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Sa>kneh | Gaihwi:yo | September Ceremony

The Code of Handsome Lake, the Seneca Prophet


The Gai'wiio` is the record of the teachings of Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet, and purports to be an exact exposition of the precepts that he taught during a term of sixteen years, ending with his death in 1815. It is the basis of the so-called "new religion" of the Six Nations and is preached or recited at all the annual midwinter festivals on the various Iroquois reservations in New York and Ontario that have adherents. These reservations are Onondaga, Tonawanda, Cattaraugus and Allegany in New York and Grand River and Muncytown in Ontario.

There are six authorized "holders" of the Gai'wiio` among whom are John Gibson (Ganio`dai'io`) and Edward Cornplanter (Soson'dow), Senecas, and Frank Logan (Adoda:r'ho), Onondaga. Chief Cornplanter is by far the most conservative though Chief Gibson seems to have the greater store of explanatory matter, often interpolating it during his exposition. Chief Logan is a devout adherent of his religion and watches the waning of his prophet's teachings with grave concern. His grief is like that of Hiawatha (Haiyon'wntha) and inclines him to leave Onondaga for a region where the prophet will not be jeered.

The stated times for the proclaiming of the Gai'wiio` are at the Six Nations' meeting in September and at the midwinter thanksgiving in the moon Nsko'wkni:, between January 15th and February 15th. At such times the Ogwe?'oweka: or "faithful Indians" send for an expounder paying his traveling expenses and entertaining him during his stay. Usually reservations "exchange" preachers, Cornplanter going to Grand River or Onondaga and Chief Gibson to Cattaraugus or Allegany.

The time consumed in reciting the Gai'wiio` is always three days. At noon each day the expositor stops, for the sun is in midheaven and ready to descend. All sacred things must be done sde:'tcia:, early in the morning. Before sunrise each morning of the preaching the preacher stands at the fireplace in the long house and sings a song known as the Sun Song. This is an obedience to a command of the prophet who promised that it should insure good weather for the day. "The wind always dies down when I sing that song," affirms Chief Cornplanter.

During the recital of the Gai'wiio` the preacher stands at the fireplace which serves as the altar. Sitting beside him is an assistant or some officer of the rites who holds a white wampum strand. 1 A select congregation sits on benches placed across the long house but the majority use the double row of seats around the walls. The women wear shawls over their heads and during affecting parts of the story hide their faces to conceal the tears. Some of the men, stirred to emotion, likewise are moved to tears but are unable to hide them. Such emotion once detected by the auditors sometimes becomes contagious and serves as the means of scores repledging their allegiance to the old religion. In 1909, for example, 136 Allegany Senecas promised Chief Cornplanter that they would stop drinking liquor and obey the commands of Handsome Lake. Visiting Canadian Oneida Indians at the Grand River ceremonies, as a result of such a "revival," petitioned for a visit of the Gai'wiio` preachers several years ago, saying that a portion of the Oneida of the Thames wished to return to the "old way." This some of them have done but they complain of the persecution of their Christian tribesmen who threatened to burn their council house. In other places the case seems different and the "prophet's cause" is not espoused with much enthusiasm by the younger element to whom the white man's world and thought present a greater appeal.

Those who live in communities in which the prophet's word is still strong are drawn to the ceremonies and to the recitals because it is a part of their social system.

Its great appeal to the older people is that it presents in their own language a system of moral precepts and exhortations that they can readily understand. The prophet, who is called "our great teacher" (sedwa'gowa:'n?), was a man of their own blood, and the ground that he traversed was their ancestral domain. Patriotism and religious emotion mingle, and, when the story of the "great wrongs" is remembered, spur on a ready acceptance. The fraudulent treaty of Buffalo of 1838, for example, caused many of the Buffalo Senecas to move to the Cattaraugus reservation. Here they settled at Gann'dase:` or Newtown, then a desolate wilderness. Their bitter wrongs made them hate white men and to resist all missionary efforts. Today there is no mission chapel at Newtown. All attempts have failed. Whether future ones will readily succeed is conjectural. The Indian there clings to his prophet and heeds the word of his teacher. At Cold Spring on the Allegany is another center of the "old time people." On the Tonawanda re

servation this element is chiefly centered "down below" at the long house. On the Onondaga reservation the long house stands in the middle of the Onondaga village and the Ganug'ssne:'ha (long house people) are distributed all over the reservation but perhaps chiefly on Hemlock road. It is an odd sight, provoking strange thoughts, to stand at the tomb of the prophet near the council house and watch each day the hundreds of automobiles that fly by over the State road. The Tuscarora and St Regis Indians are all nominally Christians and they have no long houses.

The present form of the Gai'wiio` was determined by a council of its preachers some fifty years ago. They met at Cold Spring, the old home of Handsome Lake, and compared their versions. Several differences were found and each preacher thought his version the correct one. At length Chief John jacket, a Cattaraugus Seneca, and a man well versed in the lore of his people, was chosen to settle forever the words and the form of the Gai'wiio`. This he did by writing it out in the Seneca language by the method taught by Rev. Asher Wright, the Presbyterian missionary. The preachers assembled again, this time, according to Cornplanter, at Cattaraugus where they memorized the parts in which they were faulty. The original text was written on letter paper and now is entirely destroyed.

Chief jacket gave it to Henry Stevens and Chief Stevens passed it on to Chief Cornplanter who after he had memorized the teachings became careless and lost the papers sheet by sheet. Fearing that the true form might become lost Chief Cornplanter in 1903 began to rewrite the Gai'wiio` in an old minute book of the Seneca Lacrosse Club. He had finished the historical introduction when the writer discovered what he had done. He was implored to finish it and give it to the State of New York for preservation. He was at first reluctant, fearing criticism, but after a council with the leading men he consented to do so. He became greatly interested in the progress of the translation and is eager for the time to arrive when all white men may have the privilege of reading the "wonderful message" of the great prophet.

The translation was made chiefly by William Bluesky, the native lay preacher of the Baptist church. It was a lesson in religious toleration to see the Christian preacher and the "Instructor of the Gai'wiio`" side by side working over the sections of the code, for beyond a few smiles at certain passages, in which Chief Cornplanter himself shared, Mr Bluesky never showed but that he reverenced every message and revelation of the four messengers.


Handsome Lake, the Seneca prophet, was born in 1735 in the Seneca village of Conawagas (Ga:non'wags) on the Genesee river opposite the present town of Avon, Livingston county.. He is described by Buffalo Tom Jemison as a middle-sized man, slim and unhealthy looking. He was a member of one of the noble (hoya'n`) families in which the title of Ganio`dai'io` or Ska'niadar'io` is vested, thus holding the most honoured Seneca title. What his warrior name was is not known and neither is it known just when he received the name and title by which he later became known. It is known, however, that he belonged to the Turtle clan. Later he was "borrowed" by the Wolves and reared by them. His half brother was the celebrated Cornplanter.

The general story of his life may be gleaned from a perusal of his code, there being nothing of any consequence known of his life up to the time of his "vision." In 1794 his name appears on a treaty but whether he took active part in the debates that led up to it is not known. It is known from tradition and from his own story that he was a dissolute person and a miserable victim of the drink habit. The loss of the Genesee country caused him to go with his tribesmen to the Allegany river settlements; Here he became afflicted with a wasting disease that was aggravated by his continued use of the white man's fire water. For four years he lay a helpless invalid. His bare cabin scarcely afforded him shelter but later he was nursed by his married daughter who seems to have treated him with affection. His sickness afforded him much time for serious meditation and it is quite possible that some of his precepts are the result of this opportunity. His own condition could not fail to impress him with the folly of using

alcoholic drink and the wild whoops of the drunken raftsmen continually reminded him of the "demon's" power over thought and action. In the foreword of his revelation he tells how he became as dead, and of the visitation of the "four beings" who revealed the will of the Creator.

After this first revelation he seemed to recover and immediately began to tell the story of his visions. His first efforts were to condemn the use of the "first word" or the white man's "one:'g." He became a temperance reformer but his success came not from an appeal to reason but to religious instinct. The ravages of intemperance for a century had made serious inroads on the domestic and social life of his people. It had demoralized their national life and caused his brother chiefs to barter land for the means of a debauch. It threatened the extinction of his people. Such were the factors that induced the revelation.

He was a man past the prime of life, a man weakened by disease and drunkenness. Yet he assumed the rle of teacher and prophet. In two years' time his efforts were conducive of so much reform that they attracted the attention of President Jefferson who caused Secretary of War Dearborn to write a letter commending the teachings of Handsome Lake. The Seneca construed this as a recognition of the prophet's right to teach and prophesy. The nature of the document is revealed in the following letter, a copy of which is in the possession of every religious chief of the Six Nations:

Brothers--The President is pleased with seeing you all in good health, after so long a journey, and he rejoices in his heart that one of your own people has been employed to make yon sober, good and happy; and that he is so well disposed to give you good advice, and to set before you so good examples.

Brothers--If all the red people follow the advice of your friend and teacher, the Handsome Lake, and in future will be sober, honest, industrious and good, there can be no doubt but the Great Spirit will take care of you and make you happy.

This letter came as one of the results of Handsome Lake's visit in 1802, to Washington with a delegation of Seneca and Onondaga chiefs. The successful results of his two years' ministry became more fruitful as time went on. In 1809 a number of members of the Society of Friends visiting Onondaga left the following record of the effects of the prophet's teachings: "We were informed, not only by themselves, but by the interpreter, that they totally refrained from the use of ardent spirits for about nine years, and that none of the natives will touch it."

The success of Handsome Lake's teachings did much to crystallize the Iroquois as a distinct social group. The encroachments of civilization had demoralized the old order of things. The old beliefs, though still held, had no coherence. The ancient system had no longer definite organization and thus no specific hold.

The frauds which the Six Nations had suffered, the loss of land and of ancient seats had reduced them to poverty and disheartened them. The crushing blow of Sullivan's campaign was yet felt and the wounds then inflicted were fresh. The national order of the Confederacy was destroyed. Poverty, the sting of defeat, the loss of ancestral homes, the memory of broken promises and the hostility of the white settlers all conspired to bring despair. There is not much energy in a despairing nation who see themselves hopeless and alone, the greedy eyes of their conquerors fastened on the few acres that remain to them. It was little wonder that the Indian sought forgetfulness in the trader's rum.

As a victim of such conditions, Handsome Lake stalked from the gloom holding up as a beacon of hope his divine message, the Gai'wiio`. He became in spite of his detractors a commanding figure. He created a new system, a thing to think about, a thing to discuss, a thing to believe. His message, whether false or true, was a creation of their own and afforded a nucleus about which they could cluster themselves and fasten their hopes. A few great leaders such as Red jacket denounced him as an imposter but this only afforded the necessary resistant element. The angels then conveniently revealed that Red jacket was a schemer and a seller of land and an unhappy wretch doomed to carry burdens of soil through eternity as a punishment for perfidy. This was enough to create a prejudice among the Indians and one that lasts to this day among all classes of the reservation Iroquois. A few others endeavored to expose the prophet but this action only created a large faction that stood strongly for him.

Whatever may be the merits of the prophet's teachings, they created a revolution in Iroquois religious life. With the spread of his doctrines the older religious system was overturned until today it is to be doubted that a single adherent remains. Handsome Lake's followers were few at first. He was despised, ridiculed and subject to bodily insults. Certain failures to live up to a preconceived idea of what a prophet should be caused a continual persecution. Cornplanter, his half brother, continually harassed him, as may be seen in the relation. Some of his failures, real or fancied, caused calumny to be heaped upon him and they are current today among those inclined to scoff. It is said that he learned his ideas of morality from his nephew, Henry Obail (Abeal), who had been at school in Philadelphia. Henry, it is said, took him up in the mountains and explained the Christian Bible to him, thus giving him the idea of devising the Gai'wiio`. Other tales are that he failed to find the great serpent in the bed o

f the Allegany river though he pretended to locate it and charge it with having spread disease among the people, and that he erected an idol on an island in the river, a thing which from more authentic accounts he did not do.

Previous to his residence at Tonawanda he had lived ten years at Cornplanter's town and two years at Cold Spring. At the latter place he made so many enemies that he resolved to leave with his followers. This was in about 1812. With him went his chief followers and his family, among them his grandson Sos'he:ow who later became his successor.

Sos'he:ow was born in 1774 in the old town of Ganowa'gs, the home of both Cornplanter and Handsome Lake. Lewis H. Morgan, who knew him well, describes him as "an eminently pure and virtuous man . . . devoted . . . to the duties of his office, as the spiritual guide and teacher of the Iroquois."

Morgan gives a full account of the recitation of Sosehawa at the mourning council at Tonawanda in 1848 and credits the translation to Sosehawa's grandson, Ely S. Parker (Ha-sa-no-an-da).

During the prophet's four years' stay at Tonawanda he became many times discouraged, "reluctant to tell," and though the people gradually became more friendly, he seemed loath at times to proclaim his revelations. Some Christian Indians have explained this as caused by an uneasy conscience that came with greater knowledge of the white man's religion but there is no evidence of this. During this stay he was invited to visit the Onondaga and this he did, though according to his visions it necessitated the singing of his "third song," which meant that he should die. In a vision which he related he saw the four messengers who said "They have stretched out their hands pleading for you to come and they are your own people at Onondaga" (section 122).

When the word was given, Handsome Lake with a few chosen followers started to walk to Onondaga. His prediction of his own death, however, caused many more to join the party when it became definitely known he had started. The first camping spot mentioned is at the old village, Ganon'wa'gs. Here upon retiring he commanded the company to assemble "early in the morning." At the morning gathering he announced a vision. It had been of a pathway covered with grass. At the next camp, at Ganundasa'ga, his vision was of a woman speaking. On the borders of Onondaga he discovered that he had lost a favorite knife and went back to find it. He was evidently much depressed and approached Onondaga with a reluctance that almost betokened fear. Upon his arrival he was unable to address the people because of his distress, so that it was said, "Our meeting is only a gathering about the fireplace." A game of lacrosse was played to cheer him but he could only respond to the honour by saying: "I will soon go to my new home. Soon will I step into the new world for there is a plain pathway before me leading there." He repaired to his cabin at the foot of the hill, in sight of the council house and there after a most distressing illness "commenced his walk" over the path that had appeared before him. He was buried under the council house with impressive ceremonies and his tomb may still be seen though the house has been removed. A granite monument, erected by the Six Nations, marks his resting place.

Handsome Lake lived to see his people divided into two factions, one that clung to the old order and one that followed him. After his death the older order gradually faded out of existence, either coming over to the New Religion or embracing Christianity. Thus by the time of the Civil War in 1861 there were only the two elements, the Christians and the followers of Handsome Lake. They stand so arrayed today but with the "new religionists" gradually diminishing in number. The force of Handsome Lake's teaching, however, is still felt and affects in some way all the New York reservations, except perhaps St Regis.

Handsome Lake as the founder of a religious system occupied such a position that his followers place implicit confidence in that system whatever his personal weaknesses and failures may have been.

"He made mistakes," said Chief Cornplanter, "many mistakes, so it is reported, but he was only a man and men are liable to commit errors. Whatever he did and said of himself is of no consequence. What he did and said by the direction of the four messengers is everything--it is our religion. Ganiodaiio was weak in many points and sometimes afraid to do as the messengers told him, He was almost an unwilling servant. He made no divine claims, he did not pose as infallible nor even truly virtuous. He merely proclaimed the Gai'wiio` and that is what we follow, not him. We do not worship him, we worship one great Creator. We honour and revere our prophet and leader, we revere the four messengers who watch over us--but the Creator alone do we worship." Such is the argument of his followers.


There is no record of Handsome Lake's visiting Tuscarora, Oneida or St Regis. The result is that these reservations contain only Indians who are nominally Christian. The Oneida are virtually citizens, the Tuscarora as capable of being so as any community of whites, and the St Regis progressive enough not only to use all their own lands but to rent from the whites. Their "Indianess" is largely gone. They have no Indian customs though they are affected by Indian folk-thought and exist as Indian communities, governing themselves and receiving annuities. Their material culture is now largely that of the whites about them and they are Indians only because they dwell in an Indian reservation, possess Indian blood and speak an Iroquois dialect.

In contrast to these reservations where the Indian has become "whitemanized" stand out the reservations of the Seneca and Onondaga. On the latter the folk-ways and the "Indian way of thinking" struggle with the white man's civilization for supremacy. The Indian of the old way is arrayed against the Indian of the new way. The conservative Indian calls his Christian brother a traitor to his race, a man ashamed of his ancestors, a man who condones all the wrongs the white man has done his people, and a man who is at best an imitator and a poor one. On the other hand the Christian Indian calls his "feather wearing" (Adstowe') brother, "a blind man in the wilderness," a nonprogressive, behind the times, a man hopelessly struggling against fate, a heathen and a pagan. Even so, the followers of Handsome Lake constitute an influential element and the other Indians are affected by their beliefs whether they are willing or not. As was remarked in the beginning, Handsome Lake crystallized as a social unit the people whom he taught and those who follow him today constitute a unit that holds itself at variance with the social and accepted economic systems of the white communities about them. They assert that they have a perfect right to use their own system. They argue that the white man's teachings are not consistent with his practice and thus only one of their schemes for deceiving them. They assert that they wish to remain Indians and have a right to be so and to believe their own prophet. They are largely instrumental in conserving the systems peculiarly Indian and though they are a minority they control a majority of the offices in the nations to which they belong. Among the Onondaga and Tonawanda Seneca they hold most of the offices. In connection with the Allegany and Cattaraugus Seneca I use the word control, advisedly, since there may be times when the majority of councilors may be of the Christian party. Even so, the "conservative" party controls enough to maintain the system that they deem right.

When their poverty is urged as an argument against their religion and social system they assert that the true follower of the prophet will be poor and suffer much in this world but that his condition in the "new world above the sky" will be in direct contrast. They therefore esteem poverty, lowly surroundings and sickness as a sure indication of a rich heavenly reward and point to the better material surroundings and wealth of their brethren of the white man's way as an evidence that the devil has bought them.


The writer of this sketch has no complaint against the simple folk who have long been his friends. For a greater portion of his lifetime he has mingled with them, lived in their homes and received many honours from them. He has attended their ceremonies, heard their instructors and learned much of the old-time lore. Never has he been more royally entertained than by them, never was hospitality so genuine, never was gratitude more earnest, never were friends more sincere. There is virtue in their hearts and a sincerity and frankness that is refreshing. If only there were no engulfing "new way" and no modern rush, no need for progress, there could scarcely be a better devised system than theirs. It was almost perfectly fitted for the conditions which it was designed to meet, but now the new way has surrounded them, everything which they have and use in the line of material things, save a few simple maize foods and their ceremonial paraphernalia, is the product of the white man's hand and brain. The social and

economic and moral order all about them is the white man's, not theirs. How long can they oppose their way to the overwhelming forces of the modem world and exist? How long will they seek to meet these overwhelming forces with those their ancestors devised but devised not with a knowledge of what the future would require? My Indian friends will answer, "Of these things we know nothing; we know only that the Great Ruler will care for us as long as we are faithful." Asked about the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, the long house they worship in, they reply, "All these things may be made of the white man's material but they are outside things. Our religion is not one of paint or feathers; it is a thing of the heart." That is the answer; it is a thing of the heart--who can change it?


Now this happened a long time ago and across the great salt sea, odji'ke?da:gi'ga, that stretches east. There is, so it seems, a world there and soil like ours. There in the great queen's country where swarmed many people--so many that they crowded upon one another and had no place for hunting--there lived a great queen. Among her servants was a young preacher of the queen's religion, so, it is said.

Now this happened. The great queen requested the preacher to clean some old volumes which she had concealed in a hidden chest. So he obeyed and when he had cleaned the last book, which was at the bottom of the chest, he opened it and looked about and listened, for truly he had no right to read the book and wanted no one to detect him. He read. It was a great book and told him many things which he never knew before. Therefore he was greatly worried. He read of a great man who had been a prophet and the son of the Great Ruler. He had been born on the earth and the white men to whom he preached killed him. Now moreover the prophet had promised to return and become the King. In three days he was to come and then in forty to start his kingdom. This did not happen as his followers had expected and so they despaired. Then said one chief follower, "Surely he will come again sometime, we must watch for him."

Then the young preacher became worried for he had discovered that his god was not on earth to see. He was angry moreover because his teachers had deceived him. So then he went to the chief of preachers and asked him how it was that he had deceived him. Then the chief preacher said, "Seek him out and you will find him for indeed we think he does live on earth." Even so, his heart was angry but he resolved to seek.

On the morning of the next day he looked out from the opening of his room and saw out in the river a beautiful island and he marvelled that he had never seen it before. He continued to gaze and as he did he saw among the trees a castle of gold and he travelled that he had not seen the castle of gold before. Then he said, "So beautiful a castle on so beautiful an isle must indeed be the abode of him whom I seek." Immediately he put on his clothes and went to the men who had taught him and they wondered and said, "Indeed it must be as you say." So then together they went to the river and when they came to the shore they saw that it was spanned by a bridge of shining gold. Then one of the great preachers fell down and read from his book a long prayer and arising he turned his back upon the island and fled for he was afraid to meet the lord. Then with the young man the other crossed the bridge and he knelt on the grass and he cried loud and groaned his prayer but when he arose to his feet he too fled and would not look again at the house-the castle of gold.

Then was the young man disgusted, and boldly he strode toward the house to attend to the business which he had in mind. He did not cry or pray and neither did he fall to his knees for he was not afraid. He knocked at the door and a handsome smiling man welcomed him in and said, "Do not be afraid of me." Then the smiling man in the castle of gold said, "I have wanted a young man such as you for some time. You are wise and afraid of nobody. Those older men were fools and would not have listened to me (direct) though they might listen to some one whom I had instructed. Listen to me and most truly you shall be rich. Across the ocean that lies toward the sunset is another world and a great country and a people whom you have never seen. Those people are virtuous, they have no unnatural evil habits and they are honest. A great reward is yours if you will help me. Here are five things that men and women enjoy; take them to these people and make them as white men are. Then shall you be rich and powerful and you may b ecome the chief of all great preachers here."

So then the young man took the bundle containing the five things and made the bargain. He left the island and looking back saw that the bridge had disappeared and before he had turned his head the castle had gone and then as he looked the island itself vanished.

Now then the young man wondered if indeed he had seen his lord for his mind had been so full of business that he had forgotten to ask. So he opened his bundle of five things and found a flask of rum, a pack of playing cards, a handful of coins, a violin and a decayed leg bone. Then be thought the things very strange and he wondered if indeed his lord would send such gifts to the people across the water of the salt lake; but he remembered his promise, the young man looked about for a suitable man in whom to confide his secret and after some searching he found a man named Columbus and to him he confided the story. Then did Columbus secure some big canoes and raise up wings and he sailed away. He sailed many days and his warriors became angry and cried that the chief who led them was a deceiver. They planned to behead him but he heard of the plan and promised that on the next day he would discover the new country. The next morning came and then did Columbus discover America. Then the boats turned back and repor ted their find to the whole world. Then did great ships come, a good many. Then did they bring many bundles of the five things and spread the gifts to all the men of the great earth island.

Then did the invisible man of the river island laugh and then did he say, "These cards will make them gamble away their wealth and idle their time; this money wilt make them dishonest and covetous and they will forget their old laws; this fiddle will make them dance with their arms about their wives and bring about a time of tattling and idle gossip; this rum will turn their minds to foolishness and they will barter their country for baubles; then will this secret poison eat the life from their blood and crumble their bones." So said the invisible man and be was Hansse'ono, the evil one.

Now all this was done and when afterwards he saw the havoc and the misery his work had done he said, "I think I have made an enormous mistake for I did not dream that these people would suffer so." Then did even the devil himself lament that his evil had been so great.

So after the swarms of white men came and misery was thrust upon the Ongwe-oweh the Creator was sorry for his own people whom he had molded from the soil of the earth of this Great Island, and he spoke to his four messengers and many times they tried to tell right men the revelations of the Creator but none would listen. Then they found our head man sick. Then they heard him speak to the sun and to the moon and they saw his sickness. Then they knew that he suffered because of the cunning evils that Hansse'ono had given the Ongwe-oweh. So then they knew that he was the one. He was the one who should bear and tell Gai'wiio`. But when Ganio`dai'io` spoke the evil being ceased his lament and sought to obstruct Gai'wiio`, for he claimed to be master.

The Gai'wiio` came from Hodinok'doon Hd'iohe?, the Great Ruler, to the Hadiy?'geonon, the four messengers. From them it was transmitted to Ganio`dai'io`, Handsome Lake who taught it to Skandyon?'gwad (Owen Blacksnake) and to his own grandson, Sos'heow (James Johnson). Blacksnake taught it to Henry Stevens (Ganishando), who taught it to Soson'dowa, Edward Cornplanter. "So I know that I have the true words and I preach them," adds Cornplanter.


The beginning was in Yai?'kni [May], early in the moon, in the year 1800. It commences now.


The place is Ohi'o` [on the Allegany river], in Diono?sade'g [Cornplanter village]. Now it is the harvest time, so he said.

Now a party of people move. They go down in canoes the Allegany river. They plan to hunt throughout the autumn and the winter seasons.

Now they land at Ganowo'gon [Warren, Pa.] and set up camp. The weather changes and they move again. They go farther down the river. The ice melts opening up the stream and so they go still farther down. They land at Dione:g [Pittsburgh]. It is a little village of white people [literally, "our younger brethren". Here they barter their skins, dried meat and fresh game for strong drink. They put a barrel of it in their canoes. Now all the canoes are lashed together like a raft.

Now all the men become filled with strong drink (gonig'nongi). They yell and sing like demented people. Those who are in the middle canoes do this. Now they are homeward bound.

Now when they come to where they had left their wives and children these embark to return home. They go up Cornplanter creek, Awe'gon.

Now that the party is home the men revel in strong drink and are very quarrelsome. Because of this the families become frightened and move away for safety. So from many places in the bushlands camp fires send up their smoke.

Now the drunken men run yelling through the village and there is no one there except the drunken men. Now they are beastlike and run about without clothing and all have weapons to injure those whom they meet.

Now there are no doors left in the houses for they have all been kicked off. So, also, there are no fires in the village and have not been for many days. Now the men full of strong drink have trodden in the fireplaces. They alone track there and there are no fires and their footprints are in all the fireplaces.

Now the dogs yelp and cry in all the houses for they are hungry.

So this is what happens.


And now furthermore a man becomes sick. Some strong power holds him.

Now as he lies in sickness he meditates and longs that he might rise again and walk upon the earth. So he implores the Great Ruler to give him strength that he may walk upon this earth again. And then he thinks how evil and loathsome he is before the Great Ruler. He thinks how he has been evil ever since he had strength in this world and done evil ever since he had been able to work. But notwithstanding, he asks that he may again walk.

So now this is what he sang: O?gi'we, Ye'ond'th, and Gone'owon. Now while he sings he has strong drink with him.

Now it comes to his mind that perchance evil has arisen because of strong drink and he resolves to use it nevermore. Now he continually thinks of this every day and every hour. Yea, he continually thinks of this. Then a time comes and he craves drink again for he thinks that he can not recover his strength without it. Now two ways he thinks: what once he did and whether he will ever recover.


Now he thinks of the things he sees in the daylight.

The sunlight comes in and he sees it and he says, "The Creator made this sunshine." So he thinks. Now when he thinks of the sunshine and of the Creator who made it he feels a new hope within him and he feels that he may again be on his feet in this world.

Now he had previously given up hope of life but now he begs to see the light of another day. He thinks thus for night is coming.

So now he makes an invocation that he may be able to endure the night.

Now he lives through the night and sees another day. So then he prays that he may see the night and it is so. Because of these things he now believes that the Great Ruler has heard him and he gives him thanks.

Now the sick man's bed is beside the fire. At night he looks up through the chimney hole and sees the stars and he thanks the Great Ruler that he can see them for he knows that he, the Creator, has made them.

Now it comes to him that because of these new thoughts he may obtain help to arise from his bed and walk again in this world. Then again he despairs that he will ever see the new day because of his great weakness. Then again he has confidence that he will see the new day, and so he lives and sees it.

For everything he sees he is thankful. He thinks of the Creator and thanks him for the things he sees. Now he hears the birds singing and he thanks the Great Ruler for their music.

So then he thinks that a thankful heart will help him. Now this man has been sick four years but he feels that he will now recover. And the name of the sick man is Ganio`dai'io` a council chief [Hoya'ne].


Now at this time the daughter of the sick man and her husband are sitting outside the house in the shed and the sick man is within alone. The door is ajar. Now the daughter and her husband are cleaning beans for the planting. Suddenly they hear the sick man exclaim, "Niio?!" Then they hear him rising in his bed and they think how he is but yellow skin and dried bones from four years of sickness in bed. Now they hear him walking over the floor toward the door. Then the daughter looks up and sees her father coming out of doors. He totters and she rises quickly to catch him but he falls dying. Now they lift him up and carry him back within the house and dress him for burial. Now he is dead.


Then the daughter says to her husband, "Run quickly and notify his nephew, T'wnys, that he who has lain so many years in bed has gone. Bid him come immediately."

So the husband runs to carry the message to T'wnys. And T'wnys says, "Truly so. Now hasten to Gaint'wak, the brother of the dead man and say that he who lay sick for so many years is dead. So now go and say this."

So the husband goes alone to where Gaint'wak lives and when he' has spoken the wife says, "Gaint'wak is at the island planting." So he goes there and says, "Gaint'wak your brother is dead. He who was sick for so many years is dead. Go at once to his bed."

Then Gaint'wak answers, "Truly, but first I must finish covering this small patch of seed. Then when I hoe it over I will come.

Now he who notifies is Htgwi'yot, the husband of the daughter of Ganio`dai'io`. So now he returns home.

Now everyone hearing of the death of the sick man goes to where he lies.

Now first comes T'wnys. He touches the dead man on every part of his body. Now he feels a warm spot on his chest and then T'wnys says, "Hold back your sadness, friends," for he had discovered the warm spot and because of this he tells the people that perhaps the dead man may revive. Now many people are weeping and the speaker sits down by his head.

Now after some time Gaint'wak comes in and feels over the body of the dead and he too discovers the warm spot but says nothing but sits silently down at the feet of the dead man. And for many hours no one speaks.

Now it is the early morning and the dew is drying. This is a time of trouble for he lies dead.

Now continually T'wnys feels over the body of the dead man. He notices that the warm spot is spreading. Now the time is noon and he feels the warm blood pulsing in his veins. Now his breath comes and now he opens his eyes.


Now T'wnys is speaking. "Are you well? What think you? (Isegen' onnt'gayei` hnesni'go`)?"

Now the people notice that the man is moving his lips as if speaking but no words come. Now this is near the noon hour. Now all are silent while T'wnys asks again, "My uncle, are you feeling well? (onignt'gaiye`)."

Then comes the answer, "Yes I believe myself well." So these are the first words Ganio`dai'io` spoke ("Iwi`' nai' o'n't?gai'ye h?' nekni'gon").

Now then he speaks again saying, "Never have I seen such wondrous visions! Now at first I heard some one speaking. Some one spoke and said, 'Come out awhile' and said this three times. Now since I saw no one speaking I thought that in my sickness I myself was speaking but I thought again and found that it was not my voice. So I called out boldly, 'Niio?!' and arose and went out and there standing in the clear swept space I saw three men clothed in fine clean raiment. Their cheeks were painted red and it seemed that they had been painted the day before. Only a few feathers were in their bonnets. All three were alike and all seemed middle aged. Never before have I seen such handsome commanding men and they had in one hand bows and arrows as canes. Now in their other hands were huckleberry bushes and the berries were of every colour.

"Then said the beings, addressing me, 'He who created the world at the beginning employed us to come to earth. Our visit now is not the only one we have made. He commanded us saying "Go once more down upon the earth and [this time] visit him who thinks of me. He is grateful for my creations, moreover he wishes to rise from sickness and walk'[in health] upon the earth. Go you and help him to recover."' Then said the messengers, 'Take these berries and eat of every colour. They will give you strength and your people with us will help you rise.' So I took and ate the berries. Then said the beings, 'On the morrow we will have it that a fire will be in the bushes and a medicine steeped to give you strength. We will appoint Odjis'kwthn and Gaynt`gogws, a man and his wife, to make the medicine. Now they are the best of all the medicine people. Early in the morning we will see them and at that time you will have the medicine for your use, and before noon the unused medicine will be cast away because you will have recovered. Now moreover before noon many people will gather at the council house. These people will be your relatives and will see you. They will have gathered the early strawberries and made a strawberry feast, and moreover will have strawberry wine sweetened with sugar. Then will all drink the juice of the berry and thank the Creator for your recovery and moreover they severally will call upon you by your name as a relative according as you are.'

"Now when the day came I went as appointed and all the people saw me coming and it was as predicted."


"Now the messengers spoke to me and said that they would now tell me how things ought to be upon the earth. They said: 'Do not allow any one to say that you have had great fortune in being able to rise again. The favour of the four beings is not alone for you and the Creator is willing to help all mankind.'

"Now on that same day the Great Feather and the Harvest dances were to be celebrated and at this time the beings told me that my relatives would restore me. 'Your feelings and spirits are low,' they said, 'and must be aroused. Then will you obtain power to recover.' Verily the servants of the Creator (Hadiony?'geonon) said this. Now moreover they commanded that henceforth dances of this same kind should be held and thanksgiving offered whenever the strawberries were ripe. Furthermore they said that the juice of the berry must be drunk by the children and the aged and all the people. Truly all must drink of the berry juice, for they said that the sweet water of the berries was a medicine and that the early strawberries were a great medicine. So they bade me tell this story to my people when I move upon the earth again. Now they said, 'We shall continually reveal things unto you. We, the servants of him who made us, say that as he employed us to cure unto you to reveal his will, so you must carry it to your people. Now we are they whom he created when he made the world and our duty is to watch over and care for mankind. Now there are four of us but the fourth is not here present. When we called you by name and you heard, he returned to tell the news.

This will bring joy into the heaven-world of our Creator. So it is that the fourth is not with us but you shall see him at another time and when that time is at hand you shall know. Now furthermore we must remind you of the evil things that you have done and you must repent of all things that you believe to have been evil. You think that you have done wrong because of O?gi'we:, Ye'ond'th and Gone'owon and because you partook of strong drink. Verily you must do as you think for whatsoever you think is evil is evil.'"


"'And now behold! Look through the valley between two hills. Look between the sunrise and the noon!'

"So I looked, and in the valley there was a deeper hollow from which smoke was arising and steam as if a hot place were beneath.

Then spoke the messengers saying, 'What do. you see?'

I answered, 'I see a place in the valley from which smoke is arising and it is also steaming as a hot place were beneath.'

"Then said the beings, 'Truly you have spoken. It is the truth. In that place a man is buried. He lies between the two hills in the hollow in the valley and a great message is buried with him. Once we commanded that man to proclaim that message to the world but he refused to obey. So now he will never rise from that spot for he refused to obey. So now to you, therefore, we say, proclaim the message that we give you and tell it truly before all people.' "'Now the first thing has been finished and it remains for us to uncover all wickedness before you.' So they said."