TO MY WIFE
ELAINE GOODALE EASTMAN
IN GRATEFUL RECOGNITION OF HER
IN THOUGHT AND WORK
AND IN LOVE OF HER MOST
I DEDICATE THIS BOOK
I speak for each no-tongued tree
That, spring by spring, doth nobler be,
And dumbly and most wistfully
His mighty prayerful arms outspreads,
And his big blessing downward sheds.
But there's a dome of nobler span,
A temple given
Thy faith, that bigots dare not ban—
Its space is heaven!
It's roof star-pictured Nature's ceiling,
Where, trancing the rapt spirit's feeling,
And God Himself to man revealing,
Th' harmonious spheres
Make music, though unheard their pealing
By mortal ears!
God! sing ye meadow streams with gladsome voice!
Ye pine-groves, with your soft and soul-like sounds!
Ye eagles, playmates of the mountain storm!
Ye lightnings, the dread arrows of the clouds!
Ye signs and wonders of the elements,
Utter forth God, and fill the hills with praise!...
Earth, with her thousand voices, praises GOD!
"We also have a religion which was given to our forefathers, and has been
handed down to us their children. It teaches us to be thankful, to be
united, and to love one another! We never quarrel about religion."
Thus spoke the great Seneca orator, Red Jacket, in his superb reply to
Missionary Cram more than a century ago, and I have often heard the same
thought expressed by my countrymen.
I have attempted to paint the religious life of the typical American
Indian as it was before he knew the white man. I have long wished to do
this, because I cannot find that it has ever been seriously, adequately,
and sincerely done. The religion of the Indian is the last thing about him
that the man of another race will ever understand.
First, the Indian does not speak of these deep matters so long as he
believes in them, and when he has ceased to believe he speaks inaccurately
Second, even if he can be induced to speak, the racial and religious
prejudice of the other stands in the way of his sympathetic comprehension.
Third, practically all existing studies on this subject have been made
during the transition period, when the original beliefs and philosophy of
the native American were already undergoing rapid disintegration.
There are to be found here and there superficial accounts of strange
customs and ceremonies, of which the symbolism or inner meaning was
largely hidden from the observer; and there has been a great deal of
material collected in recent years which is without value because it is
modern and hybrid, inextricably mixed with Biblical legend and Caucasian
philosophy. Some of it has even been invented for commercial purposes.
Give a reservation Indian a present, and he will possibly provide you with
sacred songs, a mythology, and folk-lore to order!
My little book does not pretend to be a scientific treatise. It is as true
as I can make it to my childhood teaching and ancestral ideals, but from
the human, not the ethnological standpoint. I have not cared to pile up
more dry bones, but to clothe them with flesh and blood. So much as has
been written by strangers of our ancient faith and worship treats it
chiefly as matter of curiosity. I should like to emphasize its universal
quality, its personal appeal!
The first missionaries, good men imbued with the narrowness of their age,
branded us as pagans and devil-worshipers, and demanded of us that we
abjure our false gods before bowing the knee at their sacred altar. They
even told us that we were eternally lost, unless we adopted a tangible
symbol and professed a particular form of their hydra-headed faith.
We of the twentieth century know better! We know that all religious
aspiration, all sincere worship, can have but one source and one goal. We
know that the God of the lettered and the unlettered, of the Greek and the
barbarian, is after all the same God; and, like Peter, we perceive that He
is no respecter of persons, but that in every nation he that feareth Him
and worketh righteousness is acceptable to Him.