Tecumseh was born on March 9, 1768 near the Shawnee village near what is now Oldtown, Ohio. He was born to a Shawnee war chief, Pucksinwah, and his wife, Methotasa. According to Shawnee legend, a shooting star the natives called “The Panther” crossed at the same exact time as Tecumseh was born. His unsoma, or personal symbol, and his name were therefore ordained: Tecumseh, “the Panther Passing Across”.
Little is known about the childhood of Tecumseh. He had an older brother, Chiksika, an older sister, Tecumapese and 3 younger brothers (triplets). His father died during the Battle of Point Pleasant in 1774. Before his father died, he made Tecumseh’s eldest brother promise that he would never make peace with the white settlers.
The Shawnees did not give up claims to their Kentucky hunting grounds after Point Pleasant and warriors continued their raids. In 1775, the situation grew more complicated with the American Revolution starting. Although Native Americans usually sided with the British, the Shawnees chose to stay neutral. Leading this group of dissidents was Cornstalk. Cornstalk gained his people’s respect by demonstrating bravery at Point Pleasant and wisdom in following negotiations.
Cornstalk met with both British and American representatives, appearing to support both sides. He appeared to support the Camp Charlotte Truce and, at the same time, appearing to be open to the idea of the Shawnees joining the war against the Americans.
Cornstalk continued the neutrality as long as he could, but a large number of the Shawnee people, including Tecumseh and brother Chiksika, were growing increasingly frustrated with not being able to retaliate against the Americans who stole their land and murdered their people. As a result, they began series of attacks on settlers in Kentucky. Deciding at this point that neutrality was impossible; Cornstalk signed the Camp Charlotte Treaty, guaranteeing that he and his people with remain peaceful. Before he abandoned the treaty and sided with the British, Cornstalk felt obligated to tell the Americans. Accordingly, in October 1777, he called on Captain Matthew Arbuckle, commander of Fort Douglas on the Ohio River.
Arbuckle then threw Cornstalk and two other warriors in jail. He and the other warriors later were murdered by an angry mob in the jail. After the murders, the outraged Shawnees sided with the British. Black Fish and Black Hoof led their warriors on raids south into the southern Kentucky settlements.
Many Shawnees were deeply disturbed by the idea of a long war. Among those disturbed was his mother. She accompanied those Shawnees who also were disturbed and migrated to Missouri in 1779. Tecumseh and his siblings chose to stay with the rest of the Shawnees and battle for their land, in respect of their dead father’s wishes. Tecumseh, was only 11 years old, was raised by his sister, who married a respected warrior ‘Wasegoboah’.
Shortly after his mother’s...