From the Pages of History

You probably couldn’t tell from my blog, but I have a love of history. I had many enjoyable hours looking into the history of my area, especially, and researching some things about the original Indian tribes.

In the Northwestern part of Ohio were the Wyandot. Ohio isn’t sliced up with nice neat boundaries concerning the Indian tribes, who were quite fluid in their borders at times. These were the effects of those forced from the East, and there were mingling of those who were in alliance, but basically the Wyandot were in the upperleft quadrant of what is now the map of Ohio. The name “Hurons” was given to the Wyandots of the Huron Confederacy by the French.

The story of the Wyandot is a heartbreaking one. One of broken treaties and promises from our government and of removal to the West, but one of the highlights in reading about them was to happen upon the biography of Joseph Chiwatenhwa. This man was a great saint of the Christian faith, but one of whom little is known.

I have a startup page that keeps a quote from him, up front, so that I can think of it often:

I have courage because fearing God, I fear nothing else.

Joseph Chiwatenhwa was born in 1602, in Huron country. He was converted to the Christian faith through Jesuit missionaries, the Christian presence in that part of the frontier ( they arrived in 1625). He took hold upon Christ in a complete and personal way, and became the nucleus for a growing Christian community among his people. It was not an easy road as his people felt it would end their ancient way of life and did their best to discredit Christianity, and those who had converted to it.

Chiwatenhwa suffered through many vicissitudes, including death of loved ones and war, but his faith held strong and he weathered the offense of some of his tribesmen. He had premonition from God, in numerous dreams, about his early death. Lastly he had a dream sometime in the early summer of 1639:

“… that three or four Iroquois attacked him; that, having defended himself, he was thrown to the ground; that they took off his scalp, and gave him a blow with a hatchet on the head from which they removed it. ”

Fourteen months later, it was fulfilled.
Here is his recorded prayer:

Joseph Chiwatenhwa’s Prayer

O God, at last I start to understand you. You made the earth, which we live in.
You made the sky, which we see above us. You made us, we who are called people.
Now you let me start to know who you really are. I know how to make a canoe, and how to enjoy it.
I know how to build a cabin and how to live in it. But you… you made us, and you live in us.
The things we make last for a few seasons. We only use the canoes we create for a short time.
We only live in the houses we build for a few years.
But your love for us will endure so long that we cannot count the time. You will comfort us forever.
As long as we live, how can anyone not acknowledge you? You are the one who protects us.
The time we feel your presence the most is when we face death.
You are the one with the power to keep our souls alive,
because only you know how to love us in the deepest part of ourselves.
Not even a mother or father can love a human being the way you do.
Your love for us is so strong that it makes evil spirits lose their power.
Now I begin to see that the reason you made us is because you want to share your love.
Nothing attracts you as much as your people. Thank you for letting me understand you.
You love us so deeply that all I can do in return is offer myself to you I claim you as my elder and chief.
There is no one else. Ask me for anything you want. Just let me always hold you in my heart.
I always want to feel you watching and protecting me. I offer you my family.
If any evil strikes them when I am away, I know you will take care of them.
Your love is more than I can ever give them. Thank you … from my heart.
I see the loving way you lead us along the path of life. You want what is best for us.
If we have poverty, let us feel your love in it. If we get rich, do not let comfort make us forget that we need you.
Never let us turn into selfish people. Never let us think we are better than others who have less.
You love us equally, rich and poor. We are people, your people, and you love us as we are.
It fills me with joy to know you. I can feel the presence of your love.
Thank you for letting me give you myself just as I am.
The more I thank you, the more I find I can give myself to you.
Help me let go of the things I used to place my faith in. All I ask is to be yours.
It would have been enough to give us ~ and the gifts of the earth. Thank you for them.
But you’ve given us much more. In you, we live forever. I can hardly imagine what heaven is like,but it is enough for me to know your love and to believe in you with all my heart.
You have promised to let us be free spirits in you, and because I know you love us,your promise gives me hope. Help us to welcome suffering fit means we will know our need of you more deeply.
In our suffering, help us give ourselves to you.
We don’t have to be afraid to die, because death is the new birth that lets us live fully in you.
Life is a journey, and with you as our companion and our destination, it will end with great joy.
Lord, I am not afraid of death anymore. I will rejoice when I know the time has come for me to die.
I do not even want to mourn the passing of my relatives.
All I need to remember is you are bringing them to be with you in paradise.
You want to take them away so they can have perfect happiness.

The wars went on in this part of the world, we read of them in the French and Indian Wars, the American Revolution. The struggle that the Indian tribes found themselves in, as the push towards the west and the fighting European powers pressed upon them, resulted in dispersal of many. Christian Hurons found refuge among the Ojibway and the Chippewa. And here is an intersection with my own family’s history, who also have an arm within these tribes. The names of the Wyandots, the Delaware, the Miami, and the Shawnee are all remain of these storied people in Ohio. The occasional powwow and those who claim the ancestry are few.

However, the history of Joseph Chiwatenhwa remains to inspire us, and some of his recorded words.

Read on for the farewell of the Wyandot people as they leave Ohio

Squire Grey Eyes delivered the following address to the Wyandots assembled at the mission church before leaving for Ohio. All Six hundred and sixty four members of the Wyandot Nation were gathered for the farewell address. Squire Grey Eyes was an ordained minister and the Wyandot spiritual leader. He resisted removal from Ohio until the very end.

“My people, the time for our departure is at hand. A few words remain only to be said. Our entire nation has gathered here for farewell. We have this morning met together for the last time in our Love Feast. More than two-hundred have testified to the great power of God. Brother Wheeler has preached the funeral for our dead – our John Stewart, our beloved Mononcue, our recently murdered Summundewat, our eloquent Between-the-Logs. They sleep the sleep of death, but the hope of immortality is strong within our breasts. Our chiefs have committed to the care our White Brothers, our temple; to the great spirit, the grave of our ancestors. The Indian does not forget the pale-faced brother who came to him with the message from the Great Spirit, and who loved him well and served him well.

The White Man’s God has become the Indian’s God, and with us go ever to our new home, our beloved shepherd, Brother Wheeler, and sister Lucy Armstrong, the Wyandot bride. Surely like the white-faced truth of all that she says: ‘Whither thou goest, I will go and where thou lodgest, I will lodge; thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God; where thy diest I will die, and there will I be buried.’

It remains only for me to say farewell. Yes, it is indeed farewell. No more shall we engage in the solemn feast, or the feast of rejoicing. No more shall Sandusky’s Plains and forests echo to the voice of song and praise. No more shall we assemble in our Temple to sing the sacred songs and hear the story of the Cross. Here our dead are buried. We have placed fresh flowers upon their graves for the last time. No longer shall we visit them. Soon they shall be forgotten, for the onward march of the strong White Man will not turn aside for the Indian graves. Farewell – Farewell Sandusky River. Farewell – Farewell our hunting grounds and homes. Farewell to the stately trees and forests. Farewell to the Temple of the Great Spirit. Farewell to our White Brothers, and friends, and neighbors. It is but a little time for us till we leave our earthly home; for here we are no continuing city, but we seek one that is to come, whose builder and maker is God. Let us remember the dying words of Brother Stewart:

‘Be Faithful.’ ”
-from the The Wyandot Nation of Kansas Website