View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3b
View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3b
[beginning of page 59]
the work could be critically examined; but to set off as soon as possible. He accordingly took his passage in the first vessel bound to England. As soon as the war was over, (Mr. Boudinot adds of himself,) the writer sent to London to obtain a copy of this work. After reading it with care, he strictly examined a gentleman, then a member with him in congress, and of excellent character, who had acted as our agent among the Indians to the southward, during the war, relative to the points of fact stated by Mr. Adair, without letting him know the design, and from him found all the leading facts mentioned in Mr. Adair’s history, fully confirmed from his own personal knowledge.”
Here are the evidences of two great and good men most artlessly uniting in the leading facts stated by Mr. Adair. The character of Mr. Boudinot (who was for some time President of the American Bible Society,) is well known. He was satisfied with the truth of Mr. Adair’s history, and that the natives of our land are the Hebrews, the ten tribes. And he hence published his “Star in the West” on this subject; which is most worthy of the perusal of all men.
From various authors and travellers among the Indians, the fact that the American Indians are the ten tribes of Israel, will be attempted to be proved by the following arguments:
1. The American natives have one origin.
2. Their language appears to have been Hebrew.
3. They have had their imitation of the ark of the covenant in ancient Israel.
4. They have been in the practice of circumcision.
5. They have acknowledged one and only one God.
6. The celebrated William Penn gives accounts of the natives of Pennsylvania, which go to corroborate the same point.
7. The Indians having one tribe, answering in various respects to the tribe of Levi, sheds further light on this subject.
8. Several prophetic traits of character given to the Hebrews, do accurately apply to the aborigines of America.
9. The Indians being in tribes, with their heads and names of tribes, affords further light.
10. Their having something answering to the ancient cities of refuge, seems to evince their Israelitish extraction.
11. Their variety of traditions, historical and religious, do wonderfully accord with the idea, that they descended from the ancient ten tribes.
[beginning of page 60]
The reader will pardon, if the tax on his patience under this last argument, exceeds that of all the rest.
1. The American natives have one origin. -- Their language has a variety of dialects; but all are believed by some good judges to be the same radical language. Various noted authors agree in this. Charlevoix, a noted French writer, who came over to Canada very early, and who travelled from Canada to the Mississippi, in his history of Canada, says; “The Algonquin and the Huron languages, (which he says are as really the same, as the French and old Norman are the same,) have between them the language of all the savage nations we are acquainted with. Whoever should well understand both of these, might travel without an interpreter more than fifteen hundred leagues of country, and make himself understood by an hundred different nations, who have each their peculiar tongue;” meaning dialect. The Algonquin was the dialect of the Wolf tribe, or the Mohegan; and most of the native tribes of New England and of Virginia.
Doctor Jonathan Edwards. son of president Edwards, lived in his youth among the Indians; as his father was a missionary among them, before he was called to Princeton College; and he became as familiar with the Mohegan dialect, as with his mother tongue. He had also a good knowledge of the Mohawk dialect. He pronounced the Mohegan the most extensive of all the Indian dialects of North America. Dr. Boudinot asserts of him as follows. “Dr. Edwards assures us, that the language of the Delawares, in Pennsylvania, of the Penobscots, bordering on Nova Scotia, of the Indians of St. Francis, in Canada, of the Shawanese, on the Ohio, of the Chippewas, to the eastward of Lake Huron, of the Ottawas, Nanticokes, Munsees, Minoniones, Messinaquos, Saasskies, Oilagamies, Kellestinoes, Mipegoes, Algonquins, Winnibagoes, and of the several tribes in New England, are radically the same. And the variations between them are to be accounted for from their want of letters and of communications.” He adds (what all in the eastern states well know) “Much stress may be laid on Dr. Edwards’ opinion. He was a man of strict integrity and great piety. He had a liberal education.--He was greatly improved in the Indian languages; to which he habituated himself from early life, having lived long among the Indians.”
Herein the doctor agrees with the testimony of Charlevoix just noted. Here we find a cogent argument in favour of the Indians of North America, at least as being of one origin. And arguments will
[beginning of page 61]
be furnished that the Indians of South America are probably of the same origin.
Doctor Boudinot (who for more than forty years was of opinion that the Indians are the ten tribes, and who sought and obtained much evidence on this subject,) assures us, that the syllables which compose the word Yohewah (Jehovah) and Yah, (Jah) are the roots of a great number of Indian words, through different tribes. They make great use of these words, and of the syllables which compose the names of God; also which form the word Hallelujah, through their nations for thousands of miles; especially in their religious songs and dances. With beating and an exact keeping of time, they begin a religious dance thus; Hal, hal, hal; then le, le, le; next lu, lu, lu; and then close yah, yah, yah. This is their traditional song of praise to the great Spirit. This, it is asserted, is sung in South, as well as North America. And this author says; “Two Indians, who belong to far distant nations, may without the knowledge of each other’s language, except from the general idiom of all their tribes, converse with each other, and make contracts without an interpreter.” This shews them to have been of one origin.
Again, he says; “Every nation of Indians have certain customs, which they observe in their public transactions with other nations, and in their private affairs among themselves, which it is scandalous for any one among them not to observe. And these always draw after them either public or private resentment, whenever they are broken. Although these customs may in their detail differ in one nation when compared with another; yet it is easy to discern that they have all had one origin.
Du Pratz says, in his history of Louisiania, “The nations of North America derived their origin from the same country, since at bottom they all have the same manners and usages, and the same manner of speaking and thinking.” It is ascertained that no objection arises against this, from the different shades of complexion found among different tribes of Indians. “The colour of the Indians generally, (says Doct. Boudinot,) is red, brown, or copper, according to the climate, and the high or low ground.” Mr. Adair expresses the same opinion; and the Indians have their tradition, that in the nation from which they originally came, all were of one colour. According to all accounts given of the Indians, there are certain things in which all agree. This appears in the journals of Mr. Giddings, of his exploring tour. The most distant and barbarous Indians agree in a variety of
[beginning of page 62]
things with all other tribes. They have their Great Spirit; their high priests; their sacrificing, when going to or returning from war; their religious dance; and their sacred little enclosure, containing their most sacred things, though it be but a sack, instead of an ark.-- Messrs. Lack and Escarbotus both assert that they have often heard the Indians of South America sing “Hallelujah.” For thousands of miles the North American Indians have been abundant in this.
Doctor Williams, in his history of Vermont, says; “In whatever manner this part of the earth was peopled, the Indians appear to have been the most ancient, or the original men of America. They had spread over the whole continent, from the fiftieth degree of north latitude, to the southern extremity of Cape Horn. And these men every where appeared to be the same race or kind of people. In every part of the continent, the Indians are marked with a similarity of colour, features, and every circumstance of external appearance. Pedro de Cicca de Leon, one of the conquerors of Peru, and who had travelled through many provinces of America, says of the Indians; “The people, men and women, although there are such a multitude of tribes or nations, in such diversities of climates, appear nevertheless like the children of one father and mother.”
Ulloa (quoted by Doct. Williams,) had a great acquaintance with the Indians of South America, and some parts of North America. Speaking of the Indians of Cape Breton in the latter, he declared them to be “the same people with the Indians in Peru.” “If we have seen one American, (said he) we may be said to have seen them all.” These remarks do not apply to all the people in the northern extremities of America. The Esquimaux natives appear to be a different race of men. This race are found in Labrador, in Greenland, and round Hudson’s Bay. All these appear evidently the same with the Laplanders, Zemblans, Samoyeds and Tartars in the east. They probably migrated to this western hemisphere at periods subsequent to the migration of the Indians. They, or some of them, might have come from the north of Europe; from Norway to Iceland, then to Greenland, and thence to the coasts of Labrador, and farther west. But the consideration of those different people, does not affect our subject.
2. Their language appears clearly to have been Hebrew. In this, Doctor Edwards, Mr. Adair, and others were agreed. Doctor Edwards, after having a good acquaintance with their language, gave his reasons for believing it to have been originally Hebrew. Both, he remarks, are found without prepositions, and are formed with prefixes
[beginning of page 63]
and suffixes; a thing probably known to no other language. And he shows that not only the words, but the construction of phrases, in both, have been the same. Their pronouns, as well as their nouns, Doctor Edwards remarks, are manifestly from the Hebrew. Mr. Adair is confident of the fact, that their language is Hebrew. And their laconic, bold and commanding figures of speech, he notes as exactly agreeing with the genius of the Hebrew language. He says, that after living forty years among them, he obtained such knowledge of the Hebrew idiom of their language, that he viewed the event of their having for more than two millenaries, and without the aid of literature, preserved their Hebrew language so pure, to be but little short of a miracle.
Relative to the Hebraism of their figures, Mr. Adair gives the following instance, from an address of a captain to his warriors, going to battle, “I know that your guns are burning in your hands; your tomahawks are thirsting to drink the blood of your enemies; your trusty arrows are impatient to be upon the wing; and lest delay should burn your hearts any longer, I give you the cool refreshing word; join the holy ark; and away to cut off the devoted enemy!”
A table of words and phrases is furnished by Doct. Boudinot, Adair, and others, with several added from good authority, to show how clearly the Indian language is from the Hebrew. Some of these Indian words are taken from one tribe, and some from another. In a long savage state, destitute of all aid from letters, a language must roll and change. It is strange that after a lapse of 2500 years, a single word should, among such a people, be preserved the same. But the hand of Providence is strikingly seen in this, perhaps to bring that people to light.
The following may afford a specimen of the evidence on this part of the subject.
English. Indian. Hebrew, or Chaldaic.
Jehovah Yohewah Jehovah
God Ale Ale, Aleim
Jah Yah or Wah Jah
Shiloh Shilu Shiloh
Heavens Chemim Shemim
Father Abba Abba
Man Ish, Ishte Ish
Woman Ishto Ishto
[beginning of page 64]
Wife Awah Eweh, Eve
Thou Keah Ka
His Wife Liani Libene
This man Uwoh Huah
Nose Niehiri Neheri
Roof of a house Taubana-ora Debonaour
Winter Kora Korah
Canaan Canaai Canaan
To pray Phale Phalac
Now Na Na
Hand part Kesh Kish
Do Jennais Jannen
To blow Phaubac Phauhe
Rushing wind Rowah Ruach
Ararat, or high mount Ararat Ararat
Assembly Kurbet Grabit
My skin Nora Ourni
Man of God Ishto allo Ishda alloah
Waiter of the high priest Sagan Sagan
PARTS OF SENTENCES.
English. Indian. Hebrew.
Very hot Heru bara or hala Hara bara
Praise to the First Cause Halleluwah Hallelujah
Give me food Natoni boman Natour bamen
Go thy way Bayou boorkaa Boua bouak
Good be to you Halea tibou Ye hali ettouboa
My necklace Yene kali Vongali
I am sick Nane guaete Nance heti
Can a rational doubt be entertained whether the above Indian words, and parts of sentences, were derived from their corresponding words and parts of sentences in Hebrew? If so, their adoption by savages at this distant time and place, would appear miraculous. Some one or two words might happen to be the same, among distant different nations. But that so many words, and parts of sentences too, in a language with a construction peculiar to itself, should so nearly,
[beginning of page 65]
and some of them exactly correspond, is never to be admitted as resulting from accident.
And if these words and parts of sentences are from their corresponding Hebrew, the Indians must have descended from the ten tribes of Israel.
Some of the Creek Indians called a murderer Abe; probably from Abel, the first man murdered, whose name in Hebrew imports, mourning. And they called one who kills a rambling enemy, Noabe; probably from Noah, importing rest, and Abe.--He thus puts his rambling enemy to rest. The Caribbee Indians and the Creeks had more than their due proportion of the words and parts of sentences in the above table.
Rev. Dr. Morse, in his late tour among the western Indians, says of the language; “It is highly metaphorical; and in this and other respects, they resemble the Hebrew. This resemblance in their language, (he adds) and the similarity of many of their religious customs to those of the Hebrews, certainly give plausibility to the ingenious theory of Dr. Boudinot, exhibited in his interesting work, the Star in the West.”
Dr. Boudinot informs that a gentleman, then living in the city of New York, who had long been much conversant with the Indians, assured him, that being once with the Indians at the place called Cohocks, they shewed him a very high mountain at the west, the Indian name of which, they informed him, was Ararat. And the Penobscot Indians, the Dr. informs, call a high mountain by the same name.
Doctor Boudinot assures us that he himself attended an Indian religious dance. He says ; “They danced one round; and then a second, singing hal-hal-hal, till they finished the round. They then gave us a third round, striking up the words, le-le-le. On the next round, it was the words, lu-lu-lu, dancing with all their might. During the fifth round was sung, yah-yah-yah. -- Then all joined in a lively and joyful chorus, and sung halleluyah; dwelling on each syllable with a very long breath, in a most pleasing manner.” The Doctor adds; “There could be no deception in all this. The writer was near them--paid great attention--and every thing was obvious to the senses. Their pronunciation was very guttural and sonorous; but distinct and clear.” How could it be possible that the wild native Americans, in different parts of the continent, should be found singing this phrase of praise to the Great First Cause, or to Jah--exclusively Hebrew, without having
[beginning of page 66]
brought it down by tradition from ancient Israel? The positive testimonies of such men as Boudinot and Adair, are not to be dispensed with, nor doubted. They testify what they have seen and heard. And I can conceive of no rational way to account for this Indian song, but that they brought it down from ancient Israel, their ancestors.
Mr. Faber remarks; “They (the Indians) call the lightning and thunder, Eloha; and its rumbling, Rowah, which may not improperly be deduced from the Hebrew word Ruach, a name of the third person of the Holy Trinity, originally signifying, the air in motion, or a rushing wind.” Who can doubt but their name of thunder, Eloha, is derived from a Hebrew name of God, Elohim? Souard, (quoted in Boudinot,) in his Literary Miscellanies, says of the Indians in Surinam, on the authority of Isaac Nasci, a learned Jew residing there, that the dialect of those Indians, common to all the tribes of Guiana, is soft, agreeable, and regular. And this learned Jew asserts, that their substantives are Hebrew. The word expressive of the soul (he says) is the same in each language, and is the same with breath. “God breathed into man the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” This testimony from Nasci, a learned Jew, dwelling with the Indians, must be of signal weight.
Dr. Boudinot from many good authorities says of the Indians; “Their language in their roots, idiom, and particular construction, appears to have the whole genius of the Hebrew; and what is very remarkable, it has most of the peculiarities of that language; especially those in which it differs from most other languages.”
Governor Hutchinson observed, that “many people (at the time of the first settlement of New England,) pleased themselves with the conjecture, that the Indians in America are the descendants of the ten tribes of Israel.” Something was discovered so early, which excited this pleasing sentiment. This has been noted as having been the sentiment of Rev. Samuel Sewall, of vice president Willard, and others. Governor Hutchinson expresses his doubt upon the subject, on account of the dissimilarity of the language of the natives of Massachusetts, to the Hebrew. Any language in a savage state, must, in the course of 2500 years, have rolled and varied exceedingly. This is shown to be the case in the different dialects, and many new words introduced among those tribes, which are acknowedged [sic] to have their language radically the same.
The following facts are enough to answer every objection on this ground. The Indians had no written language. Hence the English
[beginning of page 67]
scholar could not see the spelling or the root of any Indian word. And the guttural pronunciation of the natives was such as to make even the Hebrew word, that might still be retained, appear a different word; especially to those who were looking for no Hebrew language among them. And the following noted idiom of the Indian language was calculated to hide the fact in perfect obscurity, even had it been originally Hebrew, viz.; the Indian language consists of a multitude of monosyllables added together.--Every property or circumstance of a thing to be mentioned by an Indian, must be noted by a new monosyllable added to its name. Hence it was that the simple word our loves, must be expressed by the following long Indian word Noowomantammoonkanunonnash. Mr. Colden, in his history of the five nations, observes, “They have few radical words. But they compound their words without end. The words expressive of things lately come to their knowledge (he says) are all compounds. And sometimes one word among them includes an entire definition of the thing.”*1 These things, considered of a language among savages, 2500 years after their expulsion from Canaan, must answer every objection arising from the fact, that the Indian language appears in some things very different from the Hebrew. And they must render it little less than miraculous (as Mr. Adair says it is) that after a lapse of so long a period among savages, without a book or letters, a word or phrase properly Hebrew should still be found among them. Yet such words and phrases are found. And many more may yet be found in the compounds of Indian words. I have just now observed, in dropping my eye on a Connecticut Magazine for 1803, a writer on the Indians in Massachusetts, in its earliest days, informs, that the name of a being they worshipped was Abamocko. Here, without any perception of the fact, he furnishes a Hebrew word in compound. Abba-mocko; father-mocho. As a tribe of Indians in the south call God, Abba-mingo ishto; Father-chief man. In the latter, we have two Hebrew words; Abba, father, and Ish, man. Could we make proper allowance for Pagan pronunciation, and find how the syllables in their words ought to be spelled, we might probably find many more of the Hebrew roots in their language.
It is ascertained that the Indians make great use of the syllables of the names of God, as roots of compound words. Dr. Boudinot says; “Y-O-he-wah-yah and Ale, are roots of a prodigious number of words
[beginning of page 68]
through their various dialects.” Wah being a noted name of God with the Indians, it seems often to occur in their proper names. Major Long informs us, in his expedition to the Rocky Mountains, that the name of God with the Omawhaw tribe is Wahconda. The Indians have their Wabash river, their Wa-sasheh tribe, (of which the word Osage is but a French corruption) their Wa-bingie, Wa-ping, Wa-masqueak, Wa-shpeloag, and Wa-shpeaute tribes; also their Wa-bunk, a name of the sun. A friend of mine informs me, that while surveying in his younger life in the state of Ohio, he obtained considerable acquaintance with the Indians there. That they appeared to have a great veneration for the sun, which they called Wahbunk. If bunk is an Indian name for a bed, as some suppose, it would seem that with those Indians, the sun was Jehovah’s bed, or place of residence. The Indians have had much of an idea of embodying the Great Spirit in fire. It is an idea which resulted from the scene on the fiery top of Sinai, and from ancient Hebrew figures, (as Paul informed in his epistle to the Hebrews) that “Our God is a consuming fire.” No wonder then those Indians in Ohio, as did the ancient Peruvians, embodied their Great Spirit in the sun. And no wonder their veneration for that visible supposed residence of the Great Spirit should be mistaken by strangers for worship paid to the sun.
3. The Indians have had their imitation of the ark of the covenant in ancient Israel. Different travellers, and from different regions unite in this. Mr. Adair is full in his account of it. It is a small square box, made convenient to carry on the back. The never set it on the ground, but on logs in low ground where stones are not to be had; and on stones where they are to be found. This author gives the following account of it. “It is worthy of notice, (he says) that they never place the ark on the ground, not sit it on the bare earth when they are carrying it against an enemy. On hilly ground, where stones are plenty, they place it on them. But in level land, upon short logs, always resting themselves (i.e. the carriers of the ark) on the same materials. Theyhave also as strong a faith of the power and holiness of their ark, as ever the Israelites retained of theirs. The Indian ark is deemed so sacred and dangerous to touch, either by their own sanctified warriors, or the spoiling enemy, that neither of them dare meddle with it on any account. It is not to be handled by any except the chieftain and his waiter, under penalty of incurring great evil; nor would the most inveterate enemy dare to touch it. The leader virtually
[beginning of page 69]
acts the part of a priest of war, pro tempore, in imitation of the Israelites fighting under the divine military banner.”
Doct. Boudinot says of this ark, “It may be called the ark of the covenant imitated.” In time of peace it is the charge of their high priests. In their wars, they make great account of it. The leader, (acting as high priest on that occasion,) and his darling waiter, carry it in turns. They deposit in the ark some of their most consecrated articles. The two carriers of this sacred symbol, before setting off with it for the war, purify themselves longer than do the rest of the warriors. The waiter bears their ark during a battle. It is strictly forbidden for any one, but the proper officer, to look into it. An enemy, if they capture it, treat it with the same reverence.
Doctor Boudinot says that a gentleman, who was at Ohio, in 1756, informed him that while he was there, he saw among the Indians a stranger who appeared very desirous to look into the ark of that tribe. The ark was then standing on a block of wood, covered with a dressed deer skin. A centinel was guarding it, armed with a bow and arrow. The centinel finding the intruder pressing on, to look into the ark, drew his arrow at his head, and would have dropped him on the spot; but the stranger perceiving his danger, fled. Who can doubt the origin of this Indian custom? And who can resist the evidence it furnishes, that here are the tribes of Israel? See Num. x. 35, 36, and xiv. 44.
4. The American Indians have practised circumcision. Doct. Beaty, in his journal of a visit to the Indians in Ohio, between fifty and sixty years ago, says that “an old Indian (in answer to his questions relative to their ancient customs, the Indian being one of the old beloved wise men,) informed him, that an old uncle of his, who died about the year 1728, related to him several customs of former times among the Indians, and among the rest, that circumcision was long ago practised among them, but that their young men made a mock of it, and it fell into disrepute and was discontinued.” Mr. M’Kenzie informs, that in his travels among the Indians, he was led to believe the same fact, of a tribe far to the north west; as stated in the “Star in the West.” His words (when speaking of the nations of the Slave and Dog rib Indians,) are these; “Whether circumcision be practised among them, I cannot pretend to say; but the appearance of it was general among those I saw.” The Indians cautiously conceal their special religious rites from strangers travelling among them. Mr. M’Kenzie then wound not be likely to learn this fact from them, by any statement of the fact, or by seeing it performed. But he says, “The
[beginning of page 70]
appearance of it was general.” Doctor Boudinot assures that the eastern Indians inform of its having been practised among them in times past; but that latterly, not being able to give any account of so strange a rite, their young men had opposed it, and it was discontinued. Immanuel de Moraez, in his history of Brazil, says it was practised among the native Brazilians. These native inhabitants of South America were of the same origin with the Indians of North America.
The Rev. Mr. Bingham of Boston informed the writer of these sheets, that Thomas Hopoo, the pious native of a Sandwich Island, informed him while in this country, before he returned with our missionaries to his native region, that he himself had been circumcised; that he perfectly remembered his brother’s holding him, while his father performed upon him this rite.
Mr. Bingham also informed that the pious Obookiah, of the same race, pleased himself that he was a natural descendant of Abraham, and thought their own language radically Hebrew. It is believed by men of the best information that the Sandwich Islanders and the native Americans are of the same race. What savage nation could ever have conceived of such a rite, had they not descended from Israel?
5. The native Americans have acknowledged one, and only one God; and they have generally views concerning the one Great Spirit, of which no account can be given, but that they derived them from ancient revelation in Israel. Other nations destitute of revelation, have had their many gods. But little short of three hundred thousand gods have existed in the bewildered imaginations of the pagan world. Every thing, almost, has been deified by the heathen. Not liking to retain God in their knowledge, and professing themselves to be wise, they became fools; and they changed the glory of the one living God, into images of beasts, birds, reptiles, and creeping things. There has been the most astonishing inclination in the world of mankind to do thus. But here is a new world of savages, chiefly, if not wholly free from such wild idolatry. Doctor Boudinot (being assured by many good witnesses,) says of the Indians who had been known in his day; “They were never known (whatever mercenary Spanish writers may have written to the contrary) to pay the least adoration to images or dead persons, to celestial luminaries, to evil spirits, or to any created beings whatever.” Mr. Adair says the same, and assures that “none of the numerous tribes and nations, from Hudson’s Bay to the Mississippi,
[beginning of page 71]
have ever been known to attempt the formation of any image of God. “ Du Pratz was very intimate with the chief of those Indians called “the Guardians of the Temple,” near the Mississippi. He inquired of them the nature of their worship.--The chief informed him that they worshipped the great and most perfect Spirit; and said, “He is so great and powerful, that in comparison with him all others are as nothing. He made all things that we see, and all things that we cannot see.” The chief went on to speak of God as having made little spirits, called free servants, who always stand before the Great Spirit ready to do his will. That “the air is filled with spirits; some good, some bad; and that the bad have a chief who is more wicked than the rest.” Here it seems is their traditional notion of good and bad angels; and of Beelzebub, the chief of the latter. This chief being asked how God made man, replied, that “God kneaded some clay, made it into a little man, and finding it was well formed, he blew on his work, and the man had life and grew up!” Being asked of the creation of the woman, he said, “their ancient speech made no mention of, any difference,only that the man was made first.” Moses’ account of the formation of the woman, it seems, had been lost.
Mr. Adair is very full in this, that the Indians have but one God, the Great Yohewah, whom they call the great, beneficent, supreme, and holy Spirit, who dwells above the clouds, and who dwells with good people and is the only object of worship. So different are they from all the idolatrous heathen upon earth. He assures that they hold this great divine Spirit as the immediate head of their community; which opinion he conceives they must have derived from the ancient theocracy in Israel. He assures that the Indians are intoxicated with religious pride, and call all other people the accursed people; and have time out of mind been accustomed to hold them in great contempt. Their ancestors they boast to have been under the immediate government of Yohewah, who was with them, and directed them by his prophets, while the rest of the world were outlaws, and strangers to the covenant of Yohewah. The Indians thus please themselves (Mr. Adair assures us) with the idea that God has chosen them from the rest of mankind as his peculiar people. This, he says, has been the occasion of their hating other people; and of viewing themselves hated by all men. These things show that they acknowledge but one God.
The Peruvians have been spoken of as paying adoration to the sun; and as receiving their race of Incas, as children of the sun, in
[beginning of page 72]
their succession of twelve monarchies. The Indians have had much of an apprehension that their one Great Spirit had a great affinity to fire. And the Peruvians, it seems, went so far as to embody him in the sun. Here seems a shred of mixture of the Persian idolatry, with the theocracy of Israel. As the more ancient Israelites caught a degree of the idolatrous distemper of Egypt, as appears in their golden calf; so the ten tribes, the time they resided in Media, and before they set off for America, may have blended some idea of fire with their one God. But the veneration the Peruvians had for their Incas, as children of the Most High, seems but a shred of ancient tradition from Israel, that their kings were divinely anointed; and is so far from being an argument against their being of Israel, that it operates rather in favour of the fact.
Doctor Boudinot informs of the southern Indians of North America, that they had a name for God, which signifies, “the great, the beloved, holy cause.” And one of their names of God, is Mingo-Ishto-Abba;--Great Chief Father. He speaks of a preacher’s being among the Indians at the south, before the American revolution, and beginning to inform them that there is a God who created all things. Upon which they indignantly replied, “Go about your business, you fool! Do not we know there is a God, as well as you?”
In their sacred dances, these authors assure us the Indians sing “Halleluyah Yohewah;” -- praise to Jah, Jehovah. When they return victorious from their wars, they sing, Yo-he-wah; having been by tradition taught to ascribe the praise to God.
The same authors assure us, the Indians make great use of the initials of the mysterious name of God, like the tetragrammaton of the ancient Hebrews; or the four radical letters which form the name of Jehovah; as the Indians pronounce thus, Y-O-He-wah. That like the ancient Hebrews, they are cautious of mentioning these together, or at once. They sing and repeat the syllables of this name in their sacred dances thus; Yo-yo, or ho-ho-he-he-wah-wah. Mr. Adair upon the same says; “After this they begin again; Hal-hal-le-le-lu-lu-yah-yah. And frequently the whole train strike up, hallelu-hallelu-halleluyah-halleluyah.” They frequently sing the name of Shilu (Shilo, Christ) with the syllables of the name of God added; thus, “Shilu-yo-Shilu-yo-Shilu-he-Shilu-he-Shilu-wah-Shilu-wah.” Thus adding to the praise of Shilu, the name of Jehovah by its sacred syllables. Things like these have been found among Indians of different regions of America. Syllables and letters of the name of God have
[beginning of page 73]
been so transposed in 4 different ways; and so strange and guttural has been the Indian pronunciation, that it seems it took a long time to perceive that these savages were by tradition pronouncing the names of the God of Israel. Often have people been informed, and smiled at the fact, that an Indian, hurt or frightened, usually cries out wah! This is a part of his traditional religion; O Jah! or O Lord!
Doctor Williams upon the Indians’ belief of the being of God,, observes; “They denominate the deity the Great Spirit; the Great Man above; and seem to have some general ideas of his government and providence, universal power and dominion. The immortality of the soul was every where admitted among the Indian tribes.”
The Rev. Ithamar Hebard, formerly minister of this place, related the following: That about fifty years ago, a number of men were sent from New England by the government of Britain into the region of the Mississippi, to form some treaty with the Indians. That while these commissioners were there, having tarried for some time, an Indian chief came from the distance of what he calls several moons to the westward. Having heard that white men were there, he came to enquire of them where the Great Being dwelt, who made all things. And being informed through an interpreter, of the divine omnipresence; he raised his eyes and hands to heaven with great awe and ecstacy, and looking round, and leaping, he seemed to express the greatest reverence and delight. The head man of these commissioners had been a profane man; but this incident cured him, so that he was not heard to utter another profane word on his tour. This was related to Mr. Hebard by one Elijah Wood, who was an eye witness of the scene, and who was afterward a preacher of the gospel. The son of Mr. Hebard, a settled minister, gives this relation.
Let this fact of the Indians generally adhering to one, and only one God, be contrasted with the polytheism of the world of pagans, and heathen besides; with the idle and ridiculous notions of heathen gods and goddesses; and who can doubt of the true origin of the natives of our continent? They are fatally destitute of proper views of God and religion. But they have brought down by tradition from their remote ancestors, the notion of there being but one great and true God; which affords a most substantial argument in favour of their being the ancient Israel.
It is agreed that within about eighty years, a great change has been produced among the Indians. They have in this period much degenerated as to their traditional religion. Their connexions with the
[beginning of page 74]
most degenerate part of the white people, trading among them; and their knowledge and use of ardent spirit, have produced the most deleterious effects. They have felt less zeal to maintain their own religion, such as it was; and to transmit their own traditions. Remarkable indeed it is, that they did so diligently propagate and transmit them, till so competent a number of good testimonies should be furnished to the civilized and religious world, relative to their origin. This must have been the great object of divine Providence in causing them so remarkably to transmit their traditions through such numbers of ages. And when the end is answered, the cause leading to it may be expected to cease.
This may account for the degeneracy of some Indians far to the west, reported in the journals of Mr. Giddings, in his exploring tour. He informs, “They differ greatly in their ideas of the Great Spirit; one supposes that he dwells in a buffalo, another in a wolf, another in a bear, another in a bird, another in a rattlesnake. On great occasions, such as when they go to war, and when they return; (he adds) they sacrifice a dog, and have a dance. On these occasions they formerly sacrificed a prisoner taken in the war; but through the benevolent exertions of a trader among them, they have abandoned the practice of human sacrifice. There is always one who officiates as high priest. He practises the most rigid abstinence. He pretends to a kind of inspiration, or witchcraft; and his directions are obeyed.
“They all believe (he adds) in future rewards and punishments; but their heaven is sensual. They differ much in their ideas of goodness. One of their chiefs told him, he did not know what constituted a good man; that their wise men in this, did not agree.
“Their chiefs, and most of their warriors, have a war sack, which contains generally the skin of a bird, which has a green plumage; or some other object, which they imagine to have some secret virtue.”
Here we learn that those far distant savages have (as have all the other tribes) their Great Spirit, “who made every thing,” though in their bewildered opinion he dwells in certain animals. On going to war, or returning, they must sacrifice; and for victory obtained, must have their religious dance. They must have their high priest, who must practice great abstinence, and pretend to inspiration; and hence must be obeyed. They have brought down their traditional notions of these things; and of future rewards and punishments. The ark of their warlike chieftains, it seems, has degenerated into a sack! but this
[beginning of page 75]
(like the ark of the other tribes) must contain their most sacred things; “green plumage, or some other objects which they imagine to have some secret virtue.” Here these Indians furnish their quota of evidence, in these more broken traditions, of their descent from Israel.
These tribes in the west are more savage, and know less of the old Indian traditions. Mr. Giddings says, “As you ascend the Missouri and proceed to the west, the nearer to the state of nature the savages approach, and the more savage they appear.” This may account for their ark’s degenerating into a sack; and for their verging nearer to idolatry in their views of the Great Spirit, viewing him as embodied in certain animals.
A chief of the Delaware Indians far in the west, visited by Messrs. Dodge and Blight, Jan. 1824, from the Union Mission, gave the following information to these missionaries. The chief was said by these missionaries “to be a grave and venerable character, possessing a mind which (if cultivated) would render him probably not inferior to some of the first statesmen of our country.” On being inquired of by them whether he believed in the existence of a Supreme Being? he replied; “Long ago, before ever a white man stepped foot in America, the Delawares knew there was one God; and believed there was a hell, where bad folks would go when they die; and a heaven, where good folks would go.” He went on to state (these missionaries inform) that “he believed there was a devil, and he was afraid of him. These things (he said) he knew were handed down by his ancestors long before William Penn arrived in Pennsylvania. He said, he also knew it to be wrong if a poor man came to his door hungry and naked, to turn him away empty. For he believed God loved the poorest of men better than he did proud rich men. Long time ago, (he added) it was a good custom among his people to take but one wife, and that for life. But now they had become so foolish, and so wicked, that they would take a number of wives at a time; and turn them away at pleasure!” He was asked to state what he knew of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. He replied that “he knew but little about him. For his part, he knew there was one God. He did not know about two Gods.” This evidence needs no comment to show that it appears to be Israelitish tradition, in relation to the one God, to heaven, hell, the devil, and to marriage, as taught in the Old Testament, as well as God’s estimation of the proud, rich, and the poor. These things he assures us came down from the ancestors, before ever any white man appeared in America. But the great peculiarity which white men
[beginning of page 76]
would naturally teach them (if they taught anything,) that Jesus Christ the Son of God is the Saviour of the world, he honestly confesses he knew not this part of the subject.
The following is an extract of a letter from Mr. Calvin Cushman, missionary among the Choctaws, to a friend in Plainfield, Mass. in 1824. “
By information received of father Hoyt respecting the former traditions, rites and ceremonies of the Indians of this region, I think there is much reason to believe they are the descendants of Abraham. -- They have had cities of refuge, feasts of first fruits, sacrifices of the firstlings of the flocks, which had to be perfect without blemish or deformity, a bone of which must not be broken. They were never known to worship images, nor to offer sacrifice to any god made with hands. They all have some idea and belief of the Great Spirit. Their fasts, holy days, &c. were regulated by sevens, as to time, i.e. seven sleeps, seven moons, seven years, &c. They had a kind of box containing some kind of substance which was considered sacred, and kept an entire secret from the common people. Said box was borne by a number of men who were considered pure or holy, (if I mistake not such a box was kept by the Cherokees.) And whenever they went to war with another tribe they carried this box; and such was its purity in their view, that nothing would justify its being rested on the ground. A clean rock or scaffold of timber only, was considered sufficiently pure for a resting place for this sacred coffer. And such was the veneration of all the tribes for it, that whenever the party retaining it, was defeated, and obliged to leave it on the field of battle, the conquerors would by no means touch it.” This account well accords with accounts of various others from different regions of the Indians. But it is unaccountable upon every principle except that the Indians are the descendants of Israel.
It is probable that while most of the natives of our land had their one Great Spirit, some of this wretched people talked of their different gods. Among the natives on Martha’s Vineyard, in the beginning of Mayhew’s mission among them, we find Mioxo, in his conversation with the converted native, Hiaccomes, speaking of his thirty-seven gods; and finally concluding to throw them all away, to serve the one true God. We know not what this insulated native could mean by his thirty-seven gods. But it seems evident from all quarters, that such were not the sentiments of the body of the natives of America.
[beginning of page 77]
The ancient natives on Long Island talked of their different subordinate gods. Sampson Occum, the noted Indian preacher, says; “the Indians on Long Island imagined a great number of gods.” But he says, “they had (at the same time) a notion of one great and good God, who was over all the rest.” Here, doubtless, was their tradition of the holy angels which they had become accustomed to call gods under the one great God. The North American Reviewers speak of the fact, that the natives of our land acknowledged one supreme God. They inquire,, “If the Indians in general have not some settled opinion of a Supreme Being; how has it happened that in all the conferences or talks of the white people with them, they have constantly spoken of the Great Spirit; as they denominate the Ruler of the universe?”
Lewis and Clark inform us of the Mandans, (a tribe far toward the Pacific) thus; “The whole religion of the Mandans consists in a belief of one Great Spirit presiding over their destinies. To propitiate whom, every attention is lavished, and every personal consideration is sacrificed.” One Mandan informed, that lately he had eight horses; but that he had offered them all up to the Great Spirit. His mode of doing it was this; he took them into the plains, and turned them all loose; committing them to the Great Spirit, he abandoned them forever. The horses, less devout than their master, no doubt took care of themselves.
Meckewelder (a venerable missionary among the Indians 40 years, noted in Doct. Jarvis’ discourse, before the New York Historical Society, and who had a great acquaintance with the wide spread dialect of the Delaware language,) says; “Habitual devotion to the great First Cause, and a strong feeling of gratitude for the benefits he confers, is one of the prominent traits which characterize the mind of the untutored Indian. He believes it to be his duty to adore and worship his Creator and Benefactor.”
Gookin, a writer in New England in 1674, says of the natives; “generally they acknowledge one great Supreme doer of good.” Roger Williams, one of the first settlers of New England, says; “He that questions whether God made the world, the Indians will teach him. I must acknowledge (he adds) I have in my concourse with them, received many confirmations of these two great points; --1. that God is; 2. that He is a rewarder of all that diligently seek him. If they receive any good in hunting, fishing or harvesting, they acknowledge God in it.”
1. *See the Connecticutt Magazine, Vol. III, p. 267.
Chapter 3c >>