Written by Floriane Moro (B.A. student).
Nominated by Professor M. Hogue.
In 2012, in order to commemorate the contributions of Indigenous peoples to the War of 1812, Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada issued a series of postcards commemorating Indigenous people who were involved in the conflict. One of these postcards is devoted to Tecumseh. By choosing what needs to be remembered and what can be forgotten, this commemoration turns Tecumseh into a Canadian hero, thus erasing the Shawnee chief’s importance as a symbol for Indigenous resistance.
What this postcard tells us about Tecumseh comes strictly from a Canadian perspective. Tecumseh, wearing a British officer’s coat, is presented as a key player in the broader “Fight for Canada.” The postcard’s text describes him as hero who sided with the British and who contributed to the capture of Fort Detroit. It thus seems that if Tecumseh needs to be remembered, it is only because his actions were profitable to the British, and, by extension, to Canada. The postcard text ends with an anecdote about Tecumseh and Sir Isaac Brock’s mutual respect and with a description of Tecumseh’s tragic death on the battlefield, which strengthens the legendary aspect of Tecumseh’s character. This final romanticization turns Tecumseh into a Canadian hero.
By imposing a Canadian perspective on Tecumseh’s character, the postcard hides parts of the Shawnee chief’s persona, and erases his work promoting Indigenous unity and resistance. The postcard acknowledges that Tecumseh was the “leader of a large tribal confederacy that opposed American territorial expansion,” but the fact that Indigenous people were not fighting for Canada but to preserve their homelands from settlers is otherwise forgotten. The postcard further suggests that the Shawnee chief and his followers allied with the British and joined the war only after the Battle of Tippecanoe, thus erasing at least two decades of tensions between Indigenous peoples and the United States. For many Indigenous peoples, the War of 1812 was not a “Fight for Canada,” but a logical consequence of their resistance against American expansionism. The importance of the Indigenous resistance movement is further diminished by the representation of Tecumseh as its only leader. Tecumseh was indeed supported by other chiefs from other nations, and his brother Tenskwatawa was the one to initiate the Indigenous resistance movement in the lower Great Lakes. Although Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa shared the same beliefs, Tenskwatawa’s religious teachings and character are harder to understand from a Canadian perspective, and harder to romanticize. Paradoxically, the choice of Tecumseh enables the postcard to disregard the broader Indigenous resistance movement.
In trying to acknowledge the role of Indigenous peoples in the War of 1812, this postcard selects what can be understood from a Canadian standpoint. In doing so, it ignores Indigenous perspectives and celebrates a Canadian hero, associating the Shawnee chief with a cause he was not fighting for. Despite Tecumseh’s efforts to resist colonization during his life, it seems as though his memory has been colonized by those looking to cast him as a Canadian hero.
Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada, War of 1812 Postcards,