Essay: The Shawnee Prophet

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This essay discusses The Shawnee Prophet. The Shawnee Prophet One of a set of triplets was born at Old Piqua, a Shawnee village on the Mad River in western Ohio. In the spring of 1805, a thirty-year-old Shawnee named Lalawethika (“the rattle”), an disagreeable, one eyed good-for-nothing up till then scorned as a braggart, drunkard, womanizer, and coward, fell into a dream so deep that his family, believing him to be dead, began planning his burial.

The Shawnee Prophet One of a set of triplets was born at Old Piqua, a Shawnee village on the Mad River in western Ohio. In the spring of 1805, a thirty-year-old Shawnee named Lalawethika (“the rattle”), an disagreeable, one eyed good-for-nothing up till then scorned as a braggart, drunkard, womanizer, and coward, fell into a dream so deep that his family, believing him to be dead, began planning his burial. But Lalawethika abruptly awakened, crying that he had been in the presence of the Master of Life, creator of the universe, who had given him a visit of heaven and hell. He had witnessed the torments of hell, where the bad were repeatedly burned to ashes in houses of fire. The Master of Life, he claimed, had called upon him to show Indians the road to salvation. He now gripped not only the key to personal salvation in the afterlife but also a formula for Native-American communal renewal. (Edmunds 116)

Following earlier renaissance prophets such as Neolin and Wangomand, Lalawethika stated that Indians had been corrupted by their contact with whites and for that reason had been sternly punished by the Great Spirit. Whites, he declared, were not the children of the Creator but the spawn of a malevolent Great Serpent, who wanted to undo the good work of the True Creator and plotted the killing of all “the real people.” The Prophet insists that Indians minimize their contacts with whites.

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