"Everything an Indian does is in a circle,
and that is because the power of the world always works in
circles, and everything tries to be round. In the old days
when we were a strong and happy people, all our power came
to us from the sacred hoop of the nation…. Even the seasons
form a great circle in their changing, and always come back
again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from
childhood to childhood and so it is in everything where power
(This is very similar to the Christian concept of
"Trinity"--loving diversity working in unity. The interior life
of God is also seen in this).
Our Way to Worship By: Igmo Tanko, Gene Martin, Chief of
Chicora Chicora Indian Tribe of South Carolina
When you came to our country
We gave you a hand
And so in return
You took our land
You said that we were savage
And that we had no God
Our way of worship was forbidden
Because you found it very odd
As the sun would rise
We would face the east
To pray for all creations
From the birds to the beast
To thank our Creator
For another sacred day
Because all days are sacred
If you worship the Indian way ©Gene Martin, 1995
Chief Seattle's Speech of 1854 is
a powerful statement on the environment, culture, and the
future of humanity....
There is a great deal of controversy surrounding
Chief Seattle's speech of 1854. There are many sources of information,
various versions of the speech, and debates over its very existence.
The following appeared in the Seattle Sunday Star on Oct. 29, 1887,
in a column by Dr. Henry A. Smith.
"CHIEF SEATTLE'S 1854 ORATION" - version
AUTHENTIC TEXT OF CHIEF SEATTLE'S TREATY ORATION
Yonder sky that has wept tears of compassion upon
my people for centuries untold, and which to us appears changeless
and eternal, may change. Today is fair. Tomorrow it may be overcast
with clouds. My words are like the stars that never change. Whatever
Seattle says, the great chief at Washington can rely upon with as
much certainty as he can upon the return of the sun or the seasons.
The white chief says that Big Chief at Washington sends us greetings
of friendship and goodwill. This is kind of him for we know he has
little need of our friendship in return. His people are many. They
are like the grass that covers vast prairies. My people are few.
They resemble the scattering trees of a storm-swept plain. The great,
and I presume -- good, White Chief sends us word that he wishes
to buy our land but is willing to allow us enough to live comfortably.
This indeed appears just, even generous, for the Red Man no longer
has rights that he need respect, and the offer may be wise, also,
as we are no longer in need of an extensive country.
There was a time when our people covered the land
as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor,
but that time long since passed away with the greatness of tribes
that are now but a mournful memory. I will not dwell on, nor mourn
over, our untimely decay, nor reproach my paleface brothers with
hastening it, as we too may have been somewhat to blame.
Youth is impulsive. When our young men grow angry
at some real or imaginary wrong, and disfigure their faces with
black paint, it denotes that their hearts are black, and that they
are often cruel and relentless, and our old men and old women are
unable to restrain them. Thus it has ever been. Thus it was when
the white man began to push our forefathers ever westward. But let
us hope that the hostilities between us may never return. We would
have everything to lose and nothing to gain. Revenge by young men
is considered gain, even at the cost of their own lives, but old
men who stay at home in times of war, and mothers who have sons
to lose, know better.
Our good father in Washington--for I presume he is
now our father as well as yours, since King George has moved his
boundaries further north--our great and good father, I say, sends
us word that if we do as he desires he will protect us. His brave
warriors will be to us a bristling wall of strength, and his wonderful
ships of war will fill our harbors, so that our ancient enemies
far to the northward -- the Haidas and Tsimshians -- will cease
to frighten our women, children, and old men. Then in reality he
will be our father and we his children. But can that ever be? Your
God is not our God! Your God loves your people and hates mine! He
folds his strong protecting arms lovingly about the paleface and
leads him by the hand as a father leads an infant son. But, He has
forsaken His Red children, if they really are His. Our God, the
Great Spirit, seems also to have forsaken us. Your God makes your
people wax stronger every day. Soon they will fill all the land.
Our people are ebbing away like a rapidly receding tide that will
never return. The white man's God cannot love our people or He would
protect them. They seem to be orphans who can look nowhere for help.
How then can we be brothers? How can your God become our God and
renew our prosperity and awaken in us dreams of returning greatness?
If we have a common Heavenly Father He must be partial, for He came
to His paleface children. We never saw Him. He gave you laws but
had no word for His red children whose teeming multitudes once filled
this vast continent as stars fill the firmament. No; we are two
distinct races with separate origins and separate destinies. There
is little in common between us.
To us the ashes of our ancestors are sacred and their
resting place is hallowed ground. You wander far from the graves
of your ancestors and seemingly without regret. Your religion was
written upon tablets of stone by the iron finger of your God so
that you could not forget. The Red Man could never comprehend or
remember it. Our religion is the traditions of our ancestors --
the dreams of our old men, given them in solemn hours of the night
by the Great Spirit; and the visions of our sachems, and is written
in the hearts of our people.
Your dead cease to love you and the land of their
nativity as soon as they pass the portals of the tomb and wander
away beyond the stars. They are soon forgotten and never return.
Our dead never forget this beautiful world that gave them being.
They still love its verdant valleys, its murmuring rivers, its magnificent
mountains, sequestered vales and verdant lined lakes and bays, and
ever yearn in tender fond affection over the lonely hearted living,
and often return from the happy hunting ground to visit, guide,
console, and comfort them.
Day and night cannot dwell together. The Red Man has
ever fled the approach of the White Man, as the morning mist flees
before the morning sun. However, your proposition seems fair and
I think that my people will accept it and will retire to the reservation
you offer them. Then we will dwell apart in peace, for the words
of the Great White Chief seem to be the words of nature speaking
to my people out of dense darkness.
It matters little where we pass the remnant of our
days. They will not be many. The Indian's night promises to be dark.
Not a single star of hope hovers above his horizon. Sad-voiced winds
moan in the distance. Grim fate seems to be on the Red Man's trail,
and wherever he will hear the approaching footsteps of his fell
destroyer and prepare stolidly to meet his doom, as does the wounded
doe that hears the approaching footsteps of the hunter.
A few more moons, a few more winters, and not one
of the descendants of the mighty hosts that once moved over this
broad land or lived in happy homes, protected by the Great Spirit,
will remain to mourn over the graves of a people once more powerful
and hopeful than yours. But why should I mourn at the untimely fate
of my people? Tribe follows tribe, and nation follows nation, like
the waves of the sea. It is the order of nature, and regret is useless.
Your time of decay may be distant, but it will surely come, for
even the White Man whose God walked and talked with him as friend
to friend, cannot be exempt from the common destiny. We may be brothers
after all. We will see.
We will ponder your proposition and when we decide
we will let you know. But should we accept it, I here and now make
this condition that we will not be denied the privilege without
molestation of visiting at any time the tombs of our ancestors,
friends, and children. Every part of this soil is sacred in the
estimation of my people. Every hillside, every valley, every plain
and grove, has been hallowed by some sad or happy event in days
long vanished. Even the rocks, which seem to be dumb and dead as
the swelter in the sun along the silent shore, thrill with memories
of stirring events connected with the lives of my people, and the
very dust upon which you now stand responds more lovingly to their
footsteps than yours, because it is rich with the blood of our ancestors,
and our bare feet are conscious of the sympathetic touch. Our departed
braves, fond mothers, glad, happy hearted maidens, and even the
little children who lived here and rejoiced here for a brief season,
will love these somber solitudes and at eventide they greet shadowy
returning spirits. And when the last Red Man shall have perished,
and the memory of my tribe shall have become a myth among the White
Men, these shores will swarm with the invisible dead of my tribe,
and when your children's children think themselves alone in the
field, the store, the shop, upon the highway, or in the silence
of the pathless woods, they will not be alone. In all the earth
there is no place dedicated to solitude. At night when the streets
of your cities and villages are silent and you think them deserted,
they will throng with the returning hosts that once filled them
and still love this beautiful land. The White Man will never be
Let him be just and deal kindly with my people, for
the dead are not powerless. Dead, did I say? There is no death,
only a change of worlds.
More sources of information:
Detailed research calling into question the very existence of the
speech, based on the Bureau of Indian Affairs records at the National
Archives, by Jerry L. Clark.
Research by Per-Olof Johansson in Denmark
"Chief Seattle's Thoughts" - two versions of the speech, by
only for so short a while you have loaned us to each other.
Because we take form in your act of drawing us,
And we take life in your painting us,
And we breathe in your singing us.
But only for so short a while have you loaned us to each other."
~ Aztec Prayer ~
Red Jacket Defends Native American Religion
1805 by Red Jacket (Sagoyewatha), Seneca
The Senecas, members of the Iroquois Confederacy,
fought on the side of the British in the American Revolution. Red
Jacket, also known as Sagoyewatha, was a chief and orator born in
eastern New York; he derived his English name from his habit of
wearing many red coats provided to him by his British allies. After
the hostilities, as the British ceded their territories to the Americans,
the Senecas and many other Indian peoples faced enormous pressure
on their homelands. Red Jacket was a critical mediator in relations
between the new U.S. government and the Senecas; he led a delegation
that met with George Washington in 1792, when he received a peace
medal that appeared in subsequent portraits of the Indian leader.
In 1805 a Boston missionary society requested Red Jacket's permission
to proselytize among the Iroquois settlements in northern New York
State. Red Jacket's forceful defense of native religion, below,
caused the representative to refuse the Indian's handshake and announce
that no fellowship could exist between the religion of God and the
works of the Devil.
Friend and brother; it was the will of the Great
Spirit that we should meet together this day. He orders all things,
and he has given us a fine day for our council. He has taken his
garment from before 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 that
you have spoken; for all these favors we thank the Great Spirit,
and him only. Brother, this council fire was kindled by you; it
was at your request that we came together at this time; we have
listened with attention to what you have said. You requested us
to speak our minds freely; this gives us great joy, for we now consider
that we stand upright before you, and can speak what we think; all
have heard your voice, and all speak to you as one man; our minds
Brother, you say you want an answer to your talk
before you leave this place. It is right you should have one, as
you are a great distance from home, and we do not wish to detain
you; but we will first look back a little, and tell you what our
fathers have told us, and what we have heard from the white people.
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 Indians.
He had created the buffalo, the deer, and other animals for food.
He made the bear and the beaver, and 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
any disputes about hunting grounds, 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 this island.
Their numbers were small; they found friends, and not enemies; they
told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked
men, and come here to enjoy their religion. They asked for a small
seat; we took pity on them, granted their request, and they sat
down amongst us; we gave them corn and meat; they gave us poison
in return. The white people had now found our country; tidings were
carried back, and more came amongst us; yet we did not fear them,
we took them to be friends; they called us brothers; we believed
them, and gave them a larger seat. At length, their numbers had
greatly increased; they wanted more land; they wanted our country.
Our eyes were opened, and our minds became uneasy. Wars took place;
Indians were hired to fight against Indians, and many of our people
were destroyed. They also brought strong liquor among us; it was
strong and powerful, and has slain thousands. Brother, our seats
were once large, and yours were very 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 are not satisfied; you want
to force your religion upon us.
Brother, continue to listen. You say you are sent
to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to his
mind, and if we do not take hold of the religion which you white
people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are
right, and we are lost; 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 understanding it rightly?
We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to
believe, being so often deceived by the white people? 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 their children. We worship
that way. It teacheth us to be thankful for all the favors we receive;
to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.
Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all; but he
has made a great difference between his white and red children;
he has given us a different complexion, and different customs; to
you he has given the arts; to these he has not opened our eyes;
we know these things to be true. Since he has made so great a difference
between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has
given us a different religion according to our understanding. The
Great Spirit does right; he knows what is best for his children;
we are satisfied. Brother, we do not wish to destroy your religion,
or take it from you; we only want to enjoy our own.
Brother, you say you have not come to get our land
or our money, but to enlighten our minds. I will now tell you that
I have been at your meetings, and saw you collecting money from
the meeting. I cannot tell what this money was intended for, but
suppose it was for your minister; and if we should conform to your
way of thinking, perhaps you may want some from us. Brother, we
are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this
place. These people are our neighbors; we are acquainted with them;
we will wait, a little while and see what effect your preaching
has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and
less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again what
you have said. Brother, you have now heard our answer to your talk,
and this is all we have to say at present. As we are going to part,
we will come and take you by the hand, and hope the Great Spirit
will protect you on your journey, and return you safe to your friends.
Source: Daniel Drake, Lives of Celebrated American
Indians, Boston, Bradbury, Soden & Co. 1843), 283-87.
(Much More Native American Spirituality to be added)