In The Name Of Chief Tecumseh’s Legacy
By Ian Kennedy
Chief Tecumseh’s legacy in this area, and in Indigenous communities across Turtle Island (North America) is cemented. It’s one of great impact, and significant reverence. Because of that, his name has also been used in sport, both appropriately by Indigenous teams, and through appropriation by white teams.
A Shawnee Chief, Tecumseh famously died fighting in the War of 1812 on October 5, 1813. Prior to that, he aided the British in overtaking Detroit during the Battle of Fort Detroit, before the Americans pushed British and Indigenous forces back into Upper Canada, namely along the shores of the Thames River in Chatham-Kent.
Here the Battle of the Thames occurred, and Chief Tecumseh was killed near modern day Delaware Nation.
During his life, Tecumeseh was a noted orator, travelling through the United States and Canada promoting traditional Indigenous culture, and calling upon Indigenous people to reject European influence.
Following his death, his name became a common moniker for sports teams, mostly through the process of cultural appropriation.
One of the earliest examples of this was with the London Tecumsehs, a professional baseball team founded in 1875. The 1876 London Tecumsehs were Canadian champions, followed by the 1877 London Tecumsehs who were International Association champions, winning the title by defeating the Chicago White Stockings.
They played thier home games at Tecumseh Park, which still stands as Labatt Park, and is considered the oldest baseball diamond in continuous use in the world.
In 1898, the Chatham Tecumsehs were formed. The Chatham team was a semi-professional lacrosse team that played at Chatham’s Barrack Grounds, on the site which is now known as Tecumseh Park.
Neither of the notable teams above featured Indigenous players, rather, their rosters were all-white.
In the 1930s, the London Tecumsehs became a semi-professional hockey team playing in the International Hockey League.
In the early 2000s, the Tecumseh Chiefs were a Junior B hockey team in Tecumseh, Ontario, winning the All-Ontario Sutherland Cup in 2008.
Also, numerous high schools still operate with the Tecumseh name across North America, despite the teams and communities being predominantly white.
In 1922 however, one example exists of an appropriate use of the name by an all-Indigenous baseball team from Delaware Nation at Moraviantown. This team called the Moraviantown Tecumseh featured prominent local stars including Sam Lascellas, Jasper Hill, and Rufus Jacobs among others.
Chief Tecumseh’s legacy lives, including at the Tecumseh Monument near Fairfield Village along Highway 2 in Chatham-Kent. But the appropriation of his name over the years is another example of Indigenous culture being claimed by settlers.
Tecumseh’s remains now rest at the Highbanks Cemetery of Walpole Island First Nation.