107) Looking for the Great Spirit

 The Clergy of America: Anecdotes, 1869, pp. 69-71

The following narrative was given by a gentleman of the United States, when on a visit to England, and was published in that country in 1838:

     It was in the autumn of 1832, in the regions of the far West, by the waters of the Columbian River, that a traveler was led by commerce to seek out the tribe of Indians dwelling upon its borders (commonly called the ‘Flathead Indians’).  He appeared at the entrance of a wigwam and asked for food and water, in broken accents, but in their own language.  When the traveler was rested and refreshed, the wigwam owner asked his errand, and when he said he was there with items to trade, that made him very welcome to these children of the wilderness.

      The Indian who received him was tall, erect, and finely formed, with an expression of intelligence about his eyes and forehead.  “You are weary,” he said to the stranger, “and it was well that you reached our shelter before the voice of the great Eagle was abroad upon the mountains.”

     “What do you mean?,” asked his guest looking at the clouded sky, “and what is the voice of the great Eagle?”

      “Hear it now,” replied the Indian, as the first peal of thunder rolled and echoed round the hills.  “The great Spirit is riding down the waterfall!  Do you not hear him in the wind?  I am afraid of him, and so surely you must be.  Let us speak against his harm.”

      “I fear nothing,” replied the hardy wanderer.  “But is this spirit a good or a bad spirit?– and have you more spirits than one in your country?”

     “We have a good Spirit,” was the answer, “but we never speak to him– he will do us no evil.  And we have a bad spirit, who is the great Eagle I told you of; and we pray to him, that he may not work us harm.  What spirits have you in your country?”

     “I come,” said the stranger, “from the Ohio River; and the men in those parts have a book which teaches them a new way to heaven; or, as you would call it, to the sky.  They say that they shall live again after they die, and live up there– that is, if they please their Great Spirit.”

     “What is a book?  I should like to see it,” said the Indian.  “And about living after death, I want to know more.  How far is it to the Ohio?”

      “It is 3,000 miles,” replied the traveler, “and all through the desert.  You would never reach the Ohio.  But all I have said to you is true.”

      The Indian turned into his hut to sleep, but he could not sleep at all.  When the storm was hushed, he walked out again into the clear, still moonlight to think about the book which could teach people the way into the sky.  The next morning he repeated what the traveler had said to two men in his tribe, and he asked them if they would go with him to fetch such a book from beyond the mountains.  They agreed, and after a season when the traveler went on his way, they too took their journey in an opposite direction.  They lived by the chase, endured innumerable perils, and were six months on the road;– but at last they arrived at their destination, and entreated to see the book of which they had heard, and to be taught that which they did not know.

      Their story excited great interest.  They were welcomed and instructed.  But after many months had passed, the Indian who had first heard the good news from the traveler, worn out with the fatigue and hardships of his journey, fell ill and died.  But this was not, however, before he had listened to the glad tidings of salvation by Jesus Christ, and declared that he believed the book.  A missionary offered himself to return with the two others to their homes, and did accompany them back to the Columbian River.  Accounts were received from him of his safe arrival, his joyful reception by the tribe, and of his beginning to distribute among them the water of life.

Flathead delegation in Washington, D.C. with i...
Flathead delegation in Washington, D.C. with interpreter, 1884


Psalm 22:27-28 — All the ends of the earth will remember and turn to the Lord, and all the families of the nations will bow down before him, for dominion belongs to the Lord and he rules over the nations. 

Isaiah 45:22 — “Turn to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth; for I am God, and there is no other.”

Psalm 61:1-2 — Hear my cry, O God; listen to my prayer.  From the ends of the earth I call to you, I call as my heart grows faint; lead me to the rock that is higher than I. 

Acts 13:47 — For this is what the Lord has commanded us:  “I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.”

THANKSGIVING FOR THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH: Almighty God, you sent your Son Jesus Christ to reconcile the world to yourself:  We praise and bless you for those whom you have sent in the power of the Spirit to preach the Gospel to all nations.  We thank you that in all parts of the earth a community of love has been gathered together by their prayers and labors, and that in every place your servants call upon your Name; for the kingdom and the power and the glory are yours for ever.  Amen.   —Book of Common Prayer