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The Aborigines and Christianity

We need not remind our readers, that many efforts are made, as they have been for centuries past, to convert not alone the heathen but Jews likewise; and still the absolute success of the missionaries has been very small among the untutored savages, though they have been aided by all the support which invading armies and government influence could bestow, and many of those who formerly were prosperous and *healthy*, such as the Sandwich Islanders and Otaheitians have lost much of their worldly happiness and actually diminished before the inroads of vice and drunkenness brought in the train of European civilization. And even warfare has been invoked to establish missions of a particular kind,—witness the brutal attack on the poor Tahitian Queen Pomaré, by the late king of the French, Louis Philippe. And <<35>>still much of the evil produced by the missionaries and those who follow in their wake is never made public, as there are too many interested to spread only abroad what is good and pleasant.

Still we are candid enough to acknowledge that there are men belonging to this class who are truly devoted to their calling, who go among the heathens to enlighten them, to spread good morals, the knowledge of agriculture and civil government among those who before knew nothing of these things, who are the schoolmasters and the friends of the coloured men. But notwithstanding there are such, the progress they make is not commensurate with their exertions, and the eradication of ancient habits progresses at a pace too slow to produce the results which the present generation of devotees who send out the missionaries do expect.

If this be the case with savages, who have no religion deserving the name to unlearn, if these cling to ancient customs with a tenacity betokening love and attachment; how foolish must it be to expect that Jews, who have been the founders of biblical religion, should forego their opinions and practices, and accept that system of belief which renegadoes, apostates, are bidden to offer them, that they should listen to hired men, sent out at a fixed rate of compensation, to cease to be Israelites! The thing is absurd. Hence no one need be the least surprised at the absence of all success in the efforts to convert the Jews by the employment of missionaries, and this notwithstanding millions of dollars have been spent within the last twenty-five years to make an impression.

We have been led into the above train of thoughts by reading the following from the Syracuse (N. Y.) Journal, giving an account of a ceremony observed by the Iroquois, an Indian nation subject to missionary influence for so many years; and as it is not often that we have anything half as honest presented to us, our readers must pardon us for transferring it to the Occident, as it has an interest to us as Jews, besides its novelty.—Ed. Oc.

“Indian Council Extraordinary,

“From time immemorial, the Iroquois nation have had their stated seasons for convoking the tribes of the several cantons. On these occasions, thanksgivings, offerings, and sacrifices, are freely offered to the Great Spirit, as an acknowledgment of his special kindness and guardian care, to appease his wrath when he has been offended, to conciliate his favour for the future, that He may cause the corn to grow luxuriantly, the streams to be well stocked with fish, and the woods to abound with game. During these festivals the good are reminded of their duty to persevere in the way<<36>>of well-doing, and the unruly of their obligations to reform. The hunter is made bold for the chase, and the warrior valiant for battle.

“During the past fortnight there have been held daily, at the Onondaga Castle, a series of Indian Councils, preparatory to the commencement of the new year. On Friday last was celebrated the annual and important rite of sacrificing the ‘White Dog.’ The customary victim was immolated on the flaming altar, with all the formality and circumstances of ancient usage among the Iroquois, in presence of a pagan portion of the nation, and numerous white persons spectators. On Tuesday last, this crowning festival of the Indian year, after a continuance of nine days, was closed with the exciting and wonderful ceremony of the ‘War Dance.’ These observances are continued in the midst of a Christian community with all the reverence, solemnity and zeal of ancient times, with a punctuality and devotion which shows the regard these people have for the institutions of their fathers, and with what tenacity they still cling to their ancient customs.

“At this great festival, in grand council, all vacancies are filled which have occurred during the year among the chiefs and sachems of the nation, and the new incumbents on these occasions are inducted into office and installed with all the ceremony of aboriginal etiquette, as practised in olden time.

“At this season it is customary and appropriate to adopt and initiate individuals of other nations, and occasionally white people, to the Onondaga nation, and consort them with particular families, clans, and tribes. On this occasion, while the sires and sages of the nation were convened in solemn council, according to ancient usage, and in consideration of the high estimation in which he has for a long time been held by the Onondaga nation, J. V. H. Clark, Esq., of Manlius, was adopted and initiated as a true Onondaga and most cordially affiliated with the ‘Wolf Tribe’ of that nation, to be for ever hereafter known throughout all the Six Nations by the name, Fy-yah-da Koe-nah-has, (the red man’s friend and defender,) and to be everywhere accepted as a brother, a counsellor, and warrior.

“In these days it is a circumstance of rare occurrence, to adopt and initiate a white person among the Onondagas, and is only admissible in cases where the individual has done the nation some distinguished service, or has in some way become honourably conspicuous among them.

“At a subsequent council and more advanced stage of the proceedings at the council-house, the same individual was elected as honorary Sachem of the Onondaga Nation, and was duly invested with the rights and privileges of native incumbents.

“It may be worthy of remark, that more than two hundred years have passed away since Christianity was first introduced among the Onondaga Indians. The French, Dutch, English, and Anglo-Americans, have established what have been termed ‘prosperous missions’ among them. With what success present practices most clearly indicate. For more than one hundred years the French were predominant. For a period of more than half that time the English prevailed in all that pertained to trade, diplomacy, and political influence.

“Since the close of the American Revolution, the United States and the State of New York have had the perishing remnant of the Iroquois under their influence, protection, and control. Still they are in many respects an independent people, speaking their own peculiar language, governed by their own laws, and adhering with unyielding pertinacity to their primitive customs.”