View of the Hebrews (1825 edition) — Chapter 3c
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Surely then, the natives of the deserts of America must have been a people who once knew the God of Israel! They maintained for more than two millenaries, the tradition of Him in many respects correct. What possible account can be given of this, but that they were descendants of Israel, and that the God of Israel has had his merciful eye upon them, with a view in his own time to bring them to light, and effect their restoration?
6. The celebrated William Penn gives accounts of the natives of Pennsylvania, which go to corroborate the same point. Mr. Penn saw the Indians of Pennsylvania, before they had been affected with the rude treatment of the white people. And in a letter to a friend in England he thus writes of those natives; “I found them with like countenances with the Hebrew race; and their children of so lively a resemblance to them, that a man would think himself in Duke’s place, or Barry street in London, when he sees them.” Here, without the least previous idea of those natives being Israelites, that shrewd man was struck with their perfect resemblance of them; and with other things which will be noted. He speaks of their dress and trinkets, as notable, like those of ancient Israel; their ear rings, nose jewels, bracelets on their arms and legs,, rings (such as they were) on their fingers, necklaces, made of polished shells found in their rivers, and on their coasts; bands, shells and feathers ornamenting the heads of females, and various strings of beads adorning several parts of the body.
Mr. Penn adds to his friend, “that he considered this people as under a dark night; yet they believed in God and immortality, without the help of metaphysics. For he says they informed him that there was a great king, who made them -- that the souls of the good shall go to him.” He adds; “Their worship consists in two parts, sacrifice and cantieo, (songs.) The first is with their first fruits; and the first buck they kill goes to the fire.” Mr. Penn proceeds to describe their splendid feast of first fruits, one of which he had attended. He informs; “all that go to this feast must take a piece of money, which is made of the bone of a fish.” “None shall appear before me empty.” He speaks of the agreement of their rites with those of the Hebrews. He adds; -- “They reckon by moons; they offer their first ripe fruits; they have a kind of feast of tabernacles; they are said to lay their altars with twelve stones; they mourn a year; they have their separations of women; with many other things that do not now occur.” Here is a most artless testimony given by that notable man, drawn from his own observations and accounts given by him; while the thought of this
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people’s being actually Hebrew, probably was most distant from his mind.
7. Their having a tribe, answering in various respects to the tribe of Levi, sheds further light on this subject.*1 The thought naturally occurs, that if these are the ten tribes, and they have preserved so many of their religious traditions; should we not be likely to find among them some tradition of a tribe answering to the tribe of Levi? If we should find something of this, the evidence of their being the tribes of Israel would indeed be more striking. Possibly this is furnished. The Mohawk tribe were held by the other tribes in great reverence; and the other tribes round about them had been accustomed to pay them an annual tribute. Mr. Boudinot gives the following account of them. “Mr. Colden says, he had been told by old men (Indians) in New England, that when their Indians were at war formerly with the Mohawks, as soon as one (a Mohawk) appeared, the Indians would raise a cry, from hill to hill, a Mohawk! a Mohawk! upon which all would flee as sheep before a wolf, without attempting to make the least resistance. And that all the nations around them have for many years entirely submitted to their advice, and paid them a yearly tribute. And the tributary nations dared not to make war or peace, without the consent of the Mohawks.” Mr. Colden goes on to state an instance of their speech to the governor of Virginia, in which it appears the Mohawks were the correctors of the misdoings of the other tribes.
Now, could any thing be found in their name, which might have an allusion to the superiority of the tribe of Levi, we should think the evidence very considerable, that here are indeed the descendants of the part of that tribe which clave to the house of Israel. And here too evidence seems not wholly wanting. The Hebrew word Mhhokek, signifies an interpreter of the law, superior. We have then, a new view of the possible origin of the Mohawks!
8. Several prophetic traits of character given of the Hebrews, do accurately apply to the aborigines of America. Intemperance may be first noted. Isaiah, writing about the time of the expulsion of Israel from Canaan, and about to predict their restoration, says; Isai. xxviii. 1--”Wo to the crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim; (Ephraim was a noted name of the ten tribes of Israel.) The crown of pride, the drunkards of Ephraim, shall be trodden under feet. For all tables shall
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be full of vomit and filthiness; so that there is no place clean.”
In the course of the descriptions of their drunkenness, that of their rejection and restoration is blended; that the Lord by a mighty one would cast them down to the earth; and their glorious beauty should be like that of a rich flower in a fertile valley, which droops, withers and dies. But in time God would revive it. “In that day shall the Lord of hosts be for a crown of glory, and for a diadem of beauty unto the residue of this people.” None who know the character of the Indians in relation to intemperance, need to be informed that this picture does most singularly apply to them.
Doctor Williams in his history of Vermont, on this trait of Indian character, says: “no sooner had the Indians tasted of the spirituous liquors brought by the Europeans, than they contracted a new appetite, which they were wholly unable to govern. The old and the young, the sachem, the warrior, and the women,, whenever they can obtain liquors, indulge themselves without moderation and without decency, till universal drunkenness takes place. All the tribes appear to be under the dominion of this appetite, and unable to govern it.”
A writer in the Connecticut Magazine assures us of the Indians in Massachusetts, when our fathers first arrived there; “As soon as they had a taste of ardent spirits, they discovered a strong appetite for them; and their thirst soon became insatiable.”
Another trait of Hebrew character which singularly applies to the Indians, is found in Isai. iii. “The bravery of their tinkling ornaments about their feet; their cauls, and round tires like the moon; their chains, bracelets, mufflers, bonnets, ornaments of the legs; head bands, tablets, ear rings, rings, and nose jewels; the mantles, the wimples; and the crisping pins.” One would imagine the prophet was here indeed describing the natives of America in their full dress! No other people on earth probably bear a resemblance to such a degree.
This description was given just before the expulsion of Israel. And nothing would be more likely than that their taste for these flashy ornaments should descend to posterity. For these make the earliest and deepest impressions on the rising generation. And many of the Indians exhibit the horrid contrast which there follows.
Mr. Pixley of the Union Mission, being out among the Indians over Sabbath, thus wrote in his journal. -- “I have endeavoured to pay
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a little attention to the day, (the Sabbath) by building a fire in the woods, and there reading my bible. In reading the third chapter of the prophet Isaiah, I found in the latter part of the chapter a striking analogy between the situation of this people and the condition of the people about whom the prophet was speaking, which I never before discovered. They are represented by the prophet as sitting on the ground; having their secret parts discovered; having given to them instead of a sweet smell, a stench; instead of a girdle, a rent; instead of well set hair,, baldness; instead of a stomacher, a girding of sackcloth; and burning, instead of beauty. In all these particulars, except that of baldness, the prediction of the prophet is amply fulfilled in this people. And even this exception would be removed, if we might suppose that their shaving their heads with a razor, leaving one small lock on the crown, could constitute the baldness hinted. And certainly if any women in the world labour to secure their own bread and water, and yet a number of them be attached to one man to take away their reproach, you will find it among this people, whether the prediction may or may not be applied to them.”
9. The Indians being in tribes, with their heads and names of tribes, affords further light upon this subject. The Hebrews not only had their tribes, and heads of tribes, as have the Indians; but they had their animal emblems of their tribes. Dan’s emblem was a serpent; Issachar’s an ass; Benjamin’s a wolf; and Judah’s a lion. And this trait of character is not wanting among the natives of this land. They have their wolf tribe; their tiger tribe; panther tribe; buffalo tribe; bear tribe; deer tribe; raccoon tribe; eagle tribe; and many others. What other nation on earth bears any resemblance to this? Here, no doubt, is Hebrew tradition.
Various of the emblems given in Jacob’s last blessing, have been strikingly fulfilled in the American Indians. “Dan shall be a serpent by the way; and adder in the path, that biteth the horse heels, so that the rider shall fall backwards. Benjamin shall ravin as a wolf; in the morning he shall devour the prey; and at night he shall divide the spoil.” Had the prophetic eye rested on the American aborigines, it seems as though no picture could have been more accurate.
10. Their having an imitation of the ancient city of refuge, evinces the truth of our subject. Their city of refuge has been hinted from Mr. Adair. But as this is so convincing an argument, (no nation on earth having any thing of the kind, but the ancient Hebrews and
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the Indians,) the reader shall be more particularly instructed on this article. Of one of these places of refuge, Mr. Boudinot says; “The town of refuge called Choate is on a large stream of the Mississippi, five miles above where Fort Loudon formerly stood. Here, some years ago, a brave Englishman was protected, after killing an Indian warrior in defence of his property. He told Mr. Adair that after some months stay in this place of refuge, he intended to return to his house in the neighbourhood; but the chiefs told him it would prove fatal to him. So that he was obliged to continue there, till he pacified the friends of the deceased by presents to their satisfaction. “In the upper country of Muskagee, (says Doctor Boudinot) was an old beloved town, called Koosah--which is a place of safety for those who kill undesignedly.”
“In almost every Indian nation ( he adds) there are several peaceable towns, which are called old beloved, holy, or white towns. It is not within the memory of the oldest people that blood was ever shed in them; although they often force persons from them, and put them elsewhere to death.” Who can read this, and not be satisfied of the origin of this Indian tradition.
Bartram informs; “We arrived at the Apalachnela town, in the Creek nation. This is, esteemed the mother town sacred to peace. No captives are put to death, nor human blood spilt here.”
Adair assures us, that the Cherokees, though then exceedingly corrupt, yet so inviolably observed the law of refuge, at that time, that even the wilful murderer was secure while in it. But if he left it, he had no protection, but must expect death.
In a communication from Rev. Mr. Pixley, missionary in the Great Osage mission, to the Foreign Secretary, dated June 25, 1824--among other things he says; “There is a class among the Indians called the Cheshoes, whose lodges are sacred as respects the stranger and the enemy who can find their way into them,--not very dissimilar to the ancient city of refuge.
The well known trait of Indian character, that they will pursue one who has killed any of the friends, ever so far, and ever so long, as an avenger of the blood shed, thus lies clearly open to view. It originated in the permission given to the avenger of blood in the commonwealth of Israel; and is found in such a degree probably in no other nation.
11. Their variety of traditions, historical and religious, go to evince that they are the ten tribes of Israel. Being destitute of books and letters, the Indians have transmitted their traditions in the following
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manner. Their most sedate and promising young men are some of them selected by what they call their beloved men, or wise men, who in their turn had been thus selected. To these they deliver their traditions, which are carefully retained. These are instead of historic pages and religious books.
Some of these Indian traditions, as furnished from good authorities, shall be given. Different writers agree that the natives have their historic traditions of the reason and manner of their fathers coming into this country, which agree with the account given in Esdras, of their leaving the land of Media, and going to a land to the northeast, to the distance of a year and a half’s journey. M’Kenzie gives the following account of the Chepewyan Indians, far to the northwest. He says, “They have also a tradition among them, that they originally came from another country, inhabited by very wicked people, and had traversed a great lake, which was in one place narrow, shallow, and full of islands, where they had suffered great misery; it being always winter, with ice, and deep snows. At the Copper Mine River, where they made the first land, the ground was covered with copper, over which a body of earth has since been collected to the depth of a man’s height.” Doctor Boudinot speaks of this tradition among the Indians. Some of them call that obstructing water a river, and some a lake. And he assures us the Indian tradition is, “that nine parts of their nation, out of ten, passed over the river; but the remainder refused and staid behind.” Some give account of their getting over it; others not. What a striking description is here found of the passing of the natives of this continent, over from the north-east of Asia, to the north-west of America, at Beering’s Straits. These Straits, all agree, are less than forty miles wide, at this period. and no doubt they have been continually widening. Doctor Williams, in his history of Vermont, says they are but eighteen miles wide. Probably they were not half that width 2500 years ago. And they were full of islands, the Indian tradition assures us. Many of those islands may have been washed away; as the Indian tradition says, “the sea is eating them up;” as in Dr. Boudinot.
Other tribes assure us that their remote fathers, on their way to this country, “came to a great river which they could not pass; when God dried up the river that they might pass over.” Here is a traditionary notion among the Indians of God’s anciently drying up rivers before their ancestors. Their fathers in some way got over Beering’s Straits. And having a tradition of rivers being dried up before the
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fathers, they applied it to this event.Those straits, after Israel had been detained for a time there, might have been frozen over, in the narrows between the islands; or they might have been passed by canoes, or other craft. The natives of this land, be they who they may, did in fact arrive in this continent; and they probably must have come over those straits. And this might have been done by Israel as well as by any other people.
Relative to their tradition of coming where was abundance of copper; it is a fact, that at, or near Beering’s Straits, there is a place called Copper Island, from the vast quantities of this metal there found. In Grieve’s history we are informed that copper there covers the shore in abundance; so that ships might easily be loaded with it. The Gazetteer speaks of this and that an attempt was made in 1770 to obtain this copper, but that the ice even in July, was so abundant, and other difficulties such, that the object was relinquished. Here, then, those natives made their way to this land; and brought down the knowledge of this event in their tradition.
Doctor Boudinot gives it as from good authority that the Indians have a tradition “that the book which the white people have was once theirs. That while they had this book, things went well with them; they prospered exceedingly; but that other people got it from them; that the Indians lost their credit; offended the Great Spirit, and suffered exceedingly from the neighboring nations; and that the Great Spirit then took pity on them, and directed them to this country.” There can be no doubt but God did, by his special providence, direct them to some sequestered region of the world, for the reasons which have been already given.
M’Kenzie adds the following accounts of the Chepewyan nation; “They believe also that in ancient times, their ancestors lived till their feet were worn out with walking, and their throats with eating. They describe a deluge, when the waters spread over the whole earth, except the highest mountains; on the tops of which they preserved themselves.” This tradition of the longevity of the ancients, and of the flood, must have been from the word of God in ancient Israel.
Abbe Clavigero assures us, that the natives of Mexico had the tradition, that “there once was a great deluge; and Tepzi, in order to save himself from being drowned, embarked in a ship, with his wife and children and many animals.--That as the waters abated, he sent
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out a bird, which remained eating dead bodies. He then sent out a little bird, which returned with a small branch.”
Doctor Beatty says that an Indian in Ohio informed, that one of their traditions was; “Once the waters had overflowed all the land, and drowned all people then living, except a few, who made a great canoe and were saved.”
This Indian added, to Dr. Beatty, that “a long time ago the people went to build a high place; that while they were building, they lost their language, and could not understand each other.”
Doctor Boudinot assures us that two ministers of his acquaintance informed him, that they being among the Indians away toward the Mississippi, the Indians there (who never before saw a white man,) informed him that one of their traditions was,--a great while ago they had a common father, who had the other people under him; that he had twelve sons by whom he administered his government; but the sons behaving illy, lost this government over the other people. This the two ministers conceived to be a pretty evident traditionary notion concerning Jacob and his twelve sons.
Mr. Adair informs that the southern Indians have a tradition that their ancestors once had a “sanctified rod, which budded in one night’s time;” which seems a tradition of Aaron’s rod.
Various traditions of the Indians strikingly denote their Hebrew extraction. Dr. Beatty informs of their feast, called the hunter’s feast; answering, he thinks, to the Pentecost in ancient Israel. He describes it as follows:
They choose twelve men, who provide twelve deer. Each of the twelve men cuts a saplin; with these they form a tent, covered with blankets. They then choose twelve stones for an altar of sacrifice. Some tribes, he observes, choose but ten men, ten poles, and ten stones. Here seems an evident allusion to the twelve tribes; and also to some idea of the ten separate tribes of Israel. Upon the stones of their altar they suffered no tool to pass. No tool might pass upon a certain altar in Israel.
The middle joint of the thigh of their game, Dr. Beatty informs, the Indians refuse to eat. Thus did ancient Israel, after the angel had touched the hollow of Jacob’s thigh in the sinew that shrank: Gen. xxxii. 25, 31, 32. “In short, (says Dr. Beatty,) I was astonished to find so many of the Jewish customs prevailing among them; and began to conclude there was some affinity between them and the Jews.”
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Col. Smith, in his history of New Jersey, says of another region of Indians, “They never eat of the hollow of the thigh of any thing they kill.” Charlevoix, speaking of the Indians still further to the north, says he met with people who could not help thinking that the Indians were descended from the Hebrews, and found in every thing some affinity between them. Some things he states; as on certain meals, neglecting the use of knives; not breaking a bone of the animal they eat; never eating the part under the lower joint of the thigh; but throwing it away. Such are their traditions from their ancient fathers. Other travellers among them speak of their peculiar evening feast, in which no bone of their sacrifice may be broken. No bone might be broken of the ancient paschal lamb in Israel, which was eaten in the evening.
Different men who had been eye witnesses, speak of this, and other feasts, resembling the feasts in Israel; and tell us relative to this peculiar evening feast, that if one family cannot eat all they have prepared, a neighbouring family is invited to partake with them; and if any of it be still left, it must be burned before the next rising sun. None who read the law of the passover can doubt the origin of this.
A Christian friend of mine informs me, that he some time since read in a book he now cannot name, the account of a man taken at Quebec, in Montgomery’s defeat; of his being carried far to the north west by Indians; and of a feast which they kept in which each had his portion in a bowl; that he was charged to be very careful not to injure a bone of it; that each must eat all his bowl full, or must burn what was left on a fire, burning in the midst for this purpose. The object of the feast he knew not.
The Secretary of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions, in a letter to the writer of this View, says; “An officer of the British army, stationed at Halifax,, has been at Boston this season; (1823;) and I am informed he has expressed a strong opinion that the Indians are of Israelitish descent. He derives this opinion from what he has seen and known of the Indians themselves.”
The Rev. Mr. Frey, the celebrated Jewish preacher, and Agent for the American Meliorating Society, upon reading the View of the Hebrews, and warmly approving of this sentiment in it, with the others (that the American Indians are the ten tribes, informed the writer of these sheets, that he owned a pamphlet, written by the earl of Crawford and Linsey, (England,) entitled “The Ten Tribes.”
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In this the author gives a variety of reasons why he is convinced that the American Indians are the descendants of the ten tribes. The earl was a British officer in America during the Revolutionary war; and was much conversant with the Indians. And his arguments in favor of their being the very Israel, are from what he himself observed and learned while among them. The pamphlet was where Mr. Frey could not at present obtain it. The writer regrets that he could not have access to this document before this edition went to the press.
The Indians have their feasts of first ripe fruits, or of green corn; and will eat none of their corn till a part is thus given to God. The celebrated Penn, Mr. Adair, and Col. Smith, with others, unite in these testimonies. In these Indian feasts they have their sacred songs and dances; singing Halleluyah, Yohewah, in the syllables which compose the words. What other nation, besides the Hebrews and Indians ever in this manner attempted the worship of Jehovah? The author of the “Star in the West” says; “May we not suppose that these Indians formerly understood the psalms and divine hymns? Otherwise, how came it to pass that some of all the inhabitants of the extensive regions of North and South America have, and retain, these very expressive Hebrew words, and repeat them so distinctly; using them after the manner of the Hebrews, in their religious acclamations?”
The Indian feast of harvest, and annual expiation of sin, is described by these writers; and in a way which enforces the conviction that they derived them from ancient Israel. Details are given in the Star in the West. My limits will permit only to hint at them. The detailed accounts are worth perusing.
An Indian daily sacrifice is described. They throw a small piece of the fattest of their meat into the fire, before they eat. They draw their newly killed venison through the fire. The blood they often burn. It is with them a horrid abomination to eat the blood of their game. This was a Hebrew law.
A particular or two of their feasts shall be noted. Doctor Beatty gives an account of what he saw among the Indians north west of the Ohio. He says; “Before they make use of any of the first fruits of the ground, twelve of their old men meet; when a deer and some of the first fruits are provided. The deer is divided into twelve parts; and the corn beaten in a mortar, and prepared for use by boiling or baking under the ashes, and of course unleavened. This also is divided into twelve parts. Then these (twelve) men hold up the venison and fruits,
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and pray, with their faces to the east, acknowledging (as is supposed) the bounty of God to them. It is then eaten. After this they freely enjoy the fruits of the earth. On the evening of the same day, (the Doctor adds) they have another public feast which looks like the passover. A great quantity of venison is provided, with other things dressed in their usual way, and distributed to all the guests; of which they eat freely that evening. But that which is left is thrown into the fire and burned; as none of it must remain till sun rise the next day; nor must a bone of the venison be broken.”
Mr. Boudinot says, “It is fresh in the memory of the old traders, (among the Indians) as we are assured by those who have long lived among them, that formerly none of the numerous nations of Indians would eat, or even handle any part of the new harvest, till some of it had been offered up at the yearly festival by the beloved man (high priest) or those of his appointment at the plantation; even though the light harvest of the past year should almost have forced them to give their women and children of the ripening fruits to sustain life.” Who that reads the laws of Moses, can doubt the origin of these Indian traditions?
The Hebrews were commanded to eat their passover with bitter herbs; Exod. xii. 8. The Indians have a notable custom of purifying themselves with bitter herbs and roots. Describing one of their feasts, the writer says, “At the end of the notable dance, the old beloved women return home to hasten the feast. In the mean time every one at the temple drinks plentifully of the Cussena, and other bitter liquids, to cleanse their sinful bodies, as they suppose.”
The Indians have their traditionary notion clearly alluding to the death of Abel, by the murderous hand of Cain; as well as one alluding to the longevity of the ancients.
More full accounts are given by some of these authors, of the Archi-magus of the Indians--their high priest. As the high priest in Israel was inducted into office by various ceremonies, and by anointing; so is the Indian high priest by purification, and by anointing. When the holy garments are put upon him, bear’s oil is poured on his head. And it is stated that the high priests have their resemblances of the various ornaments worn by the ancient high priests; and even a resemblance of the breast plate. These men have been called by the white people, ignorant of Indian customs, jugglers. But they are now ascertained by good witnesses, as a manifest though corrupt succession of the high priesthood in ancient Israel. Bartram says, those, with
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inferior priests and prophets, have been maintained in most if not all the tribes.
The Indian high priest makes his yearly atonement for sin. He appears at their temple, (such as it is) arrayed in his white deer skin garments, seeming to answer to the ancient ephod. Entering on his duty, the waiter spreads a white seat with a white dressed buckskin, close by the holiest apartment of their temple; and puts on his white beads offered by the people. A variety of curious things are described in this dress, by Mr. Adair, as pretty evidently designed imitations of the parts of ancient pontifical dress. This dress is left in the holy place of their temple, till the high priest comes to officiate again. His breast-plate is made of a white conch shell, through which two straps of otter skin pass in two perforations; while white buttons of buck’s horn are superadded, as though in imitation of the precious stones on the ancient breastplate. A swan skin wreath adorns his head, instead of the ancient plate of gold, and for the ancient tiara, the Archi-magus has his tuft of white feathers. His holy fire he obtains by rubbing two sticks together; and his golden bells and pomegranates are formed of the dried spurs of wild turkies, strung so as to rattle on his fine moccasins.
Mr. Adair assures us, when the Indian Archi-magus (high priest) is addressing his people, and enforcing “the divine speech,” that he calls them “the beloved and holy people,” according to the language concerning ancient Israel. He urges them “to imitate their virtuous ancestors,” and “flourishes upon their beloved land, flowing with milk and honey.”
Mr. Adair describes the Indian feasts, and speaks of them as bearing a very near resemblance of the stated feasts in ancient Israel. He gives accounts that when the Indians are about to engage in war, they have their preparatory sacrifices, purifications, and fastings. He speaks of their daily sacrifice, their ablutions, marriages, divorces, burials, mournings for the dead, separations of women, and punishment of various crimes, as being in his opinion manifestly of Hebrew origin.
The purifications, fastings, abstinences, and prayers, to prepare for war, appear to be Hebrew. Adair says; “Before the Indians go to war, they have many preparatory ceremonies of purification and fasting, like what is recorded of the Israelites. When the leader begins to beat up for volunteers, he goes three times round his dark winter house, contrary to the course of the sun, sounding the war-whoop,
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singing the war song, and beating a drum.*2 He addresses the crowd, who come about him, and after much ceremony, he proceeds to whoop again for the warriors to come and join him, and sanctify themselves for success against the common enemy, according to their ancient religious law. A number soon join him in his winter house, where they live separate from all others, and purify themselves for the space of three days and three nights, exclusive of the first broken day. On each day they observe a strict fast till sunset, watching the young men very narrowly (who have not been initiated in war titles) lest unusual hunger should tempt them to violate it, to the supposed danger of all their lives in the war, by destroying the power of their purifying, beloved physic, which they drink plentifully during that time. They are such strict observers of their law of purification, and think it so essential in obtaining health and success in war, as not to allow the best beloved trader that ever lived among them, knowingly, to enter the beloved ground appropriated to the duty of being sanctified for war, much less to associate with the camp in the woods, at such a time, though he is united with them in the same war design. They oblige him to walk and encamp separately by himself, as an impure, dangerous animal, till the leader hath purified him, according to the usual time and method, with the consecrated things of the ark.”
Rev. Mr. Chapman, missionary in the west, informs us that when the Osages (with whom he was going in company to Fort Smith) had just before they arrived purified themselves, to be able to form their treaty with the Cherokees aright, and had moved on, he was about to proceed with them; but the chief forbid him on pain of death. He must for a season be separate from them, as impure. How exactly like the treatment of the stranger in the economy of Israel!
Boudinot assures us that the Indians abstain from all matrimonial intercourse three days before going to war, while purifying themselves;--also during their being out at war; and for three days after they return. The Israelites were commanded before they marched against an enemy to wash their clothes, to avoid all impurities, and to abstain from matrimonial intercourse. These Indian customs fully appear to have originated in those ancient divine orders; as do many of their rites and customs.
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Their reckonings of time, Mr. Adair viewed as evidently Hebrew. They begin their year, as did Israel, at the first appearance of new moon after the vernal equinox. They reckon by the four seasons, and by the sub-divisions of the moons.
Bartram says, the Indians believe their high priests have intimate communion with the world of spirits; and that no great design is formed by the Indians without his counsel.
The Assinipoils, far to the west, we learn in Capt. Carver’s travels among the western Indians, have their high priest, who pretends to great intimacy with the Great Spirit, and to be able to foretel future events; as is the case with the Killistinoes, at the Grand Portage. Certain things be thus found among different Indians, which show them to have been of the same origin.
Within about eighty years, men inform, that these rites of the high priests have been more neglected. The Indians inform, that in 1747, the high priest in the Natchez was struck dead by lightning, while using his invocation for rain. They suppose the Great Spirit to have been angry with him for some impurity; and with the “darting fire and threatening voice,” took him away; and forbid them to renew the like attempt.
Bartram gives a description of a southern Indian temple. It is a square of small buildings in the centre of their Indian town. The small buildings of one story cover perhaps half an acre, more or less, according to the strength of the tribe. In one of these buildings they hold their councils. A part of this building is shut up as a holy of holies; and it is inadmissible for any but the high priest to enter it. Here they deposit their most sacred things; as the physic-pot, rattles, chaplets, eagle’s tail, and pipe of peace.
To this temple “the males (as in ancient Israel) are obliged to assemble three times a year: viz. at the feast of the first ripe fruits; at the feast for the success of hunting, about the time of the ancient pentecost; and the great feast for the expiation of sins, about the time of ripe corn.” No account could be given of these things, without a complicated miracle, unless the Indians have descended from the tribes of Israel.
Mr. Boudinot informs, that “when any of their beloved people die, they soften the thought of death by saying, “he is gone to sleep with his beloved fathers.” The ancient pious Hebrew dying, “fell asleep, and was gathered to his people.”
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The Indians, when one dies, wash and anoint the body. The Hebrews did the same.
Some of the southern Indians hire mourners to bewail and magnify the merits of the dead. Thus did the Hebrews: Jer. ix. 17. And the Indians, as had the Hebrews, have their solemn songs on such occasions. A religious procession moves round the corpse, singing, Yah (Jah.) Ho, is then sung by the procession. The leader then says, He;--all follow. Then Wah is sung by all. Thus they sing the syllables which compose Jah, Jehovah. The corpse is then buried with the face to the east.
Lewis and Clark, in their tour to the Pacific, inform that they found among the natives, in those remote regions, receptacles for the dead, always lying east and west; the door of the tomb to the east, and the bodies in the tombs lying with the face to the east.
The Indians often bury with the corpse a variety of furniture; and their best things, if the dead be a first character. The Hebrews did the same. Josephus informs that Hyrcanus, a Maccabee, when Jerusalem was besieged by the Syrain tyrant, and money was wanted, took from king David’s sepulchre 3000 talents, which had 1300 years before been buried with him.
Another noted Hebrew custom the Indians have, Doctor Boudinot informs, that a worthy minister informed him, that as he was preaching with some Indians, between the exercises, tidings were brought to an Indian woman present, that her son was suddenly drowned. In deep distress she retired to a little distance, and sat on the ground. Female friends followed, and sat around her. After sitting a season in solemn silence, the mourning mother put her hand upon her mouth, and then fell forward with her face in the dust. The rest all followed the example. The men went by themselves, and did the same. It is well known that laying the hand on the mouth, and the mouth in the dust, is a distinguished Hebraism. See Micah vii. 16; Lam. iii. 29; Prov. xxx. 32.
In the Mosaic law it was provided that the surviving brother of one deceased and childless, should marry his widow, to raise up seed to his brother. Mr. Adair informs that the Indians have a custom which appears to have originated in this law. A widow among them is bound by a strict Indian custom, to mourn the death of her husband for three years or more, unless the brother of her deceased husband wishes to take her. In that case, she is released from this law, as soon as it is known that the brother makes love to her. She may then throw off her
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mourning habits, and dress and paint like others. Certainly this appears to have originated in that Mosaic law.
The ceremonial law for the separation of women, the Indians appear to keep with great care. Dr. Boudinot says; “The southern Indians oblige their women in their lunar retreats to build small huts at a considerable distance from their dwelling houses--where they are obliged to stay at the risk of their lives. Should they be known to violate this ancient law, they must answer for every misfortune that the people should meet with.”
“Among the Indians on the north west of the Ohio, the conduct of the women (continues the Doctor) seems perfectly agreeable (as far as circumstances will permit) to the law of Moses. A young woman, at the first change in her circumstances, immediately separates herself from the rest in a hut made at some distance from the dwelling houses, and remains there seven days. The female that brings her food, is careful not to touch her; and so cautious is she herself of touching her own food, that she makes use of a sharpened stick to take up her meat, and of a spoon for her other food. When the seven days are ended, she bathes herself in water, washes all her clothes, and changes the vessels she has made use of. She then returns to her father’s house.”
Dr. Boudinot further says; “A Muskagee woman delivered of a child is separated in like manner for three moons, or eighty four days.” In the ceremonial law the mother of a female child was to be separated eighty days; of a male forty days. Some of the Indian nations, Dr. Boudinot assures us, maintain a similar distinction between male and female children. Can a serious doubt remain of the origin of these Indian customs? What nation on earth beside the Jews and Israel ever maintained customs of separations and purifications like these?
Rev. Dr. Morse and Captain Carver speak of this custom among Indian women, among distant tribes where they travelled, as will appear. And many other testimonies have been borne to the same Indian rite.
Col. Smith informs that “the young women, when our people first came among them, were very modest and shame-faced; and both young and old women would be highly offended at indecent expressions.”
Major Vose, at Fort Armstrong, in a letter to the secretary of the A.B.C.F.M. says; “I have been informed that in places where
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the Indians have had the least intercourse with the whites, there the men are the most temperate, and the women most chaste.”
The traditional religion, the kind and degree of piety maintained among the Indians, are unaccountable on any other principle than that they came down by tradition from ancient Israel. Some things shall be stated from good authority, which illustrate this particular.
Rev. Dr. Mather and Rev. E. Mayhew both testify to the following fact. Japhet Hannet was an Indian preacher on Martha’s Vineyard. He was born A.D. 1638. His parents had lost, before he was born, five infant children. Japhet was the sixth. The writer says; “The mother of this child being greatly distressed with fear lest she should lose it, as she had the former, and utterly despairing of any help from such means as had been formerly tried without any success; as soon as she was able, she took him up with a sorrowful heart, and went into a retired place, that she might there give full vent to her grief. While she was there reflecting on the insufficiency of human help, she found it powerfully suggested to her mind, that there is one Almighty God, who is to be prayed to; that this God has created all things; and that the God who had created all things, who had given being to herself and all other people, and had given her child to her, was able to preserve and continue his life. On this, she resolved that she would seek to God for that mercy; and did accordingly. The issue was, that her child lived. And her faith in him, who had thus answered her prayer, was wonderfully strengthened. And the consideration of the divine goodness herein manifested to her, caused her to dedicate this son to the service of that God who had thus preserved his life.
She early informed her son of this her religious act; and did as far as she could educate him accordingly.” Both Dr. Mather and Mr. Mayhew inform that this took place before ever the parents of Japhet were taught to know any thing of the Christian religion;--and that this mother was thus prepared to embrace the Christian religion, as soon as she heard of it from the missionary that went to the island. And when she joined the church, she gave this relation. This youth became converted, joined the church of converted Indians on the island; became a very pious and useful man; was a captain of the island, and a great friend to the English in the war with Philip; finally became a pastor of the Indian church there; and died in old age in the triumphs of faith.
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How different was the religion of this native of Martha’s Vineyard from that of the eastern heathen world! The knowledge she had, it seems, must have been from Hebrew tradition, and the entail of the covenant with Abraham.
In the third report of the United Foreign Missionary Society, in a letter detailing the happy things which the writer saw at Brainerd mission, he states the effects which the knowledge and conversation of the Indian children in that school had on their heathen parents, when the children visited the parents at home. The aged Indians, on hearing the children repeat the instructions given them, were pleased, and said; “Now this is good talk. It resembles the talk which the old people used to make to us when we were small children. But alas, the wicked white people (meaning the unprincipled traders among the Indians) who have come among us have rooted it out of our nation. We are glad the Great Spirit has sent these good missionaries to bring it back to us again.”
It is stated on all hands that within about eighty years, the connexion of the Indians near the English with the white people has much corrupted the Indians, and extinguished much of their traditional religion. Here we find a new testimony to the fact, from the confession of those aged Cherokees. And they discover what seems to them a resemblance between our religious instructions, and the traditional instructions given by their old people, meaning probably their old beloved wise men (the keepers of their ancient traditions) or their high priests, or both, before they knew any thing of the white people. This agrees with the other information we receive relative to the religion of the best informed natives.
In the same report of the United Foreign Missionary Society from their missionaries among the Indians at the west, they inform as follows; “It was very interesting to hear them (the natives) at the garrison joining in a kind of sacred singing. Every morning on the first appearance of light, we heard them on all sides around us, for a great distance from the camp, engaged in very earnest prayer to God, their Creator. This they did likewise on all extraordinary occasions, as when they received any distinguishing favour.” This was before any mission was established among them; but while the missionaries were exploring the country to select a suitable place for a mission. They were Indians untaught by any thing but their own traditions. The missionaries add; “They are very sincere, temperate, and considerate;
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and appear to regard the particular providence of God with as much attention and reverence as any Christian people.”
Such evidence as this hardly needs a comment.--What possible account can be given for such traditional religion among a people destitute of the word of God, and of letters, who for thousands of years have been secluded from the knowledge of the civilized world;--only, that they derived it from ancient Hebrew revelation; and that they are of the tribes of Israel?
In other accounts the missionaries at the west inform as follows; “The men are generally of a lofty stature, a fine form, and a frank and open countenance. In council they are dignified; and in their speeches eloquent. Their children are numerous, and remarkably submissive to parental authority. As a people they are punctual, and apparently fervent in their morning and evening devotions. But like the ancient Athenians they address their worship to the unknown God.”
Rev. Mr. Pixley, at the great Osage mission, in a tour among the wild natives says; “I asked White Hair (a chief) why he blacked his face this morning. He informed that it was that he might call upon God as we do when we sit down to eat. And I must confess (adds Mr. Pixley) their early rising, and their constancy in attending to their devotions, made me sometimes inquire, What is the power of my religion! and whether it ought not to make me, and all Christians, rise to pray, at least as early as these Indians.”
Mr. Pixley in a subsequent journal says; “The Indians, although extremely singular in their way of worship, might certainly in some respects be imitated with profit by Christians. I allude particularly to their early and persevering attention to it before day, or as soon as the day dawns. Under the force of this habit, if their hearts were ever led to feel and pray aright, they will undoubtedly make most eminent Christians; especially as the heaping up of treasures, and in this sense, the love of the world, seems not to have taken possession of their minds. Let objectors inform, where these Indians learned from the heathen world such religion as they possess?
It has been stated that the Indians have a tradition that as they once, away in another country, had the old divine speech, the book of God; they shall at some time have it again, and shall then be happy. Did not the Indian deputation (noted in the sixth report of the United Foreign Missionary Society, as having come from a wild region beyond the Council Bluffs of the west) in their talk with the Board of
1 *Some of this tribe probably remained with the ten tribes.
2 *The Indians have something in imitation of a drum, made of a wet deer skin drawn over a large gourd or frame of wood.