A Flag of The Fathers
Condensed by Native
British wool cloth flag said to have been given to Tecumseh (Shawnee, 1768-1813) by the British in 1812, National Museum of the American Indian
Washington, DC: Before it was displayed in Ontario last year, this British flag from the National Museum of the American Indian had never been seen in public. Made of wool bunting and hand-stitched with linen thread, the flag is known as the Union Jack. Despite being tattered, it's in remarkable shape despite being nearly 200 years old.
While the flag may be special because of its age and condition, the most exceptional thing about it is the previous owner: the famous Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh.
Tecumseh received the flag from British Major General Sir Isaac Brock as a symbol of their alliance against the U.S. during the War of 1812. Tecumseh and his army of Native American warriors had joined forces with the British to halt American expansion into the “Old Northwest.” Tecumseh had hoped this territory -- today's Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin -- would become an independent pan-Indian nation.
Brock’s gift was hardly unusual. British commanders often presented flags, medals or uniforms to Indian chiefs as symbols of political allegiance. But Brock was so impressed by Tecumseh’s military and leadership savvy that, along with the flag, he appointed Tecumseh a Brigadier General in Great Britain’s army.
It's believed the Tecumseh flag was carried by Shawnee warrior Yellow Hawk (Othaawaapeelethee) during the Battle of the Thames in 1813, the same battle in which Tecumseh was killed. The flag was passed down through Yellow Hawk’s family until 1942, when it was purchased by Milford G. Chandler, an enthusiastic collector of Native American arts and antiquities.
In 1961, it became part of the Smithsonian Museum's collection.