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Passages from Elkswatawa or The Prophet of the West


           [p. 4-5] …But absolute as his power may seem, it was exercised only through the agency of the band which accompanied him. This generally amounted to several hundred, they were restless spirits, and many of them spoke different languages, and yet, so implicit was the obedience which they paid to Elkswatawa, that even though calm, he could at a moment’s bidding, lash them into fury and set them raging like howling beasts, or when excited, by the wave of his hand, hush them into silence deep as that of the grave.


           But while he was thus occupied in removing all who were hostile to him; his emissaries were at work, preaching his doctrines to distant tribes, and endeavoring to unite them all in one great bond of union. His conduct now became a subject of discussion among the whites, and many believed that his ultimate intentions were hostile, although, as yet, against them, not an unfriendly act had been committed. And there were many who regarded him as the agent of the English, and believed that in exciting the Indians, he was only acting in accordance with orders received from the Canadian posts. The burning of the Delaware chiefs, however, created so much excitement throughout the frontiers that General Harrison, Governor of Indiana Territory, within the borders of which, many of the scenes described had taken place, was induced, through a spirit of humanity, to interfere with a hope of preventing a farther sacrifice of victims through the machinations of the Prophet.


            [p. 9] While this was the state of feeling between the parties, murders were frequently committed on the Indians, and the treaty of Greenville violated, by not handing over the murderers to justice. This was the more galling, because on their part, that stipulation of the treaty had been preserved inviolate. With Elkswatawa and his followers, this disregard of the treaty, was a powerful theme. All the irritating circumstances therewith connected, were collected, and often detailed for the purpose of creating in the breasts of the Indians the most unextinguishable hatred against the whites.


            [p. 12] Notwithstanding these preparations, he was not yet ready to strike the blow he had so long been meditating. The necessity of full preparation had been urged by Tecumseh, who was the soul of all the proceedings, and who was to give the signal and lead them on, the foremost in the fight. Although the ascendency of the Prophet was so great, yet it was chiefly in the tribes around him, that his power was felt. This was but a part of the plan.


            [p. 16] We have now given a sketch of the great plan of union, which was projected by the brothers, and traced the character of Elkswatawa, from his first appearance as a Prophet, to the period at which he was introduced in his temporary camp, on the prairie. His power was then as great as we have painted it...


            [227-228] When Tecumseh and Elkswatawa commenced their operations, no improper motive influenced them. They contended for the possession of a waste and unimproved territory. They fought to establish the principle, that all the lands held by the Indians, belonged to the whole collectively, and not to particular tribes. Believing that the United Stated had grievously wronged them in purchasing large tracts from a single tribe, they thenceforth resolved, that it should be regarded as common property, never to be disposed of without the consent of all. They also united, heart and soul, endeavoring to fix a limit to the growing power of the United States. For they saw the stream of population fast pouring upon their lands, and knew that, unless stayed, it would soon sweep from them the few possessions they still held.


           These, with them, were praiseworthy objects, and by them for a long time, were they solely influenced. But, circumstanced changed in a measure, the current of their thoughts, and thenceforward personal vengeance urged them on in all their operations. At first, their resentment was against the whites, whether as English or Americans, they knew no difference; it was the whites who had wrested from them their lands. But when they saw that hostilities were about to commence between England and America, and reflected upon the growing power of the latter, they began to waver in their original purpose…they changed in a great degree the holy nature of the war they were waging.


           [p. 229] Cowardly, cruel, and treacherous, he possessed but few redeeming virtues. Yet all the incidents which marked his career as a Prophet, prove him to have been a most extraordinary man…That power must have been great, and a great mind alone could have created it, which enabled him to lead as he pleased, the lawless band of Indians who generally accompanied him. (Page 229)



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