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Red Jacket letter to Reverend Cram

[Editor’s note: this letter to a certain Reverend Cram is important in that it accurately shows the sense of bewilderment that many if not most Indians felt towards the White Man’s urge to convert them to Chritianity. Here, Red Jacket’s reply is dignified and intelligent. His letter stands as representative of the Native American's outrage at the white man's attempt to "civilize" them while at the same time the white man was inexorably removing control of ancestral lands from the Indians, either through force or questionably-formulated Treaties.]

See also: Red Jacket Biography

A Native American Skeptic
These are the words of Sagoyewatha ("Red Jacket", Chief of the Seneca) to missionary Reverend Cram from the Boston Missionary Society at Buffalo Creek 1805

"You say that you are sent to instruct us how to worship the Great Spirit agreeably to His mind, and, if we do not take hold of the religion which you white people teach, we shall be unhappy hereafter. You say that you are right and we are lost. How do we know this to be true? We understand that your religion is written in a book. If it was intended for us as well as you, why has not the Great Spirit given to us, and not only to us, but why did He not give to our forefathers the knowledge of that book, with the means of understanding it rightly? We only know what you tell us about it. How shall we know when to believe, being so often deceived by the white people?

Brother, you say there is but one way to worship and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why not all agreed, as you can all read the book?

Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all...we do not wish to destroy your religion or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own. . .you say you have not come to get our land or our wealth but to enlighten our minds. . .you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.

Brother, you have now heard our answer to your talk, and this is all we have to say at present. As we are going to part, we will come and take you by the hand and hope the Great Spirit will protect you on your journey and return you safe to your friends."


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