« AnteriorContinuar »
wish to do well, you will reside in this country, and bring your wives and children; and when they come here, we shall see how you serve the God whom you wor
wives and your children ; how you obey the laws; how you cultivate and sow the ground; how you raise up and feed animals; and how you make all those things which we see of your invention. Seeing all this, we should learn more in one year than hearing discourses for twenty: and if we could not understand you, you would take our children, who would be as your own; and thus judging of our rude mode of life by comparing it with yours, it is likely we should prefer the latter, and abandon our own.
Voyages et des Descouvertures faites en la Nouvelle France, depuis l'année 1615. jusques à la fin de l'année 1618, par le Sieur de Champlain. p. 95. Paris, 1620.
GENERAL REMARKS ON THE ATTEMPTS MADE TO
CONVERT THE INDIANS, AND ON THE CAUSES OF FAILURE OBSTACLES ARISING FROM THE IN
FLUENCE OF THE NATIVE JUGGLERS
THAT WOULD FOLLOW FROM THE AID OF MEDICAL SKILL EXTENDED TO THE INDIAN NATIONS - INJUDICIOUS VIEWS AND INTOLERANT SPIRIT TOO OFTEN ENTERTAINED BY SOME OF THE MISSION
It was justly observed of the Indians in the time of Sir Walter Raleigh's early settlement in Virgi
-“Some religion theye have already, which, although it bee farre from the trueth, yet, being as it is, there is a hope it may bee the easier and sooner reformed ;"* a remark which might have served as a most appropriate text for the missionaries of every sect, nation, and period, throughout all the Indian countries of North America, Heckewelder states, that the Indian believes he is highly favoured by his Maker, not only in having been created with mental and bodily powers different from other animals, but in his being able to master even the largest and most ferocious of the brute
* Hackluyts Voyages, vol. iii. p. 276.
creation; and that when he has performed any heroic act, he acknowledges it as an instance of divine favour, ascribing his success entirely to the boldness instilled in him by the Great Spirit.
Thus, habitual devotion to the Great First Cause, adds that writer, “and a strong feeling of gratitude for the benefits which he confers, is one of the prominent traits which characterize the mind of the uninstructed Indian.' Conrad Weisar, well known in the early history of Virginia as a celebrated Indian interpreter, when travelling with one of the natives in the year 1737, has related an anecdote descriptive of the pious gratitude of his fellow traveller. By some accident this Indian was on the point of falling down a dreadful precipice that lay in their route; and on perceiving the danger from which he had so narrowly escaped, he exclaimed with great earnestness, and outstretched arms, “I thank the Great Lord and Governor of this world that he has had mercy upon 'me, and that he has been willing I should live longer.”+ In fact, “ There are no people more frequent than the Indians in their acknowledgments of gratitude to God : their belief in him is universal, and their confidence astonishingly strong.”
Heckewelder's Account of the Indians, ch. 6. + Boudinot's Star in the West, ch. 10.
Appendix (R.) to Dr. Morse's Indian Report.
But in place of endeavouring to conciliate and encourage the Indians, it appears that their early teachers, both of the Roman and Reformed church, treated them with arrogance and presumption. " It is so obvious," writes the Jesuit Father Brebeuf, when residing among the Hurons, “ it is so obvious that there is a Divinity who made heaven and earth, that the Hurons cannot be entirely devoid of belief on that subject, although their eyes and minds are obscured by the darkness of a long ignorance, by their sins and their vices. They perceive something, but are so grossly in error, that they render to God no honour, no love, no proper worship; for they have neither temples, nor priests, nor feasts, nor ceremonies." In like manner, and with similar intolerance, did the early Protestant ministers denounce the whole Indian
a subtile brood”.“ a generation of vipers” — “perishing forlorne outcasts" —.“ forlorne wretched heathen," &c. &c. Was it likely that the Indian, sincere in his own native devotion, and impressed with feelings of gratitude to the Great Spirit, by whom he considered himself to be highly favoured, could entertain cordiality or deference for those who thus avowedly looked upon him as a miserable abandoned outcast? Instead of cautiously engrafting the doctrines of Christianity
* Relation de la Nouvelle France, 1635.
upon the sound, though rude, stock of natural religion, which had evidently taken deep root among the Indian nations, the European generally exasperated his red brethren by an arrogant claim of superior virtues, intellect, and acquirements. The preacher called upon the Indian to forget the lessons of his youth, to 'renounce the belief in which he had been brought up, thus at once setting Gnristianity in direct and hostile opposition to those sentiments of natural religion with which he wås sincerely impressed. By imprudent abruptness in denouncing to him that there is no salvation but in the name of Jesus Christ, the missionary may undermine his veneration and gratitude towards the Great Spirit whom he worships, without advancing him a single step in conversion to Christianity. The savage may lose much, and gain nothing: for although his native sentiments of religion “ bee farre from the trueth,” they are evidently such as would form a solid foundation for his future reception of the Gospel. But by beginning the work of conversion with larsh or hasty attempts to pluck out by the root the opinions which have been implanted in him, it will only tend to that result which was lamented by the Mohawk chief already noticed, who declared that his Indians had formerly the fear of the Great Spirit, but that now they hardly believed in his existence.”