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The minister's salary is but $50 from the Baptist convention, but the congregation, which contributes $220 per annum toward church expenses, and the proceeds from a profitable farm make up a sufficient sum for his support. A ladies' home missionary or sewing society in behalf of the church inspires additional interest among the people. The comparatively large number of communicants, embracing many very young people, is far above the real number of working members. A new roof upon the church by voluntary labor indicates the enterprise of the congregation.
RELIGION AMONG THE SAINT REGIS INDIANS.
Three-fourths of the American Saint Regis Indians belong to the Roman Catholic church and worship with their Canadian brethren at the parish church of Saint Regis, immediately over the Canada line. The church building, whicb was once partially destroyed by fire, has been restored, made cheerful, and is both well lighted and suitably heated. It accommodates about 600 persons, and at one morning service it was crowded with well-dressed, reverential people, whose general decorum and prompt responses indicated a sincere regard for the service and the proprieties of the day and place.
Few churches on American soil are associated with more of curious tradition. One of Mrs. Sigourney's most exquisite poems, " The Bell of Saint Regis ", commemorates the tradition of the transfer of the bell stolen from Deerfield, Massachusetts, February 29, 1774, to the Saint Regis tower. The bell went to the church of the Sault Saint Louis, at the Caughnawaga village, near Montreal. The three bells at Saint Regis, including the largest, which was cracked and recast, came from the Meneelay bell shops of Troy within the last 25 years.
The old church records are well preserved, and since the first marriage was solemnized there, February 2, 1762, both marriages and christenings have been recorded with scrupulous care.
The Canadian government withholds from annuities a small sum to maintain the choir and organist by consent of the Canadian Indians, but no organized support flows from the American Indians as their proper share. Although the American Indians are welcomed to the church service, there is a church need which can not be fully supplied by the present arrangement.
The Methodist Episcopal church is located just on the margin of the reservation, north from the village of Hogansburg and within the town limits, in order to secure a good title. It is a substantial building, commenced in 1843 and finished in 1845, at a cost of $2,000. The bell was presented by Bishop Janes. The church has 68 communicants, representing one-fourth of the inhabitants of the reservation, and is in a growing, prosperous condition. It is in charge of Rev. A. A. Wells, an earnest preacher, and a whole-souled, sympathetic, visiting pastor. The music, the deportment, even of the boys, and the entire conduct of the service, with the loud swelling of nearly 200 voices in the doxology at the close, as well as the occasional spontaneous "amens" and the hand-shaking before dispersion, left no occasion for doubt that a thorough regenerative work had begun right at the true foundation for all other elevation, whether educational or social. Weekly prayer meetings at private houses present another fact that emphasizes the value of the work in progress. Mr. Wells' assistant, who is both exhorter and interpreter, and as enthusiastic as his principal, is John Wesley Woodman, an Oneida, and son of a pious Indian woman, Mary Benedict Woodman, one of the founders of the society. The annual contribution for church expenses is $25. The Methodist Episcopal Missionary Society pays the minister's salary of $500.
The mere statement of the value of church buildings and the number of church members of each organization does not afford an entirely sound basis for testing their real influence and progress. To a greater extent than usual among the white people other motives than those of spiritual, soul religion enter into the mind of the Indian in making the change. The minister of the gospel who seeks to make of the church a training school, and accepts members upon a short test of the applicant's real experience of a change of moral motive, must find that early " backsliding ", as the Indians term it, is almost as certain as a soundly progressive development. Leading Indians who have returned to their pagan associations admit that they did not gain what they expected in the way of influence or position when they "joined the christians". Both terms have a political meaning among the Six Nations. Members of the christian party are not of necessity christian at heart, neither are members of the pagan party necessarily of pagan faith.
Examinations of all church records, visits to all christian churches during service, as well as conferences with pastors, church officers, and laymen, show that every church roll needs some purging, and that the social and political relations are so commingled that the real number of converted Indians is but vaguely determined; at the same time truth requires the statement that, according to the reports of ministers in charge of churches for the white people adjoining the reservations, the derelict membership is very little greater among the membership of Indian churches than those of their neighbors. This startling fact induced a more careful inquiry among the Indians themselves, without entire dependence upon the church records. The result was to find in every Indian church some members, and in several of them many, whose faith, life, and example would do honor to any christian professor. In every case the reservations have white neighbors who are as destitute of religious principle as any Indian can be, and who have no other idea of the Indian than that he has land, which the white man does not have, and as an Indian is incapable of honor or right motive, he is to be dispossessed and gotten rid of as soon and as summarily as possible. Hence came a more minute inquiry into the real religious motive, if such could be found, of those Indians who were not merely pagan in a party sense, to conserve old customs, but pagan in actual belief.
THE PAGAN FAITH.
The statement of Andrew John, jr., that "knowledge of the pagan faith would show it to be more beautiful and moral than the christian ", was a step in the inquiry. He was interpreter for the Quaker minister, Rebecca K. Masters, at Carrollton council house when George S. Scattergood and party from Philadelphia made a visit in the fall of 1890. The contrast of the interpreted words with pagan ideas led to fuller inquiry as to the ceremonies among the pagans which they call "religious" and subsequent attendance at all of them, from the autumn green-corn dance and worship to the closing " feather dance", which closes the celebration of the Indian New Year. Friend George S. Scattergood, following the example of his father, had also fallen upon the same line of inquiry, and formed the opinion that many of the old people in the ceremonies of their belief actually render unto God the sincere homage of prayerful and thankful hearts. The simplest form of inquiries, slowly interpreted, left the same conclusion upon the mind of the enumerator of this people. At the same time it was equally apparent that the younger portion, almost without exception, treated days of pagan ceremony much as they would a corn husking,
full of fun, but without religion.
THE NEW RELIGION.
The "new religion ", as the teachings of Handsome Lake have been called, did not displace the old ceremonies of earlier times. He was a Seneca sachem of the Turtle tribe, a half-brother of Cornplanter, was born near Avon about the year 1735, and died in 1815 at Onondaga while there upon a pastoral or missionary visit. About the year 1800, after a dissipated life and a very dangerous illness, he claimed to have had dreams or visions, through which he was commissioned by the Great Spirit to come to the rescue of his people. His first efforts were to eradicate intemperance. He mingled with his teachings the fancies of his dreams or convictions, claiming that he had been permitted to see the branching paths which departed spirits were accustomed to take on leaving the earth. His grandson, Sase-ha-wa, nephew of Red Jacket and his delegated successor, long resident of Tonawanda, amplified his views in many forcible addresses, which are full of wild poetic conceptions, yet ever teaching the value of marriage, respect for parents and the aged, and many lessons from the old Hebrew Bible, which, besides the Ten Commandments, had been incorporated into the " new religion " of Handsome Lake. Of the future state, he taught that " one branch road, at death, led straight forward to the house of the Great Spirit, and the other turned aside to the house of torment. At the place where the roads separated were stationed 2 keepers, 1 representing the good and the other the evil spirit. When a wicked person reached the fork he turned instinctively, by a motion of the evil spirit, upon the road which led to the abode of the evil-minded, but if virtuous and good the other keeper directed him upon the straight road. The latter was not much traveled, while the other was so often trodden that no grass could grow in the pathway ". "To a drunkard was given a red-hot liquid to drink, as if he loved it, and as a stream of blaze poured from his mouth he was commanded to sing as when on earth after drinking fire water". "Husbands and wives who had been quarrelsome on earth were required to rage at each other until their eyes and tongues ran out so far that they could neither see nor speak ". "A wife beater was led up to a red-hot statue, which he was to strike as he struck his wife when on earth, and sparks flew out and burned his arm to the bone ". "A lazy woman was compelled to till a cornfield full of weeds, which grew again as fast as she pulled them ". "A woman who sold fire water was nothing but bones, for the flesh had been eaten from her hands and arms ". "To those who sold the lands of their people it was assigned to move a never diminishing mound of sand ". By such terrific and pertinent imagery Handsome Lake and his successor wrought a deep place in the confidence of the old pagan party throughout their field of labor.
With all this, the more ancient rites do not yield their place, and the perpetuated songs of remote ancestors still echo to the beat of the kettledrum and the turtle rattle at every recurring celebration of the days observed several hundred years ago. Only now and then is found a man who can carry the whole text of the refrain through the protracted measures of the leading dances, but there are a few such, and the heart throbs with strange emotions, never lost, even after hearing several recitals of their stirring appeals. They embody all the true spirit there is in the Iroquois religion.
The war dauce, still preserved, has the striking feature of allowing witty speeches, cutting repartee, personal hits, and every conceivable utterance that will stimulate cither laughter or action. The great feather dance, the religious dance, consecrated to the worship of the Great Spirit, is given in part as an illustration of the religious sentiment which pervades their old music, rising far above the ancient ceremonies of Greece or Rome, and so contrasted by Elias Johnson, a genial and companionable Tuscarora, in his interesting book upon the history of his people.
At the New Year's festivities at Newtown council house, in the pagan section of Cattaraugus, January, 1891, this dance followed the thanksgiving dance and rounded out the ceremonies of the closing year.
At a great fireplace at one end of the council house large caldrons were fiercely boiling, stirred with long poles by the shawl-wrapped women, who were preparing the feast of boiled corn and beans, while 2 other kettles, equally large, suspended by chains over a fire behind the building, provided a relay of repast if the first should fall short. Astride a bench placed lengthwise in the middle of the hall sat vis-a-vis the leader and the prompter of dance and song, surrounded by 2 raised benches filled with men, women, and children of all ages. 8 representatives of the Iroquois tribes, in divisions of 4, had been selected to lead off the dance. At the appointed hour there gathered from the cabins that surrounded the large open space where the council house is located nearly 80 men and boys, who were costumed appropriate for the occasion. The headdresses were of varied patterns, from the single eagle feather to the long, double trailing feather ornament which the Sioux wear in battle, and which, streaming out behind as he dashes about in action, more completely represent him as some uncouth beast than a real man. The men wore ornamental aprons before and behind, while every muscle stood forth round and compact through the closely fitting knit garment that covered the upper part of the body, and rarely has there been such a display of athletic forms. Silver bracelets, armlets, necklaces, and brooches, the inheritance of generations, were parts of their adornment. Strings of bells were fastened around the knees, and the costumes varied from the rich variety of Ed. Cornplanter's equipment down to that of an old man who had pinned 2 faded United States flags to the skirt of his coat through want of anything older or richer. Unlike the parties to the green-corn dance at Cold Spring in September, only 1 used paint upon the cheeks. The women wore their good clothes, as if on a social visit.
All was ready! The slight touch of the turtle rattles gradually increased in rapidity as party after party fell into line and caught step and cadence, which constantly developed in volume, until the leader sounded the opening chant for the dance to begin. The whole song, lasting nearly an hour, consisted of a series of measured verses, each of 2 minutes duration. It is difficult to describe the step. The heel is raised but 2 or 3 inches and brought down by muscular strength to keep time with the drum and make a resounding noise by the concussion and at the same time shake the knee rattles. Every figure is erect, while the arms assume every possible graceful position to bring the muscles into full play. Although 80 men and 40 women engaged in the dance and slowly promenaded during the necessary rests from the violent exercise of such swift motion, all was orderly, decent, and without vulgarity or rudeness. The recitative portions were varied by addresses of gratitude to the Great Spirit, acknowledging every good gift to man. A few passages of the refrain are given as translated many years ago by Ely S. Parker and sung by his grandfather. They have been handed down from generation to generation.
Hail ! Hail! Hail! Listen now, with an open ear, to the words of Thy people as they ascend to Thy dwelling! Give to the keepers of Thy faith wisdom to execute properly Thy commands! Give to our warriors and our mothers strength to perform the sacred ceremonies of Thy institution! We thank Thee that Thou hast preserved them pure to this day.
Continue to listen. We thank Thee that the lives of so many of Thy children have been spared to participate in the exercises of this occasion.
Then follow thanks for the earth's increase and a prayer for a prosperous year to come, then for the rivers and streams, for the sun and moon, for the winds that banish disease, for the herbs and plants that benefit the sick, and for all things that minister to good and happiness.
The closing passage is given as the rapidly increased step and tread almost die out in a subdued cadence.
Lastly, we return thanks to Thee, our Creator and Ruler! In Thee are embodied all things! We believe Thou canst do no evil ; that Thou doest all things for our good and happiness. Should Thy people disobey Thy commands, deal not harshly with them; but be kind to us, as Thou hast been to our fathers in times long gone by. Hearken to our words as they have ascended, and may they be pleasing to Thee, our Creator, the preserver of all things visible and invisible. Na ho!
Thus strangely do the elements of revealed and natural religion come into contrasting and yet sympathetic relation. The Six Nations Indian is never an atheist. The pagans point to their quiet homes, however lowly, rarely protected by locks, to the infrequency of crimes, and even of minor offenses, unless when fired by the white man's whisky or hard cider, and challenge proof of greater security or contentment. During 7 months of enumeration of this people neither vulgarity nor profanity was noticed, while it was repeatedly forced upon the attention when resuming contact with the white man's world outside. Neither does the deportment of the old people at these dances belie the claim that they sincerely worship. The women move in an inside circle, with faces bowed and turned toward the turtle rattles or the kettledrum, with all the solemnity of real convictions that in some way they are recognizing and invoking divine aid.
THE INDIAN BELIEF.
The cardinal difference between the pagan Indians of the Six Nations and the ancient philosophers of Greece and Rome lies in the Indian recognition of one great spirit, to whom all other spirits are subject. They do not worship nature or the works of nature, but the God of nature, and all physical objects which minister to their comfort and happiness are His gifts to His children. It is this "unknown god " whom Paul unfolded to the superstitious Athenians in the heaven-arched court space of the Areopagus on Mars' Hill that the Indians in vague forms of heathen faith seek to worship. It is through this avenue of approach that these Indians must be approached. John Eliot's success was in deliberate but simple effort to explain that the white men had in their hands the revealed record of the attributes and providential dealings of the same Great Spirit whom they ignorantly worshiped. It will be by a renewed, earnest, consistent, and fraternal work, discouraged by no failures and without sectarian jealousy or sectarian dogmas, that the red men can be reached; and now is just the time for the religious denominations which operate in this field to redouble their efforts in the spirit of the Master. The crisis has come upon the Six Nations. They know it. They have strong and willing men ready for their emancipation from pagan control, and if the struggle be to save them on their lands, and not merely to possess their lands, their future will be safe.
A RELIGIOUS RELIC.
The embodiment by Handsome Lake of so many Hebraic ideas, gathered from Old Testament history, was not a new departure. Theories that the red men hold peculiar relations to the lost tribes of Israel are not peculiarly modern. The sacrifice called the " burned dog ", no longer made, was, according to their faith, " sending back to the Great Spirit, as a pledge of their unwavering allegiance, the most faithful friend of the Indian on earth ". It was killed without torture, taking away its earthly breath that it might have breathed into it a new life, and in the happy grounds of the blessed testify of the loyalty to the Great Spirit of its former master, who remained on earth.
In the autumn of the census year John Bembleton, an old soldier of the Grand Army, while looking over the plowed sides of one of the Tuscarora mounds (indicated on the map), discovered what the searchers from the Smithsonian Institution failed to find, a curious group of statuette figures cut from stone, much marked by age, and yet sufficiently suggestive of Abraham, Isaac, and the sheep to recall the theories of the red men's remote antecedents. Cushing, so long with the Zufiis, relates its history as far back as about 3,000 years. The Indians recognize it as in harmony with some of their traditions. The suggestion that it was of early Jesuit origin is not borne out by the marks, which indicate a patriarchal beard, and are equally inconsistent with its being of recent manufacture. The illustration is from a photograph taken while the mold still filled the crevices.
A SENECA MONUMENT TO WASHINGTON IN HEAVEN.
According to Indian tradition no white man enters the Indian heaven. As the Hebrews regarded Jehovah as exclusively their God, so the Indian regards the Great Spirit. After General Sullivan's invasion of the Iroquois country the Indians gave to Washington the name " Ha-no-da-ga-ne-ars ", the " Town Destroyer ". The Indians, as before intimated, were practically abandoned by the British when peace was made in 1783. The subsequent enlightened and humane treatment of this people by Washington was never forgotten. Their traditions respecting his state of being after death is thus stated by Morgan:
Just by the entrance of heaven is a walled inclosure, the ample grounds within which are laid out with avenues and shaded walks. Within is a spacious mansion, constructed in the fashion of a fort. Every object in nature which could please a cultivated taste had been gathered into this blooming eden to render it a delightful place for the immortal Washington. The faithful Indian, as he enters heaven, passes the inclosure. He sees and recognizes the illustrious inmate as he walks to and fro in quiet meditation. But no word ever passes his lips. Dressed in his uniform, and in a state of perfect felicity, he is destined to remain throughout eternity in the solitary enjoyment of the celestial residence prepared for him by the Great Spirit.
Handsome Lake, in his ecstatic relation of being visited by messengers from Washington, used to close his address thus:
Friends and relatives, it was by the influence of this great man that we are spared as a people and yet live. Had he not granted us his protection, where would we have been? Perished, all perished.