AND INDIANS' ADVOCATE
Wednesday, April 29, 1829
Vol. II, no. 7
Page 2 col. 5a-
Page 3 col. 1b
FOR THE CHEROKEE PHOENIX
MR. BOUDINOTT.- I noticed in a late number of your paper a selection from the Monthly Review, containing an extract from Worsley's view of the American Indians, in which he gives a summary view of his argument in favor of the proposition that they are descendants of the long lost ten tribes of Israel. Several statements are there made, as of general application to the Indians, which, being inserted in the "Cherokee Phoenix," if they stand uncontradicted, will be inferred to be true as applicable to the Cherokees. It is doubtless best that the truth should be known, that those, who pursue the inquiry respecting the origin of the Indians, may build their conclusions on only real facts. I therefore, offer a few remarks, promising that my knowledge is limited, and that, if I should make any mistakes, they are made where they are, perhaps, as likely as anywhere to be corrected.
It is said that the Indians have a tradition prevailing universally that they came into this country [America] at the northwest corner. I have not learned that there is such a tradition among the Cherokees. If it exists will not some of your correspondents inform us of it? Some of the aged Cherokees, at least, seem to have understood the tradition to be, that the Indians were created in America.
They have, it is said, entirely escaped the idolatry of the old world. It is true, I believe, that the Cherokees have never worshipped images. Their conjurers, however, address themselves to imaginary beings, who are not God such as the great white dog, the great bear, the lizard, &c. The Osages, it would seem, have regarded earth and the heavenly bodies as gods, and directed their worship to them. [See Miss. Her. pp. 123, 124 of the current volume.]
It is also said that the Indians "acknowledge one God, the Great Spirit, who created all things, seen and unseen." The Cherokees certainly acknowledge one Supreme God, nor do I suppose that their conjurers would consider the white dog and the great bear &c. to whom they direct their prayers, in the light of deities, properly speaking. In regard to the spirituality of God, however, I am not, convinced that they have any correct ideas. Certain it is they have no name for the Deity which signifies the Great Spirit. The same is true of the Choctaws, of whom the Rev. Mr. Wright affirms that "they have no conception of a being purely spiritual," and as I should infer from the account of the religious traditions of the Osages, to which I have already referred, it is true of them also. According to the account of the Rev. Mr. Harris, missionary among the Senecas, it appears that that tribe formerly "regarded God as no other than man," I am apprehensive that, if the point, were investigated, a name for the Deity signifying the Great Spirit, which has, I believe, been generally supposed to be universal among the Indians, would be found among very few. The Cherokees have only two names of God, one of which, (5 Cherokee letters) U-ne-la-nv-hi, signifies the Creator, and the other (6 Cherokee letters) Ga-lv-la-ti c-hi, he who dwells above.
It is asserted, if I understand the language used that the old Hebrew name of God is known to all the Aborigines. I suppose the writer refers to the name El, or Elohim. Certainly this name is not known to the Cherokees.
It is added "He is also called Yehowah, and sometimes Yah, & also Abba." This may be true in regard to tribes with which I am unacquainted. As to Cherokees, the name Yehowah is now known to some, but only to those who learned it by means of Christian missionaries; the name Yah to none, unless a few individuals may have learned that there is such a name in the Hebrews scriptures. As to Abba, it seems to me altogether probable, that it is no other than the Choctaw ubba, which signifies, unless I greatly mistake; above, & is used in connexion [sic] with pinke, our father, as a name for the Deity, but probably, according to opinion of the Rev. Mr. Wright, who has the best opportunity of judging, learned from the whites* [See Miss. Her. vol. xxiv. p. 179]
Mr. Worsley also affirms, that "they are distinctly heard to sing, with their religious dance, hallelujah, and praise to jah." I believe Cherokee tradition knows nothing of these songs. Mr. Wright informs us that hallelujah is sometimes sung by the Choctaws, who aver that it is not one of their native songs, but was learned from the northern Indians.
"Other remarkable sounds go out of their mouths, as shillu-yo, shil-lu-ho, ale-yo, he-wah, yo-he-wah, but they profess not to know the meaning of these words; &c"- The Cherokees know nothing of all these.
"They keep annual feasts resembling those of the Mosaic ritual; a feast
of first fruits," &c. That a feast of first fruits (the green corn
dance) was observed by the Cherokees till within a few years, is certain.
They also observed fasts, and had a city of refuge for the manslayer.
As to the other feasts mentioned by Mr. Worsley, as also the abstaining from
eating the hollow of the thigh of an animal, the former practice of the rite
of circumcision &c. if they existed, the traditions have not yet come to
my knowledge; but as I am but a white man, and have not yet enjoyed the most
extensive means of information, my ignorance of them is not proof that they
never existed. If any of your readers can give any information on the
subject, I presume the public, as well as your correspondent, will be obliged
* Mr. Wright's orthography is Uba pike, but I use that of Ubba pinke, as better adapted to express the sound to mere English readers.