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Historic Diaries: Marsh, 1834

Another Debate on the Value of Civilization

Editor's Note:

These notes do not appear to be the transcript of any actual dialogue between Rev. Marsh and any specific Indian. They begin directly after the day's diary entry and are written in a clear and orderly hand, as if he was summarizing for himself all the objections he had heard in recent weeks, and drafting answers to them. As such, they bear comparison to the similar notes he made back on July 19th, before actually meeting with any Indians.



[Aug] 19 Tues


Indians ideas respecting different manner of life from the white people.


The Great Spirit made us different and put us upon this Island and intended that we should live so.


But you have horses, saddles and bridles just like the white people; all of your bridles were made by the white people. The clothes you wear is made out of the same kind of stuff that the white peoples are; white peoples clothes are made out of wool the same as your blankets, the calico of which your shirts are made and your breast-cloths were made by the white people, you wear the same kind of stuff for the greater part of your clothing that the white people do. You only wear it in different manner, but it is the same kind of stuff. You have guns and traps the same as the white people, the powder and the lead also were made by the white people and you find it not only convenient but absolutely necessary to have these things, and that you cannot live without them so that a greater of your things which you use your hoes, kettles, cups, knives, spears etc, were all made by the white people and are just such as the white people use. Besides all of the tea, coffee and flour you have as well as the salt, which you make and use, come from the white people and are just such as they live upon.


Don't you find all of these things not only very comfortable and convenient, but really necessary and that you could not live without them?


Before the white people came to this Island you had none of these things. And do you think that it has made the Great Spirit angry because in so many things you live like the white people? And do you think that as you now live in part just like the white people, that it could make him angry if you should live altogether like them?


Ind. But the Great Spirit has always taught us to live in this manner, and we should insult him now to leave this way for a new one.


If it is pleasing to the Great Spirit that you should live in this manner, why is it that the Indns are so poor and wretched and why are they disappearing like the leaves of autumn? If the Indns manner of life was pleasing to the Great Spirit it would not be so.


Once the white people were not as they are now. They lived differently and had another religion, and then they were just so poor and wretched as the Indns are now. But the Great Spirit did not speak to them from heaven with his mouth, nor did he send down a prophet to tell them they must turn and live new lives, but good men went to them and taught them and carried the good book to them. By and by some were pleased with their talk and threw away their old religion and got this which the good white people have now. They then learnt to read etc., and then the Great Spirit began to do them good, to increase them in number and gave them a plenty of much things as they needed to live upon.


The Great Spirit is able to change our hearts, and when he wants us to change he will do it or tell us we must change our way of living etc.


But he did not change the white people in this way, once they had another religion and were very bad, as well as very wretched, and they were changed by listening to good men who went amongst them and who he sent just as he will now send good men amongst you, if you are willing to receive them, who will teach your children and young people, and also how to live well and happy even in this world. This is the way the Wau-pe-nok-ees, Cherokees, Choctaws, etc. were changed.


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