Click to Subscribe
‘The Open Door’
#2 Impressions of Tecumseh: Shooting Star, Crouching Panther by Jim Poling Sr., 2009, 184 pages
© 2023 James LaFond
Tecumseh’s Senior Brother
According to Stephen Ruddell, at the battle of Point Pleasant, 1774, after the mortal wounding of Pukeshinwau, “at his dying moment he called to him his oldest son a youth of 12 or 13 years… and strongly enjoined on him to preserve unsullied the dignity and honor of his family; and directed him in future to lead forth younger brothers.”
The name of the oldest brother was Cheeseekau, his next younger brother was Tecumseh. The Dutch captive who became Blue Jacket was had been assigned to be Tecumseh’s companion. There was also the adopted brother, Richard Sparks, taken from the same area from which Tecumseh’s father had taken Blue Jacket, Wheeling, West Virginia. Richard was given the name Shawtunte. Stephen Ruddell, whose account is quoted here, became Tecumseh’s blood brother by rite.
These three adopted men, Ruddell, Blue Jacket and Shawtunte became warriors with full marriage rights. This places into question the unknown ancestry of Tecumseh’s parents in light of Tecumseh’s very European appearance. Ruddell was taken by the Shawnee in 1780, along with 350 other prisoners at the Mad River in western Ohio. Additionally, missing in action casualties on the American side throughout the Indian Wars in the Ohio country generally exceeded killed and wounded.
On June 26, 1792, Ziegler’s Station was taken and burned in Tennessee. The women and children were marched into captivity. Trackers noted that at one spot the Indians had stopped and made moccasins for the children.
In September 1792, at Lookout Mountain, above Chattanooga, while plotting the campaign in which he would be killed, Chief Cheeseekau was enraged at a suggestion that the tribes should accept American gifts and stop fighting: “With these hands I have killed 300, and I will kill 300 more, drink my fill of blood, and sit down and be happy.”
While dying, Cheeseekau is said to have told Tecumseh that he preferred dying in battle like a warrior to dying like an old woman in her bark house.
From American sources, there is a story of an ambush at Cumberland Mountain in central Tennessee near Walton Trace. [1] Captain Samuel Handley and his 42 militiamen were ambushed. Handley was taken alive, made to run the gauntlet and was going to be burned alive. Witnesses said that the chief who spared Handley was a Shawnee visiting from the north and had a mother living with the Cherokee who had left the Shawnee to live with the Cherokee after her husband’s death at Point Pleasant. Her name was Methoataaskee. She had been taken as a wife by Tecumseh’s father from among the southern tribes during the Shawnee’s nomadic period in the south. Handley suffered from a fever that turned his hair pure white and was released from captivity.
Tecumseh’s Junior Brother
Tecumseh’s mother had triplets. Of these the surviving child was named Lalawethika, meaning “Noisemaker.” The least able of that long suffering mother’s brood lost an eye to the misuse of a bow and arrow and became a braggart, a drunk, and a self-described wicked man. By all accounts he was the perfect opposite of his brother Tecumseh, possessing the hard fire of the eldest brother, Cheeseekau, but none of the remarkable ability of either of the elder brothers. His demeanor seemed better suited for a 20th century televangelist preacher then for tribal resistance.
He fell into a trance after extensive smoking, was declared dead and prepared for burial. He woke and declared he had been visited by the great spirit, gave up drinking and began preaching a gospel similar to that of the Iroquois prophet from New York state, Handsome Lake. He took the name Tenskwatawa, meaning Open Door. Open Door then began blaming various crises on witches, who were said to be able to fly great distances through the air at night with their medicine bundles. Just as in European witch trials, confessions were extracted by torture and the witches were burned or tomahawked. Just as the running of the gauntlet unique to woodland tribes was borrowed by English and Swedish invaders, so was this very Germanic Christian idea of witchcraft and its handling.
Tenskwatawa predicted that he would stop the sun at noon on June 16, 1806, and told his followers to meet him at his village at that date and time. A solar eclipse was observed. Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh then established Prophetstown, in which they kept a building for visitors named “House of the Stranger.”
Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa both predicted natural phenomena and subscribed to a Christian-inflected pan-Native religion, suggesting access to almanacs and other publications through the contact they had with Quakers, Moravians and other missionaries. It was too good to be true, the Open Door blundered numerous times, Tecumseh was not able to hold back the American tide and his little brother went back to drinking.
Future president Harrison, who met with Tecumseh twice, and who was his conqueror, at first investigating The Prophet as a threat to real estate enterprise, described him in the following way:
“This brother is really the efficient man—the Moses of the family… described by all as a bold, active, sensible man, daring in the extreme, and capable of any undertaking.”
The Open Door would claim that Harrison would die in office as a curse and punishment for the destruction of Prophetstown and the death of Tecumseh, and so he did, making two great predictions.
My favorite warrior act by Tecumseh was during an argument he had with a British Officer concerning the poor quality food issued to his warriors. Tecumseh hefted his tomahawk in one hand and touched the officer’s sword with the other hand and noted that their argument could be finished in another way, but that the officer was who he was, and that “I, am Tecumseh!”
Needless to say, the officer declined the offer to duel over the command decision and relented to Tecumseh’s wishes.
-1. A trace is the precursor for the term “trail” and was used for the first 250 years of Anglo American exploration and settlement.
To support Plantation America research and examine annotated and summarized primary source texts go to:
‘His Eyes’
your trojan whorse
taboo you
z-pill forever
logic of steel
menthol rampage
the year the world took the z-pill
when you're food
by the wine dark sea
  Add a new comment below: