John M'Cullough,
Recollection of the Delaware Prophecy (of 1760s)
1808

Sometime around 1760, a Delaware Indian experienced a vision that gave rise to a Native American revival movement aimed at recovering native culture and driving away white settlers who had invaded native lands. Known as the "Delaware Prophet" (and later identified as Neolin), the young visionary preached a message that helped inspire Pontiac's Rebellion of 1763. Although the Delaware prophecy exhibited hostility towards the colonizers, it also reflected the influence of Christianity upon Native American spiritual beliefs. The following description of the Delaware prophecy comes from John M'Cullough, who was born in the colony of Delaware in about 1748. In 1756, during the French and Indian War, young M'Cullough was captured by Indians, taken to northwestern Pennsylvania (Shenango and nearby), and adopted into a native family, with whom he lived for about eight years. Although interesting, the illustration accompanying this account is not original and was probably reproduced from memory decades after the events in question. --D. Voelker

Sources: Charles Hunter, "The Delaware Nativist Revival of the Mid-Eighteenth Century," Ethnohistory 18 (1971): 39-49.


My brother was gone to Tus-ca-la-ways, about forty or fifty miles off, to see and hear a prophet that had just made his appearance amongst them; he was of the Delaware nation; I never saw nor heard him. It was said, by those who went to see him, that he had certain hieroglyphics marked on a piece of parchment, denoting the probation that human beings were subjected to whilst they were living on earth, and also, denoting something of a future state. They informed me, that he was almost constantly crying whilst he was exhorting them. I saw a copy of his hieroglyphics, as numbers [273] of them had got them copyed and undertook to preach, or instruct others. The first, (or principal doctrine,) they taught them, was to purify themselves from sin, which they taught they could do by the use of emetics, and abstainence from carnal knowledge of the different sexes; to quit the use of firearms, and to live entirely in the original state that they were in before the white people found out their country, nay, they taught that fire was not pure that was made by steel and flint, but that they should make it by rubbing two sticks together . . . .

It was said, that their prophet taught them, or made them believe, that he had his instructions immediately from Keesh-she'-la-mil'-lang-up, or a being that thought us into being, and that by following his instructions, they would, in a few years, be able to drive the white people out of their country.

I knew a company of them, who had secluded themselves for the purpose of purifying from sin, as they thought they could do; I believe they made no use of fire-arms. They had been out more than two years before I left them; whether they conformed rigidly to the rules laid down to them by their prophet, I am not able to say with any degree of certainty,--but one thing I [275] know, that several women resorted to their encampments; it was said, that they made use of no other weapons than their bows and arrows: they also taught, in shaking hands, to give the left hand in token of friendship, as it denoted that they gave the heart along with the hand,--but I believe that to have been an ancient custom among them, and I am rather of opinion, that the practice is a caution against enemies--that is, if any violence should be offered, they would have the right hand ready to seize their . . . tomahawk, or their . . . knife, to defend themselves, if necessary. I might here insert many other principles, which they said, were taught them by their prophet; but I shall pass over them, and mark down a copy of their hieroglyphics, without explaining them, or at least but briefly.

[Caption, p. 275: "Mah-tan'-tooh, or the Devil, standing in a flame of fire, with open arms to receive the wicked." Click image for larger version.]

They taught that all those on the right hand of the square surface, or the world, . . . went immediately after death to heaven--and part of those on the uppermost square, to the left; those on the lowest square to the left, are those who are abandonedly wicked; they go immediately on the road that leads to hell.--The placed marked A, B, C, are where the wicked have to undergo a certain degree of punishment, before they are admitted into heaven--and that each of those places are a flame of fire--the place on the right hand line, or road to heaven, marked D, denotes a pure spring of water, where those who have been punished at the aforesaid places, stop to quench their thirsts, after they had undergone a purgation by fire. It must be observed, that the places marked A, [276] B, C, differed, (as they taught) in degree of heat, still as the mark, or hieroglyphic decreases in size, it increases about one third more in heat--the first is not as hot as the second by one-third, nor the second as the third, in the same proportion.

Source: "A Narrative of the Captivity of John M'Cullough, Esq.," in Archibald Loudon, A Selection of Some of the Most Interesting Narratives of Outrages Committed by the Indians in the Their Wars with the White People, vol. 1. (1888 reprint of 1808 edition), 272-276. The original pagination appears in brackets.

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