If I had ridden straight south on Indiana 421 for 100 miles from where my bike is parked here on the southeast shore of Lake Michigan, I would have come to a little town called Battle Ground, so named because it encompasses the site of the Battle of Tippecanoe, an inconclusive encounter fought on November 7th, 1811 between about 1000 American troops under the command of William Henry Harrison, governor of the Indiana Territory, and about 600 confederated Native Americans of more than half a dozen Nations under the loose command of Tenskustawa (the Prophet), brother to the great Shawnee war chief Tecumseh.
Harrison, fearful of Tecumseh’s diplomacy and oratorical prowess as he attempted to forge a pan-tribal alliance from Georgia to Canada to hold the line against further encroachment on Native lands from the young American republic, decided to strike pre-emptively against Tecumseh’s base at Prophetstown while the war chief was away South appealing to the Choctaw to join with the many tribes who had agreed to fight together against the Americans when the time was ripe. Despite the nearly equal losses on the battlefield ( about four dozen
killed, slightly more wounded on both sides), Harrison claimed victory when the Natives ran short of ammunition and retreated, allowing Harrison to burn Prophetstown and destroy the Natives winter supplies.
He road the legend of victory to the White House in the election of 1840, as the ninth president, under the slogan “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”
He contracted pneumonia at his inaugural and died 31 days later, setting an enviable record for brevity in office.
Before setting of a constitutional crisis with his sudden death, Harrison uttered the prescient quote: “All the measures of government are directed to making the rich richer and the poor poorer.” True then, true now. Tecumseh was more than Harrison’s equal as a speechmaker.
Contemporaneous records quote Tecumseh, in just one of his stirring orations, as telling Harrison:
“The only way to stop this evil is for the red men to unite in claiming an equal right to 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 truly 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 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 couldn’t 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 these prove someone owns land. These chiefs spoke a claim and so you pretended to believe their claim only because you wanted their land. But the many tribes with me will not agree with these claims. They have never had title to sell, and we agree this proves you could not buy it from them….
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 belonged to the red men, children of the same parents, placed on it by the Great Spirit who made them, to keep it, to traverse it, to enjoy its yield, and to people it with the same race!
Now they are made miserable by the white people, who are never contented, but are always coming in!”
During his tenure as Governor of Indiana Territory, Harrison secured title to 29.7 million acres of Native lands, using the force of treaties modeled after the Treaty of Greenville, which secured two thirds of the present state of Ohio from compliant chiefs for a total of about $20,000 in US goods and payments.
Harrison pursued Tecumseh into Canada during the War of 1812 and killed him there at the Battle of the Thames, on October 5th, 1813.


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