The Forgotten Awakening describes a widespread movement of prophecy among the tribes of the Columbia Plateau in the 18th century, and events that followed in their wake. On this website page you will find the sources from which I took those prophecies, and the complete description of each prophecy.
Before you read these, I highly recommend that you read Don Richardson’s book, Eternity in their Hearts, which will give you the best paradigm with which to interpret these prophecies. Don shows how, just before the Christian Church shares the Gospel across cultural boundaries, God sometimes implants concepts into the receiving culture to make the receiving people more open to Jesus. That way, the Gospel is understood as a gift, from within the culture, rather than as a curse or an intrusion from a foreign culture.
I also recommend Bruce Olson’s book, Bruchko, a modern-day example of Don Richardson’s paradigm at work. Bruce describes his experience of sharing the love of Jesus with the Motilone Indians of Venezuela during the 1950’s and ‘60’s. They had received a prophecy, before he showed up, alerting the tribe to look for a tall blond man who would bring “the banana leaves out of which God would come.” This prophecy, given over 200 years after the one I described in The Forgotten Awakening, verifies that God is still working according to the paradigm today.
Nations are like flowers. They open up to Jesus in their proper time. God’s time. And God Himself is in charge of the process.
With each of the prophecies below, I provide a little commentary to help understand how the paradigm fits. (I explain about paradigms in another book Brad Long and I wrote in 1993: The Collapse of the Brass Heaven: Rebuilding Our Worldview To Embrace the Power of God. In this book, I first shared the stories of these prophecies as evidence of God’s power in our national life.)
1. PROPHECIES FROM THE FLATHEADS AND THE KALISPELS
The first prophecy comes from the late 17th century, so it was likely the first of them all. It is a glimpse into how the Salishan peoples began to become believers in the Creator, whom they called Amòtkan, He-who-dewlls-on-high, and Quilent-satmen, He-made-us. You can see how God was gently wooing the people away from animism. That’s God’s way. Gentle.
The writing of the prophecies is from Harry Holbert Turney-High, a cultural anthropologist of a century ago, who was interviewing aboriginals who could remember the days before white people came among them, and the stories their parents told them. His book, The Flatheads of Montana, conveys this story:
THE PROPHECIES OF SHINING SHIRT
“In order to understand many of the features of Flathead past and present non-material culture, one should know something of the story of Shining Shirt. Both the Flathead and the Kalispel claim this hero. The writer entertains an opinion that he was a leader among the latter people. In the first place, there is no evidence that the Flathead pretended to follow his stricture against polygamy. Secondly, it is said that he was accustomed to refer to the Mission and other mountains hemming in the present reservation as “my fence.” Now these mountains are around the old home of the Upper Pend d’Oreille and are north of the old center of Flathead population. In any event his influence was very great among the Flathead. This great leader lived long ago. My oldest informant who claims to be over a hundred years old says that these events took place long before his grandfather’s birth. All the elderly informants are sure that he died long before there were any horses in the country.
“According to the legend Shining Shirt was both a chief and a shaman. After he was a grown man and was in charge of his people, a Power made a great revelation. The Power said that there was a Good and an Evil One of which the Indians knew but little so far. Yet the time would come when men with fair skins dressed in long black skirts would come who would teach them the truth. The Indians had never heard of a white man at that early date. These Black Robes would teach the people religion, would give them new names, and would make laws for their behavior. When this time should come, the Black Robes would change the lives of the people in ways of which they but little dreamed. The Power then gave Shining Shirt a talisman of terrific strength. This was a piece of metal inscribed with a cross.
“Shining Shirt forthwith assembled a council and preached and legislated in this wise. He said that in the past when a man married the elder sister of a family all the younger ones automatically became his wives. The Power considered this a grievous error. Therefore all men must cleave solely to the elder sister and put the other away. He made himself an example by promptly divorcing the younger of his two sister-wives.
“Then he told them that there is a God. His true name was not revealed, but he was temporarily called Amótkan, He-who-lives-on-high. It is the people’s duty to pray to him, especially the chief who must do this every morning and particularly at the Midsummer Festival. Amótkan in some way made the world and all the people, and to him all those who live good lives must return. Thus, Shining Shirt warned his people that when he would die he would really not be dead, and that they must not think of him as dead. Furthermore there is an evil goddess whose name is Emtép, She-who-lives-at-the-foot-of-a-tree. Emtép is the personification of all that is wrong, and therefore must not be prayed to, but feared and avoided. All those who have lived bad lives will go to her land below the roots of the trees.
“Before the time of Shining Shirt, the people had no names, absolutely no names at all. The culture hero gave everyone a name as they came to the councils and dances, but warned them that these were not their true names. He said these would be given them when the white men with the black skirts would come.
“Shining Shirt then taught them that the Black Robes would give them a new moral law which they should obey. Again, these strange white men would teach them many things about making a living of which they were then ignorant, but which they must try to understand and perform as they were taught. Soon after their arrival all wars would cease. Yet the picture in spite of all this was gloomy, for Shining Shirt said the coming of the men in black skirts would mark the beginning of the end of all the people who then inhabited the land. Very soon after the appearance of the religious teachers other men with white skins would come and simply overrun the country. They would make slaves of all the people, but they should not be resisted. This would only bring needless bloodshed. “And that is just what we have become,” interposed the venerable informant. “We are slaves in our own land. And if anyone had told me when I was young that there would be no game to hunt in this place, and that I could not get a bit of pork from the sub-agency on this day, for my poor food needs grease to make it slide down, I would have laughed.”
“Now the people trusted Shining Shirt and received his teaching. Even today they are convinced that he was given his power to accomplish an inevitable divine purpose. The Salishan warriors had every reason to believe in Shining Shirt. Always before battles he would make the sign of the cross on their foreheads, and under him the people3 suffered few casualties in war. One morning while he was praying the scouts reported a huge band of Blackfoot almost on the camp. Shining Shirt quickly assembled the warriors and told them to form a line and come up to him one by one. As each presented himself he gave them his metal talisman to bite. Two men refused to bite the sumesh and were badly crippled during the engagement. The battle was joined. The Blackfoot greatly outnumbered Shining Shirt’s people and, forming a circle around the camp, besieged it for four days. During this time they injured only the two men mentioned and suffered terrific losses themselves. When they finally perceived that some mighty Power was working against them they took off to the east with great alacrity.
“…The explanation of the Christian elements in this legend is left to the reader. While the most obvious one is the possibility of some wandering Iroquois arriving in western Montana at some early date, this cannot be verified by ethnography. It is true that the Salish first heard of Christianity from the Iroquois half-breed Lamousse who was in the service of the Hudson’s Bay Company after the destruction of the Great League. It is true that the chiefs asked for missionaries from the Jesuit headquarters at S. Louis. These are historic facts too well known to recount here. However, the Indians say that they were already prepared to receive the teachings of Lamousse and to send for the Black Robes, for they had been warned of their approach long before.”
(Harry Holbert Turney-High, Flathead Indians of Montana (Menasha, WI: American Anthropological Association, 1937) pp. 41-42.)
You may wonder: was God intentionally willing the destruction and slavery of Native people in this prophecy? I do not believe so. Here’s why.
God loves us all. But He has placed in His Creation a dignity or integrity called free choice. We are moral agents. We can choose the way of love, or the way of hate. We can operate by the laws of conscience or not. If not, we set into operation a string of curses that He never planned for us. Sometimes the things we inflict on one another are simply the results of our own bad choices. This is as true of international relations as interpersonal relations.
There are many examples from history of God prophetically warning nations about disasters soon to overtake them. In each case, His warning is designed to help the people brace themselves, and not to be surprised at the fiery trial that awaits them, but to cling to Him nonetheless. Three examples:
1. In Genesis 15:13, Abram (Abraham) was told that his descendants would be “strangers in a country not their own, and they will be enslaved and mistreated four hundred years.” The Book of Exodus then shows these events actually taking place. Then God led them out of Egypt, according to His plan. (I believe that something like this may be on God’s heart for indigenous people worldwide.)
2. In the 7th century, the great Celtic evangelist, Columba (also known as Columcille) at the Isle of Iona, after converting Scotland to Christ, received a revelation from God that Iona would be destroyed, and his prayer warriors disbursed: Iona of my heart, Iona of my love! Instead of monk’s voices shall be the lowing of cattle. But ere the world come to an end, Iona shall be as it was. The Iona community was a vibrant house of prayer from 563 to 794, when it received the first of several Viking assaults. The last of the monks left the island in 1204, and the island reverted to farmland. In the 1930’s, a prayer ministry sprang up again on the island.
3. Late in the 16th century, John Welch (son-in-law of John Knox, founder of the Presbyterian Church) received word that Scotland was about to pass through a sad time, during which “a remnant would be saved.” A few years later, the Stuart kings took over the governments of England and Scotland, and a century of severe religious persecution began, beginning with the imprisonment of John Welch himself. These were the Covenanting years, which cost Scottish Christians thousands of lives.
In none of these cases did God intentionally will disaster on nations. He was simply preparing them for what was about to take place. In the midst of human deception and sin, God reveals His love, manifested through Jesus His Son.
2. PROPHECY FROM THE COEUR D’ALENES
Our next prophecy comes from the Coeur d’Alenes of western Idaho. Theirs is the most clearly written story, leading from prophecy to fulfillment as articulated by Joseph Seltice, chief of the tribe a century ago, then preserved and published by his son Andrew more recently.
As next-door neighbors of the Spokanes, they had something of an attitude toward the Spokanes like Judeans once had toward Galileeans: “Can anything good come out of….” For that reason, they were not among the people clamoring for a visit from Spokan Garry in 1828, and Garry had no influence among them. In fact, Chief Seltice at one point passes along some negative gossip about Garry and the Red River missionaries that was certainly untrue.
Nonetheless, all the more does their story confirm that God was at work introducing Himself to the tribes prophetically, and preparing them to receive the Gospel of Jesus. Here’s the way Chief Seltice, a contemporary of Spokan Garry, described his people’s adventure with God:
CIRCLING RAVEN AND TWISTED EARTH
“The Coeur d’Alenes and the Flathead Indians of Montana had been on friendly terms for many hundreds of years. But it cannot be said that there was friendship among all the tribes of Indians until after the middle part of the 19th Century. Had all the tribes been at peace instead of at war, the Indian population would be much greater today.
“On the buffalo hunt of 1740, Circling Raven and his people crossed the divide into the Montana plains. There they stopped at a certain campground for some days, and Circling Raven sent out scouts to locate the buffalo. He had already prophesied to his people about all the skirmishes and bloodshed that they would face against the Blackfeet over the millions of buffalo roaming the plains. He had also warned them that they would have to withdraw from battle at a certain point.
“Circling Raven began singing his prophecy songs, and he told his people to listen for three ravens that were coming to give them news. In just a few minutes, three ravens circled the encampment and gave out three calls. Circling Raven asked the people if they understood. His people told him: “No, we don’t understand birds.”
“Circling Raven told the people what the ravens had said: “You have enemies who have already spied you out. They are already preparing for an attack, therefore prepare yourselves.” Then Circling Raven added: “I can see that already seven of the enemy have shed blood. When you count seven of them dead or wounded, be sure to withdraw. After that, there will be bloodshed on our side. Be careful and follow this advice.”
“This is how the Coeur d’Alene chief of those days gained his name, “Circling Raven.” A raven would circle the encampment with news of great joy, and the Chief would give directions from the prophecy and thus become the man of the hour. Circling Raven was in the prime of his life and in perfect health. He lived to be 150 years old, and he led his people honorably.
“After the battle that Circling Raven had predicted in 1740 was over, a Blackfeet Indian rode up at close range and asked: ‘Who are you, and where are you from?’ The Coeur d’Alenes answered: ‘We are the Coeur d’Alene Indians.’ Then the Blackfeet said: ‘Alright, you Coeur d’Alenes will be our enemies for all time.’
“After this, the Coeur d’Alenes saw and killed many buffalo. The meat was dried and smoked, and their pack train of two hundred horses was fully loaded. Now the Coeur d’Alenes were returning with their desire for buffalo meat fully satisfied.
As they approached the summit of the Bitterroot Range, they saw that the snow was between fifteen and twenty feet deep for several miles. Since it was impassable, there was no one to turn to but Circling Raven. He immediately started to sing his songs, and this made the encampment happy. They had a year’s supply of meat, but they had a total of three hundred riding and pack horses, and there was no feed in sight with all this snow.
“After Circling Raven sang his prophecy songs throughout the night, a warm wind blew for forty-eight hours. By this time the snow on the creek bottoms was less than a foot deep, and the horses could paw the snow away and get some feed off the ground. At the summit the deepest snow was no more than ten feet. All the men of the encampment started shoveling snow with wooden shovels. In a short time they made a passageway across the summit for all the pack train to get through.
“The people were filled with joy when they got to the camp at the present city of Mullan. There was a lot of green grass at the bottom of the Bitterroot Range, and the people stayed there to feed their riding ponies and pack horses for two or three days. Then they continued on to Kingston, where they made their winter quarters for the year 1740.
“It was here that the first Christmas was celebrated with appropriate ceremonies. Twenty years before this, Circling Raven had announced to his people that the Savior of the world was born…. All the young children and the babies grew up with this happy thought. He told his people that it had happened a long time ago, and that they and their enemies should avoid further bloodshed. They should stop and think about this event.
“It was at that time in 1740, that Circling Raven had first given his prophecy of the coming of the Black Robe. He looked for him year after year.
”But by 1760, after years of hopeful searching, Circling Raven realized that he would not live to see the Black Robe. He died after the Christmas celebration of that year.”
(The narrative continues with the story of Circling Raven’s son, Twisted Earth:)
“…About the year 1780, after a buffalo hunt on friendly terms with the Montana tribes of Indians, Twisted Earth and the Coeur d’Alenes were celebrating Christmas at Kingston. Twisted Earth, then at the age of forty-two, told his people that a raven and a crow were coming to give them news. His people told him: “Why it’s the middle of winter; where are the birds coming from?” Twisted Earth answered: “They are sent here to give us news, whether in winter, spring, summer or fall.”
“They were all gathered in a large lodge made of bark, twelve by twenty feet, where the songs of prophecy were sung on special occasions throughout the winter. The lodge was filled for this Christmas celebration. Three fires were burning, one in the middle and one on each end. A Small pole had been tied by ropes on each end to the top of the lodge, in preparation for the two birds. Twisted Earth told his people, ‘Listen, they are coming! Watch that pole; it is fastened up there for them to sit on!’
“Suddenly a raven and a crow flew into the lodge and placed themselves on the pole prepared for them. The prophecy songs were then sung, and the two birds took in the mournful melodies, sitting gravely on the pole close to the top of the lodge. After about two hours a lot of smoke had circled up around the top of the large lodge, and the two birds began to blink their eyes repeatedly. When Twisted Earth saw this, he said: ‘Its time for the birds to go.’
“The birds flapped their wings and went, “Caw, caw, caw.” Then they flew out from the top of the lodge, the way they had come in. Twisted Earth asked his people: “Did you understand the birds?” As long ago, they answered once again: “No, we don’t understand birds.” So Twisted Earth told them, “The raven said that we won’t see the Black Robe for another sixty years, but we are not to lose patience. Our Christmas celebration is correct and pleasing to the Creator, who was born as a baby in this world many years ago.”
(The Saga of the Coeur d’Alenes continues through the days of Lewis and Clark and finally comes to culmination at the coming of the Black Robe, who turns out to be Father DeSmet, who arrived on June 2, 1842. On that occasion Twisted Earth, now an old man, made the following speech:)
“’My father looked for you for a long time. Many times he searched the entire Bitterroot Valley, and many times he went beyond the divide. Finally at an old age, he asked me to continue the search for the Black Robe. It has been fully a hundred years since my father first sang the prophecy songs of the ‘coming of the Black Robe’.
“When he died, I continued to watch for the Black Robe. Now it has been eighty years of crossing the mountains, looking throughout the Bitterroot Valley and following my father’s footsteps many times beyond the divide. I had full tribal backing during enemy attacks north and south of the divide. We spared no valley, no plain, and we crossed every mountain to fulfill my father’s prophecy. Today that prophecy has been fulfilled!
“‘I thank the Great Spirit in prayers that I will say the rest of my life, not just in words, but from my heart, as I embrace this fulfillment of my devoted eighty-year search. I am listening, together with all my children scattered throughout the valley, along the St. Joe and the Coeur d’Alene Rivers, and a number of families at the head of this lake. Had they known that my father’s prophecy was going to be fulfilled today, they would all be here to give you a reception. They all wished to see this day, as did I, and my father before me.
“‘We have been disliked at times for seeking the Christian Faith, disliked at times for not accepting the faith of one who rambled on and on, disliked at times for trespassing in trying to find the Black Robe. But now, let us hear you!’”
(Chief Joseph Seltice, Saga of the Coeur d’Alene Indians, pp. 14-19, 33.)
As a Christian I have learned to see that God truly is at the center of the universe, and that He is guiding history to His conclusion. I remember years ago reading the book, The Light and the Glory, by the late Peter Marshall and David Manuel. This book not only articulated a Christian vision for America, but showed God’s providential and miraculous intervention in the birth of our nation. As a descendant of John Alden and Myles Standish and several other Pilgrims, I found myself taking great pride in my ancestry, and in our nation’s Christian heritage.
When God led me by His very distinct leadings to the Library of Congress to read these prophecies of the indigenous tribes, I was shocked, and my world was rocked. God was showing me a piece of His providence that I have been blind to. The Coeur d’Alene nation, like my own, had experienced the Holy Spirit drawing them to Jesus and giving them victory over their enemies—the Blackfeet. My people, the Pilgrims and their descendants, were not the only ones to experience this. Jesus works independently of my people; He truly stands above all the nations, drawing them to Himself, sometimes by miraculous intervention. God was forcing me to give up my ethnocentrism.
When He did these things for the Coeur d’Alenes, He chose a way or method appropriate to their culture. It was not what He would have chosen for Pilgrims or Puritans or Presbyterians (my family’s three strands). It was, however, perfectly suited for 18th century Coeur d’Alene people.
To properly appreciate what God did, we have to be willing to move outside the confines of our European culture, and appreciate a God who stands above all the cultures. We Christians serve a big God, a God whose love is much broader, higher, deeper and longer than ours usually is.
3. PROPHECY FROM THE SPOKANES
As I have shown, the Spokanes had their own Circling Raven, who would have been a contemporary of the Coeur d’Alene prophet, Twisted Earth. The prophecy I focused on in my book was the latest of the three. The first focused on the cross. The second focused on the birth and incarnation of Jesus. The third focused on the Bible.
The following account (the one I used in my book) is found in Robert H. Ruby and John A. Brown’s, The Spokane Indians: Children of the Sun (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), pp. 31-32. It is based on a letter from the missionary, Elkanah Walker, the accumulated accounts of ethnologist Leslie Spier (one of which I quoted in my book), and an interview with Ella McCarty of Spokane in 1966, no doubt conveying Spokane oral tradition.
THE PROPHECY OF YUREERACHEN
“A fresh Spokane grave in the plague year 1782 held the remains of the little son of Yureerachen (“the Circling Raven”), a shaman brother of the chief of the Upper Spokanes. Yureerachn, anguished at the death, blasphemed the Creator. “Why,” he sobbed to his chieftain brother, “did He take my son, who has committed no crime, and leave bad people on earth?” One day his chieftain brother told him, “All right, we will be as animals; we will disband our laws. First, you must go to the top of the [Spokane] mountain and fast four days and nights, then come back the fourth day just before noon. If you find no proof of our Creator, we will then disband our laws and live like animals.” Clad only in a breechcloth, Yureerachen went to the top of the mountain. He built a fire, prayed, beat sticks, cried, and sang. On the fourth day, before dawn, in a burst of light, he heard the voice of the Creator. “Look down the mountain into the future of your people,” spoke the Creator. Overwhelmed, Yureerachen knew in an instant that he had to bring word of this vision to his people. But he also knew the time to do so was not at hand, for in mourning the recent loss of their loved ones, they would never believe him. What should he tell them?
“Yureerachen raced down the hill to affirm to his chieftain brother and the other people his own faith in the Creator. The rest of his story, a prophecy, he kept to himself until the time should come to reveal it. One day, about the year 1790 (approximately, for the Indians had no calendars or written records), there was a deafening blast, the air clouded, and the ground became covered with a flour pumicite. The people, well versed in stories of the earlier volcanic catastrophe, were stricken with fear by the “dry snow” mantling the earth. It was as though an evil hand were completing a sinister cycle on earth, from ashes to ashes. They thought that the end of the world was at hand.
“Yureerachen felt that it was the proper time to prophesy. First, he calmed his people with assurances that the Creator was not ending their existence on earth. “Soon,” he said, “there will come from the rising sun a different kind of man from any you have yet seen, who will bring with them a book, and will teach you everything, and after that the world will fall to pieces.” When the people pressed him for details, he said white men would come. He told them they had to accept the white men, that they would be friends to the Spokanes. They would be the chipixa “white-skinned ones”) and would be called the Sama, something sacred, because it was an “unbelievable” thing. The Spokanes, assured by the words of their prophet, awaited the Sama.”
(There are several other versions of this prophecy that use the expression, “leaves bound together,” which is more likely to have been truer to the original.)
I have given three instances of prophecy among the Plateau tribes. All have two elements: some Christian content; and some mention of people of white skin or black robes bringing news of God. In his seminal work, The Prophet Dance of the Northwest, Leslie Spier gives evidence of the true breadth of this prophetic awakening throughout the area in the 18th century. His research indicates that there were a good many more prophecies among other tribes as well. This prophetic movement explains why there was such interest through the region in the coming of the white people bringing news of God, and introducing Christian faith. And it explains why Spokan Garry, for a season, was in such demand as the first interpreter of that new faith among them.
CULTURAL FORMS AND SPIRITUAL REALITIES
I believe there is a right lesson—and a wrong lesson—to be taken from the story of these tribal prophecies. If we do not discern the difference between cultural forms and spiritual realities, we are likely to take away a wrong lesson. Let’s look at this.
Here’s a spiritual reality: God sent Jesus His Son to die on a cross as an atoning sacrifice, so that we could gain access to Him and be healed of our sins and griefs. Because this is a spiritual reality, it will never change. The spirit realm is an eternal realm. When we embrace this unchangeable reality, it is our lives that change, not the reality. Accordingly, it is an appropriate anchor to our soul–for all cultures, tribes and nations, of all centuries throughout history.
Cultural forms may seem important to us—very important at times. But yet they come and go and do not make good anchors. God knows that they seem important to us, and in His love—and in His desire to introduce us to the above spiritual realities—He may introduce new cultural forms for His purposes.
For example, He had the Hebrew tribes kill a lamb, dip a branch of hyssop in the blood, and smear their doorposts with the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12). When they obeyed, they and their children were kept from a death that struck everyone else around them. This was a cultural form, and it was calculated to point the tribes to a Passover reality that would happen many centuries later. The death of Jesus happened on that very day—the day of Passover—as the cultural form was being acted out in memory of that great deliverance in the time of Moses, the cultural hero. But it wasn’t really about Moses. It was about Jesus the Lamb of God. A cultural form was introduced to help lead people to a spiritual reality. Jesus.
Cultural forms point to spiritual realities but they are not spiritual realities, and should not be treated as though they were.
Nor was God asking the Hebrew tribes to do the blood-on-the-doorpost thing every time death threatened anyone in their households, for the rest of time. It would have been wrong if the Jews had thought, “Wow, this blood-hyssop combination really works. God is showing us how to keep from dying, even when everyone else is dying.”
The Flatheads were encouraged to bite crosses before going into a battle, and God used that situation powerfully to teach them to trust Him. But the true significance of this cultural form was this: it was calculated to show them how to anchor their souls in a spiritual reality: the cross of Jesus. The meaning of the cross was not introduced yet. But in the meantime, this cross-biting thing was a cultural form designed for people who put their confidence in sumeshes, that is, in talismans. Again, cultural forms come and go. Because they are important to us, God uses forms appropriate to us, but they are nothing more than vehicles to get us to Him. Once that happens, they may be set aside, depending on whether God sees any further value in them.
It is wonderful to see how God so lovingly entered into native American tribal culture to slowly, by degrees, woo tribes to Jesus through their own cultural forms. And if God so carefully prepared the First Nations for fellowship with Himself (a spiritual reality), shall we of the dominant white culture in North America not learn to treat them with equal care? We may embrace other cultural forms than they do even today, but it is wrong for us to let our cultural forms become so important to us that they keep us from portraying eternal spiritual realities to other cultures than our own. God loves us all equally, and He does not play favorites.
Jedediah Smith and Spokan Garry were ambassadors for Christ across cultural boundaries. Being an ambassador, standing between cultures, is not an easy yoke to carry. It was not easy for Jedediah Smith, and it was even more difficult for Spokan Garry. The language barrier is only the first obstacle to be overcome. After that the assumptions you have grown up with come under question—assumptions having to do with culture and worldview. Crossing into another culture is truly an earthquake to the soul. Then come the deep misunderstandings that arise in relationships as two people groups come together and try to live together. Then the anger and outbreaks of violence that happen because of those misunderstandings. Then, finally, come the blatant injustices at the hands of people you at first trusted.
Jedediah Smith did not have to live through all these consequences of this ambassadorial role. He died young.
But Spokan Garry did. And as time progressed, the ambassadorial calling became not easier, but more difficult. Garry sometimes recoiled from his calling, perhaps because there was no one to walk it out with him. Such leadership can be truly a lonely existence. Eventually he grew accustomed to that place between cultures. Embracing a Christian identity, he stood in a place of racial reconciliation.
Let me conclude with a segment of a speech Garry made that expressed this ambassadorial calling This is Chief Spokan Garry to Governor Isaac Stevens, Dec. 5, 1855:
“Governor, see the difference there is between these Indians and you. See how everybody is red and you are White. The Indians think they are not poor. When you look at yourself, you see you are white. You see the Indian is red, what do you think? Do you think they are poor when you look at them that way? When you look at those Red men, you think you have more heart, more sense than those poor Indians. I think the difference between us and you Americans is in the Clothing; the blood and body are the same.”