A missionary once undertook to instruct
a group of Indians in the truths of his
holy religion. He told them of the creation
of the earth in six days, and of the fall of
our first parents by eating an apple.
The courteous savages listened attentively,
and, after thanking him, one related in his
turn a very ancient tradition concerning
the origin of the maize. But the missionary
plainly showed his disgust and disbelief,
"What I delivered to you were sacred truths,
but this that you tell me is mere
fable and falsehood!"
"My brother," gravely replied the
offended Indian, "it seems that you have
not been well grounded in the rules of
civility. You saw that we, who practice
these rules, belived your stories; why, then
do you refuse to credit ours?"
Every religion has its Holy Book,
and ours was a mingling of history,
poetry, and prophecy, of precepts and
folklore, even such as the modern reader
finds within the covers of his Bible.
This Bible of ours was our whole
literature, a living Book, sowed as
precious seed by our wisest sages, and
springing anew in the wondering eyes
and upon the innocent lips of little
children. Upon its hoary wisdom of
proverb and fable, its mystic and
legendary lore thus sacredly preserved
and transmitted from father to son,
was based in large part on our
customs and philosophy.
Charles Alexander Eastman
[Ohiyesa] Santee Sioux
THE SOUL OF THE INDIAN