Letter from William Henry Harrison,
Governor, Indianna Territory April 1806
(Govenor Harrison, after learning of the witchcraft executions commanded by Tenskwatawa, had this letter delivered to the Shawnee. Harrison was determined to thwart The Prophet in what seemed to him to be that individual's effort to use tribal superstitions to stampeded the Indians into warfare.)
"My children, my heart is filled with grief and my eyes are dissolved in tears at the news which has reached me. You have been celebrated for your wisdom above all tribes of red people who inhabit this great island. Your fame as warriors has extended to the remotest nations, and the wisdom of your chiefs has gained you the appellation of grandfathers from all the neighboring tribes. From what cause, then, does it proceed that you have departed from the wise councils of your fathers and covered yourselves with guilt? My children, tread back the steps you have taken and endeavor to regain the straight road you have abandoned. The dark, crooked and thorny one which you are now pursuing will certainly lead you to endless woe and misery. But who is this pretended prophet who dares speak in the name of the great Creator? Examine him. Is he more wise and virtuous than you are yourselves, that he should be selected to convey to you the orders of your God? Demand of him some proofs at least of his being the messenger of the Diety.
If God had really empowered him, He has doubtless authorized him to perform miracles that he may be known and recieved as a prophet. If he is really a prophet, ask him to cause the sun to stand still or the moon to alter its course, the rivers to cease to flow, or the dead to rise from their graves. If he does these things, you may believe he has been sent by God.
He tells you that the Great Spirit commands you to punish with death those who deal in magic, and that he is authorized to point them out. Wretched delusion! Is then the Master of Life obliged to appoint mortal man to punish those who offend him? Has He not the thunder and the power of nature at His command? And could He not sweep away from the earth a whole nation with one motion of His arm? My children, do not believe that the great and good Creator of Mankind has directed you to destroy your own flesh; and do not doubt that if you pursue this abonminable wickedness His vengence will overtake and crush you.
The above is addressed to you in the name of the Seventeen Fires. I now speak to you from myself, as a friend who wishes nothing more sincerely than to see you prosperous and happy. Clear your eyes, I beseech you, from the mist which surrounds them. No longer be imposed on by the arts of an imposter. Drive him from your town, and let peace and harmony prevail amongst you. Let your poor old men and women sleep in quietness, and banish from their minds the dreadful idea of being burnt alive by their own friends and countrymen. I charge you to stop your bloody career; and if you value the friendship of your Great Father, the President -- if you wish to preserve the good opinion of the Seventeen Fires -- let me hear by the return of the bearer that you have determined to follow my advice."
Your Friend and adviser,
William Henry Harrison, Governor
Spemica Lawba and Peketelemund had deliver this letter to Tecumseh, who in turn had read it to the villagers at Buckangehela's Town. After the reading, Tecumseh folded the letter and handed it to Buckangehela. Tenskwatawa stood and said, "Let the messangers rest and eat. I will retire to my place and meditate on this and see what direction, if any, I shall recieve from the Great Spirit on this matter."
Tecumseh accompanied him. Within the hour, the two brothers emerged, Tenskwatawa odering all the villagers to be assembled at once. "The white beaver, Harrison," he said, " said that you should ask me, if I am really a prophet, to cause the sun to stand still and that if I can do this, then you can believe that I have been sent from God. Those are his words, not mine! Therefore, listen now to what I have to say: Fifty days from this day, there will be no cloud in the sky. Yet, when the sun has reached its highest point, at that moment will the Great Spirit take it into Her hand and hide it from us. The darkness of night will thereupon cover us and the stars will shine round us. The darkness of night will thereupon cover us and the stars will shine round about us. The birds will go to roost and the night creatures will awaken and stir. Then you will know, beyond further doubt, as the white chief Harrison has said, that your prophet has been sent to you from Maneto."
June 17, 1806...at precisely noon there was an eclipse of the sun.
A great deal has been written about this, the first truly significant, fully substantiated prediction by Tecumseh, via Tenskwatawa. Considerable effort has been made to say that Tecumseh had access to many whites and could have come into possession of an almanac giving the date and time of the next eclipse of the sun. Some sources say that this prediction was made possible from information obtained from the Shakers, but this claim is unsubstantiated and the Shakers were not known to have visited Tecumseh until he sent for them almost a year later. What is sloughed off is the fact that not only did the brothers not know that Harrison would levy such a challenge, neither could they have known that it would reach them while they were at Buckangehela's Town on the White River and not at their own quarters at Greenville where, if Tecumseh did have access to an almanac, the book would no doubt be. Then again Tecumseh, prior to this time may have memorized when the next eclipse would be...but this seems to be grasping at straws. Whether or not Tecumseh had prior knowledge of the eclipse cannot be known now. There is as good a case for it as against it.
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