The last week of September has been celebrated as American Indian Week in Ohio since 2014 when the Ohio General Assembly voted to publicly recognize American Indian communities and their history in our state. An additional acknowledgment of Ohio’s American Indian heritage took place recently in Dayton as well. Since the City of Dayton Bicentennial in 1996, the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame has set out to recognize outstanding individuals and groups for their enduring personal or professional contributions to the community, nation, and the world. On Thursday, September 28, the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame inducted their first American Indian into that group, Shawnee Chief Tecumseh.
Born in 1768 in southern Ohio, Tecumseh grew up during an era when the newly independent United States was expanding into the Ohio Valley homeland of the Shawnee and other indigenous tribes. This expansion was opposed by American Indian tribes in the region including the Shawnee, Miami, Delaware, and many others, who joined forces in the late 1700s to defend their homelands. The signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795 ceded southern Ohio to the United States. After this, Tecumseh was determined to keep what land remained for the Shawnee in Ohio, and if possible to reclaim land that had been ceded.
With this in mind Tecumseh, along with his brother Tenskwatawa (The Shawnee Prophet), reassembled a confederacy of American Indian tribes who fought against previous U.S. expansion and joined forces with the British in the War of 1812 in hopes of accomplishing those goals. Tecumseh’s death at the Battle of the Thames in October of 1813 ended those hopes, but he continues to be remembered as a brilliant military strategist and organizer. Ultimately the U.S. forced the removal of the Shawnee and other tribes from Ohio to “Indian Territory” in what are now the states of Kansas and Oklahoma.
While Tecumseh’s vision of maintaining tribal territory in their Ohio homelands may not have succeeded, his hopes for the survival of the Shawnee did, and many of them were in Dayton to celebrate his rightful induction into the Dayton Region’s Walk of Fame.
Andrew Sawyer is an anthropologist and archaeologist. He is the Site Director of SunWatch Indian Village/Archaeological Park in Dayton, Ohio.