The New Religion

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About the year 1800 a new religion was introduced among the Six Nations, the exponent of which alleged to have received a revelation from the Great Spirit, with a commission to preach to them the new doctrine in which he was instructed. This revelation was received in circumstances so remarkable, and the precepts he sought to inculcate contained in themselves such evidences of wisdom and beneficence that he was universally received among them, not only as a wise and good man, but as one commissioned by the Great Spirit to become their religious teacher. The new religion, as it has ever since been called, embodied all the precepts of the ancient faith, recognized the ancient mode of worship giving it a new sanction of the Great Spirit, and also comprehend such new doctrines as came in aptly, to lengthen out and enlarge the original system without impairing it. Charges of imposture and deception were at first preferred against him, but disbelief of his divine mission gradually subsided, until at the time of his death the whole unchristianized portion of the Six Nations had become firm believers in the new religion, which to the present day has continued to some extent as a prevailing faith.

This singular person who was destined to obtain such a spiritual sway over the descendants of the ancient Iroquois was Ga-ne-o-di-yo, or “Handsomelake.” a Seneca sachem of the highest class, he was born at the Indian village of Ga-no-wau-ges, near Avon, about the year 1735, and died at Onondaga in 1815, where he happened to be on one of his pastoral visits. By birth he was a Seneca of the Turtle clan, and a half brother to the celebrated Corn Planter by a common father. The most part of his life was spent in idleness and dissipation during which time, although a sachem and ruler among the Seneca for many years, and through the most perilous time of their history, he acquired no particular reputation.

Reforming late in life, in his future career he showed himself to be possessed of superior talents and to be animated by a sincere and ardent desire for the welfare of his race.

At this period and for about a century preceding, the prevailing habit of intemperance among the Iroquois was the fruitful source of their domestic trouble, this in connection with their political disasters seemed to threaten the speedy extinction of their race. A temperance reformation, universal and radical, was the main and ultimate object of the mission which he assumed, and upon which he chiefly used his influence and eloquence through the remainder of his life. To secure a more speedy reception of his admonitions, he clothed them with divine sanction, to strengthen their moral principles, he enforced anew the precepts of the ancient faith; and to insure obedience to his teachings, he held over the wicked the terrors of eternal punishment. Going from village to village among the several nations of the league, with the exception of the Christianized Oneida and Tuscarora, continuing his visits from year to year, preaching the new doctrine with remarkable effect. Many abandoned their dissolute habits and became sober and moral men; discord and contentions gave place to harmony and order, and vagrancy and sloth to ambition and industry. The origin of this project has at times been ascribed to Cornplanter as a means to increase his own influence, but this is not only improbable but is expressly denied. The motives by which Handsomelake claimed to be actuated were entirely of a religious and benevolent character, and in pursuance of the injunctions of his spiritual guides.

At the time of his supernatural visitation, about the year 1800, Handsomelake resided at the village of Cornplanter, on the Alleghany river in the State of Pennsylvania. As he explained the case to his brethren, having lain ill for a long time he had given up all hope of recovery and resigned himself to die. When in the hourly expectation of death, three spiritual beings in the form of men, sent by the Great Spirit, appeared before him, each carried in his hand a shrub bearing different kinds of berries, which, having been given him to eat, he was by their miraculous virtue immediately restored to health. They afterward revealed to him the will of the Great Spirit upon a variety of subjects, and particularly in relation to the prevailing intemperance, commissioning him to promulgate these doctrines among the league, causing him to see realities of the evil-minded, and to behold with his mortal eyes the punishment inflicted upon the wicked, that he might with more propriety warn his people of their impending destiny. He was also permitted to behold the realm and felicities of the Heavenly residence of the virtuous. With his mind thus prepared, and stored with divine precepts, and with his zeal enkindled by the dignity of his mission, Handsomelake at once commenced his labors.

After his death, Sase-ha-wa, (Johnson) of Tonawanda, was appointed his successor. The first and only person ever “raised up” by the Iroquois, and invested with the office of a supreme religious instructor a sincere believer in the verity of Handsomelake’s mission, and an eminently pure and virtuous man Sase-ha-wa (Johnson) has devoted himself with zeal and fidelity to the duties of his office, as a spiritual guide and teacher of the Iroquois. He was a grand-son of Handsomlake, a nephew of Red Jacket, and was born at the Indian village of Ga-no-wan-ges, near Avon, about the year 1774.

At the condolence and religious councils of the Iroquois, which are still held at intervals of a few years, among the scattered descendants of the long house, it has long been customary to set apart portions of two or three days to listen to a discourse from Johnson upon the new religion. On these occasions he explains minutely the circumstance attending the supernatural visitation of Handsomelake, and delivers the instructions, word for word, which he had been accustomed to give during his own ministration. Handsomelake professed to repeat the messages which were given to him from time to time by the celestial visitants, with whom he alleged to be in frequent communication, and whom he addressed as his spiritual guardian, thus enforcing his precepts as the direct command of the Great Spirit.

At their councils and religious, festivals, it was customary for the chiefs and keepers of the faith to express their confidence in the new religion, and to exhort others to strengthen their beliefs. The late Abraham La Fort, an educated Onondaga Sachem, thus expressed himself upon this subject at a condolence council of the league, held at Tonawanda as late as October, 1847.

“Let us observe the operations of nature. The year is divided into seasons, and every season has its fruits. The birds of the air, though clothed in the same dress of feathers, are divided into many classes, and one class is never seen to associate or intermingle with any but its own kind. So with the beasts of the field and woods. Each and every class and specie have their own separate rules by which they seem to be governed, and by which their actions are regulated. These distinctions, classes and colors the Great Spirit has seen fit to make. But the rule does not stop here. It is universal. It embraces man also. The human race was created and divided into different classes, which were placed separate from each other having different customs, manners, laws and religions. To the Indians it seems that no more religion had originally been than was to be found in the operations of nature, which taught him that there was a Supreme Being, all powerful and all wise; and on this account, as well as on account of his great goodness, they learned to love and reverence Him. But these later times, when the restless and ambitious spirit of the white skinned race had crossed the boundary line and made inroads upon the manners, customs and primitive religion of the Indian, the Great Spirit determined to and through His servant, Handsomelake, did reveal his will to the Indians. The substance of that will was no more than to confirm their ancient belief that they were entitled to a different religion a religion adapted to their customs, manners and ways of thinking.”

As the discourses delivered by Johnson from time to time contains a very full exposition of their ancient beliefs and mode of worship, together with the recent views introduced by Handsomelake, mingled up in one collection, presenting probably a better idea of their ethical and religious system than could be conveyed in any other manner, it is given entire, and will explain itself as delivered, thus:

“The Mohawk, the Onondaga, the Seneca, and our children, the Oneida, Cayuga and Tuscarora, have assembled here to-day to listen to the repetition of the will of the Great Spirit, as communicated to us from heaven through His servant, Handsomelake.

“Chiefs, warriors, women and children, we give you a cordial welcome. The sun has advanced far in its path, and I am warned that my time to instruct you is limited to the meridian sun. I must hasten to perform my duty. Turn you minds to the Great Spirit, and listen with strict attention. Think seriously upon what I am about to speak. Reflect upon it well, that it may benefit you and your children. I thank the Great Spirit that He has spared the lives of so many of you to be present on this occasion. I return thanks to Him that my life is yet spared. The Great Spirit looked down from Heaven upon the suffering and the wanderings of the red children. He saw that they had greatly decreased and degenerated. He saw the ravages of the firewater among them. He therefore raised up for them a sacred inspiration, who, having lived and traveled among them for sixteen years, was called from his labors to enjoy eternal felicity with the Great Spirit In Heaven. Be patient while I speak. I cannot at all times arrange and prepare my thoughts with precision. But I will relate what my memory bears.

“It was in the month of June when Handsomelake was yet sick. He had been ill for years. He was accustomed to tell us that he had resigned himself to the will of the Great Spirit. ‘I nightly returned my thanks to the Great Spirit,’ said he, ‘as my eyes were gladdened at evening by the sight of the stars of heaven. I viewed the ornamental heaven at evening through the opening in the roof of my lodge, with grateful feelings to my Creator. I had no assurance that I should at the next evening contemplate His works. For this reason my acknowledgment to Him was more fervent and sincere. When night was gone, and the sun again shed its light upon the earth, I saw and acknowledged in the return of day His continued goodness to me and to all mankind. At length, I began to have an inward conviction that my end was near. I resolved once more to exchange friendly words with my people, and I sent my daughter to summon my brothers Cornplanter and Blacksnake. She hastened to do his bidding, but before she returned he had fallen into insensibility and apparent death. Blacksnake, upon returning to the lodge, hastened to his brother’s couch and discovered that portions of his body were yet warm. This happened at early day before the morning dew had dried. When the sun had advanced half way to the meridian his heart began to beat, and he opened his eyes. Blacksnake asked him if he was in his right mind, but he answered not. At meridian he again opened his eyes, and the same question was repeated. He then answered and said, ‘A man spoke from without and some one might come forth. I looked and saw some men standing without. I rose, and as I attempted to step over the threshold of my door I stumbled, and should have fallen had they not caught me. They were three holy men who looked alike and were dressed alike. The paint they wore seemed but a day old. Each held in his hand a shrub bearing different kinds of fruits. One of them addressing me said, ‘We have come to comfort and relieve you; take of these berries and eat; they will restore you to health: we have been witnesses of your lengthy illness; we have seen with what resignation you have given yourself up to the Great Spirit: we have heard your daily return of thanks; He has heard them all; His ear has ever been open to hear; you was thankful for the return of night, when you could contemplate the beauties of heaven; you was accustomed to look upon the moon as it coursed in its mighty paths; when there were no hopes to you that you would again behold these things, you willingly resigned yourself, to the mind of the Great Spirit; this is right; since, the Great Spirit made the earth and put man upon it, we have been His constant servants to guard and protect His works; there are four of us; some other time you will be permitted to see the other; the Great Spirit is pleased to know your patient resignation to His will; as a reward for yon devotion He has cured your sickness; tell your people to assemble to-morrow, and at morn go in and speak to them.’ After they had further revealed their intentions concerning him they departed.

“At the time appointed Handsomelake appeared at the council and thus addressed the people upon the revelations which had been made to him:

“‘I have a message to deliver to you. The servant of the Great Spirit has told me that I should yet live upon the earth to become an instructor to my people. Since the creation of man the Great Spirit has often raised up men to teach his children what they should do to please him; but they have been unfaithful to their trust. I hope I shall profit by their example. Your Creator has seen that you have transgressed greatly against His laws. He made men pure and good. He did not intend that he should sin. You create a great sin in taking the firewater. The Great Spirit says you must abandon this enticing habit. Your ancestors have brought great misery upon you. They first took the firewater of the white man, and entailed upon you its consequences. None of them have gone to heaven. The firewater does not belong to you. It was made by the white man beyond the great waters. For the white man it is a medicine; but they, too, have violated the will of their Maker. The Great Spirit says drunkenness is a great crime, and He forbids you to indulge in this evil habit. His command is to the old and young. The abandonment of its use will relieve much of your sufferings, and greatly increase the comforts and happiness of your children. The Great Spirit is grieved that so much crime and wickedness should defile the earth. There are many evils which He never intended should exist among His red children. The Great Spirit has for many wise reasons withheld from man the number of his days, but He has not left him without a guide, for He has pointed out to him the path in which he may safely tread the journey of life.

“‘When the Great Spirit made man He also made woman. He instituted marriage, and enjoined upon them to love each other and be faithful. It is pleasing to Him to see men and women obey His will. Your Creator abhors a deceiver and a hypocrite. By obeying His commands you will die an easy and happy death. When the Great Spirit instituted marriage He

ordained to bless those who were faithful with children. Some women are unfaithful and others become so by misfortune. Such have great opportunities to do much good. There are many orphans and poor children whom they can adopt as their own. If you tie up the clothes of an orphan child the Great Spirit will notice it and reward you for it. Should an orphan ever cross your path be kind to him and treat him with tenderness, for this is right. Parents must constantly teach their children morality and reverence for their Creator. Parents must also guard their children against improper marriages. They, having much experience, should select a suitable match for their child. When the parents of both parties have agreed, then bring the young pair together and let them know what good their parents have designed for them. If in time they so far disagree that they cannot possibly live contented and happy with each other they may separate in mutual good feeling, and in this it is no wrong.

“‘When a child is born to a husband and wife they must give great thanks to the Great Spirit, for it is His gift and an evidence of His kindness. Let parents instruct their children in their duty to the Great Spirit, to their parents and to their fellowmen. Children should obey their parents and guardians, and submit to them in all things. Disobedient children occasion great pain and misery. They wound their parents’ feelings and often drive them to desperation, cause them great distress and final admission into the place of evil spirit. The marriage obligations should generate good to all who have assumed them. Let the married be faithful to each other, that when they die it may be in peace. Children should never permit their parents to suffer in their old age. Be kind to them, and support them. The Great Spirit requires all children to love, revere and obey their parents. To do this is highly pleasing to Him. The happiness of parents is greatly increased by the affection and the attention of their children. To abandon a wife or children is a great wrong, and produces many evils. It is wrong for a father or mother-in-law to vex a son or daughter-in-law, but they should use them as if they were their own children. It often happens that parents hold angry disputes over their infant child. This is also a great sin. The infant hears and comprehends the angry words of its parents. It feels bad and lonely. It can see for itself no happiness in prospect. It concludes to return to its Maker. It wants a happy home, and dies. The parents then weep because their child has left them. You must put this evil practice from among you if you would live happy.

“‘The Great Spirit when He made the earth never intended that it should be made merchandise, but His will is that all His creatures should enjoy it equally. Your chiefs have violated and betrayed their trust by selling lands. Nothing is now left of our once large possessions save a few small reservations. Chiefs and aged men, you, as men, have no lands to sell. You occupy and possess tract in trust for your children. You should hold that trust sacred, lest your children are driven from their homes by your unsafe conduct. Whoever sells land offends the Great Spirit, and must expect a great punishment after death.'”

Johnson here suspended the narration of the discourse of Handsomelake’s, and thus addressed the council:

“Chiefs, keepers of the faith, warriors, women and children You all know that our religion teaches that the early day is dedicated to the Great Spirit, and that the late day is granted to the spirits of the dead. It is now meridian, and I must close. Preserve in your minds that which has been said. Accept my thanks for your kind and patient attention. It is meet that I should also return my thanks to the Great Spirit that he has assisted me thus far in my feeble frame to instruct you. We ask you all to come up again to-morrow at early day, to hear what further may be said. I have done.”

The next morning, after the council had been opened in the usual manner, Johnson thus continued.

“Relatives, uncover now your heads and listen. The day has thus far advanced, and again gathered around the council-fire I see around me the several nations of the long house. This gives me great joy. I see also seated around me my counselors (keepers of the faith), who have been regularly appointed, as is the custom of our religion. Greetings have been exchanged with each other. Thanks have been returned to Handsomelake. Thanks also have been returned to our Creator by the council now assembled. At this moment the Great Spirit is looking upon this assembly. He hears our words, knows our thoughts, and is always pleased to see us gathered together of good. The sun is now high, and soon it will reach the middle heavens. I must therefore make haste. Listen attentively, and consider well what you shall hear. I return thanks to our Creator, that He has spared your lives through the dangers of the darkness. I salute and return my thanks to the four Celestial Beings who have communicated what I am about to say to you. I return thanks to my grandfather (Handsomelake), from whom you first heard what I am about to speak. We all feel his loss. We miss him at our councils. I now occupy his place before you, but I am conscious that I have not the power which he possessed.

“Counselors, warriors, mother sand children Listen to good instruction. Consider it well. Lay it up in your hearts, and forget it not. Our Creator when He made us designed that we should live by hunting. It sometimes happens that a man goes out for to hunt, leaving his wife with his friends. After a long absence he returns and finds that his wife has taken another husband. The Great Spirit says this is a great sin, and must be put from among us.

“The four messengers further said that it was wrong for a mother to punish a child with a rod. It is not right to punish much, and our Creator never intended that children should be punished with a whip or be used with much violence. In punishing a refractory child water only is necessary, and it is sufficient. Plunge them under. This is not wrong. Whenever a child promises to do better the punishment must cease. It is wrong to continue it after promises of amendment are made. Thus they said.

“It is right and proper always to look upon the dead. Let your face be brought near to theirs, and address them. Let the dead know that their absence is regretted by their friends, and that they grieve for their death. Let the dead know, too, how their surviving friends intend to live. Let them know whether they will so conduct themselves that they will meet them again in the future world. The dead will hear and remember. Thus they said.

“Continue to listen while I proceed to relate what further they said. Our Creator made the earth. Upon it He placed man, and gave him certain rules of conduct. It pleased Him also to give them many kinds of amusement. He also ordered that the earth should produce all that is good for man. So long as he remains, it will not cease to yield. Upon the surface of the ground berries of various kinds are produced. It is the will of the Great Spirit that when they ripen we should return our thanks to Him, and have a public rejoicing for the continuance of these blessings. He made everything which we live upon, and requires us to be thankful at all times for the continuance of His favors. When our life (corn, &c,), has again appeared, it is the will of the Great Spirit that we assemble for a general thanksgiving. It is His will also that His children be brought and to participate in the feather dance. Your feast must consist of the new production. It is proper at these times, should any present not have their names published, or any changes have been made, to announce them then.

“The festival must last four days. Thus they said. Upon the first day must be performed the feather dance. This ceremony must take place in the early day, and cease at the middle day. In the same manner, upon the second day, is to be performed the Thanksgiving dance. On the third, the Thanksgiving concert. Ah-do-weh is to be introduced. The fourth day is set apart for the peach-stone game. All these ceremonies instituted by our Creator must be commenced at early day, and cease at the middle day. At all these times we are required to return thanks to our Grandfather Heno (Thunder) and his assistants. To them is assigned the duty of watching over the earth and all its produces for our good. The great Feather and Thanksgiving dances are the appropriate ceremonies of Thanksgiving to the Ruler and Maker of all things. The Thanksgiving concert belongs appropriately to our grandfathers. In it we return thanks to them. During the performance of this ceremony we are required also to give them the smoke of tobacco. Again we must at this time return thanks to our mother the earth for she is our relative. We must also return thanks to our life and its sister. All these things are required to be done by the light of the sun. It must not be protracted until the sun has hid its face and darkness surrounds all things.

“Continue to listen. We have a change of season. We have a season of cold. This is the hunting season. It is also one in which the people can amuse themselves. Upon the fifth day of the new moon Nis-go-wuk-na (about February 1st), we are required to commence the annual jubilee of thanksgiving to our Creator. At this festival all can give evidence of

their devotion to the will of the Great Spirit, by participating in all of its ceremonies.

“Continue to listen. The four Messengers of the Great Spirit have always watched over us, and have ever seen what was transpiring among men. At some times Handsomelake was transported by them to the regions above. He looked down upon the earth and saw an assembly. Out of it came a man. His garments were torn, tattered, and filthy. His whole appearance indicated great misery and poverty. They asked him how this spectacle appeared to him. He replied that it was hard to look upon. They then told him that the man he saw was a drunkard; that he had taken the firewater and it had reduced him to poverty. Again he looked and saw a woman, seated on the ground. She was constantly engaged in gathering up and secreting about her person her worldly effects. They said the woman you see is inhospitable. She is selfish to spare anything, and will never leave her worldly goods. She can never pass from earth to heaven. Tell this to your people. Again he looked, and saw a man carrying in each hand large pieces of meat. He went about the assembly to give each a piece. This man they said is blessed, for he is hospitable and kind. He looked again, and saw streams of blood. They said thus will the earth be if the firewater is not put from among you. Brother will kill brother, and friend kill friend. Again they told him to look towards the east. He obeyed as far as his vision reached. He saw the increasing smoke of numberless distilleries arising and shutting out the light of the sun. It was a horrible spectacle to witness. They told him that here was the place that manufactured the firewater. Again he looked, and saw a costly house, made and furnished by the pale faces. It was a house of confinement where were fetters, ropes and whips. They said those who persisted in the use of firewater would fall into this. Our Creator commands us to put this destructive vice far from us. Again he looked and saw various assemblages. Some of them were unwilling to listen to instruction. They were rioters and took great pride in drinking the strong waters. He observed another group who were half inclined to hear, but the temptations of vice that surrounded them allured them back, and they also reveled in the fumes of the firewater. He saw another assemblage who had met to hear instruction. This they said was pleasing to the Great Spirit. He loves those who will listen and obey. It has grieved Him that His children are now divided by separate interests, and are pursuing so many paths. It pleases Him to see His people live together in harmony and quiet. The firewater creates many dissensions and divisions among us. They said the use of it would cause many to die unnatural deaths. Many will be exposed to cold and freeze. Many will be burned, and others will be drowned while under the influence of the firewater.

“Friends and relations, all these things have often happened. How many of our people have frozen to death, how many have burned to death: how many have been drowned, while under the influence of the strong water. The punishment of those who use the firewater commences while they are yet on the earth. Many are now thrown into houses of confinement by the pale faces. I repeat to you the Ruler of us all requires us to unite and put this evil from among us. Some say the use of the firewater is not wrong, and that it is food. Let those who do not believe it is wrong make this experiment: Let all who use the firewater assemble and organize into a council, and those who do not into another council near them. A great difference will then be discovered. The council of drunkards will end in a riot and tumult, while the other will have harmony and quiet. It is hard to think of the great prevalence of this evil among us. Reform, and put it from among you. Many resolve to use the firewater until near death, when they will repent. If they do this nothing can save them from destruction, for medicine can then have no power. Thus they said.

“All men were made equal by the Great Spirit, but He has given them a variety of gifts. To some a pretty face, to others an ugly one: to some a comely form, to others a deformed figure; some are fortunate in collecting around them worldly goods; but you are all entitled to the same privileges, and therefore must put pride from among you. You are not your own maker, nor the builders of your own fortunes; all things are the gifts of the Great Spirit, and to Him must be returned thanks for their bestowal; He alone must be acknowledged as the giver. It has pleased Him to make differences among men, but it is wrong for one man to exalt himself above another. Love each other, for you are all brothers and sisters of the same great family. The Great Spirit enjoins upon all to observe hospitality and kindness, especially to the needy and helpless, for this is pleasing to Him. If a stranger wanders about your abode, speak to him with kind words; be hospitable toward him; welcome him to your home, and forget not always to mention the Great Spirit. In the morning give thanks to the Great Spirit for the return of day and the light of the sun. At night renew your thanks to Him that His ruling power has preserved you from harm during the day and that night has again come in which you may rest your wearied bodies.

“The four messengers said further to Handsomelake, ‘Tell your people, and particularly the keeper of the faith, to be strong-minded and adhere to the true faith. We fear the evil-minded will go among them with temptations. He may introduce the fiddle; he may bring cards and leave them among you; the use of these is a great sin. Let the people be on their guard and the keepers of the faith be watchful and vigilant that none of these evils may find their way among the people. Let the keepers of the faith preserve the law of moral conduct in all its purity. When meetings are to be held for instruction and the people are preparing to go, the evil-minded is then busy. He goes from one to another whispering many temptations, by which to keep them away. He will even follow persons into the door of the council and induce some at that time to bend their steps away; many resist until they have entered, and then leave. This habit once indulged in, obtains fast hold and the evil propensity increases with age. This is a great sin, and should be at once abandoned. Thus they said.

“Speak evil of no one; if you can say no good of a person, then be silent; let all be mindful of this, for these are the words of our Creator. Let all strive to cultivate friendship with those who surround them. This is pleasing to the Great Spirit.

“Counselors, warriors, women and children I shall now rest. I thank you all for you kind and patient attention. I thank the Great Spirit that He has spared the lives of so many of us to witness this day. I request you all to come up again to-morrow at early day. Let us all hope that until we meet again the Creator and Ruler of us all may be kind to us and preserve our lives, na-ho.”

The council on the following day was opened with a few short speeches by some of the chiefs or keepers of the faith, returning thanks for the privileges of the occasion, as usual at councils; after which Johnson, resuming his discourse, spoke as follows:

“Friends and relatives, uncover now you heads. Continue to listen to my rehearsal of the saying communicated to Handsomelake by the four messengers of the Great Spirit. We have met again around the council fire. We have followed the ancient custom and greeted each other. This is right and highly pleasing to our Maker. He now looks down upon this

assemblage; He sees us all; He is informed of the cause of our gathering, and it is pleasing to Him. Life is uncertain; while we live let us love each other; let us sympathize always with the suffering and needy; let us also always rejoice with those who are glad. This is now the third day, and my time for speaking to you is drawing to a close. It will be a long time before we meet again; many moons and seasons will have passed before the sacred council-brand be again uncovered; be watchful, therefore, and remember faithfully what you may now hear.

“In discoursing yesterday upon the duties of the keepers of the faith, I omitted some important things. The Great Spirit created this office; He designed that its duties should never end. There are some who are selected and set apart by our Maker to perform the duties of this office; it is therefore their duty to be faithful, and to be always watching. These duties they must ever perform during their lives. The faithful when they leave this earth will have a pleasant path to travel. The same office exists in heaven, the home of our Creator. They will take the same place when they arrive there. There are dreadful penalties awaiting those keepers of the faith who resign their office without a cause. Thus they said.

“It was the original intention of our Maker that all our feasts of thanksgiving should be seasoned with the flesh of wild animals, but we are surrounded by the pale faces, and in a short time the woods will all be removed: then there will be no game for the Indians to use in their feasts. The four messengers said in consequence of this that we might use the flesh of domestic animals. This will not be wrong. The pale faces are pressing upon every side. You must therefore live as they do. How far you can do so without sin I will now tell you. You may grow cattle and for yourselves a comfortable dwelling house. This is not sin, and it is all you can safely adopt of the customs of the pale faces. You cannot live as they do. Thus they said.

“Continue to listen. It has pleased our Creator to set apart as our life the three Sisters. For this special favor let us ever be thankful. When we have gathered in our harvest let the people assemble and hold a general thanksgiving for so great a good. In this way you will show your obedience to the will and pleasure of your Creator. Thus they said.

“Many of you are ignorant of the spirit of medicine. It watches over us constantly, and assists the needy whenever necessity requires. The Great Spirit designed that some man should possess the gift and skill in medicine, but He is pained to see a medicine man making exorbitant charges for attending the sick. Our Creator made for us tobacco. This plant must always be used in administering medicine. When a sick person recovers his health he must return his thanks to the Great Spirit by means of tobacco, for it is by His goodness that he is made well. He blesses the medicine, and the medicine man must receive as a reward whatever the gratitude of the restored may tender. This is right and proper. There are many that are unfortunate and cannot pay for attendance. It is sufficient for such to return thanks to the medicine man upon recovery. The remembrance that he has saved the life of a relative will be a sufficient reward.



MLA Source Citation:

Johnson, Elias. Legends, Traditions, and Laws of the Iroquois, or Six Nations and History of the Tuscarora Indians. Lockport, New York: Union Printing and Publishing Co. 1881. AccessGenealogy.com. Web. 12 December 2014. http://www.accessgenealogy.com/native/the-new-religion.htm - Last updated on Jun 4th, 2013


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