April 18, 2016
During his teenage years, Tecumseh joined a confederation of Native Americans led by Mohawk chief Joseph Brant. Brant encouraged tribes to pool their resources and defend their territory against the white man’s encroachment. Tecumseh led a raiding party attacking white settlers’ boats making their way down the Ohio River and was successful in cutting off their access for a time. However, Tecumseh was appalled by the brutality displayed by both white and Native Americans, and after witnessing a white man burned at the stake, Tecumseh vehemently chastised his fellow tribesmen for their actions.
In 1791, under the leadership of Shawnee chief Blue Jacket, Tecumseh led a scouting party against U.S. General Arthur St. Clair at the Battle of the Wabash, where 952 of 1,000 American soldiers were killed. In June 1794, Tecumseh, led an unsuccessful attack against Major General Anthony Wayne at Fort Recovery, and two months later, his force was decidedly defeated at Fallen Timbers
Forming a Confederation of Native American Tribes
Tecumseh was so bitter about the defeat that he refused to attend the subsequent negotiations or to acknowledge the Treaty of Greenville. He sharply criticized the “peace” chiefs who signed away land that he believed wasn’t theirs to give, asserting that the land was like the air and water, a common possession of all Native Americans.
With a small contingency of a few hundred tribesmen, around 1808 Tecumseh traveled to what is now Indiana and joined his brother Tenskwatawa, who had recently become a prominent Native American religious leader known as the Prophet.
Using his superior oratory skills, over time Tecumseh transformed his brother’s religious following into a political movement, discouraging Native Americans from assimilation into the white world. Headquartered at Prophetstown, near the juncture of the Tippecanoe and Wabash rivers, Tecumseh began recruiting different tribes throughout the Northwest Territory and southern United States.
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