Tecumseh: A Life (John Sugden 1997)

As a follow-up to a recent post about Tecumseh, I’ve borrowed Tecumseh: A Life (1997) from the Toronto Public Library.

Given that it came out in 1997, it’s understandable that John Sugden’s book is dated in one aspect of terminology. He uses the term Indians as contrasted to terms, such as First Nations, that are in standard usage today.

That said, it’s a fine book, well worth reading.

Here’s the blurb (I’ve cleaned up the spelling, as there are misspellings in the original onsite blurb) for it at the Toronto Public Library website:

  • If Sitting Bull is the most famous Indian, Tecumseh is the most revered. Although Tecumseh literature exceeds that devoted to any other Native American, this is the first reliable biography – thirty years in the making – of the shadowy figure who created a loose confederacy of diverse Indian tribes that extended from the Ohio territory northeast to New York, south into the Florida peninsula, westward to Nebraska, and north into Canada.A warrior as well as a diplomat, the great Shawnee chief was a man of passionate ambitions. Spurred by commitment and served by a formidable battery of personal qualities that made him the principal organizer and the driving force of confederacy, Tecumseh kept the embers of resistance alive against a federal government that talked cooperation but practiced genocide following the Revolutionary War. Tecumseh does not stand for one tribe or nation, but for all Native Americans. Despite his failed attempt at solidarity, he remains the ultimate symbol of endeavor and courage, unity and fraternity.

Not a pawn of the British; in fact, nobody’s pawn

Sugden remarks (p. 391) that Tecumseh’s “war with the United States had effectively begun before the British joined him, incorporating his war aims into their own. In that sense the Tecumseh so beloved in Canadian history, the patriot, never existed. His loyalty to the British, to Canada, was purely dependent upon their value to his own cause.”

Sugden discusses, succinctly and comprehensively, the wide range of literary and branding usages that the story of Tecumseh has evoked, in some cases based upon historical information and in other cases based upon alternative storylines that lack any form of relationship to the historical evidence.

That in itself, as Kyle Wyatt has noted, is a noteworthy story.

It is, as it were, and as the expression goes, a story onto itself.


An April 15, 2016 Globe and Mail article by Bob Rae is entitled: “Attawapiskat is not alone: Suicide crisis is national problem.”

A Jan. 23, 2017 article at earlycanadianhistory.ca is entitled: “Anishinaabeg in the War of 1812: More than Tecumseh and his Indians.”


0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *