Tecumseh Showed Us What Leadership Is All About
A meteor flew threw the night sky.
The Shawnee thought it looked like
the eye of a panther crossing the sky.
This was a powerful sign.
An infant was born on that night
at a time when the Shawnee needed a leader.
His father called the infant
the eye of a panther crossing the sky, or Tecumseh
Tecumseh lived up to the power of his name
and excelled in everything he did.
But when he first went into battle
he was too afraid to fight.
That was the last time
Tecumseh would ever run from a battle.
His enemies would wish
that he wasn’t so brave.
In the American Revolution
the Shawnee supported the British.
They felt the British were less likely
to steal their homeland.
The British surrendered Shawnee land
that didn’t belong to them.
The new American government
tried to take the land, but failed twice.
On the third attempt
the Shawnee were defeated
at the battle of Fallen Timbers.
The British betrayed Tecumseh’s people again.
His father and brother were killed
fighting to defend their homeland.
Before his brother died Tecumseh promised
never to sign a treaty with the U.S. government.
His family felt that
the government could not be trusted.
Although many of the chiefs signed treaties,
Tecumseh would never break his oath.
He led his followers to the new
Native American territory called Indiana.
They built a village on
the banks of the Tippecanoe River.
In this village Tecumseh developed a strategy
that recognized the only real power
working people have.
United we stand divided we fall.
He understood that the only way
for Native Americans to stop the theft
of their homelands was to unify all the tribes.
So he made an attempt to do the job.
This was not easy, for there were many tribes
who spoke different languages,
who made war against each other,
and who thought their enemy was too powerful.
But Tecumseh stood firm to his plan.
He traveled from the Ottawa in Canada,
to the Natchez and Chocktow in Louisiana,
to the Seminole in Florida, and to the Mohawk in New York.
He spread the word of unity
for the defense of all Native Americans,
or to allow the United States government
to steal all tribal lands.
Tecumseh felt “that a white man with a treaty
is like a dog who wants permission
to put his nose in the doorway
and smell the meat cooking inside.
‘Only my nose’ the dog promises
With each treaty
the dog got farther inside the doorway
and closer to the meat,
until all the meat was inside the dog.”
Many joined his movement
and came to the banks to the Tippecanoe.
Others honored their treaties with the government
and saw their lands stolen in later years.
The U.S. General Harrison waited until
Tecumseh traveled to the tribes in the south.
He was afraid to attack a Native American leader
who knew how to defend his people.
Tecumseh’s brother Open Door
attempted to defend the village
before his people were ready.
And the center of resistance was destroyed.
Tecumseh fought with the British again
in the war of 1812.
The Shawnee forces captured the U.S. forts
in Detroit and Chicago.
Many native people were incensed
by the treatment they endured from the Americans.
They wanted revenge.
So they abused and tortured their prisoners.
Tecumseh was horrified when he saw this.
He felt the abuse of prisoners degraded Native Americans.
He said he would never fight
with anyone who abused prisoners.
The U.S. prisoners in Detroit
spoke about how well
they were treated by the forces
under the command of Tecumseh.
No U.S. President ever
treated the prisoners of that nation
with the respect that Tecumseh treated his prisoners.
But Tecumseh was called a savage.
In the end, Tecumseh was murdered
in a battle at the Thames river.
His American enemies rejoiced
at the death of someone they thought was a bitter foe.
But Tecumseh spent his life fighting
for the dignity and respect of his people.
In his many struggles he redefined
what the word leadership means.