"Brothers and Sisters - we do not worship the Good Spirit as you do, but our belief in him and our worship is sincere, and we think is acceptable to him. You do not think so. If we should send out our teachers of our religion to you, you would not believe them. It is contrary to your belief, but your Black-coats say we must believe yours. You have your own teachers, let us have ours."
The Senecas of the Sandusky, March 5, 1831
The following article is taken from an original May 16, 1831 copy of the New Hampshire Patriot and State Gazette that I have recently aquired. This extraordinary letter was written just six days after the signing of the treaty in Washington that effected the removal of the Senecas of the Sandusky from their Ohio home. While their Wyandotte neighbors were extremely resistant to the notion of being relocated, the Senecas actually initiated their own removal treaty, making exploratory trips west as early as 1825. These Senecas were the first tribe in Ohio to sign such a removal treaty following the passage of the controversial Jacksonian Indian Removal act, passed by Congress in 1830. This letter underscores, to a great extent, some of the deep frustrations that led to their decision.
While this nation was built upon such important principals as Freedom of Religion, the Senecas of the Sandusky clearly felt that their own freedoms were not being properly respected. In fact, the vast majority of the American Indian nations of the time shared, and have expressed these very same sentiments. By the posting of this article, their side of the story is being told, in their own words, for the historical record.
(NOTES: The reference below to "Sandusky, Ohio", refers to the Sandusky River region, not the city of Sandusky. This is a commonly misunderstood term of the time, as this tribe lived along the Sandusky river on a reservation located in northeast Seneca and southeast Sandusky counties, extending from Fremont to Republic and from the river to the eastern border of the county, until their removal to the west. Their tribal headquarters, or council house, was located near the current town of Green Springs.)
Stephen J. Hartzell
NEW HAMPSHIRE PATRIOT AND STATE GAZETTE
CONCORD, N. H. MONDAY, MAY 16, 1831
The following talk of some Indians of the Seneca tribe was published, a few days ago, in the Washington Globe. We recommend it to the special attention of those who honestly believe that it is more necessary to raise money, by every possible device, for sending missionaries to administer to the supposed spiritual necessities of the "Poor Indians," than to supply the temporal wants of the needy nearer home:
AN INDIAN TALK.
WASHINGTON CITY, March 5, 1831.
We, the Chiefs and Sachems of the Seneca Nation of Indians at Sandusky, Ohio, have often heard of the goodness of our white Brothers and Sisters in the United states, and that they have given and sent many presents of money, cloth and clothing to us, to relieve the distress of our women and children. We thank them for their charity and good will: but we solemnly say to them that we have never received from them a cent of money nor any cloth or clothing.
Brothers and Sisters - We speak the truth to you as it is given to us by the Great Spirit, in whom we trust and believe, and wish you to listen to us that you may no longer be in the dark. We hear that collections have often been made in all your churches for us, have entrusted them to the Missionaries, whom we call Black-coats, to present us.
Brothers and Sisters - We ask you to hear what we say, for it is true. We have found the Black-coats treacherous, and they deceive us. They come among us and ask us to give them our property for saving our souls after we die. We do not like it, for they know no more about the next world than we do. We think the Great Spirit will save our souls and that the Black-coats cannot.
Brothers and Sisters - How can we have confidence in men who deceive both you and me? We feel friendship and affection for you, and we know that you feel the same for us. We wish you to know the truth, and we tell it to you. If you send us any more presents, we hope you will send them by honest men, who do not pretend to so much goodness.
Christian Brothers and Sisters - We, the Red Children of Nowanet, whom we call the Great and Good Spirit, who is present everywhere, now give you a talk which we hope will be long remembered by you all. Do not be deceived by the Black-coats. We believe they are sent out by the Bad Spirit to make talk to us. If the Good Spirit had sent them out, they would have given us your presents, and their talk would have made us better; but their talks do us no good, and we hear nothing of the presents you send us.
Brothers and Sisters - the Good Spirit has but one Big Book; the Bad Spirit has many, very many, books which his white children use to deceive one another, and blind one another's eyes. The Great Spirit has, ever since the world was made, and the grass grew, laid his big book open to all men of whatever color they may have been, and this book tells truth to all, and deceives no man.
Brothers and Sisters - we do not worship the Good Spirit as you do, but our belief in him and our worship is sincere, and we think is acceptable to him. You do not think so. If we should send out our teachers of our religion to you, you would not believe them. It is contrary to your belief, but your Black-coats say we must believe yours. You have your own teachers, let us have ours. We are grateful for your kindness. We should be glad to have your kindness. We should be glad to have you send persons to us to learn us how to plough, and sow, and reap, and teach us all the arts of agriculture. This would make us happy - but the Black-coats cannot.
Brothers and Sisters - this is the truth that you have not known before. We are your friends, and wish that you may not be deceived any longer.
(All signed by "his mark")
CAPT. GOOD HUNTER,
SMALL (CLOUD) SPICER,