Like a Hero Going Home
November 14, 2012
“He is one of those uncommon geniuses which spring up occasionally to produce revolutions, and overturn the established order of things. If it were not for the vicinity of the United States, he would, perhaps, be the founder of an empire that would rival in glory Mexico or Peru. No difficulties deter him.” – William Henry Harrison in an 1811 letter to the US War Department.
Who was William Henry Harrison, and future U.S. President, referring to?
Tekoomsē or Tekumtha, most widely known now as Tecumseh, the great leader of the Shawnee Indians.
At the time Tecumseh was traveling throughout America trying to rally Indians of all tribes to form an alliance to stop white settlers from invading and taking their land.
Tecumseh’s rallying cry?
“Where today are the Pequot? Where are the Narragansett, the Mochican, the Pocanet, and other powerful tribes of our people? They have vanished before the avarice and oppression of the white man, as snow before the summer sun … Sleep not longer, O Choctaws and Chickasaws … Will not the bones of our dead be plowed up, and their graves turned into plowed fields?”- Tecumseh, 1811, ‘The Portable North American Indian Reader’
Tecumseh amassed a great following, not only for his speaking prowess and bravery in battle, but because of his ability to challenge and rise above the times. He would not, as was the Indian custom of the time, allow any prisoner to be tortured and burned alive. He shamed senior warriors and elders in one battle with his logic, determination and spirit. He was just 15 years of age at the time.
Tecumseh became viewed as a serious military threat. To the U.S. Military he was a barbarous heathen. A red devil. Publicly proclaimed as a scheming fomenter of revolution. A killer. But history is history, only as written by the winners.
YOU JUDGE THIS DEVIL
This fomenter of revolution, this devil, this barbarous heathen … left these words behind. You judge.
“So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart. Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view, and demand that they respect yours. Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life. Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people. Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide. Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place. Show respect to all people and grovel to none. When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself. Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision. When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way. Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.” - Quoted from Lee Sulzman in “Shawnee History”
Just words. Ethereally wisping through time on vanishing waves of human memories – looking for a heart to fall into.
Tecumseh was killed in the Battle of Thames in October 5, 1813, fighting to save his native land.
The hero was home.
Tecumseh was born in 1768 in Ohio. He spent a large part of his life in Ohio.