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[tih kuhm' suh] Shawnee warrior and orator


Tecumseh is believed to have been born in the Scioto River Valley, south of present-day Columbus, Ohio, around 1765. His father, a Shawnee chief, and two of his brothers were killed in battles with American colonists.

While still a youth Tecumseh took part in attacks on settlers passing down the Ohio River and in widely extended hunting expeditions and predatory forays to the west and south. He also served in the Indian wars preceding the Treaty of Greenville in 1795. His eloquence and self-control made him a leader in conferences between the Indians and whites as early as 1800, but as the Indians were being "asked" to give up more and more lands to white settlers Tecumseh became less and less conciliatory towards the settlers.

Beginning about 1804, Tecumseh and his brother, Tenskwatawa, began a crusade to keep Indian lands in the hands of Indians. Tenskwatawa, known as the Shawnee Prophet, led a religious revival, while Tecumseh, a strong warrior and gifted orator, led in politics and war. Tecumseh traveled tirelessly from his home in Ohio to almost every tribe east of the Rocky Mountains, "preaching" that Indian territory belonged to all tribes in common and that no one tribe or chieftain had the right to cede or sell land. During his travels he was able to unite 32 tribes into a confederacy that for a time threatened to halt American migration into the Western frontier.

On November 7, 1811, while Tecumseh was away recruiting members for his confederacy, Tenskwatawa attacked an army unit sent out under William Henry Harrison to break up the confederation. The Indians suffered heavy losses at the Battle of Tippecanoe, and their league was destroyed.

At the beginning of the War of 1812, Tecumseh and his followers migrated to Canada and allied themselves with the British. Commissioned a Brigadier General in the British Army, Tecumseh took part in the capture of Detroit, the siege of Fort Meigs, and the Battle of Put-in-Bay. He was subsequently killed by General Harrison's forces at the Battle of Thames in central Ontario on October 5, 1813.

See Also

William Henry Harrison
Battle of Tippecanoe
War of 1812

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The Robinson Library >> Indians of North America >> Tribal and Individual Biographies

This page was last updated on 08/28/2018.