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Odd Wisconsin Archive

"He Would Have Made Them So"

The religion of white settlers often seemed peculiar to American Indian elders.

In 1828, for example, Ho-Chunk Chief Dandy was at Galena with some companions and "while strolling about the town one day, they came upon a Methodist church where a revival service was in progress. They approached the windows and were amazed at the sight within, the house crowded with people, some clapping their hands, others jumping about and shouting at the top of their voices in a jargon imprehensible to the red visitors."

Some of Dandy's companions thought that the preacher might be performing a ritual incantation to drive out bad spirits which had entered the congregation. Another speculated that it was a white war-dance, and a third simply concluded that they had all gone crazy. Chief Dandy, "who had been watching intently for some time, exclaimed with an important air, 'I have it! I have it!' then pointing his finger to his head, he added, 'Whiskey too much! Whisky too much!' and the party walked off in disgust, convinced that the disciples of Wesley were enjoying a grand spree."

One Sunday in the early 1830s Dandy and fellow chief Four-Legs called on Juliette Kinzie in Portage, while the family was observing the Sabbath. "We were all seated quietly," remembered Mrs. Kinzie, "engaged in reading.

"Four-Legs inquired of my mother, why we were so occupied, and why everything around us was so still. My mother explained to him our observance of the day of rest -- that we devoted it to worshipping and serving the Great Spirit, as he had commanded in his Holy Word. Four-Legs gave a nod of approbation. That was very right, he said -- he was glad to see us doing our duty -- he was very religious himself, and he liked to see others so. He always took care that his squaws attended to their duties, -- not reading, perhaps, but such as the Great Spirit liked, and such as he thought proper and becoming. He seemed to have no fancy for listening to any explanation of our points of difference. The impression among the Winnebagoes 'that if the Great Spirit had wished them different from what they are, he would have made them so,' seems too strong to yield to either argument or persuasion."

:: Posted in Curiosities on June 22, 2009

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