I just finished reading The Frontiersmen by Allan Eckert, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I didn’t realize how little I knew about this period of American history, until I read this book. Eckert’s book is not historical fiction, it’s an actual history covering the settlement of the areas around Kentucky and Ohio. It centers mostly on Simon Kenton, Blue Jacket, and Tecumseh and spans the years 1755-1836, though most of the narrative ends in 1813 with the conclusion of the War of 1812.
One of the things that stood out to me as I read this book is the amount of prophecy attributed to Tecumseh. After the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the Indians signed a treaty with the Americans. Tecumseh, however, was not happy with the treaty. For over a decade afterward, he worked on recruiting Indians to his cause — not just the local tribes, but tribes from all over the country. He wanted to assemble a force so large that it would be able to drive the Americans all the way back to the East Coast. This effort eventually culminated in the War of 1812. And if it hadn’t been for a setback at the hand of Tenskwatawa (Tecumseh’s brother), it’s very possible that Tecumseh’s design against the Americans would have worked.
In order to convince the other Indians that they should join in his cause, Tecumseh often resorted to prophecies. It is said that he prophesied the Solar Eclipse of 1806, which convinced a number of tribes to join him. It’s also said that he prophesied the comet of 1811, and that he even prophesied his own death. But the greatest prophecy attributed to him was his prophecy of the New Madrid earthquakes that occurred in December of 1811 through February of 1812. In several of his speeches in 1811, Tecumseh said that the earth would shake, and this would be the sign for the Indians to come together in Detroit so they could drive the Americans from their lands. When Tecumseh spoke to a gathering of Indians in the village of Tuckabatchee (in what is now Alabama), their chief, Big Warrior, was not convinced to join Tecumseh’s cause. Angry, Tecumseh said the following:
Your blood is white! You have taken my talk and the sticks and the wampum and the hatchet, but you do not mean to fight. I know the reason. You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me. You shall know. I leave Tuckabatchee directly and shall go… to Detroit. When I arrive there, I will stamp on the ground with my foot and shake down every house in Tuckabatchee!
— Eckert, page 528
A few months later, that’s exactly what happened. When the New Madrid earthquakes hit, every house in Tuckabatchee fell. This event helped sway many of the chiefs who had opposed Tecumseh to this point. If you’d like to read more about Tecumseh and these events, I’d also recommend this short pdf by David Fletcher. It includes some other valuable sources.
So if you’re a Christian, I’d like to ask what you think about this information. Did Tecumseh really prophesy these events? I know that some liberal Christians might be comfortable with the idea that God could have used him as a prophet even though he wasn’t a Christian. Of course, I know many other Christians who would disagree with that. But if they choose to dismiss these stories about Tecumseh and just file them away as coincidence, that still leaves some questions.
It’s easy to see the similarities between these stories about Tecumseh and the stories about Jesus. Tecumseh’s followers gave us the first hand accounts of these prophecies, and the fact that many Indians from various tribes united behind him is added evidence in his favor. Otherwise, why would they have followed him? Of course, none of these prophecies were written down at the time they were spoken, because few Indians were literate. Jesus’ followers believed he did many amazing things as well, and many people eventually followed him. But again, none of those events were recorded until decades later.
In other words, we have as much reason to believe Tecumseh was an actual prophet as we do to think Jesus was really the son of God. If you believe one of these claims, but not the other, why?