Americans grew, Tecumseh became a warrior and took an active part fighting along with his older brother Cheeseekau, an important war leader who essentially raised Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa after their parents’ early deaths. Their older sister, Tecumapese, was also very important to their upbringing.
In early 1789, Tecumseh traveled south with Cheeseekau to live among, and fight alongside, the Chickamauga faction of the Cherokee. Accompanied by twelve Shawnee warriors, they stayed at Running Water (in Marion County, Tennessee), where Cheeseekau's wife and daughter lived. There Tecumseh met Dragging Canoe, a famous leader who was leading a resistance movement against U.S. expansion. Cheeseekau was killed while leading a raid, and Tecumseh assumed leadership of the small Shawnee band, and subsequent Chickamauga raiding parties. Tecumseh returned to Ohio in late 1790, having fathered a Cherokee daughter before leaving (according to Cherokee oral tradition). Afterward, Tecumseh took part in several battles, including that of the 1794 Fallen Timbers. The Indians were defeated by the Americans, which ended the Northwestern Indian Wars in favor of the Americans.
Tecumseh eventually settled in what is now Greenville, Ohio, the home of his younger brother, Lalawethika (“He Makes A Loud Noise“) who would later take the new name of Tenkswatawa (“The Open Door“). After difficult years as a young man who suffered from alcoholism, Tenskwatawa became a religious leader. Known as “The Shawnee Prophet“, he advocated a return of the Shawnee and other American Indians to their ancestral lifestyle and rejection of the colonists and Americans. He attracted a large following among Indians who had already suffered major epidemics and dispossession of their lands. In 1805, Tenskwatawa led a religious revival following a series of witch-hunts following an outbreak of smallpox among the Shawnee. His beliefs were based on the earlier teachings of the Lenape prophets, Scattamek, and Neolin, who predicted a coming apocalypse that would destroy the European-American settlers.
Tenskwatawa urged natives to reject the ways of the Europeans: to give up firearms, liquor, European style clothing, to pay traders only half the value of their debts, and to refrain from ceding any more lands to the United States. The teachings led to rising tensions between the settlers and his followers. Opposing Tenskwatawa was the Shawnee leader Black Hoof, who was working to maintain a peaceful relationship with the United States. The earliest record of Tecumseh's interaction with the Americans was in 1807, when the US Indian agent William Wells met with Blue Jacket and other Shawnee leaders in Greenville to determine their intentions after the recent murder of a settler. Tecumseh was among those who spoke with Wells and assured him that his band of Shawnee intended to remain at peace and wanted only to follow the will of the Great Spirit and his prophet. According to Well's report, Tecumseh told him that the Prophet intended to move with his followers deeper into the frontier and away from American settlements.
By 1808, due to increasing tensions with the encroaching settlers, Black Hoof demanded that Tenskwatawa and his followers leave the area. Tecumseh was among the leaders of the group, and helped decide to move further northwest and establish the village of Prophetstown near the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers (near present-day Battle Ground, Indiana). The site was in Miami tribe territory, and their Chief Little Turtle warned the group not to settle there. Despite the threat, the Shawnee moved into the region and the Miami left them alone. According to his brother's later account, Tecumseh was already contemplating a pan-tribal confederacy to counter American expansion into Indian-held lands. He was considered a natural and charismatic leader. Tenskwatawa's religious teachings became more widely known, as did his predictions on the coming doom of the Americans. His teachings attracted numerous members of other tribes to Prophetstown; they formed the basis of a sizeable confederacy of tribes in the southwestern Great Lakes region. Tecumseh emerged as the primary leader of this confederation, although it had started with warriors attracted by the religious appeal of his younger brother. Relatively few in confederacy were Shawnee; the confederacy was made up primarily of other tribes.
The two principal adversaries in the conflict, Tecumseh and William Henry Harrison, had both been junior participants in the Battle of Fallen Timbers at the close of the Northwest Indian War in 1794. Tecumseh was not among the signers of the Treaty of Greenville that had ended the war and ceded much of present-day Ohio, long inhabited by the Shawnee and other Native Americans, to the United States. However, many Indian leaders in the region accepted the Greenville terms, and for the next ten years pan-tribal resistance to American hegemony faded. After the Treaty of Greenville, most of the Ohio Shawnee settled at the Shawnee village of Wapakoneta on the Auglaize River, where they were led by Black Hoof, a senior chief who had signed the treaty. Little Turtle, a War Chief of the Miami’s, who had also participated in the earlier war and signed the Greenville Treaty, lived in his village on the Eel River. Both Black Hoof and Little Turtle urged cultural adaptation and accommodation with the United States. The tribes of the region participated in several treaties including the Treaty of Grouseland and the Treaty of Vincennes that gave and recognized American possession of most of southern Indiana. The treaties resulted in an easing of tensions by allowing settlers into Indiana and appeasing the Indians with reimbursement for the lands the settlers were squatting on.
In September 1809, William Henry Harrison, governor of the newly formed Indian Territory, negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne in which a delegation of Indians ceded 3 million acres of Native American lands to the United States. The treaty negotiations were questionable as they were unauthorized by the President and thus the United States government, and involved what some historians compared to bribery, offering large subsidies to the tribes and their chiefs, and the liberal distribution of liquor before the negotiations. Tecumseh's opposition to the treaty marked his emergence as a prominent leader. Although Tecumseh and the Shawnee had no claim on the land sold, he was alarmed by the massive sale as many of the followers in Prophetstown were Piankeshaw, Kickapoo, and Wea, who were the primary inhabitants of the land. Tecumseh revived an idea advocated in previous years by the Shawnee leader Blue Jacket and the Mohawk leader Joseph Brant, which stated that Indian land was owned in common by all. Not ready to confront the United States directly, Tecumseh's primary adversaries were initially the Indian leaders who had signed the treaty. An impressive orator, Tecumseh began to travel widely, urging warriors to abandon accommodationist chiefs and to join him in resistance of the treaty. Tecumseh insisted that the Fort Wayne treaty was illegal; he asked Harrison to nullify it, and warned that Americans should not attempt to settle on the lands sold in the treaty. Tecumseh is quoted as saying, “No tribe has the right to sell (land), 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 (loss of land) 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.”
Tecumseh met with Indiana Governor William Henry Harrison to demand the rescission of land purchase treaties the US had forced on the Shawnee and other tribes. Harrison refused.
In August 1810, Tecumseh led four hundred armed warriors from Prophetstown to confront Harrison at his Vincennes home, Grouseland. Their appearance startled the townspeople, and the situation quickly became dangerous when Harrison rejected Tecumseh's demand and argued that individual tribes could have relations with the United States, and that Tecumseh's interference was unwelcome by the tribes of the area. Tecumseh launched an impassioned rebuttal against Harrison. Tecumseh began inciting the warriors to kill Harrison, who responded by pulling his sword. The small garrison defending the town quickly moved to protect Harrison. Potawatomi Chief Winnemac arose and countered Tecumseh's arguments to the group, and urged the warriors to leave in peace. As they left, Tecumseh informed Harrison that unless he rescinded the treaty, he would seek an alliance with the British. In 1811, Tecumseh again met with Harrison at his home after being summoned following the murder of settlers on the frontier. Tecumseh told Harrison that the Shawnee and their Native American brothers wanted to remain at peace with the United States but these differences had to be resolved. The meeting had just a merely tentative character and both parties probably inferred from it that war was unavoidable.
Following the meeting Tecumseh traveled south, on a mission to recruit allies among the Five Civilized tribes. Despite Tecumseh's efforts, anyhow, most of the southern nations rejected his appeals, and particularly Choctaw Chief Pushmataha, who stood fast and insisted upon sticking to the peace treaties that had been signed with the U.S. Government. However, a faction among the Creeks, who came to be known as the Red Sticks, answered his call to arms, leading to the Creek War. A comet appeared in March 181, the Shawnee leader Tecumseh, whose name meant “shooting star“, told the Creeks that the comet signaled his coming. Tecumseh's confederacy and allies took it as an omen of good luck. McKenney reported that Tecumseh claimed he would prove that the Great Spirit had sent him to the Creeks by giving the tribes a sign.
If Tecumseh, soon after Vincennes’s meeting, got down to preparing for war, Governor Harrison got much farther. Having heard from his excellent intelligence that Tecumseh was far away, he sent this report to the Department of War: Tecumseh “is now upon the last round to put a finishing stroke upon his work. I hope, however, before his return that that part of the work which he considered complete will be demolished and even its foundation rooted up.” Accordingly, Governor Harrison moved from Vincennes on September 26, 1811, with about 1,000 men in fighting trim, and marched on Tippecanoe. On November 6, 1811, Harrison's army arrived outside Prophetstown. The Prophet sent a messenger to meet with Harrison and requested a meeting be held the next day to negotiate. Harrison encamped his army on a nearby hill, and during the early dawn hours of November 7, the confederacy launched a sneak attack on his camp. In the Battle of Tippecanoe, Harrison's men held their ground, and the Indians withdrew from the village after the battle. The victorious Americans burned the town and returned to Vincennes. The Battle of Tippecanoe was a severe blow for Tenskwatawa, who lost both prestige and the confidence of his brother. Although it was a significant setback, Tecumseh began to secretly rebuild his alliance upon his return. The Americans soon after went to war with the British in the War of 1812, and Tecumseh's War became a part of that struggle. On December 16, 1811, the New Madrid Earthquake shook the South and the Midwest. While the interpretation of this event varied from tribe to tribe, one consensus was universally accepted: the powerful earthquake had to have meant something. For many tribes it meant that Tecumseh and the Prophet must be supported.
Tecumseh rallied his confederacy and allied his forces with the British army invading the Northwest Territory from Upper Canada. He joined British Major-General Sir Isaac Brock in the Siege of Detroit, helping to force the city's surrender in August 1812. At one point in the battle, as Brock advanced to a point just out of range of Detroit's guns, Tecumseh had his approximately four hundred warriors parade out from a nearby wood and circle back around to repeat the maneuver, making it appear that there were many more warriors under his command than was actually the case. The fort commander, Brigadier General William Hull, surrendered in fear of a massacre should he refuse (and was later court-martialed for his actions). The victory was of a great strategic value to the British allies. The next British commander in the region, Major-General Henry Proctor, wanted to honor Tecumseh for his help at the Siege of Detroit. He gave Tecumseh a sash, while offering him the rank of brigadier general in the British army. Tecumseh refused the commission and gave the sash away. The victory at Detroit was reversed a little over a year later. Commodore Perry’s victory on Lake Erie late in the summer of 1813 cut the British supply lines. Along with William Henry Harrison's successful defense of Fort Miegs (creating a staging area for the recapture of Fort Detroit), the British found themselves in an indefensible position and had to withdraw from the city. They burned all public buildings in Detroit and retreated into Upper Canada along the Thames Valley. Tecumseh sought British support for continuing to defend their lands against the Americans. However, Harrison led a much larger counter assault and invaded Canada.
On October 5, 1813, the Americans attacked and won a victory over the British and Native Americans at the Battle of the Thames, near Moraviantown. Tecumseh was killed, and shortly after the battle, most tribes of his confederacy surrendered to Harrison at Detroit. As to the actual circumstances surrounding Tecumseh’s death, the Americans claimed that (he) was killed by Colonel Richard Johnson during a cavalry charge.
One of the festivals we hold in Chillicothe at the end of the summer is "The Feast of the Flowering Moon". Chillicothe is rich in tradition where Native Americans are concerned. It is also my favorite festival as you get to discover the history of Native Americans, and watch a lot of mini-plays (as I call them). With teepees set up all over Yoctangee Park, you get to look inside and get a feel of the Native American life-style. It's really amazing.
Source: Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/?title=Tecumseh
This work is released under CC 3.0 BY-SA - http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/