Petalesharo, a principal chief of the Pawnee Indians, gave the following speech at a conference in 1822 which President Monroe also attended. The president had urged the chief and his people to follow “the way of peace” and to be friendly with the people of the United States. In his reply Petalesharo refers especially to the missionaries:
My Great Father: Some of your good chiefs, as they are called (missionaries), have proposed to send some of their good people among us to change our habits, to make us work and live like the white people.
I will not tell a lie—I am going to tell the truth. You love your country—you love your people—you love the manner in which they live, and you think your people brave. I am like you, my Great Father, I love my country—I love my people—I love the manner in which they live, and think myself and my warriors brave.
Spare me then, Father; let me enjoy my country, and pursue the buffalo, and the beaver, and the other wild animals of our country, and I will trade their skins with your people. I have grown up, and lived thus long without work—I am in hopes you will suffer me to die without you.
We have plenty of buffalo, beaver, deer and other wild animals—we have also an abundance of horses—we have everything we want—we have plenty of land, if you will keep your people off of it.
It is too soon, my Great Father, to send those good men among us. We are not starving yet—we wish you to permit us to enjoy the chase until the game of our country is exhausted—until the wild animals become extinct. Let us exhaust our present resources before you make us toil and interrupt our happiness—let me continue to live as I have done.
W.C. Vanderwerth, ed., Indian Oratory, 80-82
In the late eighteenth century, a young Moravian missionary asked permission to open a mission on Indian land. In refusing his request, Red Jacket, a famous orator and warrior among Seneca Indians, gave a challenge:
Your forefathers crossed the great water and landed on this island. Their numbers were small. They found friends and no enemies. They told us they had fled from their own country for fear of wicked men and had come here to enjoy their religion…We gave them corn and meat, they gave us poison in return….
You say there is but one way to workshop and serve the Great Spirit. If there is but one religion, why do you white people differ so much about it? Why are not all agreed, as you can all read the book?
We are told that your religion was given to your forefathers, and has been handed down form father to son. We also have a religion, which was given to our forefathers, and has been handed down to us their children. We worship in that way. It teaches us to be thankful for all the favors we receive, to love each other, and to be united. We never quarrel about religion.
The Great Spirit has made us all, but He has made a great difference between His white and red children….Since He has made so great a difference between us in other things, why may we not conclude that He has given us a different religion according to our understanding? The Great Spirit does right. He knows what is best for His children; we are satisfied.
We do not wish to destroy your religion, or take it from you. We only want to enjoy our own. We are told that you have been preaching to the white people in this place. These people are our neighbors. We are acquainted with them. We will wait a little while and see what effect your preaching has upon them. If we find it does them good, makes them honest and less disposed to cheat Indians, we will then consider again of what you have said.
Roger Moody, ed., The Indigenous Voice, 1:247