American Portraits

To Have a Voice: Tecumseh’s Purpose

In this lesson, students will study the life and work of Tecumseh and his attempt to form a strong Native American Confederacy. They will explore how purpose played a role in Tecumseh’s life and how they can direct their lives to help advance freedom for themselves and others.

Founding Principles

Individual Responsibility image

Individual Responsibility

Individuals must take care of themselves and their families and be vigilant to preserve their liberty.

Narrative

Tecumseh was born in 1768 in the Ohio territory, near the present-day city of Dayton. He was a part of the Shawnee tribe, which lived from the Ohio River valley up to Lake Erie. Many of the Shawnee had been displaced as a result of the Beaver Wars in the mid-seventeenth century, a conflict which disintegrated multiple centralized native confederacies. Thus, Native Americans had a difficult time coordinating with other tribes on how to defend against Europeans….

Narrative PDF

Compelling Question

How can Tecumseh’s drive toward his purpose inspire us to pursue the purpose in our own lives?

Virtue Defined

Purpose is my answer to the question “why do I exist?” It is the reason for which I exist; it is my goal, that thing to which my actions are directed. It is our answer to the question “what are you for?”

Lesson Overview

In this lesson, students will study the life and work of Tecumseh and his attempt to form a strong Native American Confederacy. They will explore how purpose played a role in Tecumseh’s life and how they can direct their lives to help advance freedom for themselves and others.

Objectives

  • Students will analyze Tecumseh’s performance in uniting the native tribes
  • Students will understand how they can pursue their purpose in their own lives
  • Students will apply this knowledge to discover their own purpose

Background

Tensions between the native peoples of North America and settlers existed from the moment the first Europeans set foot in the “New World.” As the population in North America grew, the strain inevitably expanded, putting more and more pressure on tribes in the interior of the continent. Trading with European settlers allowed Native Americans to obtain goods previously unknown to them, causing further tensions. Many Native Americans despised the materials that Europeans brought, such as alcohol, because they threatened the traditional way of life. This fear, as well as the continual encroachment by white settlers, inevitably led to violence. One Native American who resisted westward expansion was a Shawnee leader named Tecumseh.

Vocabulary

  • Treaties
  • Disintegrate
  • Confederacy
  • Tumultuous
  • Proclamation
  • Incursion
  • Revival
  • Encroaching
  • Rescind

Introduce Text

Have students read the background and narrative, keeping the Compelling Question in mind as they read. Then have them answer the remaining questions below.

For more robust lesson treatment, check out our partners at the Character Formation Project

Visit Their Website

Questions

Walk-In-The-Shoes Questions
As you read, imagine you are the protagonist.

  • What challenges are you facing?
  • What fears or concerns might you have?
  • What may prevent you from acting in the way you ought?

Observation Questions

  • Who was Tecumseh?
  • What did he attempt to do on the frontier?
  • What do Tecumseh’s actions say about his identity?

Discussion Questions
Discuss the following questions with your students.

  • What is the historical context of the narrative?
  • What historical circumstances presented a challenge to the protagonist?
  • How and why did the individual exhibit a moral and/or civic virtue in facing and overcoming the challenge?
  • How did the exercise of the virtue benefit civil society?
  • How might exercise of the virtue benefit the protagonist?
  • What might the exercise of the virtue cost the protagonist?
  • Would you react the same under similar circumstances? Why or why not?
  • How can you act similarly in your own life? What obstacles must you overcome in order to do so?

Additional Resources

  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh: A Life. New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1999,
  • Sugden, John. Tecumseh’s Last Stand. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1985.
  • Vanderwerth, W C. Civilization of the American Indian Series. Vol. 110, Indian Oratory: a Collection of Famous Speeches by Noted Indian Chieftains. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.

Give Feedback

Send us your comments or questions using the form below.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Close