Tecumseh (March 1768 to October 5, 1813) was a leader of the Shawnee, and the Tecumseh Confederacy, a large alliance of tribes opposed to the United States. Tecumseh grew up during wartime; experiencing both the Revolutionary War and the Northwest Indian War. His father was killed while he was still a boy, and by 15, he joined a band of young men working to stop traffic on the Ohio River.
As a young man, Tecumseh fought in the Northwest Indian War, meeting Dragging Canoe as the tribes joined together to ally themselves against U.S. forces. When the Northwest Indian War came to an end in the 1790s, Tecumseh refused to sign the treaty. Many of the other leaders of various tribes, including Black Foot, who led many of the Shawnee signed, accepting both the limitations proposed by the U.S., and the ideology of assimilation.
By 1805, Tecumseh was one of the leaders of a group of Shawnee that were, he said, committed to a move further westward, but in direct opposition to ideas of assimilation. This was driven by the religious spirit and action of Tecumseh’s younger brother, Tenskwatawa. Tecumseh and others went on to found Prophetstown.
Within just a few years, Tecumseh was travelling through different tribes and Native American communities, encouraging them to maintain their holds on land and reject accommodation and assimilation.
In 1810, with growing support, Tecumseh gathered a group of 400 warriors, and set out for the residence of the governor of Indiana, William Henry Harris. Violence was narrowly averted, and Tecumseh met with the governor on several occasions. Tecumseh began to work actively with other tribes to form a Pan-Indian alliance of tribes, and was successful.
During the War of 1812, Tecumseh’s Confederacy fought alongside the British, and the British later attempted to provide lands to Native Americans to create a buffer zone. Tecumseh died in battle on October 5, 1813. Later, Colonel Richard Johnson claimed he had killed Tecumseh; however, this allegation may not be true. Both Tecumseh’s efforts and those of the British were unsuccessful, and the U.S. did not maintain the treaties set in the War of 1812.