November 1, 2013
The Day Tecumseh’s
Prophecy Rocked the World
Ohio: He was romanticized by whites. His Native peers described him as having powerful medicine. The legends surrounding Tecumseh are as great as the truths, says Shawnee Second Chief Ben Barnes.
“He was part of the warrior division of his tribe,” Barnes said. He described Tecumseh as “a self-prescribed leader who became a war chief by assuming that mantle.
There is evidence that Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, were prophets and visionaries. They might have changed history with more support from the British and more faith from certain tribes.
Tecumseh's charisma and persona drew respect and admiration of whites and Natives alike. Historic documents describe him as being “of commanding figure, nearly six feet tall and compactly built, dignified bearing and piercing eye, charitable in thought and action, brave as a lion, but humane and generous with all. An aboriginal American knight.”
His name, Tekumthi, means "Panther Passing Across the Sky At Night." It also means "Shooting Star," for Shawnee legends said that comets were panthers crossing the sky looking for a place to rest.
Tecumseh excelled in all aspects of life and had an innate code of honor. He was only a child when he watched the Shawnee burn Daniel Boone’s 14-year-old son. Appalled, Tecumseh protested against such violence. His convincing arguments turned the tides toward a gentler society for his people. He was known to treat all people -- men, women, enemies and prisoners -- with justice and fairness.
Tecumseh's younger brother, Tenskwatawa, was a victim of the times. His intense longing for the ways of his childhood led to a sense of hopelessness for the future. Lost in alcoholism, Tenskwatawa one day fell into a fire, and lived. Reborn into a spiritual fervor, he became known as The Prophet. He declared that the Master of Life had insisted that all ways associated with the white man must be abandoned.
Fed up with encroaching settlers,
Tecumseh took his brother’s prophecy and called for all
Natives to unite against the whites.
Indians from as far away as
Florida and Minnesota heeded Tecumseh's call. By 1810,
he had organized the
Ohio Valley Confederacy, which united Indians from
the Shawnee, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Winnebago, Menominee,
Ottawa, and Wyandot nations.
His ability to mobilize thousands of Natives proved to the U.S. that the Revolutionary War had not been won. The British were still in America, they were thriving in Canada, and they wanted their "colonies" back. They were encouraging Tecumseh and offered him support.
The U.S. attempted to discredit The Prophet by insisting that the Indians seek proof that Creator supported them. They got it. The prophet called for a sunless sky, which arrived shortly after in the form of an extreme total eclipse.
While comets, earthquakes and eclipses were attributed to the prophecies of Tecumseh and his brother, “It is hard to know without proof or specific oral history just exactly what happened,” Barnes said about the New Madrid earthquakes.
Legend has it that in 1811, Tecumseh went among the Creeks and invited them join his confederacy. When they refused, he threatened: if they hadn't enlisted by the time he reached Detroit, he would stamp his feet three times and they would feel their houses shake down through Mississippi.
On December 16, 1811, the first of three earthquakes occurred when he reached Detroit. Named the New Madrid earthquakes, the first earthquake was 10 times stronger than the one that destroyed San Francisco in the late 1800s. Its severity alarmed the population over an area of 1,553,428 square miles.
The massive quake caused such a major shift of seismic plates that:
Tecumseh’s plans were crushed in November 1811 when the U.S. Army defeated his forces at the Battle of Tippecanoe (Indiana). After the loss, Tecumseh allied with the British against the U.S. He was given a regular commission as brigadier general. Under his command were 2,000 warriors of the allied tribes.
Tecumseh, who was regarded as a hero among the tribes, Canada, and Britain, led the First Nations into battle, They defended Detroit, blocked off American supply lines, and preserved areas in Northwest Canada.
had agreed to join British forces in exchange for
his homeland, that promise was never delivered. The
British were retreating into Canada when Tecumseh
and his warriors joined them. The Battle of the
Thames marked the collapse of his Native forces --
one of the greatest Native forces of all times.
Lisa Gilbert, a War of 1812 historian, believes
Tecumseh knew he would die there. Before the battle,
the chief said that he “could not exactly tell, but
it was an evil spirit which betokens no good.”
Battle of Thames took place on October 5, 1813 when
the U.S. launched a surprise attack against the
British and First Nations. The British fled, leaving
Tecumseh's troops outnumbered 6 to 1. But Tecumseh
fought fiercely. During this final stand against the
Americans, Tecumseh was killed.
He was 45.
Village © Gina Boltz
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