There are no Bible prophecies that address American Indians. The nations of the Americas are not noted, named, neither negated. They simply don’t exist–for all practical purposes in the unveiling of inspired Judeo-Christian scripture.
Many nations and civilizations of the world are not mentioned by name in the Bible, some of ancient profound historical import, such as the Chinese empire, the Hindu world, the Aztecs, Mayans, or the Incas. All that comprises the Biblical narrative are the nations and empires from Mesopotamia westward, as the Fertile Crescent, Europe, and, as Seventh-day Adventists believe, the United States. That is the simple fact. The faith went westward. Truth aimed its arrows at the setting sun.
But, American Indian nations, none of which evolved into the imperial stage–since no Indian nation ever entertained such a concept, have yet special distinction amongst the other unmentionables of the Biblical world. There are intimations of our supposed non-existence. In the commentary generated by history and prophecy students, there are statements that directly deny the existence of Indians. This is curious.
Comanche Indians, ca. 1891, Ft. Sill area. My ‘relatives.’ Tell me they didn’t exist. Tell me I don’t feel their spirit. I will tell you Christians have erred, and erred unnecessarily.
Adventist understanding of prophecy (esp. Revelation 13:11), which was not entirely original, understood that America, the United States of America, was a nation that evolved out of the wilderness, out of a land not inhabited, as opposed to the other nations and empires of prophecy all of which were built on previous nations and civilizations. This understanding is put forth rather clearly by Ellen G. White herself, in The Great Controversy (1888), in chapter 25, entitled “God’s Law Immutable” (in some editions “America in Prophecy”), pp. 433-450. There are some words in this chapter that I, as an Indian, find difficult and offensive at face value. I cite them here because I know many Indians find the whole Christian intrusion unacceptable.
According to Adventist understanding, America is identifiable because of the fact that it rose to power after 1798, a key point in the largest historical prophecy in scripture, Daniel 7:25, the very prophecy actually duplicated in Revelation 13:5. In describing the rise of America, according to Revelation, E. G. White herself affirms the American identity, ensconcing her words with the descriptions of others:
…the beast with lamblike horns was seen “coming up out of the earth.” Instead of overthrowing other powers to establish itself, the nation thus represented must arise in territory previously unoccupied and grow up gradually and peacefully. It could not, then, arise among the crowded and struggling nationalities of the Old World–that turbulent sea of “peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” It must be sought in the Western Continent.
What nation of the New World was in 1798 rising into power, giving promise of strength and greatness, and attracting the attention of the world? The application of the symbol admits of no question. One nation, and only one, meets the specifications of this prophecy; it points unmistakably to the United States of America. Again and again the thought, almost the exact words, of the sacred writer has been unconsciously employed by the orator and the historian in describing the rise and growth of this nation. The beast was seen “coming up out of the earth;” and, according to the translators, the word here rendered “coming up” literally signifies “to grow or spring up as a plant.” And, as we have seen, the nation must arise in territory previously unoccupied. A prominent writer, describing the rise of the United States, speaks of “the mystery of her coming forth from vacancy,” and says: “Like a silent seed we grew into empire.”–G. A. Townsend, The New World Compared With the Old, page 462. A European journal in 1850 spoke of the United States as a wonderful empire, which was “emerging,” and “amid the silence of the earth daily adding to its power and pride.” –The Dublin Nation. Edward Everett, in an oration on the Pilgrim founders of this nation, said: “Did they look for a retired spot, inoffensive for its obscurity, and safe in its remoteness, where the little church of Leyden might enjoy the freedom of conscience? Behold the mighty regions over which, in peaceful conquest, . . . they have borne the banners of the cross!”–Speech delivered at Plymouth, Massachusetts, Dec. 22, 1824, page 11.
Note those key phrases about America: 1) Instead of overthrowing other powers to establish itself; 2) grow up … peacefully; 3) “the mystery of her [America] coming forth from vacancy”; “amid the silence of the earth”; 4) Behold the mighty regions over which, in peaceful conquest, . . . they [American Pilgrims and descendents] have borne the banners of the cross!”
I’m afraid this is all terribly unfortunate, if completely human, and exemplary of the adage, “history is written by the conquerors.” These lovely, poetic depictions completely ignore not only the existence of Indian nations, but of the horrid price of blood which the Pilgrim descendents paid in “peaceful conquest”!
Now this may all suit the glorious vision of the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, his Manifest Destiny, and whatever other vision he has of himself, that drove him to do as he did, to endure what he did, and to win what he won. But, I really don’t see that it is necessary to viciously ignore the very inhabitants decimated to achieve that vision. There is no spiritual incumbency that dictates such insult to injury.
Ancient Israel never pretended the Cana’anite cults did not exist. If Indians are to be regarded as savage heathen and incorrigibly lost, still the language of the Christian conqueror needn’t pretend his kingdom was built on silk pillows and “silence.” What is the advantage of such a traditional, quite unbiblical angle? While ancient Israel was not to make mention of the heathen gods of the Cana’anites (Exodus 23:13), Israel was never to forget that the land she rested on was wrested from others–by the power of her God. If the Pilgrim descendents are pleased to honor their God by not consulting the eagle spirits, they could do with a more ink on the Indian story perhaps.
Perhaps, however, such an angle would disturb the WASP vision of greatness. Perhaps this 19th century prophetic view is actually the basis for an American Collective Unconscious that simply can’t figure the Indian into the American story as it deserves to be. Perhaps this vision, this fractured reality, accounts for why all the professional conservative politicians and talkers simply have nothing to say about Indians. The professional talkers have occasional disdain, and apparently that is their take on the absent Indian. They acknowledge the Indian’s existence in a condemnatory, disdainful way. That is their modern commentary generated on the historical, biblical precedent in American Christianity. Indians don’t exist, but, if acknowledged in reality, they must be condemned as unworthy.
I’m afraid that’s the tenor of tradition. The American Christian above all cannot bear the thought of flaw in his vision, or fault in his history.
I say he simply needn’t dramatize it. Many nations are not mentioned in the Bible. That the unmentionable ones he bumped into happen to cost a lot of blood should not disturb his conscience too terribly–to the point that he has to condemn the Indian if he even acknowledges the Indian’s presence today.
The history of the American Indian and the White Anglo-Saxon Protestant is either a great evil, a train wreck, or a wondrous encounter. Perhaps it is a mix of all three. There is strength, weakness, triumph, and disaster. Indians are the only people the white American ever encountered that weren’t just dying to be white Americans. That must irritate the very soul of white America. But, it shouldn’t. It only means the Indian is as strong and independent in spirit as the white man. That’s the end of that.
The Indian does have to watch carefully those old treaties, for the white man tends to trample on them in his passion for development. But the white man has shown the Indian honors that no other conquered people have ever been shown by their conquerors. Indian names and images abound in the land, on the land, on the rivers, the mountains, the valleys, the states, the cities; and the white man even named his beloved sports teams after Indians. The white man put the Indian image on his own almight dollar. I call that honor.
It remains for the Indian now to accept new enemies, face new challenges, and lift himself up as a warrior reborn. He may have a right to remain within the treaty provisions; he may be content to exist alone, with no involvement in the society around him. I say we can to better, that’s all. I say we have to do better. I say our existence is now threatened by our own indifference. And that ain’t why the Bible don’t mention us!