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1 The Collision Of Cultures
2 Britain And Its Colonies
3 Colonial Ways Of Life
4 The Imperial Perspective
5 From Empire To Independence
6 The American Revolution
7 Shaping A Federal Union
8 The Federalist Era
9 The Early Republic
10 Nationalism And Sectionalism
11 The Jacksonian Impulse
12 The Dynamics Of Growth
13 An American Renaissance: Religion, Romanticism, And Reform
14 Manifest Destiny
15 The Old South
16 The Crisis Of Union
17 The War Of The Union
18 Reconstruction: North And South
19 New Frontiers: South And West
20 Big Business And Organized Labor
21 The Emergence Of Urban America
22 Gilded-age Politics And Agrarian Revolt
23 An American Empire
24 The Progressive Era
25 America And The Great War
26 The Modern Temper
27 Republican Resurgence And Decline
28 New Deal America
29 From Isolation To Global War
30 The Second World War
31 The Fair Deal And Containment
32 Through The Picture Window: Society And Culture, 19451960
33 Conflict And Deadlock: The Eisenhower Years
34 New Frontiers: Politics And Social Change In The 1960s
35 Rebellion And Reaction In The 1960s And 1970s
36 A Conservative Insurgency
37 Triumph And Tragedy: America At The Turn Of The Century

from The Indian Prophet and His Doctrine (1812)

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Native Americans were not only angered about the loss of their territories, they were concerned that continued contact and conflict with the Euro-Americans was undermining their autonomy and cultures. Particularly worrisome was the illegal trade in alcohol: as frustrated tribesmen tried to drown their sorrows, they created more problems for their people. This situation created chaos in many villages, especially those of the Shawnee. Although many Shawnees blamed outside sources for their troubles, others believed that in neglecting their own traditions they had brought these evils upon themselves. During these difficult times, a pair of Native American brothers, Lalawethika and Tecumseh, each with a different world vision, assumed leadership roles within the tribe, and ultimately came to influence other tribes as well. Lalawethika, an alcoholic who had been unsuccessful much of his life, renounced his former ways upon experiencing visions in 1805, renamed himself Tenskwatawa (meaning "The Open Door": he came to be called the Prophet), and set out to reclaim his people from evil and revitalize their culture. Over the next few years the people of many tribes participated in this religious and cultural revival. The Ottawa warrior Le Maigouis, for example, as revealed in the document below, passed on the Prophet's message to his people as he traveled among their villages in Michigan. Although the Prophet said he wanted to maintain peace, some of his followers started to attack white settlers. As relations deteriorated, William Henry Harrison completed the negotiations for the Treaty of Fort Wayne, which led to a rupture of relations. Riding the wave of hostility, Tecumseh began to exert more influence than his brother as he called for political and military solutions to the Indians' problems.

[As this man has been for some years making a figure among the Savages to the Westward, and seems to be attempting something like becoming another MAHOMET, it may not be uninteresting to our readers, to peruse the following substance of a GREAT TALK, which he circulated among the different tribes of Western Indians, when he first gave himself out for a Prophet; or, ADAM come again on the earth. It gives a strong clue to his character, his policy and his views. It shews, that his object is to unite the different tribes, and to render the savages more truly savage and Independent, by prohibiting commerce and by establishing a perfect system of Non-Intercourse with the Whites; in short, by enabling the Aborigines to depend more on their own internal resources, and to restore the savage character to its native vigour and perfection. This Talk was communicated, a few days after its delivery, to the Editor of the Washingtonian, while at Fort Michilimakinak, by a trader of unquestionable veracity, who had intermarried with them, and had long resided in the Indian Country. It was procured from his Squaw and several intelligent Indians present, who confided it to him, as an adopted member of their family.—EDITOR.]

Substance of a TALK, held at Le Maionitinong, entrance of Lake Michigan, by the Indian Chief, LEMAIGOUIS, May 4, 1807, . . . addressed to the different tribes of Indians.

*   *   *

"My Children!

*   *   *

The Great Spirit bids me say to you thus. My Children! Have very little to do [with the Americans]. They proceeded from the froth of the Great Lake, [the sea] when it was troubled, and were driven on shore by a strong east wind.—They are very numerous. But I HATE THEM—BECAUSE THEY TAKE AWAY YOUR LANDS, which were not made for them—the Whites I placed on the other side of the Great Water, to be another people, separate from you. To them I gave different manners, customs, animals, and vegetables. You may salute them; but must not shake hands.

My Children! You must not get drunk. It displeases the Great Spirit. And on no account drink WHISKEY. It was made by the Big Knives, without my permission. It makes you sick, and burns your insides; It destroys you. . . .

*   *   *

My Children! To you I have given Deer, Bears, and all wild animals; wild fowls and fish, corn and squashes; for yourselves only, and not for white men. To them I have given Oxen, Cows, Sheep, and all other domestic animals, for themselves only; therefore, you are not to keep any of their animals, nor any living thing made for them. You are not to plant more corn, than you want for your own use; you must not sell it to them unless they are starving, and then only by measure, lest they cheat you. When you plant, you must help each other, and then the Great Spirit will give you good crops.

My Children! I made all the trees of the woods. The maple tree I made, that you might have sugar for your children. I love the maple tree, which you spoil and give pain to (for it has feeling like yourselves) by cutting it too much, to make sugar for the Whites. They have another sugar, which I made for them. If you make more sugar than you want for yourselves, you shall die, and the maple tree shall yield no more water. If a white man needs a little sugar, you may sell him very little; but always by weight.—But even this I dislike, because it burns your kettles, which you must not destroy.

My Children! You must pay the Whites only half their credits; because they cheat you. You may sell them only peltries, canoes, gums, &c. but no wild meat. . . . You may give them a little dried meat, without any bone; because they burn the bones, so that the animals cannot come again on the earth. This is the reason why they are so few and so lean. You complain that the animals are few on the earth. How can it be otherwise, when you destroy them yourselves. You take only their skin, and leave their bodies to rot. When I pass by and see them thus, I take them back that they come no more to you again.

My Children! You must not dress like the Whites; but pluck out your hair, as in former times; and wear the feather of the eagle on your head. And when it is not too cold you must go naked, (excepting your breech-cloth) with your bodies painted, &c. When I see you thus, I am well pleased.


[Here the Prophet goes on to prescribe rules to be observed in courtship and matrimony. He forbids their women to live with a white man, unless they are lawfully married. "But" adds he "this I dislike. Let the whites marry only whites, and the Indians marry Indians. Because I made you to be two distinct people." When they marry, they must be of mature years, and of nearly equal ages.]

*   *   *

"My Children! When you dance you are not to dance the Ouabanna, nor the Poigan or pipe dance [social dances.] I did not place you on the earth to dance these dances. When you dance you are to be naked, and painted, with your feather on your head, and dance among yourselves, holding the Poigamaugan, [war club] or some other club, in your hands; and then I shall look on with pleasure.

My Children! You are to make for yourselves PAKATOUANACS (or Crosses,) which you are always to carry with you; as it pleases me to see you play at that game. Your women must have handsome Pasaquanacs, that they may play also; for I made you to amuse yourselves. You are not to beat your wives. If you strike them with your fist, or kick them, the part which touches them will be wanting to you when you are gone from this life. If you punish them, use a small switch, and have pity.

[He directs them to keep but one dog each, because by keeping too many they starve them. At their feasts and councils they must not use fire procured from flint and steel; but as they formerly did—(probably by friction.) And they are strictly forbidden to fight and kill each other; but enjoined to cultivate friendship and union among their several tribes, and, on no occasion, to smoke pure tobacco.]

*   *   *

Now My Children, I charge you not to speak of this talk to the whites; and every Indian village must send me two deputies, to be instructed, lest they be cut off from the face of the earth. The world is not as it was at first, but it is broken, and leans down; and those that are on the slope, from the Chippewas, and further, will all die, if the earth should fall; therefore, if they would live, let them send to me two persons from each village, that they may be instructed, so as to prevent it."


The prophet says the Great Spirit opened to him a door, and shewed him all wild animals, very large and fat—and said "Look!—these are the animals I made, when I created you."—He then opened another door, and shewed me all wild animals very small and lean. "Look! said he again—These are the animals you now have on earth."

Men with hats.—The French were the first Whites seen by the Western Indians, and were called by them the men with hats. They are, in general, more partial to the French than to any other nation. It is a remark, I have heard more than once by traders, that these western savages " love the French, respect the English, and hate the Americans." But they certainly fear us more than both the others; and this alone has kept them quiet so long.

*   *   *

PAKATOUANACS, Heavy batts—for playing a kind of wicket ball, an athletic game common among the Savages, and well calculated to give them strength and agility.

PASSAQUANACS—These also are Ball-Sticks for the use of their women; two balls are tied together by a thong about six inches in length, and by these sticks they are thrown at a certain goal; and sometimes at each other, when they are used for defence and to catch the balls. This game has the same object as the other; to render them more hardy, active and athletic.

On receiving the above Talk, it was communicated to his Excellency Governor HULL, with a letter, of which the following is an extract.—It may serve to shew what views were then entertained of this impostor, and his designs.


"Extract of a letter from the Commanding Officer, at Fort Michilimakinak, to his Excellency Gov. Hull, dated May 20, 1807."

I have thought it my duty to state to your excellency, that there appears to be an extensive movement among the SAVAGES of this quarter, which seems to carry with it much of the dark and mysterious. Belts of wampum are rapidly circulating, from one tribe to another; and a spirit is prevailing, by no means pacific. What I have been able to learn, through sources to be relied on, leaves little room for conjecture, as to the object of their hostile dispositions; and the enclosed Talk, which has been industriously circulated, and which seems to have had considerable effect on their minds, needs no comment.

It ought to be observed, that this Talk is freely communicated in open council, where old and young, of both sexes, are allowed to assemble. There is, however, another Talk, known only in the private counsel of the chiefs and warriors. From the letter and spirit of the former, we may infer the complexion and views of the latter. There is certainly mischief at the bottom:— And there can be no doubt in my mind, but that the object and intention of this MANITOU, or second ADAM, under the pretense of restoring to the Aborigines their former independence, and to the savage character its ancient energy, is, in reality, to induce a general effort to rally—and sooner or later to strike, somewhere, a desperate blow. I cannot say, that I apprehend an immediate attack. Perhaps my character as a soldier, might be called in question, were I to admit the possibility of a thing, which to me would deem so improbable; but, aware, as I am, of the insidiousness and treachery of these people, I have thought it no more than prudence to watch their motions—and to be in constant readiness to receive them, either with the olive-branch, or the bayonet, as circumstances might require.

Many fabulous and foolish stories are circulated, to impress the idea of their GREAT PROGENITOR'S Divinity and Mission:—But whether he is, really, the Envoy of Heaven, or only an EMISSARY from the Cabinet of ST. CLOUD—I would not presume to decide.

He is represented, as being seen only on an elevated scaffold, sitting or kneeling on a cross, and in a constant attitude of devotion. It is even said he can fly—and that the multitude of his disciples, who visit him, are miraculously fed by a profusion of wild animals, which are thronging about him for that purpose.—All this is eagerly swallowed—and the severe denunciations of his penal code terrify them at once into an adoption of his Creed. This new system is so artfully interwoven with their ancient superstitions and their modern prejudices, that they receive the whole with a religious enthusiasm.

The Herald, or Preacher, of this new religion here (LEMAIGOUIS) is brother to the principal chief in this quarter. He has gone to Lake Superior to initiate the savages there into its mysteries, and is expected to return to L'Arbre Croche immediately, when, it is said, he is to be met by all the War Chiefs, to whom he is to communicate something further. . . .

I have not a doubt but securing him, and immediately calling together the C HIEFS, in order to open their eyes to the real views of this impostor, will be the means of preventing at least the Chippewas and Attawas of this part of the country from entering into the combination, that is either formed or forming, as I believe, against our people and government."

[From "The Indian Prophet and His Doctrine," The Pennsylvania Gazette, 11 March 1812. [Editorial insertion that appear in square brackets are from the original printing—Ed.]]

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