Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership Essay - Critical Context

R. David Edmunds

Critical Context

Edmunds’ work on Tecumseh is one in the Library of American Biography. The series, whose general editor is Oscar Handlin, intends to represent underrepresented groups of Americans—women, ethnic minorities, and political underdogs. Edmunds’ manuscript was perhaps an odd choice for the series, though his topic was not. He is a responsible historian who wrote the history of the Potawatomis, traditional enemies of the Shawnees. The year before the publication of Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership, he published The Shawnee Prophet (1983), a full-scale biography of Tecumseh’s brother Tenskwatawa.

Given the somewhat tenuous way in which Edmunds’ subject is introduced, and his hasty chapter summarizing the contemporary opinion of Tecumseh, one suspects that these chapters were mere parentheses to materials left over from the author’s earlier studies. Perhaps the needs of the series took precedence over the excellence of the text or the needs of young adult readers. Although Edmunds is a keenly conscientious historian, his heart is not in this volume. While his work is not likely to misinform or misguide young adult readers, neither is it likely to fire them with much passion for a courageous human being whose life was in many ways exemplary, despite tactical failures seen from the perspective of other Native Americans.