Chief Tecumseh



"So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and
Demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life,
Beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and
Its purpose in the service of your people.

Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
Even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and
Bow to none. When you arise in the morning, give thanks for the food and
For the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks,
The fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and nothing,
For abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.

When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts
Are filled with fear of death, so that when their time comes
They weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again
In a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home."

Tecumseh (/tɛˈkʌmsə/; March 1768 – October 5, 1813) was a Native American leader of the Shawnee and a large tribal confederacy (known as Tecumseh's Confederacy) which opposed the United States during Tecumseh's War and the War of 1812. Tecumseh has become an iconic folk hero in American, Aboriginal and Canadian history.

Tecumseh grew up in the Ohio Country during the American Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War, where he was constantly exposed to warfare. With Americans continuing to encroach on Indian territory after the British ceded the Ohio Valley to the new United States in 1783, the Shawnee moved farther northwest. In 1808, they settled Prophetstown in present-day Indiana. With a vision of establishing an independent Native American nation east of the Mississippi under British protection, Tecumseh worked to recruit additional tribes to the confederacy from the southern United States.

During the War of 1812, Tecumseh's confederacy allied with the British in The Canadas (the collective name for the colonies of Upper Canada and Lower Canada), and helped in the capture of Fort Detroit. American forces killed Tecumseh in the Battle of the Thames, in October 1813. With his death, his confederation disintegrated. Some tribes simply stopped fighting. Accordingly, the British deserted their Indian allies at the peace conference that ended the War of 1812. As a result, the dream of an independent Indian state in the Midwest vanished, and American settlers took possession of all the territory south of the Great Lakes, driving the Indians west or into reservations.

"In defiance of the white warriors of Ohio and Kentucky, I have traveled through their settlements, once our favorite hunting grounds. No war-whoop was sounded, but there is blood on our knives. The Pale-faces felt the blow, but knew not whence it came. Accursed be the race that has seized on our country and made women of our warriors. Our fathers, from their tombs, reproach us as slaves and cowards. I hear them now in the wailing winds. The Muscogee was once a mighty people. The Georgians trembled at your war-whoop, and the maidens of my tribe, on the distant lakes, sung the prowess of your warriors and sighed for their embraces. Now your very blood is white; your tomahawks have no edge; your bows and arrows were buried with your fathers. Oh! Muscogees, brethren of my mother, brush from your eyelids the sleep of slavery; once more strike for vengeance; once more for your country. The spirits of the mighty dead complain. Their tears drop from the weeping skies. Let the white race perish. They seize your land; they corrupt your women; they trample on the ashes of your dead! Back, whence they came, upon a trail of blood, they must be driven. Back! back, ay, into the great water whose accursed waves brought them to our shores! Burn their dwellings! Destroy their stock! Slay their wives and children! The Red Man owns the country, and the Pale-faces must never enjoy it. War now! War forever! War upon the living! War upon the dead! Dig their very corpses from the grave. Our country must give no rest to a white man's bones. This is the will of the Great Spirit, revealed to my brother, his familiar, the Prophet of the Lakes. He sends me to you. All the tribes of the north are dancing the war-dance. Two mighty warriors across the seas will send us arms. Tecumseh will soon return to his country. My prophets shall tarry with you. They will stand between you and the bullets of your enemies. When the white men approach you the yawning earth shall swallow them up. Soon shall you see my arm of fire stretched athwart the sky. I will stamp my foot at Tippecanoe, and the very earth shall shake.”

—Tecumseh's Speech at Tuckaubatchee, 1811

Tecumseh (in Shawnee, Tekoomsē, meaning "Shooting Star" or "Panther Across The Sky", also known as Tecumtha or Tekamthi) was born about March 1768. His birthplace, according to popular tradition, was Old Chillicothe[7] (the present-day Oldtown area of Xenia Township, Greene County, Ohio, about 12 miles (19 km) east of Dayton). As Old Chillicothe was not settled by the Shawnee until 1774, it is believed that Tecumseh may have been born in a different "Chillicothe" (in Shawnee, Chalahgawtha), which was the tribe's name for its principal village, wherever it was located. Tecumseh is believed to have been born in Chillicothe along the Scioto River, near the present-day city of Chillicothe, Ohio, or, maybe, in another village the Kispoko had erected not far away, along a small tributary stream of the Scioto, where his family moved just before or not long after his birth.[8]

When Tecumseh was a boy, his father Puckshinwa was "brutally murdered" by white frontiersmen who had crossed onto Indian land in violation of a recent treaty, at the Battle of Point Pleasant during Lord Dunmore’s War in 1774. Tecumseh resolved to become a warrior like his father and to be "a fire spreading over the hill and valley, consuming the race of dark souls."[9][10]

At age 15, after the American Revolutionary War, Tecumseh joined a band of Shawnee who were determined to stop the white invasion of their lands by attacking settlers' flatboats traveling down the Ohio River from Pennsylvania. In time, Tecumseh became the leader of his own band of warriors. For a while, these Indian raids were so effective that river traffic virtually ceased.

"No tribe has the right to sell, even to each other, much less to strangers.... Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the great sea, as well as the earth? Didn't the Great Spirit make them all for the use of his children?

The way, the only way to stop this evil is for the red man to unite in claiming a common and equal right in the land, as it was first, and should be now, for it was never divided."

We gave them forest-clad mountains and valleys full of game, and in return what did they give our warriors and our women? Rum, trinkets, and a grave.

Brothers -- My people wish for peace; the red men all wish for peace;but where the white people are, there is no peace for them, except it be on the bosom of our mother. Where today are the Pequot?

Where today are the Narrangansett, the Mohican, the Pakanoket,
and many other once powerful tribes of our people?

They have vanished before the avarice and the oppression of the White Man, as snow before a summer sun."

Curse of Tippecanoe

The name Curse of Tippecanoe (also known as Tecumseh's Curse, the Presidential Curse, Zero-Year Curse, the Twenty-Year Curse, or the Twenty-Year Presidential Jinx) is used to describe the regular death in office of Presidents of the United States elected or re-elected in years divisible by twenty, from William Henry Harrison (elected in 1840) through John F. Kennedy (1960). Ronald Reagan, elected in 1980, was shot and survived; George W. Bush (2000) survived an attempt on his life unharmed.

Tecumseh: paragraphs written by students

Tecumseh: His Role in the Cause and Conduct of the War of 1812
Tenskwatawa, Tecumseh's brother


Big Jim, a Shawnee chief, grandson of Tecumseh


Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature

Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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