Tecumseh and the New Madrid Earthquake
PANTHER-ACROSS-THE-SKY Tecumseh and the New Madrid Earthquake written 11pm 11/8/91 by David Yarrow
“The story you are about to be told is true….” Indeed, the three responses to this topic are excerpts taken from “The Frontiersmen,” an authentic historical novel describing how the white man took the Ohio Valley and Kentucky from the Indians. The events they describe are also recorded in several other authentic historical novels, one of which is the biography of Tecumseh entitled “Panther-Across-the-Sky,” which, unfortunately, I’ve not had the opportunity to read yet.When I studied Earth Science, I learned about the New Madrid earthquake — the most violent and destructive tremor ever to strike North America in recorded history. Centered in New Madrid, Illinois, where the Ohio and Missouri rivers meet the Mississippi, this massive quake severely shook the entire eastern half of the continent. Chimneys fell all the way up in Maine from this one. And it wasn’t merely a single quake, but a series of them spanning a period of four months.
The New Madrid quake is especially intriguing not only because of its unparalleled power, but also because it occurred in an area which is normally devoid of tectonic activity, including earthquakes. The implication is that this monster quake originated far deeper in the North American crust than is usual for an earthquake.
When I studied American History, I learned about William Henry Harrison, a U.S. military leader on the western frontier who had to confront the great Indian leader Tecumseh, who tried in a prolonged process of diplomacy to unite the Indian tribes into a grand confederacy. Although Harrison never actually fought Tecumseh, he later went on to be elected President of the United States, largely on the strength of his reputation as a frontier Indian fighter — a warrior image that continues to hold great charisma in the American psyche. Tecumseh, too, was portrayed in my history lessons as a great and powerful warrior, whereas he was in truth a diplomat, a peacemaker and, most intriguing of all, a prophet.
However, what I was never was taught by either Earth Science of American History is that Tecumseh didn’t merely predicted the New Madrid earthquake. In truth, Tecumseh didn’t merely “predict” this tectonic event, he actually “prophesied” this greatest earthquake ever to hit the continent. Tecumseh’s prophecy was given many months in advance of the quake, and was accurate down to the very day it occurred. One of the odd enigmas of truth hidden under the veneer of American History is that this quake was actually his signal to the Indians of North America to unite in an army and drive the invading, land stealing whites off the continent.
This true story reveals a hidden dimension to American History and Geology which shakes not only the earth, but our very rational conceptions of the relationship between Science and Spirit, between Geology and Gaia. This is what I call “Herstory,” and it is covered up because it forces us to confront certain political, racial and spiritual realities that are embarrassingly inconsistent with official dogmas. Yet, any thoughtful person must give a long pause to contemplate the implications of this untold tale.
What might any geologist give to know how Tecumseh was able to predict with such accuracy? Most likely, what a geologist would have to sacrifice are his own sacrosant beliefs in the separation of Science and Spirit.
for a green and peaceful planet for the Seventh Generation
David Yarrow at Turtle EyeLand
c/o Broeckx, P.O. Box 6034, Albany, NY 12206
Eve, the earthworm sez: If yer not forest, yer against us.
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PANTHER-ACROSS-THE-SKY Tecumseh and the New Madrid Earthquake
Part One: Tecumseh’s Birth and Boyhood[The following narrative is taken from The Frontiersman by Allan W. Eckert (© 1967). In the Author’s Note, Eckert wrote: “This book is fact, not fiction. Certain techniques normally associated with the novel form have been utilized, but in no case has this been at the expense of historical accuracy. In no case has there been any ‘whole cloth’ fabrication or fanciful fictionalization. Equally, every incident described in this book actually occurred; every date is historically accurate; and every character, regardless of how major or minor, actually lived the role in which he is portrayed.”]
Wednesday, March 9, 1768As he had done on occasion ever since childhood, the Shawnee chief Pucksinwah contemplated the multitude of stars sparkling with such life and beauty in the deep cloudless and moonless sky. Now that the fire had died to a dim orange bed of coals and the women squatted around it had lapsed into uncommon silence, these jewels of the night seemed to draw even closer and become more tangible, as if waiting to be plucked.
Only rarely was the stillness broken by a soft cry from within the hastily erected shelter beyond the fire where Methotasa — A-Turtle-Laying-Her-Eggs-in-the-Sand — waited delivery of her child. It would have been better had they been able to continue the journey to Chillicothe. The village was only three arrow flights to the northwest of them, but the time to bear fruit had come and further travel, however short, would have been dangerous to both Methotasa and the infant.
Though extremely anxious to reach this principal town of the Chalahgawtha sept, Pucksinwah nevertheless stayed behind with his 12-year-old son, Chiksika, and 10-year-old daughter, Tecumapese, along with half a dozen women of his clan who would help in the delivery. The remainder of his Kispokotha sept of the Shawnees he sent on to the village with word of his whereabouts and his promise to appear on the morrow at the large msi-kah-mi-qui, or council house.
Nearly 600 strong, these followers of his represented about two-thirds of the population of Kispoko Town on the west bank of the Scioto River. Similar groups from the other four Shawnee septs were also converging for this highly important council at Chillicothe. For over five years tribal representatives had been meeting here at intervals in an effort to decide what the Shawnees, as a nation, must do about the white man who, despite those treaties forbidding it, was crossing the mountains to the east and spilling into the valleys of the Monongahela and Youghiogheny and Allegheny.
Although the Shawnee septs were individual entities and governed themselves, each was an important branch of the Shawnee tribe as a whole, and each had a distinct office or duty to perform for the benefit of the tribe. The Peckuwe sept, for instance, had charge of the maintenance of order or duty, and looked after the celebration of matters pertaining to Shawnee religion. It was to this sept that Methotasa had belonged before Pucksinwah had taken her as wife.
The Maykujay clan controlled matters pertaining to health, medicine and food. The Kispokotha sept, on the other hand, was in charge of all circumstances of warfare, including the preparation and training of warriors.
But the two most powerful septs were the Thawegila and Chalahgawtha, which had charge of all things political and all matters affecting the entire tribe. These two septs were equal in power, and from one of them the principal chief of the Shawnees had to come. The chiefs of the other septs were subordinate to the principal chief in all matters of importance to the tribe but, in circumstances pertaining to their own jurisdiction, they were independent chiefs. The Thawegila, Kispokotha and Peckuwe septs were closely related morally and politically, while the Maykujay and Chalahgawtha septs always stood together, as they had in times past during occasional instances of tribal dissension.
So it was now in this problem of the encroachment of the whites. It was such a serious problem that strong lines of dissension had formed which threatened to cause a permanent breach in the nation; at least so it was feared by the principal chief, Hokolesqua — Cornstalk — a Chalahgawtha Shawnee. His sept and the Maykujays took the stand that “we had better make peace with the white people, as they are outnumbering us and increasing fast. It seems Moneto — God — is with them. Let us make peace with them and be always in peace with them.
“No!” said the Thawegila, Kispokotha and Peckuwe chiefs. “Let us not make peace with the white people. Let us fight them until one or the other of us is destroyed to the last man.”
Pucksinwah shook his head sadly. To the very marrow of his bones he knew there could never be a true peace between whites and Indians. As surely as summer follows spring, the whites would not stop at the river valley of western Pennsylvania. Inevitably they would spread down the Spay-lay-wi-theepi — Ohio River — to settle in the great and sacred hunting grounds of Can-tuc-kee. The Shawnees from the north and Cherokee from the south might share the bounty of that land below the great river, but no tribe — nor white man! — must be permitted to take up permanent residence there.
Had not over a century of friction between Indians and whites proven that nothing could be gained by talk of peace? When treaties had been signed and boundaries established in the past, had not these whites treated the Indians with unfeigned loathing, and had they not broken the boundaries almost immediately after they were established?
This was why the current council at the Little Miami River village of Chillicothe was so important to Pucksinwah. Largest of the Shawnee towns, it was centrally located to all the septs and more than 5000 Shawnee men would be on hand. And this time it would be his turn to speak without interruption in the msi-kah-mi-qui. He would pray to Moneto to bring powerful words to his lips that he might convince the Chalahgawtha and Maykujay septs that there could never exist an suitable peace between Indians and whites.
He raised his eyes skyward, but the prayer died aborning as a huge meteor suddenly plunged into the atmosphere and burst into brilliant greenish-white flame. It streaked across the heavens from the north in an awe-inspiring spectacle which lasted fully twenty seconds.
Pucksinwah had heard of such occurrences, but not before had he seen anything so breathtaking as this, and the tales of the old people came back to him now: this shooting star was The Panther, a great spirit passing over to the south where it seeks a deep hole for sleep. Every night it passes somewhere on the earth to go to that home in the south. It was a good sign indeed, and Pucksinwah arose and stepped briskly to the fire where the women were clustered, chattering excitedly, for they too had seen it.
From within the temporary shelter came the sharp wail of a baby. Pucksinwah waited quietly, the murmur of voices from inside almost lost in the gurgle of water from the great bubbling spring beside the shelter. Soon the infant’s crying faded away, and a quarter hour later one of the women came out, beckoned to the chief, and happily told him he had a son.
Pucksinwah stooped to enter the shelter and the three women inside, giggling delightedly, left to join the others at the fire. Methotasa lay on a bedding of cedar boughs covered with a huge buffalo hide, the even softer hide of a deer covering her to the waist. Her breasts were swelled, but not yet heavily engorged with the milk which would come in two or three days. In the crook of her arm slept the newborn child, its skin glistening faintly with a protective coating of bear oil applied by the squaws.
Methotasa smiled up at Pucksinwah as he knelt to look at the baby. She told him that the other women had seen a great star, The Panther, passing across and searching for its home in the south. Pucksinwah nodded gravely, and told her it was the boy’s unsoma.
Shawnee custom declares that a boy baby is not named for ten days after his birth, nor a girl for twelve, during which time an unsoma — notable event — would occur which should indicate what Moneto wished the child to be called. But this time the sign had been given at the very moment of birth, and this was of great importance. Both Pucksinwah and Methotasa knew there could be no other name for this boy that The-Panther-Passing-Across.
Thus was born and named the Shawnee Indian known as Tecumseh.
Sunday, April 13, 1788“Little brother,” Chiksika had said yesterday,placing his had on Tecumseh’s shoulder,, “what I say now will come to be. Just as our father knew that he should die in that battle with the Shemanese where the Kanawha and Spay-lay-wi-theepi meet, so I know that I will die tomorrow during the midst of our little battle. When the sun is at its highest, then will a bullet from the whites strike me here,” he placed a finger to his forehead midway between his eyes, “and my life will be ended. But do not let them falter. Lead them on with an attack at once, and they will emerge victorious.”
And now, as they rode toward the frail fortification behind which the whites lay, a devastating sorrow drained Tecumseh of strength and will as he followed Chiksika wordlessly toward the destiny his older brother had predicted.
Tecumseh wished he could disbelieve his 31-year-old brother’s prediction, but he could not. How many times in the past had Chiksika predicted exactly what would happen and when? Too many times to count. Even on the trip south they had laughed together when Chiksika had told Tecumseh that though he was a better hunter than himself or any other of the dozen Kispokotha warriors with them, in three days he would fall from his horse and break his hip as he attempted to down a buffalo. But it had happened just as he said. Two months ago, they had charged a small herd and Tecumseh had thundered up beside the largest bull, prepared to strike, when the animal’s shoulder had bumped his horse, throwing it off stride. The horse had slipped and fallen, throwing Tecumseh from its back, and he had lain there filled with admiration for Chiksika’s prophetic ability, even as the waves of pain from the broken hip throbbed through him.
And then, last night Chiksika had told Tecumseh of his presentiment, and abruptly the world had become cold and hard and alien. So sorrowful at Chiksika’s prediction was he that Tecumseh scarcely heard his older brother’s further prediction.
“Tecumseh,” he said, “you must carry on for our people and become for them a leader. You will do this, I know. I have looked ahead and seen you not only as a leader of the Shawnees, but as the greatest and most powerful chief any tribe has ever known. I have seen you journey to far lands and I have watched you bring together under your hand a confederation of Indian nations such as has never before been known.”
But Tecumseh fond little comfort in the words. His own mind was filled with words that would never be spoken and his heart with a pain that would never be eased. He vowed to stay by his brother’s side during the engagement.
The fight began late in the forenoon, and it was a hot one, the whites defending their little stronghold with unexpected tenacity. Only gradually were the settlers picked off and the Indians able to slowly advance. The Cherokee chief three times led a charge, and three times had been forced to retire, but each time less emphatically than the last. Now, out of effective rifle range, he stood high and called his tribesmen and Shawnee friends to rally behind him for a final charge that would bring them victory.
Chiksika unexpectedly placed his had over Tecumseh’s and squeezed it. He pointed to a hickory sapling, its branches bare but for swelling buds. It stood arrow straight in the ground and the sun made the shadows of the branches a spiderwork pattern on the ground about the trunk, but there was little trunk shadow, for the sun was at its zenith.
“Happy am I,” Chiksika said softly, “to fall in battle and not die in a wegiwa like an old squaw.”
He and his younger brother then joined the Cherokee chief and suddenly, even before the sound of the distant shot came, there was a heavy thunking sound and Tecumseh whirled to see Chiksika just beginning to topple sideways, a hole nearly the diameter of his thumb between his brother’s eyes in the middle of his forehead. Tecumseh leaped forward and caught him and gently lowered him to the ground. As he did so, the Cherokee chief exhorted his men to charge the whites, but they were shocked at the bullet having traveled so incredibly far and so accurately to kill their northern ally and considered it a bad sign. Even though Tecumseh begged them to charge again, telling them that Chiksika had said they would win and that he would lead them beside their chief, they refused to fight more.
As the entire party withdrew, Tecumseh’s shoulders slumped far more with the weight of sorrow than with the weight of his brother’s body in his arms.
Part Two: Confederacy & ProphecyWednesday, August 11, 1802Each time Tecumseh addressed one of these councils, he felt a great exaltation as he saw how his words caught and held his listeners; how easily, with the proper turn of a phrase, he could stir in them emotions of anger and hate, love and pleasure, regret and sorrow. Each time he began to speak, he was never really sure exactly what he would say, but then the words came to him, rolling fluently from his tongue and never failing to stir deeply all who listened.
He was much pleased with the way things had gone thus far. All during spring, summer and fall of last year he had gone from village to village, journeying as far eastward as western Vermont and Massachusetts. This past spring, as soon as he had concluded the laughable treaty with the cut-ta-ho-tha, he had ranged across upper and western New York State and northwestern Pennsylvania. All of the remaining Iroquois Confederacy had been deeply inspired by the plan, and they looked upon the speaker with something very akin to reverence. They had pledged their faith and their secrecy and, most important, their help when the great sign should be given.
This great sign that Tecumseh spoke of wherever he went always remained the same, and his telling of it never failed to awe his audiences. When the period of waiting was over, he told them, when tribal unification had been completed, when all was in readiness, then would this sign be given: in the midst of the night the earth beneath would tremble and roar for a long period. Jugs would break, though there be no one near to touch them. Great trees would fall, though the air be windless. Streams would change their courses to run backwards, and lakes would be swallowed up into the earth and other lakes suddenly appear. The bones of every man would tremble with the trembling of the ground, and they would not mistake it. No! There was not anything to compare with it in their lives, nor in the lives of their fathers or the fathers before them since time began; when this sign came, they were to drop their mattocks and flash scrapers, leave their fields and their hunting camps and their villages, and join together and move to assemble across the lake river from the fort of Detroit. And on that day they would no longer be Mohawks or Senecas, Oneidas or Onondagas, or any other tribe. They would be Indians! One people united forever where the good of one would henceforth become the good of all!
So it would be!
Sunday, December 1809The watchword of the year was suspicion. Everyone, it seemed, was suspicious of something.
Despite all the suspicions in the air, the year closed without open hostilities erupting anywhere. The United States, under its new President, James Madison, continued to be suspicious of the British. William Henry Harrison continued to be suspicious of Tecumseh and the Prophet. Many of the Indian chiefs continued to be suspicious of the amalgamation of the tribes. Tecumseh continued to be suspicious of the growing insubordination of his brother, Tenskwatawa, the Prophet. The settlers continued to be suspicious of all Indians. And Tenskwatawa continued to be suspicious of everything and everybody.
The Prophet’s work in helping to unite the tribes behind Tecumseh’s movement was, on the whole, a big disappointment to Tecumseh. These tribes — the Delawares, Miamis, Wyandots, and, in particular, the Shawnees — must be convinced to join. Without their active support, the entire grand plan might collapse. Yet, instead of uniting them, Tenskwatawa had succeeded only in alarming them and driving them away with talk of immediate attack on Vincennes and the river settlements, and by his suggestions that the Great Spirit would destroy any who did not join in to help. It was a maddening development and, before he set out again to visit each of these chiefs, Tecumseh held long conferences with his younger brother and gave him strict orders to follow.
Tenskwatawa was to begin immediately to regain some of the prestige he had lost during the year. He would retire alone to the woods and there make a large number of sacred slabs which he was to tell the assembled Indians he had made under the direction of the Great Spirit. The directions for their construction was specific.
Each slab was to be of the same length, thickness and taper, and each was to have carved , on one side only, the same symbols. The slabs were to be made of red cedar and each was to be accompanied by a bundle of thin red sticks. Each of the red sticks was to represent one moon, and, when the bundle and slab was given to a particular chief, he would be directed to throw away one of the red sticks at each full moon until only the slab itself remained, at which time he must prepare for the great sign to be given.
The symbols on the slab were to have a double meaning — one to tell any curious whites who might see them, the other to be the true meaning. For the whites, these were to be described as heaven sticks — symbols which would guide them to the happy Afterlife. The symbols, reading from bottom to top, were family, which was the most important single factor in everyday Indian life, the earth upon which they lived, followed by the principal features of the earth: water, lightning, trees, the four corners of the earth, corn, fowl and animals of the earth and air, all plant life, the sun, the blue sky and all of these things having to be experienced and understood before the people could reach the uppermost symbol, Heaven.
The actual meaning of the symbolism, however, was considerable different and much more menacing. It was for all the Indians on both sides of the Mississippi River — to come in a straight direction toward Detroit at lightning speed with their weapons; coming from the four corners of the earth, leaving behind the tending of the corn or hunting of game or storing of grains to become united when the great sign was given so that all the tribes might, in one movement, by peaceable means if possible, but by warfare if necessary, take over the place of the whites which had been usurped from them.
Wednesday, August 28, 1811To each of the southern tribes he visited, Tecumseh presented a sacred slab, along with a bundle of the red sticks. But where once these stick bundles had been large, now they were unusually small. The one he had given the Cherokees a few weeks ago when they had agreed to assemble under his leadership had only four sticks. And when, three days ago, he had concluded his talks with the Seminoles, their bundle had contained only three sticks.
Everywhere he went he was listened to eagerly. His fame had spread far; few indeed were those who could not relate exploits of the great Shawnee chief, Tecumseh, or who failed to be impressed deeply by the scope of his amalgamation. Thus, they readily pledged themselves to join him when the great sign came. Along with the Cherokees and Seminoles and Lower Creeks, there were the smaller and more scattered tribes — the Santee and Calusas and Catawbas and the slightly larger Choctaws and Biloxis, the Chickasaws and the Alabamas.
Occasionally one or another of the tribes would require a show of proof from Tecumseh — some small sign to show that he was, indeed, under the auspices of the Great Spirit. In most cases, minor prophecies sufficed, such as in the case of the Seminoles. When they had hesitated to join him, he told them that in two days there would come to Florida’s coast an ocean vessel which would be filled with arms and supplies for the Seminoles. They assembled at the point he indicated, and at dawn on the given day, they discovered a British ship at anchor in the bay and its smaller boats coming ashore laden with gifts of guns and powder and tomahawks, cloth and jewelry and foodstuffs. There was no further hesitancy among the Seminoles to join Tecumseh.
Now the great Shawnee leader was beginning his swing northwestward through the Alabama country to seek the important alliance formation with the powerful Upper Creek nation. From there he would move west, heading into the Mississippi land and Louisiana, then again northward on the west side of the mother of rivers to Missouri again. And along the way, he would stop to win over the Natchez and Yazoo, the Tawakonias and Caddos and others.
But first the Upper Creeks. Big Warrior, principal chief of the Upper Creeks, listened with a disapproving frown as Tecumseh told his people of his great plan, its near culmination and the part he wished them to play in it. There could be no doubt of his jealousy of this Shawnee who could come from hundreds of miles away and sway his people so swiftly with his reputation and his elocution. Great numbers of the Upper Creeks had come to this village Tuckabatchee located on the Tallapoosa River to hear the chief; but no matter how earnestly and convincingly Tecumseh spoke, Big Warrior refused to pledge his people. Sensing his jealousy, Tecumseh became scornful. He looked first at the large crowd, and then he swung his gaze to Big Warrior.
“Your blood is white!” he said. “You have taken my talk and the sticks and the wampum and the hatchet, but you do not mean to fight. I know the reason. You do not believe the Great Spirit has sent me. You shall know. I leave Tuckabatchee directly and shall go to Detroit. When I arrive there, I will stamp on the ground with my foot, and shake down every house in Tuckabatchee!”
Impressed in spite of himself, Big Warrior thereupon agreed to come and join the amalgamation — if and when the houses of Tuckabatchee all fell down. Tecumseh nodded. The Upper Creeks would come. What now could stop this mighty force he had joined together?
Part Three: The Prophecy FulfilledSunday, November 10, 1811All of the tribes, Tecumseh told these followers, had received bundles of red stick. All had but one of those sticks left. In six days a preliminary sign would be given to the tribes. It would be a sign under which he had been born and named. A great star would flash across the heavens and this would indicate that Tecumseh was still guided by the hand of the Great Spirit. The sign would be clearly visible to all the tribes, and when it came they were to take the last red stick and cut it into thirty equal pieces. Each day thereafter, one of these pieces was to be burned in the light of dawn. But the thirtieth piece was to be burned in the midst of the night, and when the last of these had been burned, then would come the great sign of which he had personally told them all. And when this sign came, all who believed in Tecumseh and in the future of the Indian nation would take up their weapons and strike out at once for the British fort that was called Malden, located on the north side of the head of the lakes that was called Erie.
Saturday, November 16, 1811Under a crisp cloudless sky, the Indians crouched. No fires had been lighted, lest this drive away or interfere with the sign. There was no moon this night, and the stars twinkled with almost tangible brightness in their deep black background. With blankets held over their heads to hold back the bite of the cold air, the Indians waited. In southern Canada, from the great falls of the Niagara to the great Lake-of-the-Woods, they watched. In western New York and Pennsylvania, they watched. In Ohio and the Indiana Territory and in the land that pushed north between the two great lakes and in the land to the west of the lakes, they watched. Along the Mississippi and Missouri, and even farther west, they watched. In the Tennessee and Alabama and Mississippi country, they watched. And the principal chief of each tribe held in his hand the final red stick of his bundle.
Just before the midpoint of the night it came — a great searing flash from out of the southwest; incredibly bright with a weird greenish-white light, incredibly swift, incredibly awe-inspiring. And the heads of a thousand, ten thousand, a hundred thousand Indians swiveled to watch its fiery progress across the heavens until it disappeared in the northeast. And they were deeply moved by it.
Many of the chiefs broke their sticks over their knees and threw them away and rid their fear in anger. But there were some who retired to their wegiwas or teepees or hogans, lay the red stick upon the ground before the fire, and carefully measured, marked it off with a bit of charcoal, and cut it into thirty equal lengths.
And then they waited.
Monday, December 16, 1811At 2:30 A.M. the earth shook.
In the south of Canada, in the villages of the Iroquois, Ottawa, Chippewa and Huron, it came as a deep and terrifying rumble. Creek banks caved in and huge trees toppled in a continuous crash of snapping branches.
In all of the Great Lakes, but especially Lake Michigan and Lake Erie, the waters danced and great waves broke erratically on the shores, though there was no wind.
In the western plains, there was a fierce grinding sound and a shuddering, which jarred the bones and set teeth on edge. Earthen vessels split apart and great herds of bison staggered to their feet and stampeded in abject panic.
To the south and west, tremendous boulders broke loose on hills and cut swaths through the trees and brush to the bottoms. Rapidly running streams stopped and eddied, and some of them abruptly went dry and the fish that had lived in them flopped away their lives on the muddy or rocky beds.
To the south, whole forests fell in incredible tangles. New streams sprang up where none had been before. In the Upper Creek village of Tuckabatchee, every dwelling shuddered and shook, and then collapsed upon itself and its inhabitants.
To the south and east, palm trees lashed about like whips, and lakes emptied of their waters, while ponds appeared in huge declivities which suddenly dented the surface of the earth.
All over the land, birds were roused from their roosting places with scream of fright and flapping wings. Cattle bellowed and kicked, lost their footing, and were thrown to the ground where they rolled about, unable to regain their balance.
In Kentucky, Tennessee and the Indiana Territory, settlers were thrown from their beds, heard the timbers of their cabins wrench apart, and watched the bricks crumble into heaps of debris masked in choking clouds of dust. Bridges snapped and tumbled into rivers and creeks. Glass shattered, fences and barns collapsed and fires broke out. Along steep ravines, the cliffside slipped and filled their chasms, and the country was blanketing with a deafening roar.
In the center of all this, in that area where the Ohio River meets the Mississippi, where Tennessee, Kentucky, Arkansas, Missouri, and Illinois come together, fantastic splits appeared in the ground and huge tracts of land were swallowed up. A few miles from the Mississippi, near the Kentucky-Tennessee border, a monstrous section of ground sank as if some gigantic foot had stepped on the soft earth and mashed it down. Water gushed forth in fantastic volume and the depression became filled and turned into a large lake, to become known as Reelfoot Lake. The whole midsection of the Mississippi writhed and heaved and tremendous bluffs toppled into the muddy waters. Entire sections of land were inundated, and others that had been riverbed were left high in the air. The Mississippi itself turned and flowed backwards for a time. It swirled and eddied, hissed and gurgled, and at length, when it settled down, the face of the land had changed. New Madrid was destroyed and the tens of thousands of acres of land, including virtually all that was owned by Simon Kenton, vanished forever; that which remained was ugly and austere.
Such was the great sign of Tecumseh.
This was the earthquake which occurred where no tremor had ever been recorded before; where there was no scientific explanation for such a thing happening; where no one cold possibly have anticipated or predicted that an earthquake could happen. No one except Tecumseh.
And though they were only a small percentage of those who had pledged themselves to do so, nevertheless quite a number of warriors of various tribes gathered up their weapons and set out at once to join the amazing Shawnee chief near Detroit.
Wednesday, April 1, 1812The earthquake of December 16 was only a starter. It lasted, intermittently, for two terror-filled days; and at the end of that time, the atmosphere was so choked with dust and smoke that for a week afterwards the sun shone sickly reddish-bronze through an ugly haze.
The second earthquake struck on January 23, and the third hit four days later. And finally, on February 13, came the last and worst of them — a hideous grinding and snapping which last for only an hour, but caused about as much damage as the other three combined.
This was powerful medicine — more powerful than the Indians had ever seen. Those who had deserted Tecumseh now began to reconsider. Although most were in no hurry to rejoin the Shawnee chief, the inclination was there; if, as Tecumseh had predicted, there would be war with the whites, why not make the most of it right where they were?
And so began the hostilities.
David Yarrow at Turtle EyeLand
c/o Broeckx, P.O. Box 6034, Albany, NY 12206
Eve, the earthworm sez: If yer not forest, yer against us.
True, the white man brought great change. But the varied fruits of his civilization, though highly colored and inviting, are sickening and deadening. And if it be the part of civilization to maim, rob, and thwart, then what is progress?
I am going to venture that the man who sat on the ground in his tipi meditating on life and its meaning, accepting the kinship of all creatures, and acknowledging unity with the universe of things, was infusing into his being the true essence of civilization.
Chief Luther Standing Bear, 1933,
From the Land of the Spotted Eagle, p.515