Letter From American History – December 2012

E Pluribus Unum

Could the United States have found a way to coexist with American Indians? In retrospect, the way of life Indians knew for centuries appears to have been doomed from the moment European settlers began colonizing the New World. But the saga of the Shawnee warrior Tecumseh offers a tantalizing glimpse of what might have been. In many ways, Tecumseh was as much of a visionary as our founding fathers. “It’s not often in any culture that an individual comes along who had the kind of genius he had for seeing the bigger historical picture,” says Elliott West, author of our cover story, “Tecumseh’s Last Stand.” Tecumseh’s vision of a united and independent Indian confederation died with him during the War of 1812—and subsequent frontier wars reduced the national population of Indians from 600,000 to 250,000 by the late 1890s. That history can’t be rewritten. What remains is the question of what the United States lost. “We put E pluribus unum on all our coins and currency,” says West. “We take great pride that we are a nation made of peoples from all over the world. But we were unwilling to accept the diversity that was here before we were.”

One Response

  1. Robert Kapanjie

    The Doctrine of Discovery provided the legal basis for the usurpation of Indian land by the Europeans and Americans.


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