There are many famous Native American leaders who have lived across America during the centuries in which colonists and Native Americans have interacted. Some like Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse are well known whilst others aren’t as well known.
Although perhaps not as well known, Tecumseh is one of the most important Native American figures to have ever lived. However, how much do you really know about him? Do you know why he was famous or where he was born? Have you ever asked what Tecumseh believed?
If you have then this article is for you. It will give you all the information you need on Tecumseh and much more so you can fully appreciate his contribution to American history.
Who Was Tecumseh?
Let’s start by answering one of the simplest questions first – who was Tecumseh?
Tecumseh was born in 1768 near Detroit, Michigan. He was a Shawnee chief who fought against the United States during the War of 1812. His father was killed fighting the British at the Battle of Tippecanoe.
Tecumseh became a leader of his tribe after his mother died. In 1805, he led a war party into Ohio and attacked American settlers. The United States declared war on the Indians in 1811.
Tecumseh was captured and imprisoned at Fort Mims in Louisiana. After being released, he returned home to fight the Americans. Tecumseh died in August 1813 from wounds received at the battle of the Thames River.
Tecumseh believed that Native American tribes should live together peacefully. He also believed that they should fight for their rights and freedom from the white settlers and that the government should treat the Indian tribes fairly.
In 1812, President James Madison sent General William Henry Harrison to attack the Indian villages along the Wabash River in Indiana Territory. This area is now part of southern Illinois.
The Native Americans were not prepared for this kind of warfare. Many people died on both sides of this battle, including Tecumseh’s brother, Tenskwa-taw. Tecumseh was captured by the army and imprisoned at Fort Wayne, Indiana.
After being held prisoner for several years, Tecumseh escaped. He went back to the Wabash River and began leading raids against the U.S. soldiers. He hoped to unite all the different Native American nations under one banner.
But the government had other plans. They wanted to make peace with the Native Americans. So they sent two agents named Alexander McKee and Thomas L. McKenney to meet with Tecumseh.
The meeting took place near present day Vincennes, Indiana. Both men tried to convince Tecumseh to stop attacking the U.S. Soldiers. They promised him many things if he would agree to give up his attacks.
But Tecumseh refused. He said that he could never trust the white settlers again. And so, the U.S. Army attacked him.
Tecumseh died heroically fighting for his people and ensured that his memory would be remembered long after his death. In honor of his memory the British attempted to create a state specifically for Native Americans to inhabit in the Old North West.
However the Americans refused and so the Native Americans not only lost a great leader when Tecumseh died but also a dream.
The confederacy that Tecumseh had led soon collapsed and his followers would end up spending more time fighting one another than their enemies.
It is interesting to note that the man who many claimed to be Tecumseh’s killer would go on to become the Ninth Vice President of the United States – Richard Mentor Johnson. Whether Johnson was responsible for Tecumseh’s death is open to debate, however he would use it for his own political advantage many years later.
So now you know who he is you might be asking yourself – what did Tecumseh believe in?
What Did Tecumseh Believe?
Tecumseh, as a member of the Shawnee tribe believed in the spirits of the ancestors and followed the religion of his forebears. He also believed that all Native Americans must unite in order to defeat the Europeans and retake the land for themselves.
Tecumseh’s brother, the Shawnee prophet Tenskwatawa went even further – he argued that all the European colonists were in fact summoned by the Evil Spirit, the Shawnee equivalent of the Devil, in order to bring mistrust and disorder to the land.
Whether Tecumseh specifically believed this or whether he simply agreed that the European colonists needed to be gotten rid of is of course open to some debate. However, what is clear is that Tecumseh was determined to rid them of his land and the land of his people.
Had Tecumseh lived longer he may have been able to create a longer lasting union between the different Native American tribes. However, there would never again be such a strong united Native American opposition to the US government.
Whilst tribes would still continue to fight against them, they would not do so in the same way as under Tecumseh and his Native American Confederation.
Tecumseh is a crucial figure in Native American history because he represents an instance in which the various Native American tribes finally banded together and put up a sustained struggle against the American government.
Tecumseh’s charismatic oratory and his ability to lead men both on and off the battlefield means he stands out as a truly significant figure in the history of America.
Whilst he is not as widely remembered as some later Native American leaders he is still one of considerable stature given his ability to convince several tribes to unite in fighting against those who oppressed him and his people.
Tecumseh’s beliefs and attitudes must be known by as many Americans as possible because only by learning from the mistakes of the past can we learn how to make the world a better place and ensure that it is one in which we are all truly proud.
Only by exploring and understanding all of America’s past can we ensure our nation is truly united.
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