cover image Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation

Tecumseh and the Prophet: The Shawnee Brothers Who Defied a Nation

Peter Cozzens. Knopf, $35 (560p) ISBN 978-1-5247-3325-4

Historian Cozzens (The Earth Is Weeping) delivers an enthralling, deeply researched dual biography of Shawnee leader Tecumseh and his younger brother, Lalawethika. Born in 1768 in modern-day Ohio, Tecumseh honed his warrior skills in a series of violent encounters with white settlers. Following the Northwestern Confederacy’s defeat at the Battle of Fallen Timbers in 1794, the Shawnee lost their homeland, but Tecumseh remained in the region and consolidated his political power as a village chief. Meanwhile, Lalawethika, who lost his right eye in a childhood accident, was a heavy drinker until a series of visions in 1805 inspired him to start a spiritual and cultural revival movement aimed at building a pan-Indian alliance “capable of resisting the onrushing white frontier.” Adopting the new name Tenskwatawa, he and Tecumseh built the Prophetstown settlement as their movement’s headquarters and clashed with territorial governor (and future president) William Henry Harrison. Siding with England in the War of 1812, Tecumseh was killed at the Battle of the Thames. Tenskwatawa, his power eroded and his planned confederation shattered, died in 1835 on a reservation in Kansas. Cozzens’s cinematic narrative is steeped in Native American culture and laced with vivid battle scenes and character sketches. American history buffs will gain a new appreciation for what these resistance leaders accomplished. (Oct.)