Tecumseh (meaning panther lying in wait) was the widely admired warrior, orator and leader of the Shawnee in the Old Northwest. He was born in western Ohio. His father was killed at the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774.
Tecumseh developed his battle skills in raids against American settlers in Kentucky and Tennessee, then saw action at the Battle of Fallen Timbers (1794). Bitterly disappointed by his people's plight, Tecumseh refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 and began gathering other discontented natives around him.
A younger brother experienced a series of visions and came to be known as The Prophet, urging his people to embrace traditional ways and reject white culture. Tecumseh melded his brother's message with his own political agenda; his aim was to unite native tribes and rid ancestral lands of white occupation.
In September 1811, while Tecumseh was traveling in the South seeking aid from the Creeks, the white settlers near Prophet's Town, as his camp was known, appealed to William Henry Harrison to destroy it. Harrison marched from Vincennes and encamped his troops about a mile from the Indian village.
Believing himself capable of destroying the white army with his magic powers, The Prophet led an attack on the camp, which was repulsed. Harrison then attacked Prophet's Town and destroyed it in the Battle of Tippecanoe. Although not militarily decisive, it scattered the Indians and ended their confederation. It also established Harrison's reputation as an Indian fighter.
Tecumseh joined the British in the War of 1812 and followed them as they were pushed back into Canada. He was killed by American forces at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, in which the Americans were again led by William Henry Harrison.
Tecumseh held that Indian lands were held in common by all Indians and could not be sold or transferred by any one tribe. He was disgusted by the old chiefs who were selling the rights of their people for liquor and trinkets, but the Indians had no tradition of large confederations and when the crisis of white encroachment came, Tecumseh was unable to create a sufficient military response.
See also Significant Native American Leaders and the Indian Wars Time Table .
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Tecumseh.
These lands are ours. No one has a right to remove us, because we were the first owners. The Great Spirit above has appointed this place for us, on which to light our fires, and here we will remain. As to boundaries, the Great Spirit knows no boundaries, nor will His red children acknowledge any.
Response to the messenger from the President of the United States in 1810
Regarding Relations with Whites
Brothers The white men are not friends to the Indians; at first, they only asked for land sufficient for a wigwam; now, nothing will satisfy them but the whole of our hunting grounds, from the rising to the setting sun.
Appeal to the Osages
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