Tolerance and Tecumseh

This morning I found myself reading through an old copy of the Shawnee Tribal Gazette, circa 1798. Despite our many complaints about modernity, it’s comforting to see how much moral progress has been made since that time. For instance, our enlightened society is able to view vice and virtue objectively, rather than as an expedient to entrenched narratives.

That objectivity allows us to judge behavior through a consistent lens and eliminates the need to ask who/whom before rendering a scripted judgement. Because if actions are only good or bad based on the parties doing them, then we wouldn’t be talking about law, morality, or principles at all. We’d be talking about tactics of cultural warfare. And why would one side docilely accept the tactics of its enemy?

Anyway, let me return to the Shawnee Gazette. According to that paper’s 18th century reporting, a tribesman and warrior named Tecumseh found himself particularly aggrieved one afternoon and put arrows in two immigrants that he viewed as having encroached on “Shawnee Lands.” The fact that this paper blithely cited a land as belonging explicitly to any given group only emphasizes how widespread and accepted xenophobia was in tribal society. It’s really quite grating. For God’s sake, “Shawnee lands?” What’s a “Shawnee?” It’s almost amusing to realize these people didn’t even understand that “Indians” were a social construct. And white pioneers were just looking to make a better life for themselves.

Though in regard to the murdered immigrants, Tecumseh was quickly apprehended after virtuous Indian witnesses notified the tribal constabulary of his whereabouts. He was subsequently put on trial by a tribunal of other Indian warriors who issued lavish apologies to the next approaching wave of white settlers, and pledged a zealous crackdown on hate within their ranks.

Speaking of which, after being sentenced to life in a custodial wigwam by local chieftains, the broader tribal confederacy added punitive enhancements to his sentence for feeling hate against the white man. Proof of this prohibited emotional state was provided by more helpful Indian witnesses who claimed to have heard Tecumseh yell “Get out of my fathers’ lands, you pale-faced invaders!” just prior to perforating the victims from astride his mustang. Obviously such bigotry was viewed even then as entirely counter to Shawnee Values. Thus necessitating remorseless sentencing against this Red Supremacist.

But it wasn’t just an isolated event that worried Indian merchants. How would such bigoted resistance effect the wampum trade, and how many profitable white consumers might be lost as a result? Implicitly pondering these critical issues, the Gazette reporter mused worryingly if Tecumseh’s action would yield a suppressive effect on white immigration into Shawnee territory. He further implored his tribal readers to consider additional means by which they could enforce tolerance for People of Non-Color.

Obviously with this sordid history of hate it should be no surprise that American Indians are held in such contempt by society today. The fact that they conspicuously resisted our standards of tolerance explains why they are mocked and demonized in the modern media and entertainment edifices. That’s just the objective standard. And enlightened men hold everyone to it. Perhaps some slightly more than others.


5 thoughts on “Tolerance and Tecumseh

  1. Pingback: Tolerance and Tecumseh | Reaction Times

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