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Ten-sqúat-a-way, Painted in 1830 by George Catlin

Tenskwatawa[pronunciation?] (also called Tenskatawa, Tenskwatawah, Tensquatawa or Lalawethika) (January 1775 – November 1836) was a Native American religious and political leader of the Shawnee tribe, known as the Prophet or the Shawnee Prophet. He was a younger brother of Tecumseh, leader of the Shawnee. In his early years Tenskwatawa was given the name Lalawethika ("He Makes a Loud Noise" or "The Noise Maker"), but he changed it around 1805 and transformed himself from a hapless, alcoholic youth into an influential spiritual leader. Tenskwatawa denounced the Americans, calling them the offspring of the Evil Spirit, and lead a purification movement that promoted unity among the American Indians, rejected acculturation to the American way of life, and encouraged his followers to pursue traditional ways.

In the early 1800s Tenskwatawa formed a community with his followers near Greenville in western Ohio, and in 1808 Tenskwatawa and his brother, Tecumseh, established a village that the Americans called Prophetstown north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana. At Prophetstown the brothers' pan-Indian resistance movement increased to include thousands of followers, with Tenskwatawa providing the spiritual foundation. Together, they mobilized the Indians in the Midwest to fight the Americans and remained resolute in their rejection of American authority and acculturation.

On November 7, 1811, while Tecumseh was away, Tenskwatawa ordered a pre-dawn attack on an American military force encamped near Prophetstown that initiated the Battle of Tippecanoe. The Indians retreated after a two-hour engagement and abandoned Prophetstown, which the Americans burned to the ground. The battle did not end the Indians' resistance to the Americans, but the Prophet lost his influence, became an outcast, and moved to Canada during the War of 1812. After Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames in 1813, the American Indian resistance movement did not recover and was eventually defeated. Tenskwatawa remained as an exile in Canada for nearly a decade. He returned to the United States in 1824 to assist the U.S. government with the Shawnee removal to reservation land in present-day Kansas. The aging Prophet arrived at the Shawnee reservation in 1828 and faded into obscurity. Tenskwatawa died at what is known as the Argentine district of present-day Kansas City, Kansas, in 1836.

Contents

Early life and familyEdit

 
Portrait by Charles Bird King

Lalawethika ("He Makes a Loud Noise" or "Noise Maker"), who as an adult changed his name to Tenskwatawa ("Open Door" or "One With Open Mouth"), was part of a set of triplet brothers born in early 1775 to Puckeshinwa and Methoataske in a Shawnee village along the Mad River in wester Ohio. One of the triplets died within the first year of his birth, but Tenskwatawa and his surviving triplet, Kumskaukau, were members of a family that included at least eight children (three daughters and five sons).[1] Lalawethika's early years showed no evidence of the powerful spiritual leader he would become as an adult. Instead, his sad and isolated youth was marked by numerous failures and alcoholism.[2][3]

Tenskwatawa's father, Puckenshinwa ("Something That Falls"), was a leader of the Kispokotha division of the Shawnee tribe. He was killed the British soldier in the Battle of Point Pleasant before Tenskwatawa was born.[4] His mother, Methoataske (or Methoataaskee, meaning "[One who] Lays Eggs in the Sand"), is believed to be either Muscogee Creek, Cherokee, or Shawnee, possibly of Pekowi division and the Turtle Clan.[5][6] Methoataske, who was frightened by the American Revolution and deeply saddened by the death of Puckenshinwa, may have gone to live with her Creek relatives and then moved west with the Kispokothas in 1779, leaving Tenskwatawa and his siblings in the care of their older sister, Tecumpeas, who was married.[1]

Tenskwatawa, who was not as successful or brave as his brothers, was a failure "at almost everything he attempted" during his youth.[7] When Chiksika, his oldest brother and a leading warrior, took his brothers out to hunt and fight in small battles, Tenskwatawa stayed behind because he lacked competence as a skilled hunter and warrior. Tenskwatawa was never able to distinguish himself as a hunter or fighter as Tecumseh, another of his older brothers, had done.[3] Tecumseh, who was seven years older, was an especially gifted athlete who became the favorite of most of the tribe. In contrast, Tenskwatawa was isolated, unpopular, and depressed by his lack of success. He began drinking alcohol, which further lowered his self-esteem and increased his problems, blinded himself in his right eye with his own arrow.[7] Lonely and insecure, Tenskwatawa attempted to make up for his deficiencies by boasting and making up stories about how talented and important he was. His depression and alcoholism worsened as he grew older, making him unable to provide for his wife and several children.[8]

In 1794, nineteen-year-old Tenskwatawa was present at the Battle of Fallen Timbers with two of his brothers, Tecumseh and Sauwauseekau, but he did not distinguish himself as a warrior. Instead, Tenskwatawa viewed the battle as a chance to re-insert himself into tribal society. In his late twenties, he decided to become a medicine man and apprenticed with a tribal healer, Penagashea ("Changing Feathers"). However, when Tenskawatawa was unable to save his people after they fell seriously ill, probably with influenza, he became humiliated and even more depressed.[7] By the early 1800s, Tenskawatawa had developed a reputation as a notorious drunk among the Shawnee living along the White River.[3]

Purification movement leaderEdit

 
Tenskwatawa sketch

Beginning in 1805 Lalawethika had a series of religious visions that transformed his life, caused him to change his name to Tenskwatawa (meaning "Open Door"), and led him to reject his old ways. He experienced his first vision in May 1805, when he fell into unconsciousness during one of his alcoholic stupors and was thought to be dead. Unexpectedly reviving as his body was being prepared for burial, he recounted a powerful vision of two different worlds, one filled with ample blessings for the virtuous ones who lived as the Master of Life intended, while the other world was filled with pain, hardship, and terror for those who refused to follow traditional tribal ways.Tenskwatawa became known as "The Prophet," began preaching gathering more and more followers. He soon emerged as a powerful and influential spiritual leader.[7] More visions followed in succeeding months, including revelations that the European invaders from the east were “the children of the Evil Spirit.".[9][10]

The Prophet's developing purification movement caused him to urge his followers to reject American habits, such as consumption of alcohol, and to return to their traditional ways. He wanted his people to reject the white man's customs by forbidding marriages between Indians and whites, as well as the use of Euro-American foods, clothing, and manufactured goods. Tenskwatawa also encouraged his people to follow traditional gender roles (women as farmers; men as hunters and warriors).[2][11] Tenskwatawa proved to be harsh, even brutal, in his treatment of those who opposed him and his teachings. He accused his detractors and anyone who associated with Americans of witchcraft, including Indians who had converted to Christianity. For Tenskwatawa, Indian witches remained the most active agents of the evil spirits on earth, and he sought to identify and destroy them.[12][13]

The changes to Tenskawatawa's life, along with his rise as a powerful spiritual leader in the early 1800s, coincided with other situations that threatened the Indians' traditional way of life and caused rising tensions between the Indians and the Americans. These included significant liquor consumption by Indians, ever-increasing land cession treaties that called for Indians to receive annuities in exchange for giving up their lands to the U.S. government, and the steady encroachment of white settlers in areas around Indian-held treaty land.[2]

Greenville and Prophetstown founderEdit

In 1805 Tenskwatawa, who evolved into an effective speaker and charismatic leader of his religious movement, formed a new community with his followers along the White River, near the present site of Greenville in western Ohio.[14][15] The Indian village's population rapidly increased after Tenskwatawa accurately predicted a solar eclipse in 1806. The prediction humiliated William Henry Harrison, the governor of the Indiana Territory. Previously, Harrison had publicly derided Tenskwatawa as a fraud to the tribal leaders, but many tribal members considered the accuracy of Tenskwatawa's prediction as proof of his power.[16]

The Prophet detested the leaders of the American government, including President Thomas Jefferson and Harrison, the Indiana territorial governor. Tenskwatawa also opposed some tribal leaders, such as Little Turtle, and their representatives because he felt that they had agreed to the demands of the Americans.[17] When some of the tribal chiefs tried to promote compromise and conciliation with the Americans, Tenskwatawa, proclaiming his obedience to the Great Spirit, lashed out against the pro-American sympathizers and castigated them as wicked traitors.[18]

While the Prophet continued to preach unity among his people, urging them to resist the American government and the American way of life, his brother, Tecumseh, began to gather the tribes at Greenville to establish a pan-Indian resistance movement. Officials in Ohio became concerned about the increasing numbers of the Prophet's followers. As the Americans became more hostile and planned to take action, Tenskwatawa was finding it increasingly difficult to feed his expanding village. Although there was opposition from some tribal leaders such as Little Turtle, Tenskwatawa decided to move farther west and establish a village in a more remote location to further distance his followers from the Americans.[11][19]

In 1808 Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh founded a new village along the Tippecanoe River, north of present-day Lafayette, Indiana. The Americans called the Indian settlement Prophetstown, after the Shawnee spiritual leader. Prophetstown soon expanded to form a large, multi-tribal community of the Prophet's followers that became a "powerful Indian city-state" for his spiritual movement.[11][20] Willig (1997) argues that Prophetstown became the largest Native American community in the Great Lakes region, and also served as a major center of Indian culture, a temporary barrier to the encroaching settlers' westward movement, and a base to expel the whites and their culture from the territory.[21] Located near the juncture of two rivers (the Wabash and Tippecanoe Rivers, Prophetstown gained significance as a central point in the political and military alliance that was forming around Tenskwatawa's brother Tecumseh, as well as the spiritual hub of the purification movement that the Prophet established to preserve tribal culture.[22]

Under the leadership of Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh, the village attracted thousands of Algonquin-speaking Indians. Although the village endured hardships, such as food shortages, epidemics, and tribal disagreements, Prophetstown became an intertribal, religious stronghold within the Indiana Territory for three thousand Native Americans.[21][23] An estimated fourteen different tribal groups comprised the Indian confederation at Prophetstown, but the majority of its inhabitants came from Shawnee, Delaware, and Potawatomi tribes.[11] The growing community also caused Americans in the area to fear that Tecumseh was forming an army of warriors to destroy their settlements.[14]

One effect of the increasing pan-Indian alliance was steady pressure from Harrison and the American government to establish land-cession treaties, including a pivotal one made in 1809. Under the terms of the Treaty of Fort Wayne, the tribes in the Wabash River area ceded an estimated 2.5 to 3 million acres of land to the U.S. government. While warriors continued to congregate at Prophetstown, Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh, who adamantly wanted to retain their independence from the Americans, denounced the treaty, became openly hostile to those who had signed it, including other tribal leaders, and began discussions of a possible alliance with the British.[24][25]

Failed warriorEdit

 
The view from Prophet's Rock, looking toward the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe

Although historians have disagreed over whether Tecumseh or Tenskwatawa was the primary leader of the pan-Indian community that grew up around Prophetstown, Tenskwatawa remained its spiritual leader; however, his preaching grew more militant and increasingly political from 1808 to 1811. Some of Prophetstown's inhabitants became nervous about the rising tension between the Americans and the Indians and left the village, but Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa continued to recruit young warriors to join their movement. By 1811, white settlers in the region, Harrison, and the Indiana territorial government had become concerned about the large number of Indians gathering at Prophetstown.[17][26] After ongoing negotiations between Harrison and Tecumseh proved unproductive in 1811, Harrison decided to strike first and began to assemble his military forces.[27]

In the fall of 1811, when Tecumseh journeyed south to meet with representatives of other tribes in hopes of building a larger alliance, Tenskwatawa was left in command at Prophetstown. Before Tecumseh's departure, the two brothers discussed possible responses to American military action and agreed that Tenskwatawa would try to avoid any confrontation with the Americans during Tecumseh's absence. However, Tenskwatawa reconsidered the decision after Tecumseh's departure and prepared their warriors to fight the Americans if they approached Prophetstown. In the meantime, Harrison and his men began their march north from Vincennes toward Prophetstown and constructed a new fort (Fort Harrison) on Indian treaty land at the site of present-day Terre Haute, Indiana, to serve as a staging area for the American military forces. As the Americans marched toward Prophetstown, Tenskwatawa decided to stand firm and take action.[14][28]

On November 6, 1811, while Tecumseh was still in the South, an American military force of an estimated 1,000 men under Harrison's command approached the village. Hoping to delay a confrontation until additional warriors arrived, Tenskwatawa requested a meeting with Harrison, who agreed to negotiate. With the meeting set for the following day, Harrison and his men set up camp about a mile from Prophetstown.[28]

Although they were outnumbered and had little ammunition, Tenskwatawa's smaller force of 600 to 700 men were the first to attack before dawn on November 7. After a two-hour engagement that became known as the Battle of Tippecanoe, Tenskwatawa's forces retreated from the field and abandoned Prophetstown to avoid capture. On November 8, the Americans burned the village to the ground. Nearly one-fifth of Harrison's forces either died or were wounded in battle (188 casualties; 63 of them fatalities). Harrison claimed hundreds of Indian casualties; however, the actual number fell between thirty and fifty, with an additional seventy to eighty wounded. Tenskwatawa, who did not take part in the action on the field, remained out of range of American bullets.[29][30]

The battled did not end the Indians's resistance to the Americans, but their retreat caused The Prophet, who proved to be a poor military leader, to lose his influence. Some of the Indians wanted to kill him for losing, but he survived; others sought revenge by raiding area farms and travelers.[17][31] When Tecumseh returned to the Indiana Territory, he resumed his role as the Indian confederation's military leader, but the loss at Prophetstown ended his efforts to establish a stronger Indian alliance. Tenskwatawawho became an outcast, and some of his followers returned to rebuild Prophetstown in July 1812, but American militia forces eventually forced them away. The Prophet moved to Canada and became one of Tecumseh's subordinates during the War of 1812.[32]

The end of the Indians' military resistance to the American occurred in Canada, where Tecumseh and his warriors participated in the defense of the Canadian colonies. Tecumseh fought and died at the Battle of the Thames, in October 1813.[33] Tenskwatawa, who observed the battle from a position behind the British line, fled on horseback after the initial charge from the American forces. He remained in exile in Canada and did not return to the United States until 1824.[17][34]

Later yearsEdit

After Tecumseh’s death in 1813, Tenskwatawa retained a small group of followers, but had no significant leadership position among the American Indians in the subsequent decade. In 1824, at the request of Lewis Cass, the governor of Michigan Territory, the aging Prophet returned to the United States from Canada to assist the federal government with its plans for the Shawnee removal west of the Mississippi River. Tenskwatawa hoped his involvement would allow him to regain some influence as a leader among the Shawnee.[34]

In 1826 Tenskwatawa traveled through Vincennes, Indiana, with a group of 500 Shawnee from reservation land at Wapaghkonetta, Ohio, and headed west across the Mississippi and Kansas Rivers to the Shawnee reservation in present-day Kansas.[35] Tenskwatawa, who arrived in Kansas on May 14, 1828, established a village called Prophetstown on reservation land in the Argentine district of present-day Kansas City, Kansas.[36][37]

In his final years, as his influence among the Shawnee declined, Tenskwatawa isolated himself from the majority of the tribe. A few years before his death, Tenskwatawa agreed to pose for George Catlin, who painted his portrait as a Shawnee "holy man" in traditional attire.[38] Tenskwatawa faded into obscurity and died in 1836, twelve years after he departed to Kansas.[36][39]

Death and legacyEdit

Tenskwatawa died in November 1836 at his cabin, a site in present-day Kansas City's Argentine district. The White Feather Spring historical marker, erected in 1978, denotes the approximate location of his gravesite in Kansas City,Kansas, which remained unmarked for decades.[36]

Tenskwatawa's legacy was a mix of successes and failures. While he became a powerful spiritual leader with hundreds of followers in the first decade of the nineteenth century, his success in that effort only lasted about six years. The Prophet transformed himself from a hapless, alcoholic youth filled with failures into an influential religious leader. Tenskwatawa preached unity and helped to improve the morale of his people by encouraging them to pursue traditional ways. He also remained resolute in his rejection of American authority and acculturation to the American way of life. After the defeat of his people at the Battle of Tippecanoe, the Prophet spent the remainder of his life trying to regain some of his previous political power. Tenskwatawa and his brother, Tecumseh, along with their followers were not successful in achieving the long-term results they wanted. They lost a difficult and violent struggle that deprived them of their lands in the Northwest Territory, largely due to the relentlessness and large-scale efforts of the Americans, but their defiance was a noble effort and worth the risk.[40][41]

Because most white Americans of his era were unfamiliar with Native American culture, they did not understand the Prophet's religious movement. Since his death in 1836, the Prophet has been relegated to a secondary role. Those who knew Tenskwatawa after 1825, when he no longer had his previous influence as a religious leader, described him as a "shallow opportunist." However, it was Tenskwatawa, not his brother, Tecumseh, who provided the spiritual foundation for the Indian resistance movement in the Midwest in the years immediately preceding the War of 1812.[42] In the Indiana Territory, the violence that erupted between the Americans and the pan-Indian alliance that Tenskwatawa and Tecumseh established at Prophetstown lead to the relocation of territorial capitol from Vincennes to Corydon, Indiana. In addition, American efforts to remove Indian inhabitants from the Indiana Territory increased after the War of 1812 and lead to their forced removal to reservations in the trans-Mississippi west.[39]

In popular cultureEdit

  • Tenskwatawa (The Prophet) appears in Dell Comics' Ben Bowie and His Mountain Men, number 7, from 1956. In this story line, Tenskwatawa is shown organizing a secret meeting to unite Kiowas, Pawnees, Cheyenne, and Sioux in an alliance against white settlers.[43]
  • Tenskwatawa, along with his brother, Tecumseh, is one of the major characters in Orson Scott Card's alternate history fantasy series of novels, The Tales of Alvin Maker, especially the second book, Red Prophet. The Tenskwatawa character is called Tenskwa-Tawa (previously Lolla-Wossiky).
  • Tenskwatawa is a supporting character in James Alexander Thom's historical novel, Panther in the Sky.
  • David Brin makes reference to Tenskwatawa's legacy in his novel, Existence. Brin introduces a Native American prophet in the future named Tenskwatawa, who leads the Renunciation movement to return to simpler, wiser ways of life, and in control the expansion of technology with careful consideration of the disruptive effects of adopting new advances.

See alsoEdit

NotesEdit

  1. ^ a b R. David Edmunds (1985). The Shawnee Prophet. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. p. 29. ISBN 0-8032-1850-8. 
  2. ^ a b c James H. Madison (2014). Hoosiers: A New History of Indiana. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press and the Indiana Historical Society Press. p. 38. ISBN 978-0-253-01308-8. 
  3. ^ a b c Andrew R. L. Cayton (1996). Frontier Indiana. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. p. 206. ISBN 0253330483. 
  4. ^ John Sudden (1997). Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Company. p. 14. ISBN 0-8050-4138-9. 
  5. ^ Noel Schutz. "The Family of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa". Retrieved May 25, 2017. 
  6. ^ Sugden, Tecumseh, pp. 13–16.
  7. ^ a b c d James H. Madison and Lee Ann Sandweiss (2014). Hoosiers and the American Story. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. p. 13. ISBN 978-0-87195-363-6. 
  8. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, pp. 30–32.
  9. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet p. 38.
  10. ^ Richard White notes that in the Algonquian tradition the "Great Serpent" came from the sea and stood for evil powers. Similarly, Tenskwatawa explained that white men (American colonists), who came from the eastern seashore, were the spawn of the Great Serpent and intended to harm them. See Richard White (1991). The Middle Ground: Indians, Empires, and Republics in the Great Lakes Region, 1650–1815. Cambridge University Press. p. 507. ISBN 0-521-42460-7. 
  11. ^ a b c d Madison and Sandweiss, p. 14.
  12. ^ Cayton, pp. 207–8.
  13. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet p. 39.
  14. ^ a b c Linda C. Gugin and James E. St. Clair, eds. (2015). Indiana's 200: The People Who Shaped the Hoosier State. Indianapolis: Indiana Historical Society Press. p. 346. ISBN 978-0-87195-387-2. 
  15. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, p. 34.
  16. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, pp. 47–49.
  17. ^ a b c d Madison and Sandweiss, p. 15.
  18. ^ Timothy D. Willig (2008). Restoring the Chain of Friendship: British Policy and the Indians of the Great Lakes, 1783–1815. p. 207. ISBN 0803248172. 
  19. ^ Madison, pp. 38–39.
  20. ^ Madison, p. 39.
  21. ^ a b Timothy D. Willig (March 1997). "Prophetstown on the Wabash: The Native Spiritual Defense of the Old Northwest". Michigan Historical Review. 23 (2): 115–58. 
  22. ^ Cayton, pp. 209–10.
  23. ^ Cayton, p. 210.
  24. ^ Cayton, pp. 210–12.
  25. ^ From George Washington's to William Henry Harrison's presidential administrations, the U.S. government's attempts to obtain Indian lands in the Old Northwest Territory from numerous tribes eventually succeeded. Under the terms of multiple treaties, the Indians ceded their territorial land to the U.S. government in exchange for annuity payments and reservation land in the western United States. As a result, the majority of the Indians had moved west, across the Mississippi River, by the 1840s. Large numbers of American settlers entered the former Indian-held territory to acquire the vacated land. See Willig (March 1997),"Prophetstown on the Wabash," pp. 115–158.
  26. ^ Gugin and St. Clair, eds., p. 345.
  27. ^ Madison, p. 41.
  28. ^ a b Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, p. 105.
  29. ^ Cayton, pp. 222–24.
  30. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, p. 106–15.
  31. ^ Cayton, p. 223.
  32. ^ Cayton, pp. 224–25.
  33. ^ Madison, p. 43.
  34. ^ a b Gugin and St. Clair, eds., pp. 347–48.
  35. ^ "Shawnee Indians - Wapakoneta Ohio - Vincennes Indiana". Boston Reporter and Telegraph. December 15, 1826. p. 3. Retrieved February 18, 2013. 
  36. ^ a b c "Shawnee Prophet's Grave and White Feather Spring, 1836" (pdf). Unified Government of Wyandotte County and Kansas City, Kansas. Retrieved May 24, 2017. 
  37. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, p. 185.
  38. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, p. 186.
  39. ^ a b Gugin and St. Clair, eds., p. 348.
  40. ^ Cayton, p. 225.
  41. ^ Madison, p. 44.
  42. ^ Edmunds, The Shawnee Prophet, pp. 186, 190.
  43. ^ Dell Comics (1956). Ben Bowie and His Mountain Men. 7. Western Printing and Lithographing Company. 

ReferencesEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Cave, Alfred A. (Winter 2002). "The Shawnee Prophet, Tecumseh, and Tippecanoe: A Case Study of Historical Myth-Making". Journal of the Early Republic. 22 (4): 637–74. 
  • Eckert, Allan W. A Sorrow in Our Heart: The Life of Tecumseh. 
  • Edmunds, R. David (2006). Tecumseh and the Quest for Indian Leadership (2nd ed.). 
  • Jortner, Adam (2012). The Gods of Prophetstown: The Battle of Tippecanoe and the Holy War for the American Frontier. 

External linksEdit