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Edmund’s Biography of Tecumseh, Book Review Example

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Book Review

Edmund’s biography of Tecumseh is a masterpiece and presents the most complete recounting of the life and accomplishment of Tecumseh and his historical world. Edmunds has straightened out historians about the relative importance of two Shawnee leader who is prominent in both American and Canadian history. Indeed, Tecumseh and his brother (The Prophet) figure conspicuously in the background and early stages of the War of 1812 (Edmund 61). Tecumseh was a skilled and influential chief who worked for many years to forge an alliance of interior nations against the expansionist American republic, a strategy that led him to work with the British and British North Americans in spite of Britain’s record of treachery in its treatment of Indian allies.

Most historians have focused on the role of Tecumseh, leaving in the background the work of his brother, who is usually depicted as having prepared the ground for Tecumseh’s diplomacy by disseminating a nativist religious movement among many interior peoples. However, Edmunds states, the foregrounding of Tecumseh and the downplaying of The Prophet distort – reverse, in fact – the reality in the Aboriginal societies from which two came. In Shawnee and other societies it was The Prophet who was much the more influential of the two (62).

This book focuses on the efforts and difficulties of Tecumseh in building a united Indian front against American expansion. Edmunds has suggested a greater role for Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) in organizing an Indiana resistance to white encroachment upon their lands. In addition, Lalawethika informed his adherents that he had been given a new name – Tenkswatawa, which means “Open Door” (Edmunds 34).

Tecumseh now was the doorway into the future, which would simultaneously be a journey into the past (34). He apparently believed at least some of his brother’s vision. Of course, as perhaps the finest political strategies of all American Indians, he must have also understood the political ramifications of the vision – how it could help him to unite tribes in a pan-Indian alliance necessary to preserve Shawnee land. Accordingly, Tecumseh accompanied Tenskwatawa to Greenville, the site of the infamous Greenville Treaty agreement, where the man now often referred to as the Prophet established a new village in 1808 (Edmunds 35).

This brief biography also traces his efforts to oppose Harrison’s treaty negotiations and to create an Indian confederacy that stretched from “the Great Lakes south to the Gulf Coast” (Edmunds 36). The chief’s absence from Prophetstown gave Harrison an opportunity to attack the village in late 1811, and the whites’ victory at the Battle of Tippecanoe served as a premature opening of the War of 1812 (36).

The death of Tecumseh did not end resistance to efforts by the U.S. to take over traditional Indian lands, but for all realistic purposes it did end serious resistance in most of the Old Northwest Territory (Edmunds 61). The War ended officially on Christmas Eve 1814. The Shawnees never again would be a barricade against U.S. expansionism and as a people would prove more and more nomadic, wandering among Ohio, Missouri, Kansas, Texas, and Oklahoma. Death, however, did not bring Tecumseh to an end. His repute would grow and last, with the Shawnee leader being exalted by romantic primitivisms and serious histories alike. Today few U.S. Indian leaders live in such an esteemed position as Tecumseh, who worked untiringly, if ultimately in vain, to unite Indians all over the USA in an attempt to preserve a way of life that he believed Shawnees and other native peoples had a right to preserve.

Works Cited

Edmunds, R. David. Tecumesh and the Quest for Indian Leadership. New York: Pearson Longman, 2006. Print.

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