Would the Iroquois, left undisturbed to work out their own destiny, ever have emerged from the savage state? Below Parkman writes about some basic attributes of Native American religion that they shared.
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In observing this singular organization, one is struck by the incongruity of its spirit and its form. A body of hereditary oligarchs was the head of the nation, yet the nation was essentially democratic. Not that the Iroquois were levelers. None were more prompt to acknowledge superiority and defer to it, whether established by usage and prescription, or the result of personal endowment. Yet each man, whether of high or low degree, had a voice in the conduct of affairs, and was never for a moment divorced from his wild spirit of independence. Where there was no property worthy the name, authority had no fulcrum and no hold. The constant aim of sachems and chiefs was to exercise it without seeming to do so. They had no insignia of office. They were no richer than others; indeed, they were often poorer, spending their substance in largesses and bribes to strengthen their influence. They hunted and fished for subsistence; they were as foul, greasy, and unsavory as the rest; yet in them, withal, was often seen a native dignity of bearing, which ochre and bear’s grease could not hide, and which comported well with their strong, symmetrical, and sometimes majestic proportions.
To the institutions, traditions, rites, usages, and festivals of the league the Iroquois was inseparably wedded. He clung to them with Indian tenacity; and he clings to them still. His political fabric was one of ancient ideas and practices, crystallized into regular and enduring forms. In its component parts it has nothing peculiar to itself. All its elements are found in other tribes: most of them belong to the whole Indian race. Undoubtedly there was a distinct and definite effort of legislation; but Iroquois legislation invented nothing. Like all sound legislation, it built of materials already prepared. It organized the chaotic past, and gave concrete forms to Indian nature itself. The people have dwindled and decayed; but, banded by its ties of clan and kin, the league, in feeble miniature, still subsists, and the degenerate Iroquois looks back with a mournful pride to the glory of the past.
Would the Iroquois, left undisturbed to work out their own destiny, ever have emerged from the savage state? Advanced as they were beyond most other American tribes, there is no indication whatever of a tendency to overpass the confines of a wild hunter and warrior life. They were inveterately attached to it, impracticable conservatists of barbarism, and in ferocity and cruelty they matched the worst of their race. Nor did the power of expansion apparently belonging to their system ever produce much result. Between the years 1712 and 1715, the Tuscaroras, a kindred people, were admitted into the league as a sixth nation; but they were never admitted on equal terms. Long after, in the period of their decline, several other tribes were announced as new members of the league; but these admissions never took effect. The Iroquois were always reluctant to receive other tribes, or parts of tribes, collectively, into the precincts of the “Long House.” Yet they constantly practiced a system of adoptions, from which, though cruel and savage, they drew great advantages. Their prisoners of war, when they had burned and butchered as many of them as would serve to sate their own ire and that of their women, were divided, man by man, woman by woman, and child by child, adopted into different families and clans, and thus incorporated into the nation. It was by this means, and this alone, that they could offset the losses of their incessant wars. Early in the eighteenth century, and ever-long before, a vast proportion of their population consisted of adopted prisoners.
[Relation, 1660, 7 (anonymous). The Iroquois were at the height of their prosperity about the year 1650. Morgan reckons their number at this time at 25,000 souls; but this is far too high an estimate. The author of the Relation of 1660 makes their whole number of warriors 2,200. Le Mercier, in the Relation of 1665, says 2,350. In the Journal of Greenhalgh, an Englishman who visited them in 1677, their warriors are set down at 2,150. Du Chesneau, in 1681, estimates them at 2,000; De la Barre, in 1684, at 2,600, they having been strengthened by adoptions. A memoir addressed to the Marquis de Seignelay, in 1687, again makes them 2,000. (See N. Y. Col. Docs., IX. 162, 196, 321.) These estimates imply a total population of ten or twelve thousand.
The anonymous writer of the Relation of 1660 may well remark: “It is marvelous that so few should make so great a havoc, and strike such terror into so many tribes.”]
It remains to speak of the religious and superstitious ideas which so deeply influenced Indian life.
The religious belief of the North-American Indians seems, on a first view, anomalous and contradictory. It certainly is so, if we adopt the popular impression. Romance, Poetry, and Rhetoric point, on the one hand, to the august conception of a one all-ruling Deity, a Great Spirit, omniscient and omnipresent; and we are called to admire the untutored intellect which could conceive a thought too vast for Socrates and Plato. On the other hand, we find a chaos of degrading, ridiculous, and incoherent superstitions. A closer examination will show that the contradiction is more apparent than real. We will begin with the lowest forms of Indian belief, and thence trace it upward to the highest conceptions to which the unassisted mind of the savage attained.
To the Indian, the material world is sentient and intelligent. Birds, beasts, and reptiles have ears for human prayers, and are endowed with an influence on human destiny. A mysterious and inexplicable power resides in inanimate things. They, too, can listen to the voice of man, and influence his life for evil or for good. Lakes, rivers, and waterfalls are sometimes the dwelling-place of spirits; but more frequently they are themselves living beings, to be propitiated by prayers and offerings. The lake has a soul; and so has the river, and the cataract. Each can hear the words of men, and each can be pleased or offended. In the silence of a forest, the gloom of a deep ravine, resides a living mystery, indefinite, but redoubtable. Through all the works of Nature or of man, nothing exists, however seemingly trivial, that may not be endowed with a secret power for blessing or for bane.
Men and animals are closely akin. Each species of animal has its great archetype, its progenitor or king, who is supposed to exist somewhere, prodigious in size, though in shape and nature like his subjects. A belief prevails, vague, but perfectly apparent, that men themselves owe their first parentage to beasts, birds, or reptiles, as bears, wolves, tortoises, or cranes; and the names of the totemic clans, borrowed in nearly every case from animals, are the reflection of this idea.
[This belief occasionally takes a perfectly definite shape. There was a tradition among Northern and Western tribes, that men were created from the carcasses of beasts, birds, and fishes, by Manabozho, a mythical personage, to be described hereafter. The Amikouas, or People of the Beaver, an Algonquin tribe of Lake Huron, claimed descent from the carcass of the great original beaver, or father of the beavers. They believed that the rapids and cataracts on the French River and the Upper Ottawa were caused by dams made by their amphibious ancestor. (See the tradition in Perrot, Mémoire sur les Mœurs, Coustumes et Relligion des Sauvages de l’Amérique Septentrionale, p. 20.) Charlevoix tells the same story. Each Indian was supposed to inherit something of the nature of the animal whence he sprung.]
An Indian hunter was always anxious to propitiate the animals he sought to kill. He has often been known to address a wounded bear in a long harangue of apology. [McKinney, Tour to the Lakes, 284, mentions the discomposure of a party of Indians when shown a stuffed moose. Thinking that its spirit would be offended at the indignity shown to its remains, they surrounded it, making apologetic speeches, and blowing tobacco-smoke at it as a propitiatory offering.] The bones of the beaver were treated with especial tenderness, and carefully kept from the dogs, lest the spirit of the dead beaver, or his surviving brethren, should take offence. [This superstition was very prevalent, and numerous examples of it occur in old and recent writers, from Father Le Jeune to Captain Carver.] This solicitude was not confined to animals, but extended to inanimate things.
A remarkable example occurred among the Hurons, a people comparatively advanced, who, to propitiate their fishing-nets, and persuade them to do their office with effect, married them every year to two young girls of the tribe, with a ceremony more formal than that observed in the case of mere human wedlock.  The fish, too, no less than the nets, must be propitiated; and to this end they were addressed every evening from the fishing-camp by one of the party chosen for that function, who exhorted them to take courage and be caught, assuring them that the utmost respect should be shown to their bones. The harangue, which took place after the evening meal, was made in solemn form; and while it lasted, the whole party, except the speaker, were required to lie on their backs, silent and motionless, around the fire. 
[1 There are frequent allusions to this ceremony in the early writers. The Algonquins of the Ottawa practised it, as well as the Hurons. Lalemant, in his chapter “Du Regne de Satan en ces Contrées” (Relation des Hurons, 1639), says that it took place yearly, in the middle of March. As it was indispensable that the brides should be virgins, mere children were chosen. The net was held between them; and its spirit, or oki, was harangued by one of the chiefs, who exhorted him to do his part in furnishing the tribe with food. Lalemant was told that the spirit of the net had once appeared in human form to the Algonquins, complaining that he had lost his wife, and warning them, that, unless they could find him another equally immaculate, they would catch no more fish.]
[2 Sagard, Le Grand Voyage du Pays des Hurons, 257. Other old writers make a similar statement.]
Besides ascribing life and intelligence to the material world, animate and inanimate, the Indian believes in supernatural existences, known among the Algonquins as Manitous, and among the Iroquois and Hurons as Okies or Otkons. These words comprehend all forms of supernatural being, from the highest to the lowest, with the exception, possibly, of certain diminutive fairies or hobgoblins, and certain giants and anomalous monsters, which appear under various forms, grotesque and horrible, in the Indian fireside legends. [Many tribes have tales of diminutive beings, which, in the absence of a better word, may be called fairies. In the Travels of Lewis and Clarke, there is mention of a hill on the Missouri, supposed to be haunted by them. These Western fairies correspond to the Puck Wudj Ininee of Ojibwa tradition. As an example of the monsters alluded to, see the Saginaw story of the Weendigoes, in Schoolcraft, Algic Researches, II. 105.] There are local manitous of streams, rocks, mountains, cataracts, and forests. The conception of these beings betrays, for the most part, a striking poverty of imagination. In nearly every case, when they reveal themselves to mortal sight, they bear the semblance of beasts, reptiles, or birds, in shapes unusual or distorted. [The figure of a large bird is perhaps the most common, — as, for example, the good spirit of Rock Island: “He was white, with wings like a swan, but ten times larger.” — Autobiography of Blackhawk, 70.] There are other manitous without local habitation, some good, some evil, countless in number and indefinite in attributes. They fill the world, and control the destinies of men, — that is to say, of Indians: for the primitive Indian holds that the white man lives under a spiritual rule distinct from that which governs his own fate. These beings, also, appear for the most part in the shape of animals. Sometimes, however, they assume human proportions; but more frequently they take the form of stones, which, being broken, are found full of living blood and flesh.
– The Jesuits in North America in the Seventeenth Century Introduction by Francis Parkman
This was Native American religeon.
The below is from Francis Parkman’s Introduction.
If, at times, it may seem that range has been allowed to fancy, it is so in appearance only; since the minutest details of narrative or description rest on authentic documents or on personal observation.
Faithfulness to the truth of history involves far more than a research, however patient and scrupulous, into special facts. Such facts may be detailed with the most minute exactness, and yet the narrative, taken as a whole, may be unmeaning or untrue. The narrator must seek to imbue himself with the life and spirit of the time. He must study events in their bearings near and remote; in the character, habits, and manners of those who took part in them, he must himself be, as it were, a sharer or a spectator of the action he describes.
With respect to that special research which, if inadequate, is still in the most emphatic sense indispensable, it has been the writer’s aim to exhaust the existing material of every subject treated. While it would be folly to claim success in such an attempt, he has reason to hope that, so far at least as relates to the present volume, nothing of much importance has escaped him. With respect to the general preparation just alluded to, he has long been too fond of his theme to neglect any means within his reach of making his conception of it distinct and true.