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Indian Freemasonry

There is no doubt that Indians have been Freemasons, and devoted ones. But the claim has been made that there are Indian customs of so decided Masonic a character that a Freemason would at once assume their identity with the ceremonies of the Craft. The subject has been treated in a book, Indian Masonry, by Brother Robert C. Wright, who describes a number of Indian signs, for example, and he arrives at this conclusion (page 18).

It can thus be readily understood that Masonic signs which are simply gestures given to convey ideas, no doubt have taken their origin from the same signs or like signs no v corrupted but which meant something different in the beginning. Were we able to trace these signs we would then at once jump to the conclusion that the people who used them were Freemasons the same as we ourselves. The signs which have just been mentioned as given by the Indians could easily be mistaken for Masonic signs by an enthusiastic Freemason, more anxious to find what he thinks is in them than to indulge in sober analysis of the sign and its meaning. A ceremonial sign for peace, friendship, or brotherhood was made by the extended fingers separated, interlocked in front of the breast, the hands horizontal with the backs outward. When this sign is represented as a pictograph, we have on the Indian chart what corresponds exactly to the clasped hands on the Masonic chart. which means the same thing. On the next page Brother Wright gives some attention to the study of things that may resemble each other and yet not be identical For instance, he says:

Charles Frush, a Freemason who spent many years among the Indians of Oregon and Washington, told me he had never seen any Masonic sign given by Indians, and if any one claimed he had seen such, it was misunderstood and was for conversational purposes. In response to an inquiry about a report that Indians who had gone East many years ago, upon returning to Lewiston, Idaho, had formed a Masonic Lodge, T. W. Randall, Grand Secretary of A. F. &; A. M. in Idaho, wrote me as follows: "I was in Lewiston as early as 1862 and heard of Indian Freemasons but was never able to trace this to a reliable source. I have frequently discussed this question with old pioneers of Oregon and Washington but never found a person who was a Freemason, and who believed the Indians ever were Freemasons or had a Lodge. That some Tribes have certain signs by which they can recognize each other, there can be no doubt, but those signs are not Masonic signs so far as I can learn." Brother Randall has thus correctly determined that the signs he refers to are nothing more than conversational signs. The different Tribes had a sign which stood for their totem or the name of their Tribe, and it is very easily understood that an Indian of the same Tribe on seeing his tribal sign, would recognize the one giving it as a fellow tribesman. Indians of a different Tribe, familiar with it, would also recognize the sign and in turn could give their own sign and thus each know where the other "hails from." There is nothing strange about it.

The closing chapter by Brother Wright sums up the "Lessons," as he heads it, we may derive from a Masonic study of the American Indian. He says on pages 108 and 109:

There is no Indian Freemasonry. There is Indian Freemasonry. This wide difference I make clear when I say, no Indian Freemasonry as the average man understands it, but there is a deep Indian Freemasonry for them who seeks to find it.

Shall we Freemasons, who tell the E. A. of the universality of Freemasonry, dare to say that the Indian is not a Freemason? An interesting institution was found among the Wyandottes and some other tribes--that of fellowship. Two young men agree to be friends forever, or more than Brothers. Each tells the other the Secrets of his life, advises him on important matters and defends him froth wrong and violence and at his death is his chief mourner. Here are, in full reality, all the elements of a Masonic Lodge. Those men were Freemasons in their hearts. There is no Indian Freemasonry in that small and narrow sense which most of us think of, that is, one who pays Lodge dues, wears an apron like ours and gives signs so nearly like ours that we find him perforce a freemason in any degree or degrees we know, and which degrees we are too prone to watch, just as we do a procession of historical floats, which casually interest us and maybe a little more so if we can but secure a place sit the head of the procession the true meaning of which we have but a faint idea about. This makes our own Freemasonry as meaningless as the interpretation of Indian signs by an ignorant trapper.

In a paper on the North American Indians, their Beliefs and Ceremonies Akin to Freemasonry, read by Brother F. C. Van Duzer on April 10, 1924, at a meeting of the Metropolitan College, London, England, and printed in the Transactions of that year (pages 18 to 27), the author examines several interesting kindred customs of the Indians of Worth Armeria and the Masonic Craft. He also furnishes some valuable particulars of the initiation of North American Indians into Freemasonry according to the Rites of the Craft. Brother Van Duzer says:

The first American Indian, of whom there is a definite record of having become a Master Mason, is Joseph Brant, the famous Mohawk, lroquois, Chief, whose native name was Thayendanega, and who was a brother in-law of Sir William Johnson, who married as his second wife Molly Brant, Joseph Brant's sister. Brant was born in Ohio in 1742, and was the son of Nickus, Indian for Nicholas, a full-blooded Mohawk of the Wolf family who is said to be a grandson of one of the five Sachems who visited England in 1710 and was presented to Queen Anne. He was initiated in the Hiram's Cliftonian Lodge, No. 41 " Moderns holden in Princes Street, in Leicester Fields, London, on April 26, 1776. His Grand Lodge Certificate was signed by Joseph Heseltine, Grand Secretary of the Grand Lodge of the Moderns. die was a member of Lodge No. 10, Hamilton, Canada, and No. 11, Mohawk Village, of which he was first Master. He translated, among other works, the Gospel of Saint Mark into the Mohawk language in 1776. Brother Brant was buried in the Mohawk Church, Mohawk Village, and the Freemasons restored the vault or tomb in 1850, placing an appropriate inscription on it. It is stated that Brant's Masonic apron was presented to him by King George III. The Lodge at Hudson, New York, has upon its walls a painting of Brother Brant, and in its archives is the story of his friendship for Colonel McKinistry, whose life he once saved through recognition of the Sign of D. It is also related of Brother Brant that during General John Sullivan's raid on the Iroquois in 1779 he recognized the Sign of D, as given by Lieutenant Boyd, who with Sergeant Parker, was captured by the Indians. He saved them from immediate death, but having been called away, the captives were placed in the charge of the noted Tory, Butler, who, exasperated because they would give him no information with regard to their Army, handed them over to the Indians, who tortured them to death.

It is further claimed that the famous Seneca orator, Red Jacket, a contemporary of Brother Brant, was a Freemason, but the probability is that he was only an entered Apprentice. Certain it is that on the village sites of the Iroquois of Colonial times. Masonic emblems have been discovered that have evidently been in possession of the Indians. There is in the Tioga Point Museum at Athens, Pennsylvania, an emblem of the Royal Arch, found in an Indian grave in the immediate vicinity, and which probably dates from the period of the American Revolution. It is known that a great Masonic student in America has in his possession the somewhat conventional Masonic emblems, showing the square and compasses hammered and cut from a silver coin by an Iroquois silversmith, and it was obtained from the Seneca Indians. Many other similar emblems have been seen and noted among the Indians.

Masonic history holds records of a number of Delaware Indians who were Freemasons. One of these v, as a member of the Munsey division who was named John Ronkerpot, who impoverished himself to help the American cause during the Revolution, and who later received Masonic aid. George Copway, the Ojibway was an ardent Freemason.

Shabbonee, the Pottawatomi who saved the early settlers of Chicago from the Sauk chief, Black Hawk, is known to have been a freemason and tradition claims the famous Black Hawk himself as such but that is doubtful. General Eli S. Parker, the Seneca Chief, who entered the American Civil War as a private and came out as Aide-de-Camp and Secretary to General Grant, is a very good example of an American Indian Freemason. His distinguished nephew, Archie C Parker, State Archaeologist of New Cork, whose native name was Gazoasauana or Great Star Shaft, has recently been elevated to the Thirty-Third Degree, perhaps the first American Indian to receive that signal honor. I should like to refer to one or two other prominent Freemasons, and among them the Cherokee Chiefs, Ross Bushyhead, Hayes and Pleasant Porter. Gabe E. Parker, Registrar of the United States Treasury, a Chickasaw Indian, and James Muriel a Pawnee, may also be mentioned. On November 10, 1923, Kenwood Lodge No. 303, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, conferred the Degree of Master Mason upon Amos Oneroad, whose native name was Jinxing Cloud a full-blooded Sioux Indian.

They conferred this Degree on behalf of Hiawatha Lodge So. 434, of Mount Vernon, New York. Amos Oneroad comes of a distinguished stock. His grandfather, Blue Medicine. was the first of his Tribe to welcome the white man to their country, and his Chief's medal, together with an American Flag with thirteen stars and a Certificate of good character, are still treasured by his descendants. Brother Oneroad's father, Peter Oneroad was a warrior of great distinction, having earned practically every honor that is possible to the Sioux and Dakota Nations. It is related that once, at the head of a small party, he completely overwhelmed a large body of the warriors of the Ponea Tribe and personally killed both of their Chiefs. In other accounts it is stated that he dared the fire of the enemy to secure the body of a wounded comrade. Again, he rescued an Indian girl from freezing, carrying her ninety miles on his back over the snow-swept plain. Brother Oneroad had the advantage of a good education. He was a graduate of the Haskell Institute, at Lawrence, Kansas, and of the Bible Teachers' Training School in New York; and he became an ordained minister of the Presbyterian Church. He has been a good and steadfast friend. In fact, that is the literal meaning of his name, for One Road signified steads fast among the Sioux.

Thus from primitive and ancient rites akin to Freemasonry, which had their origin in the shadows of the distant past, the American Indian is graduating into Free and Accepted Masonry as it has been taught to us. It is an instructive example of the universality of human belief in fraternity, morality and immortality.

General Eli S. Parker, the Seneca Chief, to whom I have previously referred, in alluding to himself at a banquet, said, "I am almost the sole remnant of what was once a noble race, which is rapidly disappearing as the dew before the morning sun. I found my race melting away and I asked myself, 'Where shall I find home and sympathy when our last Council fire is extinguished?' I said, 'I will knock at the door of Freemasonry and see if the white race will recognize me as they did my ancestors when we were strong and the white man weak.' I knocked at the door of the Blue Lodge and found Brotherhood around its altar. I went before the Great Light in the Chapter and found companionship beneath the Royal Arch. I entered the Encampment and found there valiant Sir Knights willing to shield me without regard to race or nation. If my race shall disappear from the continent I have a consoling hope that our memory shall not perish. If the deeds of my ancestors shall not live in stories their memories will remain in the names of our lakes and rivers, pour towns and cities, and will call up memories otherwise forgotten. I am happy; I feel assured that when my glass is run out I shall follow the footsteps of my departed race, Masonic sympathizers will cluster around my coffin and drop in my lonely grave the evergreen acacia, sweet emblem of a better meeting."

Brother Van Duzer says further: "I desire to express my grateful thanks to R. W. Brother Alanson Skinner; the eminent anthropologist of Milwaukee United States of America, for the great assistance he has rendered me."

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