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March 30, 2012

Chief Tecumseh Remembered in 1812 Bicentennial

This years Bicentennial of the War of 1812 will celebrate many of its battles and heroes. The American and Canadian native participants on our side are recognized as making the difference in who we are today. Harvey McCue in the Anishinabek News ( Feb , 2012) states that "had the British and first Nations forces not won in their strategic conflicts, Americans might still be here and Canadian borders would be considerably smaller than they are". Unfortunately, the native participation was not subsequently appropriately recognized.

Old drawing of Tecumseh

Tecumseh (1768-1813) was one of the American Indian leaders who did not cave in to the American lust for native land in their expansionist drive. He worked successfully to establish a native Confederacy to oppose the American expansion and save native territory and the native way of life.

When the war of 1812 broke out Tecumseh and his followers came to Canada and fought the Americans. Tecumseh and Sir Isaac Brock, often shown together in pictures, worked together in the early battles. Both died early in 1813.

Tecumseh died on the banks of the Thames River near Moraviatown. His half brother Tenskawatawa known as" The Prophet" and the defender of the native way of life, survived the battle. Dozens of books and articles, including novels, have been written about them including some recent ones. I was fortunate to pick up the definitive 500 page book Tecumseh A Life (1999) in a used bookshop several years ago – an incredible story.

Tecumseh will be remembered with a new stamp by Canada Post in May. Its official unveiling will take place on June 21 in the community of Tecumseh, a town east of Windsor which worked hard to have a stamp made.

There will be lots written about Tecumseh and Tenskawatawa in the weeks ahead. There is an excellent profile of Tecumseh in the Dictionary of Canadian Biography online at Libraries and Archives Canada and on Google.

The Prophet- Tenskawatawa (1778-1837)

Tecumseh's brother Tenskawatawa made a major, if controversial, contribution in the war and to the native way of life susequently. The name meaning “open door” touches on his drive to maintain native spirituality and beliefs and the rejection of non-native ways.

Coincidentally, the hyphenated version of his name- Tens-Kwat-Awa- was over the door of a house my parents bought when I was a teenager. I don't know if it had a native significance or was just a way of saying welcome as implied in the translation of “The Open Door”. The sign was later moved to a family cottage (see photo).

 Photo of Doug and Elly Mackey circa 1950 – Mackey photo.

The Tecumseh stamp, since there is no photograph of him ,will be designed based on old drawings of Tecumseh in full dress ready for battle.

Look for and use the stamps and get into the Bicentennial spirit.

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