It was truly a vast wilderness of trees entirely free of all undergrowth except grass with that peculiar stillness that attested the absence of man, and possessing a vastness and boundless extent, and uninterrupted contiguity of shade, which prevented the attention from being distracted, and allowed the mind to the solitude of itself, and the imagination to realize the actual presence and true character of that which burst upon it like a vivid dream. Truly that is happiness that breaks not the link between man and nature. The Indians of this continent openly acknowledged and sincerely believed in the One Great and Good Spirit, and also in the One Great and Evil Spirit; to the former they gave divine homage with a devotion that well might put to shame many of those who have lived, a life time under the light of the Gospel dispensation, with scarcely a devotional emotion. Towards the latter they cherished the greatest fear and dread and sought continually the aid of the Good Spirit in averting the dreaded machinations of the Evil Spirit, therefore every warrior had his totem; i. e. a little sack filled with various ingredients, the peculiarities of which were a profound secret to all but himself; nor did any Indian ever seek or de sire to know the contents of anothers totem, it was sacred to its possessor alone. I have more than once asked some particular warrior friend concerning the contents of his totem but was promptly refused with the reply: “You would not be any the wiser thereby.” Every warrior kept his Totem or “Medicine” about his person, by which he sincerely believed he would be enabled to secure the aid of the Good Spirit in warding off the evil designs of the Evil Spirit, in the existence of which they as sincerely believed, and to whom they attributed the cause of all their misfortunes, when failing to secure the aid of the Good Spirit. Therefore, each and every warrior of the tribe, with eager zeal, endeavored to put himself in direct communication with the Great and Good Spirit. There was but little difference between the “Indian Magician” and the Indian “Medicine Man,” but when a. warrior had attained to that high and great desired point of direct communication with the Great and Good Spirit, and had impressed that belief upon his tribe as well as himself, he at once became an object of great veneration, and was henceforth regarded by all his tribe, regardless of age or sex, as a great “Medicine Man,” upon whom had been conferred supernatural powers to foretell coming events, to exorcise evil spirits, and to perform all kinds of marvelous works. But few attained the coveted eminence yet he who was so fortunate, at once reached the pinnacle of his earthly aspirations. But before entering upon his high and responsible duties, and assuming the authority of a diviner a graduated Medicine Man, in other words, with a recognized and accepted diploma, he must also have enlisted in his service one or more lesser spirits, servants of the Great and Good Spirit, as his allies or mediators, and to secure these important and indispensable auxiliaries, he must subject himself to a severe and testing ordeal. He now retires alone into the deep solitudes of his native forest and there engages in meditation, self-examination, fasting and prayer during the coming and going of many long and weary days, and even weeks. And all that for what end? That he might, by his supernatural power thus attained, be enabled to gratify his ambition in playing the tyrant over his people through fear of him? Or that he might be enabled the better to gratify the spirit of avarice that rankled in his heart? Neither, for both tyrant and avarice was utterly unknown among, all Indians.
What then? First, that he might ever be enabled, by his influence attained with the great and Good Spirit, toward off the shafts of the Evil Spirit, and thus protect himself from seen and unseen dangers, and also be successful in the accomplishment of all his earthly hopes and wishes.
Second. That he might be a benefactor to his tribe, by being enabled to divine future events, and thus forewarn them of approaching danger and the proper steps to take to successfully avoid it; also to heal the sick, etc. True, the fearful ordeal of hunger, thirst, fatigue wrought their part in causing his imagination to usurp the place of reason, filling his fevered mind with the wildest hallucinations and rendering him a fit subject to believe anything and every thing. Yet, no doubt, when he left his place of prayer and self-examination and returned to his people, he sincerely believed that he had been admitted to the special favor of the great and Good Spirit and was fully prepared to exercise his newly acquired supernatural attainments for his own benefit and to the interest of his tribe. Smile not at this, per haps, to you, seeming folly of one who thought, reasoned and acted as taught by the feeble light of nature alone; with such a devotional spirit, what would he have been if enlightened by the renovating influences of the precepts of the Son of God? But I ask, if this doctrine of the spiritual world, the disembodied spirits of our departed loved ones everywhere about us, and the power of communication with them, has not sprung into new life among us in this boasted enlightened age illumined, by the glorious light of the Bible shining around us for centuries past though the doctrine was discarded by the Indians at once and forever, so soon as the light of the Bible shone into their untutored minds. But alas, we still speak of them as savages and barbarians; yet should not emotions of shame fill our hearts, when the similarity of belief between the unlettered” Indians of seventy-five years ago, and the boasted intelligence and Christian civilization of the “Anglo Saxon” of the present day, is so manifest? Need we try to deny that modern Spiritualism its counterpart in the philosophy of the North American Indians of three-quarters of a century ago?
May we justly scorn the Indian when not free ourselves of his ancient superstitious follies, but still have so large portion, though long discarded by the civilized tribes, secretly hidden away in the strata of our boasted common, sense, besides being greatly tinctured with the fashionable skepticism (unknown to all Indians) of the present civilized but fearfully corrupt age?
The Indians reasoned from the known to the unknown differing from us only in that they had no accumulated knowledge to guide them but their traditions. And when we take into consideration the great difficulties with which they had to contend and overcome in the struggle up the rugged hill of civilization and Christianity, as presented to them with all their manifested contradictions and enigmas by the Pale-faces, it is a matter of profound astonishment that they have achieved as much as they have.
Alas, that our universal error, in all our dealings with that people, should consist in the deplorable yet inexcusable failure to perceive how greatly their ideas differed from our own in regard to every thing appertaining to our civilization, Christianity and love of gain; and at the same time forget ting that the idea of civil government was with us of long and slow growth, taking many ages to develop us from our own ignorant and savage ancestry to our present enlightened state; and how greatly to be regretted is the fact, that our feelings and actions are still so influenced and governed by deplorable ignorance of the true nature and characteristics of the Indian, and so swayed by a foolish prejudice against him, and so led captive by self conceit and imagined superiority over him by nature, that we do not and will not justly and impartially weigh the evidence before us; through fear, it truly seems, that our preconceived opinions may be proved to be formed in error, if tested by the knowledge of the truth that would be gained by investigation.
The Indian is accused of stolidity. Wherefore? Is it because he can and does control his tongue when the white man would fly into a violent passion? Is it because the Indian never speaks evil of any one, not even of a personal enemy, but keeps his thoughts and opinions of others in the secret recesses of his own breast, while the reverse is an innate characteristic of the White Race? Is it because the Indian has learned never to talk to the purpose of what is not the purpose to talk of, but in which the white man has long since proved himself an adept to the entire satisfaction of himself and all man-kind? If all this, seemingly so mysterious to his defamers who would search earth and heaven to find an accusation against an Indian, merits- the title Stolidity, then indeed is the Indian meritorious, and that is/the whole of it in a nut shell.
He has also been ridiculed as being “an idiot for carrying” with him his mystic Medicine pouch, and relying on it for safety both in seen and unseen dangers. Yet in this how little did he differ from thousands of the White Race of even today with all their professed culture, among whom there can still be detected a foolish superstition, a lingering survival of Fetchism, for it can be nothing else. See the still lingering belief in Witchcraft and magic charms; behold the horse shoe still nailed over the door as a guarantee to “good luck” and the prevention of injury from the midnight carousals of witches; view the stigma placed upon the *good names of one of the days of the week unfortunate Friday! Contemplate the Charm string composed of various childish gewgaws dangling from the watch chain of the empty and unbalanced head of the “pale-face” dude, and also its counter part around the neck of the empty-headed little Miss of “sweet sixteen”! Think of the harmless little bug snugly ensconced in a crack of the wall humming its lullaby in token of its happiness yet is stigmatized with the appellation of “Death-watch,” the fore-runner of the grim monster so much feared and dreaded by frail humanity, and many more that might be mentioned! What are all these but a lingering spirit of superstition, legitimate offspring’s Fetishism, and differing in nothing from the Indian’s totem? Yet the Indian is regarded as meriting condemnation in this world and damnation in the next because he still adheres, in. some few instances where the truths of the Bible have never reached him, to his ancient superstitious belief and so called savage folly, but the white man, cradled in the lap of Christianity and yet carrying secretly in his breast his totems, verily, might not the reproving language of Saul to Bar Jesus be justly applied to us in all our dealing with the Red Race from the Alpha to the Omega? ,”O, full of all subtlety, and all mischief, thou child of the devil, thou enemy of all righteousness, wilt thou not cease to pervert the right ways of the Lord?”
Again: The Indians passion for war, so erroneously proverbial among us, has ever been shamefully exaggerated. True, their passion for war, when engaged in it for the re dress of real or imaginary wrongs, was unequalled: and, in defense of their country has few parallels in the history of nations, of which we have the full attestation of experience; though we fought them, taking all things into consideration, the advantages of fifty to one. But they seldom made war upon each other actuated alone by the motives of ambitious conquests for national or personal aggrandizement, as far as has been ascertained from actual proof. They had no motive for such a war, as it is well known to all who have attained any true knowledge of the North American Indians worthy of notice, since avarice, in a national or personal point of view with all its baneful consequences, was utterly un known to the ancient Indians of this continent, as it is to this day to their pure blooded descendants. Their desperation in resisting our encroachments upon their rights gave birth to the false charge that “they are a blood-thirsty race de lighting in human gore;” but there is no proof based v upon truth that they are meritorious to a greater extent than any other race of mankind to bear such reproach. Nor were their tactics of war, so loudly condemned by us, any more irreconcilable to justice and humanity, than our own. We stigmatize them with the name of “cowards” for limiting their fighting to ambuscade and surprise; and which we, if out-witted and defeated in a battle with them, pronounced, with assumed horror, a “cruel massacre;” yet, truth positively declares that we too have adopted equally with them the ambuscade, the surprise, and every art of war known to us to out-general them in cunning, in treachery, and in deceit; but call it, if we succeed, “a glorious military strategy,” as if that would make it appear more honorable or justifiable in the sight of truth, justice and humanity or that of a just God. Absolute necessity compelled the Indians to resort to ambuscade and surprise in their wars with us, on account of our vast superiority over them in numbers, skill, and instruments of warfare. What hope of success could they entertain by coming out in the open field with their feeble bows and arrows and few worthless old guns, and stand up before our deadly rifles and destructive batteries they would simply have acted the part of fools in so doing. They fought as best they could, and just as we, or any other people, would have fought under similar circumstances.
We charge them with deception and being full of all manner of hypocrisy in all places and at all times, even in the social and business relations of life. A more false charge was never made against anyone; and it is but one among the thousands that have been unjustly used in justification of robbing them of their country and wiping them out as cumberers of the ground, wholly unfit any longer to inhabit the earth.
Who ever heard of the Indians adulterating their food with poisonous ingredients to add a dime more to their gains? Who ever heard of them adulterating their medicines, thus endangering life to make a nickel more? Who ever heard of them banding together to oppress the poor of their own race by buying up certain articles of food or medicine and holding it to extort a higher price from the needy, and thus add a few more cents to their own coffers? And yet we see fit to falsely charge the Indians with deception and hypocrisy. But to misrepresent in all that is said or written about the Red Race is an axiom of long standing. As an illustration Rid path, in his History of the United States” page 45, says: “But the Red Man was, at his best estate, an unsocial, solitary and gloomy spirit. He was a man of the woods. He sat apart. The forest was better than the village.” Let others speak that it may be known how near the above delineation of the Red Man’s characteristics, as exhibited by the glare of imagined erudition, throws its light to the line of truth according to the positive declarations of the early writers who visited the Indians; and the missionaries who first preached the Gospel of the worlds Redeemer to them. All, everywhere, and among all Indians back to the Pilgrims of 1620, affirm that the tribes everywhere lived in separate districts, in which each had numerous large and permanent towns and villages, and were the most social, contented and happy people they ever knew. La Salle, the renowned French explorer, states that he found numerous towns and villages everywhere. He affirms that the Indians lived in comfortable cabins of great proportions, in some cases, forty feet square with dome-shaped roofs, in which several families lived. De Soto, in his memorable raid through the territories of the Southern Indians in 1541-42, found towns and villages containing “from fifty to three hundred houses, protected by palisades, walls and ditches filled with water;” it is also stated, “every few miles he found flourishing towns and villages.” So also, the early explorers of the headwaters of the Mississippi river found the Indians everywhere dwelling in towns and villages: “The houses being framed with poles and covered with bark.”