Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership

by R. David Edmunds
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Describe Tecumseh's family life as a child and as an adult. What events shaped Tecumseh's attitudes about the white man? Describe Tecumseh's brother, Tenskwatawa. How did he become the Prophet? What did he encourage the Native Americans to do? How did other Indians receive this movement? What was Tecumseh's plan to stop the encroachment of the United States on Indian territory?

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As there are a number of different topics mentioned here, this answer will address a few key issues. Please keep in mind that a homework question on this site is intended to be one question.

Tecumseh has become well known for his leadership but his brother Tenskwatawa played equally vital roles. Tenskwatawa, or Lalawethika, became an important spiritual leader whose visions of a radically transformed society garnered him the sobriquet of "the Prophet."

Born in a Shawnee area of Ohio in 1775, Lalawethika grew up aware of the encroachment of white settlers but educated in traditional ways by his father, a Shawnee chief. When he was a tiny boy, a violent conflict with white settlers over their killing of another chief precipitated some Shawnees' move west, and he grew up mostly in Missouri.

As he was growing up, the Native attachment to collective land holding became increasingly important to combating white settlers claims on or forcible seizing of their land.

Their older brother Chicksika was a great leader in raids on white settlements and, after he was killed, Tecumseh took up the cause even more passionately. In the years he and hundreds of followers tried to drive out the whites, Lalawethika was more drawn toward the spiritua side. After fighting alongside his brother when they were defeated in the Battle of Fallen Timbers, Lalawethika intensified his religious devotion as Tecumseh resigned himself to negotiating peace settlements.

After studying with a spiritual leader, Lalawethika one day had a tremendous vision while unconscious. It was a revelation of a radically transformed world. With his new name, Tenskwatawa, he began preaching while experiencing more visions. A purified life without violence also meant rejecting white ways.

Joining forces with Tecumseh, they drew thousands of Shawnees to their cause and created new settlements. It came to an end after the Battle of Tippecanoe, after defeat by U.S. forces under Harrison, including the killing of dozens of Indian leaders.

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Your question(s) was moved to a discussion forum, probably in part because eNotes only allows one question per post. I'll be happy to answer one part of your question, "What was Tecumseh's role in the War of 1812?"

Tecumseh and his Shawnee warriors sided with the British during the war, first fighting under Major General Sir Isaac Brock. They aided in the siege of Detroit, helping to force the surrender of Fort Detroit. The city was recaptured later by William Henry Harrison, and the British burned the town, with Tecumseh's men acting as rearguard protection. Tecumseh argued with his new commander, Major General Henry Procter, who refused to take the initiative despite pleas from Tecumseh to attack the Americans on their home soil. Tecumseh was killed on October 5, 1813 at the Battle of the Thames, and his warriors soon surrendered to Harrison in Detroit.

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This is a lot of questions, so I will answer one.  I think the murder of Tecumesh's father had a big influence on him. A white man killed his father, basically for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. This could easily influence his feelings about relations between the settlers and the tribe.

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