Two Roads to Spiritland

by Henry Roe Cloud's Grandmother


Henry Roe Cloud prefaced this story with a reference to his conversion to Christianity: "So I understood that when I took Jesus that night to be my friend, we were to stand by each other through this life and throughout the "land of the setting sun." He was to defend me, and I was to defend Him. ... I knew that I had entered upon a new life. The boys saw the change that came over me, and I had become what the Indians called "A Preaching Listener." ... No protest came from my people, except that my brother made fun of me, and my grandmother one night told me the following pointed story."


(334) "Years ago, wearers of the long broadcloth (Jesuit priests) came among the Crows and began to preach. In the course of time, a Crow Indian listened and became "a preaching listener." When this Crow Indian died the whole tribe gathered together in counsel to decide whether they should dress him in Indian fashion for "the land of the setting sun" or should put on him the robes of the strangers. They finally clothed him in black, like unto his white leaders, laid him on a high booth, and went up stream to hunt. In the meantime the soul of the Indian began his last travel. He soon came to a place where the road parted, one road leading to the left and the other to the right. He took the right road, and before long saw, in the distance, the glory of some great habitation like that of the lighted heavens over some great city at night. The voices that he heard indicated that they were (335) beings like himself, and his heart leaped within him for joy. But when he came near, to his great surprise, he was told to go back with the words, "You have mistaken your road. This is the white man's heaven. Go back and take the other road." He was a white man in dress, but his Indian features betrayed him. Sad at heart, he returned to the parting of the ways, and taking the left-hand road soon heard sounds that cheered his heart even more than what he had seen on the road to the right. He recognized the Indian songs of this new gathering-place. When he hurried to join them he was, however, sent back by the herald of the place, saying: "Go back. You have mistaken your road. This is the Indian heaven." His clothes made him look like a white man. There was nothing left for the poor Indian to do but to take that road that led back to his body. As he reached the place where his body was lying the tribe returned from their hunt, and on examining his body found life was in him. An old medicine woman tended him, and when he was able to sit up he opened his mouth and told them his story. "Now," said my grandmother, "I do not command you to stop being 'a preaching listener,' but if you want to be forever a wanderer in the other world, you can continue in the road you have taken."1


This story is found in Henry Roe Cloud, "From Wigwam to Pulpit: A Red Man's Own Story of His Progress from Darkness to Light."


Commentary."Henry Roe Cloud"an educator, college administrator, official in the Office of Indian Affairs, Presbyterian minister, and reformer. He was the first Native American admitted to Yale University. 

"the Crow" — this is not a reference to the Absaroka, the Siouan Crow nation of Montana, but to the Menominee, whom the Hočągara call Kaǧi, "Crow."

"black" — the Jesuit style of dress and the fact that this order was the first to introduce Christianity to the region, led to Christians generally being called Waisép’į, "Black Robes."

"a high boot" — this sounds as if it meant that he was given a platform burial so common among plains Indians, however, it refers to being buried on a "boot hill" as was frequent on the frontier.

"one road leading to the left and the other to the right"in Hočąk theology, the path to Spiritland forks into two roads, one going to the left and the other to the right. This is based upon the road as seen in the stars. This road is the Milky Way. It usually begins where it is flanked by Orion and the Big Dipper, and continues on to the opposite horizon. At the star Deneb, this road forks, the main path to the horizon being to the right, and a short path coming to a dead end in the dark sky is to the left. Right is associated with correctness generally, and the left with its opposite, so it stands to reason that the right road leads on to Spiritland, whereas the left road leads to the realm of the devil Herešgúnina. Here the left and right roads have been adapted to a different dichotomy, and both lead to a Spiritland.


Links: Cosmography, Ghosts.


Stories: mentioning ghosts: The Journey to Spiritland, The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, Holy One and His Brother, Worúxega, Little Human Head, Little Fox and the Ghost, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, The Lame Friend, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, Hare Steals the Fish, The Difficult Blessing, A Man's Revenge, Thunder Cloud is Blessed; about journeys to and from Spiritland: The Four Slumbers Origin Myth, Ghost Dance Origin Myth II, The Resurrection of the Chief's Daughter, The Journey to Spiritland, The Medicine Rite Foundation Myth, The Lame Friend, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Holy One and His Brother, Ghost Dance Origin Myth I, The Foolish Hunter, Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, White Wolf, The Twins Get into Hot Water, The Two Brothers, The Lost Blanket, Earthmaker Sends Rušewe to the Twins, The Man who went to the Upper and Lower Worlds, The Petition to Earthmaker, Wears White Feather on His Head, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Thunder Cloud Marries Again, The Shawnee Prophet — What He Told the Hočągara, Aračgéga's Blessings, The Blessing of a Bear Clansman, The Man Whose Wife was Captured; mentioning the Menominee: Origin of the Name "Winnebago" (Menominee), The Hočąk Arrival Myth, Bear Clan Origin Myth (v. 2b) (Origins of the Menominee), The Fox-Hočąk War, First Contact, The Annihilation of the Hočągara I (v. 2), Annihilation of the Hočągara II, The Two Children, A Waterspirit Blesses Mąnį́xete’ų́ga, Gatschet's Hočank hit’e (Extracts ...), Introduction.


Themes: a mortal is returned to earth from the spirit village that he is visiting: Waruǧápara, The Thunderbird, The Shaggy Man, Buffalo Dance Origin Myth, Eats the Stinking Part of the Deer Ankle, Pete Dupeé and the Ghosts, Snowshoe Strings, The Daughter-in-Law's Jealousy, White Wolf, The Foolish Hunter, The Boy who was Captured by the Bad Thunderbirds, The Petition to Earthmaker.


Notes

1 Henry Roe Cloud, "From Wigwam to Pulpit: A Red Man's Own Story of His Progress from Darkness to Light," The Missionary Review of the World, 38 (1915): 329-339 [334-335].