“Tecumseh and his family watched the party disappear in the distance. He ached for the day that he would join them on the trail to war. He could not know, however, that his own path to war would be part of a desperate struggle to save his people. Neither did he know that he would never see his father again” (Poling Sr, 24). The book Shooting star, crouching panther is a biography written by Jim Poling Sr, narrating the highs and lows of Tecumseh, a warrior, a chief, and a leader of a multi-tribal confederacy. Despite his violent, unrewarding background, Tecumseh’s courageous leadership within the fight for equality reveals a large part of Canadian identity, valuing respect and persistence above all else.
Born into the Shawnee tribe, Tecumseh grew up in a difficult situation. The Americans were buying out land, surveying and taking over their territory, battling with the Shawnee’s little population. He grew up without his parents, during a time of harsh war between his people and the Americans. However, this did not stop him. He grew up to be an inspirational leader, considered by most as the last great native leader in Canada.
Tecumseh was a man of many different qualities. He was portrayed as a savage, strong, and barbaric leader to his enemies, until one day in the early 1800s, when a man named Thomas Herrod was killed and scalped near the region where Tecumseh was born. After Herrod’s village confronted his tribe, Tecumseh stated that he would speak to this issue and calm them down, ensuring he was not involved. This scenario was different from one he’d ever been in, having to speak to not tribes, but frightened citizens afraid of people like him. After his speech, he had illustrated a new image of himself for his enemies. He was seen as an “intelligent man of compassion and peace; someone with the bearing and speaking talent to make others listen and understand” (Poling Sr, 61). Tecumseh was able to change their perspectives on him with such ease, gaining respect and admiration from the unlikeliest of peoples. Although Tecumseh was often faced with violent disputes between white men, he continued to advocate against “needless cruelty,” fighting only when necessary.
In July of 1812, American general William Hull was in control of Detroit, 1600 men on his side. On August 13, Isaac Brock, a British officer, arrived at Fort Amherstburg with 300 men in order to aid Tecumseh in taking control of Fort Detroit. An instant bond formed, both respecting one another as great leaders and warriors. Together, they stormed Detroit, only to find a white flag appear over the walls of the fort. The victory restored the whole Michigan territory to British control, and Hull was not only put to court, but put to shame, convincing himself that he had saved his men and the 700 civilians from “the horrors of an Indian massacre.” Despite being greatly outnumbered, Tecumseh along with his allies fought for control of their territory, failing to hesitate during the moments that mattered most. Their bold fighting spirit shaped Canada’s values today, not only fighting for what is rightfully theirs, but never backing down even when outnumbered.
Upon completing Jim Poling Sr’s Shooting star, crouching panther, one comes to realize a few things about what Canadian identity is today. Although Tecumseh’s death marked the end of First Nations resistance to American expansion, his legacy lives on, both as a skilled warrior and intelligent leader. He showed that being Canadian is not only about fighting for what is rightfully yours, but as well as respecting what isn’t. As Tecumseh once said, “Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.”