My brothers! My sisters! I have been given a great power.
I have been told by Our Creator to use this power to save
My name is Tenskwatawa (He-Who-Opens-The-Door). I have been
shown how to open the door that has shut us out from happiness.
I died and went to the World Above, and saw it. I had done
every sin against my people and myself. You knew me! I was
a sinner, I was a drunkard! I had another name then. That
name is so smeared with the filth of my old sins that my mouth
will not utter it, for my mouth is now pure! Tenskwatawa has
never spoken a lie or an obscenity, and never will. I have
come back cleansed. I am as we were in the Beginning! In me
is a shinning power!
In the Beginning, we were full of this shinning power, strong
because we were pure. We moved silently through the woods.
With a silent arrow we killed the animals and ate pure meat.
In silence the fish swam in pure rivers, and we caught them
in silence and ate them. In silence our corn and beans and
squashes grew from the earth, and those we ate. We drank only
clear water, after the milk of our mother's breast.
I have heard that lost silence. You have not heard it because
you have not been dead. Up under the roof of the sky, there
is that pure silence!
In the beginning, our people broke that beautiful silence
only to pray to the Great Good Spirit, or to speak wisely
in council, or to say kind words to our children and our elders,
or to give the war cry when we avenged wrongs.
Our Creator put us on this wide, rich land, and told us we
were free to go where the game was, where the soil was good
for planting. That was our state of true happiness. We did
not have to beg for anything. Our Creator had taught us how
to find and make everything we needed, from trees and plants
and animals and stone. We lived in bark, and we wore only
the skins of animals. Our Creator taught us how to use fire,
in living, and in sacred ceremonies. She taught us how to
heal with barks and roots, and how to make sweet foods with
berries and fruits, with papaws and the water of the maple
tree. Our Creator gave us tobacco, and said, Send your prayers
up to me on its fragrant smoke. Our Creator taught us how
to enjoy loving our mates, and gave us laws to live by, so
that we would not bother each other, but help each other.
Our Creator sang to us in the wind and the running water,
in the bird songs, in children's laughter, and taught us music.
And we listened, and our stomachs were never dirty and never
Thus were we created. Thus we lived for a long time, proud
and happy. We had never eaten pig meat, nor tasted the poison
called whiskey, nor worn wool from sheep, nor struck fire
or dug earth with steel, nor cooked in iron, nor hunted and
fought with loud guns, nor ever had diseases which soured
our blood or rotted our organs. We were pure, so we were strong
But, beyond the Great Sunrise Water, there lived a people
who had iron, and those dirty and unnatural things, who seethed
with diseases, who fought to death over the names of their
gods! They had so crowded and befouled their own island that
they fled from it, because excrement and carrion were up to
their knees. They came to our island. Our Singers had warned
us that a pale people would come across the Great Water and
try to destroy us, but we forgot. We did not know they were
evil, so we welcomed them and fed them. We taught them much
of what Our Grandmother had taught us, how to hunt, grow corn
and tobacco, find good things in the forest. They saw how
much room we had, and wanted it. They brought iron and pigs
and wool and rum and disease. They came farther and drove
us over the mountains. Then when they had filled up and dirtied
our old lands by the sea, they looked over the mountains and
saw this Middle Ground, and we are old enough to remember
when they started rushing into it. We remember our villages
on fire every year and the crops slashed every fall and the
children hungry every winter. All this you know.
For many years we traded furs to the English or the French,
for wool blankets and guns and iron things, for steel awls
and needles and axes, for mirrors, for pretty things made
of beads and silver. And for liquor. This was foolish, but
we did not know it. We shut our ears to the Great Good Spirit.
We did not want to hear that we were being foolish.
But now those things of the white men have corrupted us,
and made us weak and needful. Our men forgot how to hunt without
noisy guns. Our women don't want to make fire without steel,
or cook without iron, or sew without metal awls and needles,
or fish without steel hooks. Some look in those mirrors all
the time, and no longer teach their daughters to make leather
or render bear oil. We learned to need the white men's goods,
and so now a People who never had to beg for anything must
beg for everything!
Some of our women married white men, and made half-breeds.
Many of us now crave liquor. He whose filthy name I will not
speak, he who was I before, was one of the worst of those
drunkards. There are drunkards in almost every family. You
know how bad this is.
And so you see what has happened to us. We were fools to
take all these things that weakened us. We did not need them
then, but we believe we need them now. We turned our backs
on the old ways. Instead of thanking Weshemoneto for all we
used to have, we turned to the white men and asked them for
more. So now we depend upon the very people who destroy us!
This is our weakness! Our corruption! Our Creator scolded
me, "If you had lived the way I taught you, the white
men could never have got you under their foot!"
And that is why Our Creator purified me and sent me down
to you full of the shinning power, to make you what you were
before! As you sit before me I will tell you the many rules
Our Creator gave me for you. I will tell you how I went to
the World Above. When I tell you of the punishments I saw,
they will terrify you! But listen, those punishments will
be upon you unless you follow me through the door that I am
opening for you!
No red man must ever drink liquor, or he will go and have
the hot lead poured in his mouth! You know I have been a slave
to liquor since first I tasted it. But never again will I
take any! If ever you saw me taste it again, you would know
that what I tell you is false!
This also Our Creator told me:
No red man shall take more than one wife in the future. No
red man shall run after women. If he is single, let him take
a wife, and lie only with her.
If any wife behaves badly, her husband may whip her. But
then they shall look each other in the face and laugh together,
and have no more ill will.
Any red woman who is living with a white man must return
to her people, and must leave her children with the husband,
so that all Nations will be pure in their blood.
Our Creator told me there are too many doing witchcraft,
and using their medicine bags for false beliefs. All the People
must gather together to destroy their personal medicine bags,
in the presence of all, for all our medicine now is in the
shining power I have been given!
I tell you what I was told! We cannot save ourselves from
corruption by doing only little, easy things! Listen! And
when you destroy your medicine bags you will make an open
confession of all the bad deeds you have done, and beg forgiveness.
You heard me confess all my sins, which were much worse than
yours,and I did so because it is required by the Great Good
Spirit! Only light will cure moldiness; only light will purify
your spirits. Soon I will call us all together for this cleansing,
and anyone who wants to follow me through the open door to
goodness will have to do this,or else be doomed!
Now hear what I was told about dealing with white men! These
things we must do, to cleanse ourselves of their corruption!
Our foods are sacred. Our Grandmother taught us how to hunt
and raise these foods, to select seeds and continue the best
strains. These foods are for us only. Never sell any of our
food to a white person. If a white man comes to you hungry,
give him a little, only to give him strength to go away!
Do not eat any food that is raised or cooked by a white person.
It is not good for us. Eat not their bread made of wheat,
for Our Creator gave us corn for our bread. Eat not the meat
of their filthy swine, nor of their chicken fowls, nor the
beef of their cattle, which are tame and thus have no spirit
in them. Their foods will seem to fill your empty belly, but
this deceives you for food without spirit does not nourish
There are two kinds of white men. There are the Americans,
and there are the others. You may give your hand in friendship
to the French, or the Spaniards, or the British. But the Americans
are not like those. The Americans come from the slime of the
sea, with mud and weeds in their claws, and they are a kind
of crayfish serpent whose claws grab in our earth and take
it from us.
Wear only clothing that you have made from skins and sewn
with sinew. I see here wool garments and hats made by white
men. Give those back to the first white person you see.
In our towns there are dogs of the white men's kind, those
whose ears hang down. I saw such a dog watching me from behind
a tree with white men's eyes, and I knew: these are prowling
our towns with the white man's spirit in them. And there are
cats that you got from the white men. These are bad animals.
Often a witch takes the shape of a cat. You must kill these
cats and dogs, or else take them to a white man's town and
leave them there.
Yes! I told you! Some of these steps to purification will
The fire struck by white man's steel is not sacred fire.
You must put out such fire in your lodges and kindle a new
fire using the old way, and this will be a sacred fire. You
must never let this sacred fire go out, for it is your reborn
spirit, beginning now, and if it goes out, so will your life
go out. When you move from place to place you must bear sacred
coals with you, as we did in the ancient times, and rekindle
the fire when you arrive.
And now listen:
The Great Good Spirit wants our men to hunt and kill game
as in the ancient days, with the silent arrow and the lance
and the snare, and no longer with guns.
If we hunt in the old ways, we will not have to depend upon
white men, for new guns and powder and lead, or go to them
to have broken guns repaired. Remember it is the wish of the
Great Good Spirit that we have no more commerce with white
It will take us a while to become such hunters again. We
may keep our guns,and if we need to defend ourselves against
American white men, the guns will kill them because they are
a white man's weapon. But arrows will kill American intruders,
too! You must go to the grandfathers and have them teach you
to make good bows and shape arrowheads, and you must recover
the old hunting skills. That is what the Creator instructed
me to tell you.
And now listen,for here is the most important message I bring
The Great Good Spirit will call me from time to time and
teach me more to help you. Our Creator told me that all red
men who refuse to obey these laws are bad people, or witches,
and must be put to death. Anyone who does not wish to live
in a way that pleases Weshemoneto must want instead to please
Matchemoneto, and such a person must be a witch. Witches should
be killed, for they divide the People and weaken their spirit.
Hear me, my People. All red men will soon know these messages
I have brought. They are hungry for guidance from heaven.
I will tell the people I see, and you will tell those you
see. But I warn you: Our Creator thundered and said that anyone
who reveals these laws to any white men will die at once,
and never be shown the right road!
The Great Good Spirit will appoint a place to be our holy
town, and at that place I will call all red men to come and
share this shining power. For the People in all tribes are
corrupt and miserable! In that holy town we will pray every
morning and every night for the earth to be fruitful, and
the game and fish to be plentiful again. We will no longer
do the frolic dances that excite lust and make us silly. Instead,
the Great Good Spirit will teach me the old dances we did
before the corruption, and from these dances we will receive
strength and happiness!
Now I, Tenskwatawa, He-Opens-the-Door, will go and be alone
for a while, to learn more of what we must do. I have told
you everything I know, but soon I will know more. You will
go and tell what you have learned here, but tell it to no
white man, or to anyone who would tell it to a white man.
Get rid of cats and long-eared dogs! Make good bows! Put out
your fires made with steel, and kindle an everlasting fire
by wood on wood. Turn your backs on the whiskey sellers and
the traders, and do not listen to the Jesus missIonaries!
Look among yourselves for witches, and note who they are,
and they will be judged soon. How will you know witches? I
will tell you: They will be doing commerce with Americans,
and going to their treaty councils, against the warnings of
And they will start whispering to you that Open Door is not
a true holy man or prophet! THAT is how you will know witches.
Tenskwatawa - Shawnee