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Reply to Missionary Cram of the Boston Missionary School

From Red Jacket of the Seneca tribe

Red Jacket ceded a large portion of the Seneca land as a result of the tribe’s decision to side with the British during the war.
Red Jacket ceded a large portion of the Seneca land as a result of the tribe’s decision to side with the British during the war.

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, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion. Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between his white and red children…. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children; we are satisfied.

– From “Reply to Missionary Cram of the Boston Missionary School,” Red Jacket

Red Jacket (c. 1750–1830), also known as Sagoyewatha (“Keeper Awake”), was a Native American orator of the Seneca tribe and chief of the Wolf clan. As a chief negotiator of treaties between his people and the United States’ newly formed government after the Revolutionary War, Red Jacket signed the Treaty of Canandaigua by which he ceded a large portion of the Seneca land as a result of the tribe’s decision to side with the British during the war. Honored by George Washington after the war, Red Jacket was an early proponent of religious tolerance in the fledgling nation. As his response to missionary Jacob Cram indicates, Red Jacket held a civil yet assertive position in maintaining the old ways of his people.

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Red Jacket ceded a large portion of the Seneca land as a result of the tribe’s decision to side with the British during the war.
Red Jacket ceded a large portion of the Seneca land as a result of the tribe’s decision to side with the British during the war.

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, we do not understand these things. We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down from father to son. We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion. Brother, the Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between his white and red children…. Since he has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that he has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for his children; we are satisfied.

– From “Reply to Missionary Cram of the Boston Missionary School,” Red Jacket

Red Jacket (c. 1750–1830), also known as Sagoyewatha (“Keeper Awake”), was a Native American orator of the Seneca tribe and chief of the Wolf clan. As a chief negotiator of treaties between his people and the United States’ newly formed government after the Revolutionary War, Red Jacket signed the Treaty of Canandaigua by which he ceded a large portion of the Seneca land as a result of the tribe’s decision to side with the British during the war. Honored by George Washington after the war, Red Jacket was an early proponent of religious tolerance in the fledgling nation. As his response to missionary Jacob Cram indicates, Red Jacket held a civil yet assertive position in maintaining the old ways of his people.

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I found the full photo via wikipedia.

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May 5, 2017

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