Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
When Europeans first set foot on American soil, the Indian inhabitants of the New World welcomed them. It was as individual nations that these Indian people greeted the newcomers. Relationships that developed between the Indians and the Europeans were doomed from the start, for various reasons, which included Europeans viewing the separate Indian nations as a whole. But, Indians did not see themselves as a cohesive group. These competing views of Indian society caused conflicts between Whites and Indians. As time passed, the colonial powers considered Indians as being part of one "race" for political expediency. For the Indians, the colonists' racial view placed undue pressure and detrimental stresses on their culture, including the loss of lands and conflict between distinct life ways. When those pressures became too great, Indian people chose to reevaluate their method for dealing with the Whites. During this reevaluation, a new resistance strategy, often using traditional beliefs, developed. In the cases of Pontiac and Tecumseh, the new strategy they adopted was pan-Indianism. Ironically, this unification of separate tribes was similar to the way in which Europeans initially viewed the Indians. Pan-Indianism was not new when Pontiac, in 1763, or Tecumseh, in 1805, developed their confederacies. However, there were limited examples of the phenomenon in the then short history of Indian-White relations. 80th Pontiac's and Tecumseh's movements were part of a larger Indian struggle for independence from European ways of life, which were being thrust upon Indian people. Pan-Indianism stressed cultural similarities and united diverse groups of Indian people. The pan-Indian response was a survival strategy. Through pan-Indianism both Pontiac and Tecumseh sought to hold on to the common traditional ways of the Indian people involved in their movements. Pontiac united the people in the area of Fort Detroit immediately following the Seven Years War. The result of Pontiac's action at Fort Detroit was a general Indian uprising across the frontier, which sought to restore French hegemony in the area. Tecumseh was able to unite more people than Pontiac. In an effort to establish a permanent Indian/White boundary, Tecumseh chose to ally his confederacy with the British against the Americans in the War of 1812. Though both leaders failed in their military attempts to stop White expansion, both successfully united, no matter how temporarily, people who traditionally thought of themselves in tribal terms. Though neither leader was able to stop the advance of the Whites, both were in the vanguard of pan-Indian survival strategies that gave the Indian tribes involved a sense of hope. The pan-Indian ways, at least for a short while, proved reliable and allowed the Indian people involved a short period of independence.
Copyright 2000 Todd Leahy
Leahy, Todd, "Pontiac and Tecumseh : An Evaluation of Early Pan-Indian Confederacies" (2000). Master's Theses. 2787.