Item of the Day: Red Jacket’s Reply to a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of the Six Nations (1805)

Found In: The American First Class Book; or, Exercises in Reading and Recitation: Selected Principally from Modern Authors of Great Britain and America; and Designed for the Use of the Highest Class in Publick and Private Schools. By John Pierpont. Boston: Hilliard, Gray, Little, and Wilkins and Richardson, Lord & Holbrook, 1831.

LESSON XXXII.

Reply to the Address of a Missionary at a Council of the Chiefs of “the Six Nations,” in 1805, —by Saghym Whothah, alias Red Jacket.  —PHILANTHROPIST

“Friend and Brother!

It was the will of the Great Spirit, that we should meet together this day. He orders all things; and has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his garment from the sun, and caused it to shine with brightness upon us. Our eyes are opened that we see clearly; our ears are unstopped, that we have been able to hear distinctly the words you have spoken. For all these favours we thank the Great Spirit, and him only.

Brother! Listen to what we say. There was a time when our forefathers owned this great island. Their seats extended from the rising to the setting sun: the Great Spirit had made it for the use of the Indians. He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food. He had made the bear and the beaver; their skins served us for clothing. He had scattered them over the country, and taught us how to take them. He had caused the earth to produce corn for bread. All this he had done for his red children, because he loved them. If we had disputes about our hunting ground, they were generally settled without the shedding of much blood. But an evil day came upon us; your forefathers crossed the great waters, and landed on the island. Their numbers were small; they found us friends, and not enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country, through fear of wicked men, and had come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small seat; we took pity on them, and granted their request: and they sat down amongst us. We gave them corn and meat, and, in return, they gave us poison. The white people having now found our country, tidings were sent back and more came amongst us; yet we did not fear them. We tok them to be friends: they called us brothers; we believed them, and gave them a larger seat. At length their numbers so increasd, that they wanted more land: they wanted our country. Our eyes opened, and we became uneasy. Wars took place; Indians were hired to fight against Indians; and many of our people were destroyed. They also distributed liquor amongst us, which has slain thousands.

Brother! Once our seats were large, and yours were small. You have now become a great people, and we have scarcely a place left to spread our blankets. You have got our country, but, not satisfied, you want to force your religion upon us.

Brother! Continue to listen. You say you are sent to instruct us how to worhsip the Great Spirit agreeably to  his mind, and that if we do not take hold of the religion which you teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given it to us; and not only to us, but why did he not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of rightly understanding it? We only know what you tell us about it, and having been so often deceived by the white people, how shall we believe what they say?

Brother! You say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agree, as you can all read the book?

Brother! We do not understand these things: we are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us: it teaches us to be thankful for all our favours received, to love each other, and to be united: we never quarrel about religion.

Brother! The Great Spirit made us all; but he has made a great difference between his white and his red children: –he has given us different compexions and different customs. To you he has given the arts; tho these he has not opened our eyes. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may he not have given us different religion? The Great Spirit does right: he knows what is best for his children.

Brother! We do not want to destroy your religion, or to take if from you. We only want to enjoy our own.

Brother! We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbours. We will wait a little, and see what effect your preaching has had upon them. If we find it makes those honest, and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother! You have now heard our answer, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are about to part, we will come and take you by the hand: and we hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey, and return you safe to your friends.”

 

(See also Item of the Day for November 10, 2006)

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Filed under 1830's, American Indians, Culture, Education, Indians, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Religion

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