Tecumseh’s Speech

Tecumseh’s Speech

The following is a speech by the great Shawnee leader Tecumseh, as recounted by the Pottawatomie leader, Chief Simon Pokagon. Simon Pokagon wrote: “My father and many others who listened to the speeches of Tecumseh many times repeated to me his words when I was a boy, but it was impossible to give an idea of their spirit and power. He generally spoke as follows:”

Before me stand the rightful owners of kwaw-notchi-we au-kee [this beautiful land]. The Great Spirit in His wisdom placed you here and gave it to you and your children to defend. But ä-te-wä! [alas!] The incoming race, like a huge serpent is coiling closer and closer about you. And not content with hemming you in on every side, they have built at She-gog-ong [Chicago], in the very center of our country, a military fort, garrisoned with soldiers, ready and equipped for battle. As sure as waw-kwen-og [the heavens] are above you they are determined to destroy you and your children and to occupy this goodly land themselves.

Then they will destroy these forests, whose branches wave in the winds above the graves of your fathers, chanting their praises. If you doubt it, come, go with me eastward or southward a few days’ journey along your ancient mi-kan-og [trails], and I will show you a land you once occupied made desolate. There the forests of untold years have been hewn down and cast into the fire! There be-sheck-kee and waw-mawsh-ka [the buffalo and deer], pe-nay-shen and ke-gon [the fowl and the fish], are all gone. There the woodland birds, whose sweet songs once pleased your ears, have forsaken the land. And the wild flowers, which your maidens once loved to wear, have all withered and died.

You must bear in mind these strangers are not as you are—they are devoid of natural affection, loving gold or gain better than one another, or ki-tchi-tchag [their own souls]. Some of them follow on your track as quietly as maw-in-gawn [the wolf] pursues the deer, to shoot you down as you hunt and kill mé-she-bé-zhe [the panther]. But a few years ago I saw with mine own eyes a young white man near the O-hi-o River who was held by our people as a prisoner of war. He won the hearts of his captors with his apparent friendship and good-will, while murder was in his heart. They trusted him as they trusted one another. But he most treacherously betrayed their confidence, and secretly killed not less than nech-to-naw [twenty] before his crimes were detected and by then he had fled. After this, when Chief Harmar [a United States general] invited some our head men to meet him at Fort Harmar to try and settle our war spirits, that same young man lay down to wait, and secretly shot down me-no au-nish-naw-by [a good Indian man] just as he reached the treaty grounds; and yet for that outrageous crime he went unpunished and today is being petted by wau-be au-nene-eg [white men] as you pet him who kills mé-she-bé-zhe [the panther]. I speak of this case—and there are many of them within my own personal knowledge—that you may know our enemies are cunning, crafty, and cruel, without honor, without natural affection.

When we were many and strong, and they were few and weak, they reached out their hands for wido-kaw-ké-win [help], and we filled them with wie-aus and maw-daw-min [meat and corn]; we lived wa-naw-kiwen [in peace] together; but now that they are many and strong, and we are getting few and weak, they waw nen-dam [have forgotten] the deep debt of mawmo-i-wendam gratitude they own us, and are now scheming to drive us towards ke-so [the setting sun], into desert places far from ke-win [home] and da-na ki aukee our native land. Eh [yes], they come to us with lips smoother than bi-me-da [oil], and words sweeter than amose-póma [honey], but beware of them! The venomous amo [wasp] is in their odaw [heart]! and their dealing with us, when we have not tamely submitted, has ever been ashki-koman powder and lead; against such mau-tchi- au-nene wicked men our only pagos-seni-ma [hope], our only ini-ijim [safety], is in joining all our nations, and then, and not until then will we be able to drive the soulless invaders back! Fail in this, and awak-aui-win [slavery] and ne-ba [death] are ours!

And lastly, do not forget that what peace you have enjoyed the past fifty years in your homes and on your hunting grounds you entirely owe to the brave Pontiac, who, at the risk of his own life, destroyed the forts of your enemies around the Great Lakes, driving the white invaders back.

[Note: This article is found in an article titled, “The Massacre of Fort Dearborn At Michigan,” in “Harper’s New Monthly Magazine,” Vol. XCVIII, No. DLXXXVI, March 1899, pp. 649-656.”}