30 September 2013
By Ellwood Shreve, Chatham Daily News
WALPOLE ISLAND – Area First Nation communities will be exemplifying the vision of Tecumseh by coming together to honour the great Shawnee warrior chief.
Rekindle Tecumseh’s Vision, a week-long world unity gathering, kicked-off locally on Sunday with a parade on Walpole Island First Nation to honour veterans and fallen soldiers. This is among the many events leading up to the bicentennial of the War of 1812. Tecumseh’s death on Oct. 5, 2013, during the Battle of the Thames near Morviantown is a focal point of local War of 1812 bicentennial activities.
James Jenkins, research advisor at the Walpole Island Heritage Centre, said Tecumseh was an influential leader because of his skill as a politician and orator.
“What’s interesting about that time is the relationship we had as First Nations with the British government, with the Crown, with British settlers,” he said.
Jenkins noted the way Tecumseh interacted with the British “it could be a model for today . . . of what that relationship could look like.”
During the War of 1812, there was growing pressure from American settlements, so some First Nations were seeing their lands taken away and they were being pushed to other areas.
Jenkins said some individual First Nations groups were making treaties to surrender small pieces of land to the U.S. government, which Tecumseh opposed.
He said the chief’s message to other First Nations was: “If we don’t come together as a confederacy or as a united group of Native peoples than we’ll lose all our land.”
Jenkins said the Americans really feared the threat of a united group of First Nations.
“They really saw the defeat of Tecumseh . . . as the end to that threat,” he added.
Walpole Island Chief Burton Kewayosh said Tecumseh stands among the great First Nation chiefs including Big Bear and Pontiac, who were “all significant leaders and statesmen who tried to bring the peoples together for a positive end – peace, really, across the land, and justice.”
He doesn’t believe all the contributions by Tecumseh are fully understood by the general public.
Rekindle events will also be held this week at Delaware First Nation in Moraviantown as well as at Chippewa of the Thames First Nation, Munsee-Delaware First Nation and Oneida Nation of the Thames.
“It’s a fantastic time,” Kewayosh said, adding, “you can feel the exuberance and the camaraderie and just a closeness the community has when we come together in this kind of way.”
Delaware First Nation Chief Greg Peters, who attended Sunday’s event on Walpole Island, said Tecumseh was all about unity.
He noted being a chief at this time in history is “really humbling and it’s a great honour . . . to be celebrating (Tecumseh’s) life and vision of unity and how his spirit carries on in our young people.”
Peters pointed to local media stories on successful young First Nation people.
He said what’s important about Tecumseh is how he lived his life and conducted himself, and how he never picked up any of the vices of western society and clung to his beliefs.
“It’s a good opportunity for non-First Nations people to come out and learn somethings about Tecumseh and his family, as well as the other chiefs who participated,” Peters said.
Details about the various free events being held at area First Nations can be found online at www.sfns.on.ca