A Fireside Chat with Tecumseh
Published 4:34 pm Thursday, July 14, 2022
By the year 1800, many of the Indian tribes had been pushed westward into the western parts of Ohio, northern Indiana and Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin. Settlers continued to press from the east and south driving the Indians before them like buffaloes before a prairie fire. When the Indians sought to fight back the onslaught of the white men’s armies were sent out to overcome them.
Sometimes victory went to the red men and sometimes to the settlers but when the Indians paused to rejoice their successes the settlers swept over them in increasing numbers.
“They came like wasp’s venom,” Indian historian Pokagon wrote. “Fort Dearborn was built in the heart of Indian country in 1803. It was heavily defended and well equipped. We looked upon it as a dangerous enemy within our camp.”
Tecumseh, a great Indian orator and hero in war made plans to call on various tribes to unite them as one nation to meet the onslaught. He sent out runners to the tribes to announce the time he would meet at their council fires and to make his plans known. Tecumseh hoped to make a united effort of all tribes to regain and hold their ancient lands.
Pokagon wrote that when Tecumseh arrived he was smartly dressed in Indian fashion. Two other chiefs. All were riding spirited black horses that were finely equipped.
“When Tecumseh arose to speak in the council house his bearing was so noble his brothers greeted him with cheer upon cheer even before he opened his mouth to speak,” Pokagon wrote. “My father and many others listened to his speech and later repeated to me his words when I was a boy. They were words of spirit and power. He generally spoke as follows.”
“Before me stands the rightful owners of this beautiful land that our fathers and forefathers have had for many generations,” Tecumseh began in his Indian tongue. “The Great Spirit in His wisdom gave it to you and to your children to defend and placed you here. The incoming race is coming closer and closer about you like a big serpent.
“They are not content with closing you in on every side. They have built a large fort stronghold in the very center of our country, a military fort garrisoned with soldiers ready and equipped for battle. As sure as the heavens are above you they are determined to take it from you and your children….. our children. It is their plan and desire to destroy you and occupy this goodly land for themselves.
“They will destroy these forests, whose branches wave in the winds above the graves of our fathers, chanting your praises. If you doubt it, come with me eastward or southward a few days journey along the ancient trails and I will show you a land you once occupied. It is now desolate. The forests of untold years have been hewn down and cast into the fire. Most of the fowl and fish are gone. The birds of the woods whose sweet songs once pleased your ears have forsaken the land…. fallen in numbers. The wildflowers, once worn by our loved ones have withered and died.
“These strangers are not like you. They love gold more than their own souls. I saw with mine own eyes a young white man (Lewis Wetzel) near the Ohio River who was held prisoner by our people. He won the hearts of his captors with his friendship while murder was in his heart. They trusted him as they trusted one another but he betrayed their confidence and trust. He secretly killed not less than twenty before his crimes were detected. By then he had fled.
“After his Chief General Harmar invited some of us to meet with him to discuss a settlement, this same young man (Wetzel) lay in wait and secretly shot down one of our good brethren just as he reached the treaty grounds. For that outrageous crime he went unpunished. Our enemy is cunning, crafty, cruel and can’t be trusted.”
Tecumseh continued, “When we were many and strong and they were few and weak, they reached out their hands for help and we filled them with meat and corn. We lived in peace with them. But now they are many and strong and we are few and weak. They have forgotten the debt they owe us and continue to drive us towards the setting sun… taking our land.
“They came to us with lips smoother than oil and words sweeter than honey but beware of them! The venomous wasp is in their heart. Against such wicked men our only hope is to join all our tribes and then we will be able to drive them back from the lands of our fathers. Failure in this and slavery and death are ours.”
The Indians cheered Tecumseh in their support own that was growing with intensity across the Indian land. Soon he left them…. moving on to meet with and gain the support of other tribes. Read more next week. Copyright 2022 Jadon Gibson
Editor’s Note: Jadon Gibson is a freelance writer from Harrogate, TN.