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Shawnee Tribe declares October 5 Tecumseh Memorial Day

Monuments at the site of the former Tecumseh Motel in Oldtown, Ohio. The land has been purchased by the state and will be converted to a state park.
Chris Welter
/
WYSO
Monuments at the site of the former Tecumseh Motel in Oldtown, Ohio. The land has been purchased by the state and will be converted to a state park.

Yesterday was the first official celebration of Tecumseh Memorial Day by the Shawnee Tribe. The Shawnee’s homeland includes southwest Ohio. Tecumseh was a Shawnee leader who worked to unite a Pan-Indian federation but who died in battle with the U.S. Army on October 5, 1813.

During his lifetime, Tecumseh became a major leader. He was an advocate for American Indians, and led an armed resistance against United States colonization.

Ben Barnes, the Chief of the Shawnee Tribe, said Tecumseh Memorial Day was a long time coming. He said he hopes it will reassert the shared history and values that connect tribal members.

“Today we take that moment to pause, reflect on the leadership that brought us here and to remember what defines us," he said in a phone interview on Tecumseh Memorial Day. "It is service to our communities, no matter how far that community is, no matter those invisible dashed lines on a map—they don't exist to Shawnee people."

Shawnee tribal employees in Oklahoma had the day off, and they were encouraged to spend the holiday volunteering in their communities, Barnes said.

Some historians say Tecumseh was born and spent some of his life near Xenia in what is now the tiny unincorporated community of Oldtown, the site of the former Shawnee settlement Old Chillicothe.

It was announced this year that the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be purchasing the land to build a park and educational center in Oldtown to honor Tecumseh.

Environmental reporter Chris Welter is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms.