The Indians Want the Book


    There is a well authenticated story that Rev. T. Gideon Sjolander relates to at length in the "Minnesakrift," published in the year 1924, to commemorate our 40th anniversary.

    "The Indians of Eastern Oregon, the Nez Perce tribe some say, had heard from some one, some white trader perhaps, about the white man's book from heaven.  They were told that some day a messenger would come from the East to bring them the book.  Some of them had heard the same story from the members of the Lewis and Clark expedition.
    The interest and expectation increased more and more as the Indians gathered at camp fires and tribal festivals.  They waited with marvelous patience year after year, but no one came with the book.
    At one gathering after the subject had been again thoroughly discussed and all sat silent, one of the elders broke the silence with the startling suggestion.  'The white men do not come to us.  Why do we not go to them?  It is a long and troublesome journey, many moons away, but we must fetch the book.'  
    All the difficulties discussed and objections made were met with the growing conviction, 'We must go!'
    Finally four Indians chiefs were selected to make the journey of 2,000 miles.  These set out to break their own trails through the trackless forests and wilderness over high mountains and deep valleys and finally on October, 1833, arrive at St. Louis.  It was then a town of about 3,000 inhabitants.  
    Before long they stood before General William Clark, who was the Captain Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition of 1904-1806.  Dressed in their tribal costumes they presented an unusual spectacle to the people of St. Louis and the town itself was no doubt the cause of much wonderment on the part of these Indian Chiefs.  
     For days the Indians remained silent and General Clark waited patiently for them to reveal the reason for undertaking so long and arduous journey.
    Finally the hour came when they reveled that they had come to locate the wonderful white man's book from heaven and take it back with them to the waiting tribesman on the banks of the Columbia River.  They asked for a teacher who could go with them to the land of the setting sun and instruct them in the deep secrets of life and teach them to know the mysterious Great Spirit that some of the trappers had told them about.                    
General Clark had no book in the language of the Indians and he had no missionary to send.  The Indians waited all winter hoping that something would be done for them.  Before long the new manner of living among the whites began to affect the health of the Indians.  Soon the oldest of them died and was buried in the city.  Not long after the second chief passed away and was buried.  They had gone out in faith seeking God who surely had called them.  Their knowledge of God was limited but they 'believed' He is and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.'
    When Spring came, the two remaining Indians decided to return to their people and General Clark saw to it that they were loaded with gifts to take with them.  On the evening before their departure, a great banquet was arranged in their honor.  After the dinner 'Chief No Horns on His Head,' was asked to speak, and in response expressed his deep feelings as follows:"

    "I came here to you from the setting sun over the road many moons long.  You were friends of my fathers that have now all gone on a long journey away from us.  I came here with one eye half open for my people who sit in darkness.  I go back with both eyes closed.  How can I go back blind to my blind people?  With strong arms I made my way through strange country and its enemies in order that I might bring much back to my people.  I go back now with my arms empty and broken.
    Two of the fathers came with us here.  They were mighty through many battles and snows.  We leave them sleeping here by your lodgings and your waters.  They became weary of the many changes of the moon and their moccasins had worn out.  My people sent me here to fetch the white man's book from heaven..  You have taken me to places where you permit your women to dance, as we do not permit our to do, but the book was not there.  You have brought me to places where you worship the Great Spirit with candles but the book, it was not there.  You have shown me pictures of the Great Spirit and pictures of the good land on the other side, but was not among them, the book that shows the way.
    I am now going back the long journey to my people in the land of darkness.  You make my feet heavy with the many gifts and my moccasins become old in the carrying of them, and yet the book is not among them.
    When after the next snow I relate to my poor, blind people in the great council meeting of the tribes that I do not have the book with me.  Not a word will be uttered by our old men or by our young braves.  One by one they will stand up and go out from the council in silence.  My people will die in darkness and will go the long journey to other hunting grounds.  No white man will accompany them and no white man's book will show us the way.  I have no other word to say."

    "The Chief who spoke at the banquet died on the way back near Yellowstone Park and of those who started on the long journey, only one returned to his country again."  

    "Word of his coming had preceded him and great crowds of tribesmen were gathered to await the return of the messengers they had sent.  At last, the lone survivor appeared, and his people hurried forward to receive the greetings he bore.  This is what he said, "There will come a man with the Book."

   " The story of the hunger and desire of Indians for the Word of God was widely published in the East and much amazement and enthusiasm was aroused among believers.  An urgent call for volunteers to carry the gospel to the tribes in the West was not in vain and before long, first one and then another missionary started on the hazardous journey that led to Oregon."

    These accounts and others following, were written by Harley Hallgren for the 1934, Temple's Golden Jubilee Celebration.

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