Thursday, August 05, 2010


Allan W. Eckert is one of the great modern writers of the frontier era of America. He has written several books that chronicle the history of the Ohio River Valley through creative non-fiction. My old chief was a huge fan of Eckert's books, and was always quick to suggest his books to young Shawnees wanting to learn more about their heritage. It was through his suggestion that I found myself thinking about going to see the outdoor drama that Eckert wrote called Tecumseh!.

In the middle of July I took a trip from Parkersburg, WV to Chillicothe, OH with my dad, sister, and brother-in-law, and met my best friend in the whole world, Willie, and his family at the site of the outdoor drama for a performance. It was interesting because Willie was a theater major in college, and was offered an opportunity to perform with the outdoor drama. On one hand, he thought it would be cool to celebrate his own Shawnee heritage through the drama, but on the other, performing would mean that he would be unable to participate in tribal functions during the summer months. While the drama would have been an unforgettable experience, Willie chose to spend time with our own tribal community--and I imagine he has no regrets.

The performance was pretty stellar as performances go. One of the most powerful aspects of the recording It was well worth the drive and the $22.95 price tag. There were aspects that I didn't feel accurately reflected traditional Shawnee life as I have learned it from my tribal leaders, but overall it was a pretty incredible performance. In particular, I felt that the battle scenes were immersive and gave the audience a view into what it would have been like to be in the woods at night 200 years ago as explosions were taking place from cannon and gun fire. I think at times we can sanitize the brutality of warfare in movies and media, but I couldn't help but think of the fear that would course through an individual as real canons and guns and explosions that could take one's life were felt and heard in close proximity.

Seeing people ride horses and swim them across a small pond that was used to represent the Ohio and other rivers was also pretty cool too. Through the performance, people could gain some really vivid insights into life along the american frontier during the eighteenth century. Also, seeing some of Eckert's ideas of Tecumseh's tragic flaw of excessive trust in his brother Tenskwatawa was interesting to me as well. It made me think that if Tecumseh had not been guilty of nepotism, that perhaps history would have played out differently for native people in the United States.

If you can, I recommend taking a road trip to see it. And whether you can or not see it or not, I recommend picking up one of Eckert's books and giving it a read. Want to expose your children to a bit of Shawnee culture too? He's even written a children's book called Blue Jacket. I included links to some of his books on Amazon below.


Eric said...

Great stuff, Billy. Thanks for the post. I'm in Ohio this summer, and I've actually been learning a lot about the history of the Native American populations in this area while I've been back. I'm afraid I won't be able to get down to Chilicothe this time around... but maybe someday.

T@R@ said...

my brother-in-law was in that a couple years ago!

chanchanchepon said...

@Eric If I would have known you were in the area, I'd have tried to look you up. Maybe we can connect before you return to Amsterdam.

@T@r@ Very cool about your brother-in-law. Adam, right? Cool dude!

Eric said...

I've been reading Eckert's "A Sorrow in Our Heart" (checked out from the local library) since your recommendation, here. I don't think I'm going to get it finished before I get back to Amsterdam, but it's been a great read up to this point...

And as for meeting up, I too would have loved to make it happen -- but we're flying back to Amsterdam on Tuesday, so I'd say it's pretty unlikely. Sorry we missed each other this time.