Shawnee  Tenskwatawa  Prophetstown



Tecumseh (1768 – October 5, 1813) was a Shawnee chief and warrior who promoted resistance to the expansion of the United States onto Native American lands. A persuasive orator, Tecumseh travelled widely, forming a Native American confederacy and promoting intertribal unity. Even though his efforts to unite Native Americans ended with his death in the War of 1812, he became an iconic folk hero in American, Indigenous, and Canadian popular history.

Tecumseh was born in what is now Ohio at a time when the far-flung Shawnees were reuniting in their Ohio Country homeland. During his childhood, the Shawnees lost territory to the expanding American colonies in border conflicts. Tecumseh's father was killed in battle against American colonists in 1774. Tecumseh was mentored by his older brother Cheeseekau, a noted war chief who died fighting Americans in 1792. As a young war leader, Tecumseh joined Shawnee Chief Blue Jacket's armed struggle against further American encroachment, which ended in defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794 and with the loss of most of Ohio in the 1795 Treaty of Greenville.

In 1805, Tecumseh's younger brother Tenskwatawa, who came to be known as the Shawnee Prophet, founded a religious movement that called upon Native Americans to reject European influences and return to a more traditional lifestyle. In 1808, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa established Prophetstown, a village in present-day Indiana that grew into a large, multi-tribal community. Tecumseh traveled constantly, spreading the Prophet's message and eclipsing his brother in prominence. Tecumseh proclaimed that Native Americans owned their lands in common and urged tribes not to cede more territory unless all agreed. His message alarmed American and Native leaders who sought accommodation with the United States. In 1811, when Tecumseh was in the South recruiting allies, Americans under William Henry Harrison defeated Tenskwatawa at the Battle of Tippecanoe and destroyed Prophetstown.

In the War of 1812, Tecumseh joined his cause with the British, recruited warriors, and helped capture Detroit in August 1812. The following year, he led an unsuccessful campaign against the United States in Ohio and Indiana. When U.S. naval forces took control of Lake Erie in 1813, Tecumseh reluctantly retreated with the British into Upper Canada. American forces engaged them at the Battle of the Thames on October 5, 1813, in which Tecumseh was killed. His death caused his confederacy to collapse. The lands he had fought to defend were eventually ceded to the U.S. government. His legacy as one of the most celebrated Native Americans in history grew in the years after his death, although mythology often obscures details of his life.

Scan of Eric Michel Magazine


Canada's Military History 

For the months of September-October 2023

It has eight pages on Tecumseh, a great warrior

Royal Canadian Legion



Tenskwatawa (also called Tenskatawa, Tenskwatawah, Tensquatawa or Lalawethika) (January 1775 – November 1836) was a Native American religious and political leader of the Shawnee tribe, known as the Prophet or the Shawnee Prophet. He was a younger brother of Tecumseh, a leader of the Shawnee. In his early years, Tenskwatawa was given the name Lalawethika ("He Makes a Loud Noise" or "The Noise Maker"). Still, he changed it around 1805 and transformed himself from an unfortunate, alcoholic youth into an influential spiritual leader. Tenskwatawa denounced the Americans, calling them the offspring of the Evil Spirit, and led a purification movement that promoted unity among the Indigenous peoples of North America, rejected acculturation to the American way of life, and encouraged his followers to pursue traditional ways. 

While Tecumseh lived along the White River, Native Americans in the region were troubled by sickness, alcoholism, poverty, the loss of land, depopulation, and the decline of their traditional way of life. Several religious prophets emerged, each offering explanations and remedies for the crisis. Among these was Tecumseh's younger brother Lalawéthika, a healer in Tecumseh's village. Until then, Lalawéthika had been regarded as a misfit with little promise. In 1805, he began preaching, drawing upon ideas espoused by earlier prophets, particularly the Delaware prophet Neolin. Lalawéthika urged listeners to reject European influences, stop drinking alcohol, and discard their traditional medicine bags. Tecumseh followed his brother's teachings by eating only Native food, wearing traditional Shawnee clothing, and not drinking alcohol.

In 1806, Tecumseh and Lalawéthika, now known as the Shawnee Prophet, established a new town near the ruins of Fort Greenville (present-day Greenville, Ohio), where the 1795 Treaty of Greenville had been signed. The Prophet's message spread widely, attracting visitors and converts from multiple tribes. The brothers hoped to reunite the scattered Shawnees at Greenville, but they were opposed by Black Hoof, a Mekoche chief regarded by Americans as the "principal chief" of the Shawnees. Black Hoof and other leaders around the Shawnee town of Wapakoneta urged Shawnees to accommodate the United States by adopting some American customs to create a Shawnee homeland with secure borders in northern Ohio. The Prophet's movement represented a challenge to the Shawnee chiefs who sat on the tribal council at Wapakoneta. Most Ohio Shawnees followed Black Hoof's path and rejected the Prophet's movement. Important converts who joined the movement at Greenville were Blue Jacket, the famed Shawnee war leader, and Roundhead, who became Tecumseh's close friend and ally.

American settlers grew uneasy as Indians flocked to Greenville. In 1806 and 1807, Tecumseh and Blue Jacket travelled to Chillicothe, the capital of the new U.S. state of Ohio, to reassure the governor that Greenville posed no threat. Rumours of war between the United States and Great Britain followed the Chesapeake incident of June 1807. To escape the rising tensions, Tecumseh and the Prophet decided to move west to a more secure location, farther from American forts and closer to potential Western Indian allies.

In 1808, Tecumseh and the Prophet established a village Americans would call Prophetstown, north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana. The Prophet adopted a new name, Tenskwatawa ("The Open Door"), meaning he was the door through which followers could reach salvation. Like Greenville, Prophetstown attracted numerous followers, comprising Shawnees, Potawatomis, Kickapoos, Winnebagos, Sauks, Ottawas, Wyandots, and Iowas, an unprecedented variety of Natives living together. Perhaps 6,000 people settled in the area, making it larger than any American city. Jortner (2011) argues that Prophetstown was effectively an independent city-state.

At Prophetstown, Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa initially worked to maintain a peaceful coexistence with the United States. A major turning point came in September 1809, when William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory, negotiated the Treaty of Fort Wayne, purchasing 2.5 to 3 million acres (10,000 to 12,000 km2) of land in present-day Indiana and Illinois. Although many Indian leaders signed the treaty, others who used the land were deliberately excluded from the negotiations. The treaty created widespread outrage among Indians and, according to historian John Sugden, "put Tecumseh on the road to war" with the United States.