Speech to the Osages (Winter 1811-12)
of the great figures of early Native resistance to colonization was
Tecumseh, a Shawnee leader, who earned a reputation for his skills in
fighting white settlers and militias in the Midwest. He and his
brother worked toward the unification of Indians to struggle
collectively against the encroachment on their lands by colonists, as
they expanded westward. Here he speaks to the Osages about the
struggle against the colonists, arguing that "nothing will
satisfy them but the whole of our hunting grounds, from the rising to
the setting sun."
—Introduction from Zinn and Arnove's Voices of a People's History of the United States
all belong to one family; we are all children of the Great Spirit; we
walk in the same path; slake our thirst at the same spring; and now
affairs of the greatest concern lead us to smoke the pipe around the
same council fire!
are friends; we must assist each other to bear our burdens. The blood
of many of our fathers and brothers has run like water on the ground,
to satisfy the avarice of the white men. We, ourselves, are
threatened with a great evil; nothing will pacify them but the
destruction of all the red men.
the white men first set foot on our grounds, they were hungry; they
had no place on which to spread their blankets, or to kindle their
fires. They were feeble; they could do nothing for themselves. Our
father commiserated their distress, and shared freely with them
whatever the Great Spirit had given his red children. They gave them
food when hungry, medicine when sick, spread skins for them to sleep
on, and gave them grounds, that they might hunt and raise corn.
white people are like poisonous serpents: when chilled, they are
feeble and harmless; but invigorate them with warmth, and they sting
their benefactors to death.
white people came among us feeble; and now we have made them strong,
they wish to kill us, or drive us back, as they would wolves and
white men are not friends to the Indians: at first, they only asked
for land sufficient for a wigwam; now, nothing will satisfy them but
the whole of our hunting grounds, from the rising to the setting sun.
white men want more than our hunting grounds; they wish to kill our
warriors; they would even kill our old men, women and little ones.
winters ago, there was no land; the sun did not rise and set: all was
darkness. The Great Spirit made all things. He gave the white people
a home beyond the great waters. He supplied these grounds with game,
and gave them to his red children; and he gave them strength and
courage to defend them.
people wish for peace; the red men all wish for peace; but where the
white people are, there is no peace for them, except it be on the
bosom of our mother.
white men despise and cheat the Indians; they abuse and insult them;
they do not think the red men sufficiently good to live.
red men have borne many and great injuries; they ought to suffer them
no longer. My people will not; they are determined on vengeance; they
have taken up the tomahawk; they will make it fat with blood; they
will drink the blood of the white people.
people are brave and numerous; but the white people are too strong
for them alone. I wish you to take up the tomahawk with them. If we
all unite, we will cause the rivers to stain the great waters with
you do not unite with us, they will first destroy us, and then you
will fall an easy prey to them. They have destroyed many nations of
red men because they were not united, because they were not friends
to each other.
white people send runners amongst us; they wish to make us
enemies that they may sweep over and desolate our hunting grounds,
like devastating winds, or rushing waters.
Great Father, over the great waters, is angry with the white
people, our enemies. He will send his brave warriors against them; he
will send us rifles, and whatever else we want—he is our
friend, and we are his children.
are the white people that we should fear them? They cannot run fast,
and are good marks to shoot at: they are only men; our fathers have
killed many of them; we are not squaws, and we will stain the earth
red with blood.
Great Spirit is angry with our enemies; he speaks in thunder, and the
earth swallows up villages, and drinks up the Mississippi. The great
waters will cover their lowlands; their corn cannot grow, and
the Great Spirit will sweep those who escape to the hills from the
earth with his terrible breach.
must be united; we must smoke the same pipe; we must fight each
other's battles; and more than all, we must love the Great Spirits he
is for us; he will destroy our enemies, and make all his red children
Back To History Is A Weapon's Front Page