In a speech to then Governor of the Indiana Territory, William
Harrison, Tecumseh spoke the following words on August 11, 1810
"Brother, I wish you to give me close attention, because I think
you do not clearly understand. I want to speak to you about
promises that the Americans have made.
You recall the time when the Jesus Indians of the Delawares lived
near the Americans, and had confidence in their promises of
friendship, and thought they were secure, yet the Americans
murdered all the men, women, and children, even as they prayed
The same promises were given to the Shawnee one time. It was at
Fort Finney, where some of my people were forced to make a
treaty. Flags were given to my people, and they were told they
were now the children of the Americans. We were told, if any
white people mean to harm you, hold up these flags and you will
then be safe from all danger. We did this in good faith. But what
happened? Our beloved chief Moluntha stood with the American
flag in front of him and that very peace treaty in his hand, but his
head was chopped by a American officer, and that American
officer was never punished.
Brother, after such bitter events, can you blame me for placing
little confidence in the promises of Americans? That happened
before the Treaty of Greenville. When they buried the tomahawk
at Greenville, the Americans said they were our new fathers, not
the British anymore, and would treat us well. Since that treaty,
here is how the Americans have treated us well: They have killed
many Shawnee, many Winnebagoes, many Miamis, many
Delawares, and have taken land from them. When they killed
them, no American ever was punished, not one.
It is you, the Americans, by such bad deeds, who push the red men
to do mischief. You do not want unity among the tribes, and you
destroy it. You try to make differences between them. We, their
leaders, wish them to unite and consider their land the common
property of all, but you try to keep them from this. You separate
the tribes and deal with them that way, one by one, and advise
them not to come into this union. Your states have set an example
of forming a union among all the Fires, why should you censure
the Indians for following that example?
But, brother, I mean to bring all the tribes together, in spite of
you, and until I have finished, I will not go to visit your
president. Maybe I will when I have finished, maybe. The reason I
tell you this, you want, by making your distinctions of Indian
tribes and allotting to each a particular tract of land, to set them
against each other, and thus to weaken us.
You never see an Indian come, do you, and endeavor to make the
white people divide up?
You are always driving the red people this way! At last you will
drive them into the Great Lake, where they can neither stand nor walk.
Brother, you ought to know what you are doing to the Indians.
Is it by the direction of the president you make these distinctions?
It is a very bad thing, and we do not like it. Since my residence at
Tippecanoe, we have tried to level all distinctions, to destroy
village chiefs, by whom all such mischief is done. It is they who
sell our lands to the Americans. Brother, these lands that were
sold and the goods that were given for them were done by only a
few. The Treaty of Fort Wayne was made through the threats of
Winnemac, but in the future we are going to punish those chiefs
who propose to sell the land.
The only way to stop this evil is for all the red men to unite in
claiming an equal right in the land. That is how it was at first, and
should be still, for the land never was divided, but was for the use
of everyone. Any tribe could go to an empty land and make a
home there. And if they left, another tribe could come there and
make a home. No groups among us have a right to sell, even to
one another, and surely not to outsiders who want all, and will not
do with less.
Sell a country! Why not sell the air, the clouds, and the Great Sea,
as well as the earth? Did not the Great Good Spirit make them all
for the use of his children?
Brother, I was glad to hear what you told us. you said that if we
could prove that the land was sold by people who had no right to
sell it, you would restore it. I will prove that those who did sell
did not own it. Did they have a deed? A title? No! You say those
prove someone owns land. Those chiefs only spoke a claim, and so
you pretended to believe their claim, only because you wanted the
land. But the many tribes with me will not agree with those
claims. They have never had a title to sell, and we agree this
proves you could not buy it from them. If the land is not given
back to us, you will see, when we return to our homes from here,
how it will be settled. It will be like this:
We shall have a great council, at which all tribes will be present.
We shall show to those who sold that they had no rights to the
claim they set up, and we shall see what will be done to those
chiefs who did sell the land to you. I am not alone in this
determination, it is the determination of all the warriors and red
people who listen to me. Brother, I now wish you to listen to me.
If you do not wipe out that treaty, it will seem that you wish me
to kill all the chiefs who sold the land! I tell you so because I am
authorized by all tribes to do so! I am the head of them all! All
my warriors will meet together with me in two or three moons
from now. Then I will call for those chiefs who sold you this
land, and we shall know what to do with them. If you do not
restore the land, you will have had a hand in killing them!
I am Shawnee! I am a warrior! My forefathers were warriors.
From them I took only my birth into this world. From my tribe I
take nothing. I am the maker of my own destiny! And of that I
might make the destiny of my red people, of our nation, as great
as I conceive to in my mind, when I think of Weshemoneto, who
rules this universe! I would not then have to come to Governor
Harrison and ask him to tear up this treaty and wipe away the
marks upon the land. No! I would say to him, 'Sir, you may
return to you own country!' The being within me hears the voice
of the ages, which tells me that once, always, and until lately,
there were no white men on all this island, that it then belonged to
the red men, children of the same parents, placed on it by the
Great Good Spirit who made them, to keep it, to traverse it, to
enjoy its yield, and to people it with the same race. Once they
were a happy race! Now they are made miserable by the white
people, who are never contented but are always coming in! You do
this always, after promising not to anyone, yet you ask us to have
confidence in your promises. How can we have confidence in the
white people? When Jesus Christ came upon the earth, you killed
him, the son of your own God, you nailed him up! You thought he
was dead, but you were mistaken. And only after you thought you
killed him did you worship him, and start killing those who would
not worship him. What kind of a people is this for us to trust?
Now, Brother, everything I have said to you is the truth, as
Weshemoneto has inspired me to speak only truth to you. I have
declared myself freely to you about my intentions. And I want to
know your intentions. I want to know what you are going to do
about the taking of our land. I want to hear you say that you
understand now, and will wipe out that pretended treaty, so that
the tribes can be at peace with each other, as you pretend you
want them to be. Tell me, brother. I want to know now.