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Alleged portrait of Tecumseh.jpg

Tecumseh, meaning Shooting Star,  was born in 1768 near Chillicothe, Ohio to the Shawnee tribe; specifically he was the son of the reigning Chief, Pukeshinwau.  Throughout his childhood Tecumseh experienced many malevolent, violent expansions by Americans which would later sustain his hatred towards the United States.  Multiple times during his youth U.S militia would intersect whatever land the Shawnees were currently occupying.  In many cases the Americans would set two tribes against one another through treaties with one party representing the land of the other.  For example, during the Treaty of Fort Stanwix the Iroquois tribe claimed ownership to all of Ohio lands therefore they deemed it acceptable to sell the Shawnee territory to America in exchange for money.  Americans were also very eager to claim any type of acreage so they plundered many Native American villages, including the Shawnee’s various home lands a multitude of times.  These imperialistic tendencies created many conflictions between the Shawnee and the United States, including a battle that led to the death of Tecumseh’s father.  After years of pillaging and murdering Shawnee Indians the Americans, or “long knivesâ€� as known within the tribes, were the official enemy of Tecumseh.

Tecumseh’s first chances to prove himself as a warrior came during the primary attempts of tribal alliance during the Pan-Indian Movement (1783-’95).   Under the leadership of Mohawk Chief Joseph Brant, the Shawnee tribe was coerced to relinquish ownership of their lands in support of the ideal that all Aboriginal land belonged to all tribes; there were no separated territories.  With this agreement all signatory tribes also would allocate their manpower to struggles against the Americans.  Tecumseh proved himself able-bodied when, as a teenager, he contributed to a successful attack on a group of Americans sailing down the Ohio River.  He would later be given charge of a mass amount of men to direct during clashes as well as a commander in line who would resume leadership if preceding superior was killed.  The ending to the Pan- Indian Movement occurred in late 1794 with the Battle of Fallen Timber where the First Nations tribal alliance was heavily outnumbered and outmaneuvered by the U.S military.  During the battle Tecumseh led an offensive attack that led to a temporary American retreat and the release of American battle animals mainly horses.  Due to his spirited determination during the battle over 250 men followed him after the dissipation of the alliance to a small territory where they would organize their own settlement with Tecumseh as their minor chief.  However, Americans post-victory continued their onslaught of Native American villages forcing Tecumseh and his tribal people to relocate continuously thus threatening their maintenance of life.

Tecumseh’s brother, Lalawethica, renewed support for a tribal alliance based on the belief that all Native American territory was universal for every Aboriginal community.  Lalawethica, later known as the Prophet, experienced a divinatory dream that led him to preach this allied system which developed into a religious value.  Tecumseh in reinforcement for his brother began to promote these ideals as well, continually fighting off American explorers and gathering Native Americans of all tribes.   Following another expulsion from their homeland Tecumseh and his tribe relocated near Tippecanoe and developed an impressive community nicknamed Prophetstown by Americans.  With conflict developing between Great Britain and the United States the Shawnee who understood the importance of tribal alliance supported a coalition with the British to repel the United States away from Native American territory.  Tecumseh took the initiative to travel up to Canada to organize an agreement between the two parties which raised his standing among the tribes of the First Nations.  While he traveled preaching among different Native American societies the Indiana Governor, William Henry Harrison, signed the Treaty of Fort Wayne that allotted him a mass amount of Native American territory.  This increased the anti-American tension held by Tecumseh amplifying his attempts at forming a universal tribal alliance.  Whilst he was traveling Governor Harrison discovered that he was also requesting weapons and war supplies which motivated Harrison to pillage and destroy Prophetstown.

When Great Britain declared war on the United States on June 18, 1812 Tecumseh and the clan of men he collected traveled to Canada to organize militant strategies.  Tecumseh and his men were assigned to overtake the city of Detroit with Major- General Isaac Brock.  The seize of the city was a major success as the Americans surrendered due to fear of the unknown numbers of Native Americans there were attacking.  Tecumseh, who led the First Nations into battle, was regarded as a national hero among the tribes, Canada, and Great Britain.  The First Nations were utilized in defending Detroit, blocking off American supply lines, and preserving areas in Northwest Canada.  During the Battle of Thames the Americans issued a surprise attack against the British and the First Nations which had them heavily outnumbered.  While many soldiers felt that retreat was the only option Tecumseh pursued his attack forward, including an offensive on ‘long knives’ whilst alone.  In a final stand against the forwarding Americans Tecumseh was killed.  Many of his tribal men refused to continue participating in the conflict because their allegiance was only held with Tecumseh.  His life represented the Native American struggle against American expansion and although he never personally experienced victory he influenced many tribes to continue their resistance.



See Also


  1. Hurt, R. Douglas. The Ohio Frontier: Crucible of the Old Northwest, 1720-1830. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1996.
  2. Sugden, John. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Holt Paperback, 1999.