The Great Tecumseh!

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I’ve been wanting to write something on the great Native American Leader Tecumseh ever since I read Allan Eckert’s 1000 page “A Sorrow in Our Heart – The Life of Tecumseh”[1] about 15 years ago, but the subject is so big that I just can’t get enough of a handle on it to do it justice in an article. It needs Eckert’s 1000-page book, and still then Tecumseh himself in some aspects is beyond what one can get a “handle” on or understand. I’ll try anyway to get some of the facts down as to who Tecumseh was and what he did and apparently did, and if someone wants to know more he can go to Eckert’s book or some of the 1000 references in his Bibliography.

Tecumseh was born in Ohio and lived from 1768 until dying in battle in Canada in 1814 (he predicted his own death) during the war of 1812. His whole life he had been involved in fighting the Americans in their steady usurping of the Ohio and midwest territory, the Americans as always making and breaking treaties like clockwork with the Indians. He refused to ever make any treaties with American forces (“Do they think we are fools!”) and his constant effort in adulthood was to unify all Indian tribes into one brotherhood and fight as one to drive the Whites from their territory as the only possible solution. From 1801 through 1811 he traveled steadily from New York in the East, Minnesota in the North, the Sioux in West, the Cherokees in the South and a hundred other tribes to try to make a unified front among the Indians.

As a child even he stood out among his fellow Shawnee, taking his frist scalps in battle at 11 yrs., at 12 being given credit for saving a village from starvation in Winter by his hunting abilities, and at 12 and-a-half becoming a full warrior in the tribe heirarchy with a voice at councils. He tried drinking alcohol as an adolescent with other tribe members, until breaking his hip trying a stunt, and thereafter vowed that he’d never again drink anything but water, and didn’t.

Indians were incredibly cruel often in treatment of prisoners as a matter of tradition, as well as sometimes benevolent and adoption into the tribe. They would force prisoners to run the gaunlet between two lines armed with clubs, burning at the stake, and other hardly imaginable deaths. Tecumseh was innately appalled by cruelty and vowed as a teenager to prevent it whenever he was present. This was usually done with reason and oratory, but by using force when necessary. Once he was present as a burning at the stake was commencing and tried to stop it, but the warriors wouldn’t listen. Tecumseh pulled his pistol and shot the prisoner in the head, which ended it. Who is going to argue too far with best warrior in the tribe?

Often battles were won under Tecumseh from military strategy against larger odds. As an example of his abilities he was the inventor or the first “pony express” which became famous for mail delivery many years later in the west. He was fighting more or less on two fronts, one at Cincinatti and Fort Washington on the Ohio River and north about 175 miles on the Maumee River and area where his home village was. To keep tabs on what was happening at each front and warning of developments, he developed a series of posts in between where a messenger could travel at speed and get fresh horses. A message could be passed from Cincinatti to the Maumee River or back in a day. Tecumseh’s camp was hidden on a bluff near Cincinatti, and he would walk the streets of the town in disguise getting information or reading official notices (he could read, speak, and write English as well as several Indian dialects). He also actually went into Fort Washington several times and the guards knew him on sight.

Tecumseh had the ability to make reliable predictions, an ability shared by his father and older brother, who both predicted the time of their own deaths (as Tecumseh did also.) He used this ability by often instructing his one-eyed brother “The Prophet” in predictions that boosted his reputation as a religious leader. “The Prophet” had in his youth been a drunk and generally of ill-repute, but then experienced a vision of some nature, and thereafter swore off alcohol and became a preacher to his people to reject white man’s ways and follow their own. The Prophet’s first big prediction via Tecumseh was that of a full eclipse of the sun about 2 mos. ahead of time, in response to a goad from a US general that he was a fake. Tecumseh apparently used his brother to further his own big plans of Indian unity, but he proved of too weak a character, developed a big head and need of power and ultimately was responsible for ruining Tecumseh’s plan by attacking the whites about a month and half before the date that all the tribes were to wage battle at once. (There was a PBS documentary on Tecumseh some years back that made me ill from its not mentioning points of most importance in Tecumseh’s life, and from making him nearly the equal of his subordinate, and fruity brother.)

Tecumseh had built a town along the Tippecanoe River in Indiana. He followed some white principles of town-building with straight laid-out streets, log cabins, a large wooden meeting place, and huge log hotel that would house up to 300 Natives. This grew to cover 2 miles along the river, and became known as “Prophet’s Town” because his brother was there and Natives traveled to hear and see him. “The Prophet” became bloated and imaginative of his own abilities and told listeners they would become bullet-proof in their eventual battle with the whites (which didn’t work out too well.) Although the town of at least a thousand was peaceful enough and totally within Indian Territory according to treaty, Am. Commander William Henry Harrison showed his real stripes, treaty or not, and mounted a force of 1000 soldiers and camped a half mile from the Town, goading The Prophet to war. Despite Tecumseh’s warnings to never to attack without his direction first, his brother succumbed to Harrison’s trick and attacked – throwing all of Tecumseh’s plans into confusion and starting another Indian war before Tecumseh and the rest of the tribes were ready.

Tecumseh’s unrealized plans were formulated and to take place in the following quite remarkable and uncanny manner:

Tecumseh had been in constant travel and giving speeches in hundreds of villages and councils from 1801 through 1811. His message was always union of all the tribes, and became for the tribes to converge together at one time and make a unified attack to drive the whites out. His final strategy materialized in late 1809 or beginning of 1810. At Tippecanoe he showed his brother a bundle of “sacred slabs”, long pieces of cedar with carvings on them. The carved images were to help remember directions and the unfoldment of a plan of attack nearly 2 years in the future (and using images as a means of remembering has been proven the best way or trick in doing so.) A series of runners were to be sent out at an exact time to reach 50 Indian centers in all directions, with Tecumseh himself handling those to the South. There were also 50 bundles of 21 sticks each. (At least one of these “sacred slabs” still exists at a University.)

At each Tribe beginning with the “Hunger” moon one stick was to be burned at every full moon. When there was only one stick left, they were to hold watch at night to wait for a meteor sign at night that could not be mistaken. (This Did occur on schedule. During or around the Leonids meteor shower in Nov., 1811 a huge meteor that split into 3 pieces and passed from horizon to horizon was visible across the entire country concerned.) After seeing this “Sign” one was to cut the last stick into 30 pieces, and burn one every night. On the 30th day the earth would rumble with a giant earthquake “with trees falling, pots breaking, rivers leaving their banks, and lakes disappearing and appearing,” and then it was time to converge [2] and attack. This Did occur also. The New Madrid (Missouri) Earthquake did occur just 30 days after the giant meteor. It was the largest earthquake in the history of North America, being or felt for a 1000 miles in every direction and causing the Mississippi to flow backwards, among very much else.

Of all places…… Tecumseh himself was at the very epicenter of this earthquake when it occured! – the small white settlement of New Madrid. He was there seeking his sister Tecumapese. She had left the Shawnees and married a white man in the town. He went to bring her back, and she did come back as the marriage was over. At this time messengers who had been traveling 38 days in search of Tecumseh finally found him and told him of the events of his brother The Prophet having already started a war and ruining his plans.

What can one make of all this? How could Tecumseh make such outrageous predictions of a huge meteor and giant earthquake at particular and specific times, and according to good evidence – they actually came true?!

Eckert explains in his notes [3] that all the many accounts of Tecumseh’s prediction surfaced after they occurred, which might make one believe history was being changed some in order to make a mythology. Some of the accounts were nearly identical in wording, as if repeating a remembered speech. How could people make up such unlikely events if there wasn’t a basis for it? If one hears an outrageous prophecy, it is more human nature to wait and see, and then recount it after the fact if it occured. Who wants to be a fool to endorse something that hasn’t happened yet? The normal attitude would be to wait and see, and then tell the good tale if it proved true.

I’ve got my own theory to explain these predictions, at least Tecumseh’s prediction of the New Madrid Earthquake. Being a Theosophist, and believing there is an occult (hidden) world of cause and effect, and of mind on the physical world, I think the union of men’s minds (the perhaps 100’s of thousands or few millions that Tecumseh’s traveling for 11 years touched and inspired) and the expectation of the specific time of his prediction produced in the last 2 years with the “sacred slabs” and time-sticks – that this working in anticipation of all these minds – produced the earthquake when the expectations culminated at the time predicted and expected. It was perhaps 100s of thousands of minds working in near unison. ‘And then there is the fact that Tecumseh was at the epicenter of the quake. Could Tecumseh have known of such potential Magic – the hidden laws of Nature, and dared and orchestrated it all with knowledge and purpose that he might produce the great effect?

Tecumseh’s whole life seemed overshadowed by the task he had set himself and to the cause of his race. He did not succeed in freeing Am. Indians from the white tsunami gradually engulfing their land of thousands of years, but he did succeed in showing that a Native American was the equal and superior of any white, and thus saved the Spirit of his people.

– M.R.J.

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[1] “A Sorrow in Our Heart – The Life of Tecumseh,” Allan W. Eckert, extensive notes and references, Bantam Books, 1993 paperback edition, 1068 pp.
[2] No reliable evidence has ever been found of _where_ this was supposed to be. Perhaps it was Tecumseh’s town of Tippecanoe, but this site was ruined because of the The Prophet’s going to war.
[3] note 569, pp. 933-4

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One thought on “The Great Tecumseh!

  1. an inspiring story of a great native american – lots of interesting spiritual practices and traditions among the native americans – I didn’t know that much information existed on 18th century amerindians…

    Like

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