- Plea to the Chocktaws and the Chickasaws
- by Tecumseh (Shawnee)
The great Shawnee chief and orator Tecumseh was a defiant opponent of
the U.S. government. A skillful and just warrior and a student of white
man's history, Tecumseh refused to sign the white government's treaties.
Because all Indians held North American lands in common, he argued, these
treaties signed by separate tribes were invalid. As white settlers poured
into lands east of the Mississippi, Tecumseh fought to forge an Indian
Confederation, an independent political state that could deal with the
U.S. government as an equal.
In this selection, Tecumseh tries to persuade the Choctaws and Chickasaws
to join his alliance. These two prosperous southern tribes had fought
the early Spanish explorers but later allied with the British. They refused
Tecumseh's plea. About twenty years later, the white government drove
them off their lands and marched them to reservations in today's Oklahoma,
on the Trail of Tears.
About the Author
Tecumseh (Shawnee) (c. 1768-1813) Tecumseh was born in present-day Ohio,
the son of a part-Creek-Cherokee woman and a Shawnee chief who later was
killed by white settlers. As a young man, Tecumseh became known as a mighty
warrior and a just man who refused to allow torture of prisoners or barbaric
killing. He soon became a Shawnee leader.
In 1794, Tecumseh refused to sign the Treaty of Greenville, which awarded
most of Ohio to the U.S. government. Instead, he moved with his followers
to present-day Indiana. There a white woman taught him to read. After
studying the white man's history and Bible, Tecumseh resolved to set up
an Indian Coalition. He and his brother, a prophet who preached against
accepting white ways, set up a village in Indiana and traveled through
the Midwest, seeking Indian support. Tecumseh also allied himself with
In 1809, Governor William Henry Harrison set out to block Tecumseh's
efforts, signing a series of treaties with minor tribes that allowed the
U.S. to claim millions of acres of land that Tecumseh wanted for his confederation.
After meeting with a furious but strategically clever Tecumseh, Harrison
called him "one of those uncommon geniuses, which spring up occasionally
to produce revolutions."
In 1811, while Tecumseh was in the South, trying to win support from
the Creeks, Chickasaws, and Choctaws, Harrison maneuvered Tecumseh's brother
into a battle and wiped out their village. When Tecumseh returned, he
moved to British Canada. He fought the U.S. government in the War of 1812
as a British brigadier general.
In 1813, in a battle in Kentucky, Tecumseh was killed. The morning of
his death, he had put aside his British uniform and dressed as a Shawnee.
- resolutionfinal decision.
- extricateremove; escape.
- annihilationtotal destruction.
- blightingkilling or destroying.
- contentionsacts of rivalry; quarrels.
- ignominyhumiliation or dishonor.
- harbingersindications of what will occur in the future.
- bequeathedgiven as an inheritance.
- usurpationseizure by force.
- dupeseasily deceived people, used as the tool or others.
- encroachadvance against; take another's possessions
or rights gradually or stealthily.
- amplegreat enough; fully sufficient.
- dallywaste time; dawdle.
- vindicatejustify; prove themselves worthy.
- consanguinityrelated by a common ancestor.
Use the STUDY GUIDE below as a way to work through the selection
and improve your comprehension of the essay.
Answer the Questions to Consider questions in the book as a way
to develop your understanding of the selection.
1. Why did Tecumseh criticize the Choctaws and Chickasaws?
2. Why did Tecumseh feel that it was important for the Choctaws and Chickasaws
to join forces with him?
3. How, according to Tecumseh, had life changed for the Indian people
since the arrival of the whites? How would it continue to change?
Native American Perspectives
Paul Bailey. Wovoka: The Indian Messiah (1957). About the Paiute
prophet who taught the Ghost Dance to Indians in the 1880s.
Benjamin Capps. The Great Chiefs (1975). A lavishly illustrated
book that relates life stories of the great Native American chiefs of
the Old West.
Gregory Dowd. A Spirited Resistance: The North American Indians’
Struggle for Unity 1745–1815 (1992). Describes Shawnee Chief Tecumseh’s
efforts to build an independent Indian nation.
Grant Foreman. Indian Removal: The Emigration of the Five Civilized
Tribes of Indians (1932). About the U.S. Army’s 1830s removal of five
southeastern tribes from their lands.
William T. Hagan. American Indians (1979). A history of Native
Americans, from early encounters with whites to the present-day.
Francis Paul Prucha, ed. Documents of United States Indian Policy
(1990). A collection of U.S. government documents on Indian policy.
John Tebbel. The American Indian Wars (1960). The history of
Indian wars, written by an Ojibwa journalism professor and historian.
W.C. Vanderwerth. Indian Oratory: Famous Speeches by Noted Indian
Chieftains (1971). Noted speeches by the greatest leaders of the Native