Famous Native Americans: Tecumseh Part 2

About the famous Native American Tecumseh, his biography and place in United States history.

TECUMSEH (1768-1813)

Indian leader.

News of this miracle electrified tribes as far away as Minnesota, where entire bands pledged complete loyalty to Tecumseh and his brother. In August, 1809, Tecumseh and his brother set off to meet with Governor Harrison. In a tense confrontation in front of the governor's mansion, Tecumseh told the general: "You try to prevent the Indians from doing what we, their leaders, wish them to do--unite and consider their land the common property. . . . I am a Shawnee. My forefathers were warriors. Their son is a warrior. . . . I have made myself what I am. And I would that I could make the red people as great as the conceptions of my mind, when I think of the Great Spirit that rules over all. I would not come to Governor Harrison to ask him to tear the treaty. But I would say to him, Brother, you have liberty to return to your own country."

When Harrison asked Tecumseh to have faith in the protections provided by the treaty, the chief answered, "How can we have confidence in the white people? When Jesus Christ came upon the earth you killed Him, and nailed Him to a cross."

Displeased by this response, Harrison resolved to crush Tecumseh and the Prophet. In the fall of 1811, while Tecumseh was traveling across the South attempting to rally the southern tribes to his cause, Harrison struck against the Prophet's town. After an intense fight, he was able to disperse the Indians and burn the village. This was the celebrated battle of Tippecanoe, in which white casualties were actually twice as high as those suffered by the Indians. Nevertheless, this "great victory" helped decide the election in 1840. Harrison successfully exploited the nickname "Old Tippecanoe" during his campaign.

When Tecumseh returned and heard about the disaster, he was furious with his brother for having failed to prevent the battle. Tecumseh knew that his Indian confederation still required several years of preparation before it could fight the white man effectively.

Yet events on the world scene worked against Tecumseh's plans when the U.S. and England drifted into the War of 1812. Tecumseh's Indian confederation, caught between these 2 opposing powers, was forced to take sides and it was clear that the Americans posed the greater long-range threat to Indian lands. Wearing only a breechclout and moccasins, Tecumseh spoke before tribal councils throughout the South and Midwest, rallying support for his cause.

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