The little book, “The gospel of the Redman” also goes by the name, The Indian Bible. It was compiled by Julia M. Seton in 1963. It is a beautiful testament a way of life which seemed very alien to the white settlers, but was revealed to be purer, higher than what they had endeavoured to give to the ‘Redman.’
It sums up Native American thought and culture and when the documentation appeared in print, it drew different comments from different religious leaders. And all were amazed. A Jewish rabbi who was a profound scholar did a careful reading and declared: “But this is straight Judaism!” A Greek Catholic archbishop read it and said it was “pure Catholicism, divested of certain rites and ceremonies.” A quaker said it was what his Church preached; a Unitarian minister declared it “the purest Emersonian Unitarianism.” The author concluded that it must be real religion since it was so universal, basic and fundamental, a way out of dogma into truth.
Seton specially mentions Chief Standing Bear of the Sioux who made it his life’s mission to help ‘the Whiteman realize the value of the doctrines by which the Redman lived in the days of his unspoiled grandeur.’
In 1834, Captain Bonneville commented ‘their honesty is immaculate…they are certainly more like a nation of saints than a horde of savages.’
Tom Newcomb, a mountain guide lived with the Sioux under Chief Crazy Horse. He recorded: “I never saw more kindness or real Christianity anywhere. The poor, the sick, the aged, the widows and the orphans were always looked after first. Whenever we moved camp, someone took care that the widows’ lodges were moved first and set up first. After every hunt, a good-sized chunk of meat was dropped at each door where it was most needed. I was treated like a brother; and I tell you I have never seen any community of church people that was as really truly Christians as that band of Indians.”
The native American’s connection to the creator was deeply ingrained into his soul-life. He remarked on the Sunday observance by Christians in this way, “Oh I see. Your God comes only one day a week; my God is with me every day and all the time.”
The Native American had a list of prayers that move by the power of their humility:
“O Great Spirit of my fathers, this is my prayer.
Help me to feel thine urge and thy message.
Help me to be just even to those who hate me; and at all times help me to be kind.
If mine enemy is weak and faltering, help me to the good thought that I forgive him.
If he surrender, move me to help him as a weak and needy brother.”
Here is another prayer:
“O Great Spirit, make me sufficient to mine own occasions.
Give to me to mind my own business at all times, and to lose no good opportunity for holding my tongue.
When it is appointed to me to suffer, let me take example from the dear well-bred beasts and go away in solitude to bear my suffering by myself, not troubling others with my complaints.
Help me to win, if win I may, but-and this especially, O Great Spirit – if it be not ordained I may win, make me at least a good loser.”
The first thing that the Native would do as soon as he woke up was to put on his moccasins and go down to the water’s edge, throw handfuls of clear water into his face, and then stand facing the rising sun and offer his prayers to God. He did this alone, believing that ‘each soul must meet the morning sun, the new sweet earth, and the Great Silence alone!”.
He believed profoundly in silence; speech being considered by him as a perilous gift. Silence was to him, ‘the Great Mystery’ and the holy silence was the voice of the Great Spirit. Silence produced fruits: self-control, true courage or endurance, patience, dignity, and reverence. ‘Silence is the cornerstone of character’ he concluded. “Guard your tongue in youth, and in age you may mature a thought that will be of service to your people” said the old chief Wabasha.
No child was beaten. Rather he was disciplined by exclusion from games with his fellows, and made to experience the sorrow of an outcast which would ‘speedily discipline him into obedience.’
The writer expresses great admiration for the Native’s way of life where each member took care of the weaker members. The Jesuits in 1636 said of the Iroquois that making hospitals for them would be pointless as there were no beggars or any individual in need.
Buffalo Bill is said to have commented, “I never led an expedition against the Indians but I was ashamed of myself, ashamed of my government, and ashamed of my flag; for they were always in the right and we were always in the wrong. They never broke a treaty, and we never kept one.”
Fifty years ago, the writer was documenting a way of life that was passing away.There are lessons here we can all take away and be enriched by spiritually.