There is no record of Handsome Lake's visiting Tuscarora, Oneida or St Regis. The result is that these reservations contain only Indians who are nominally Christian. The Oneida are virtually citizens, the Tuscarora as capable of being so as any community of whites, and the St Regis progressive enough not only to use all their own lands but to rent from the whites. Their "Indianess" is largely gone. They have no Indian customs though they are affected by Indian folk-thought and exist as Indian communities, governing themselves and receiving annuities. Their material culture is now largely that of the whites about them and they are Indians only because they dwell in an Indian reservation, possess Indian blood and speak an Iroquois dialect.
In contrast to these reservations where the Indian has become "whitemanized" stand out the reservations of the Seneca and Onondaga. On the latter the folk-ways and the "Indian way of thinking" struggle with the white man's civilization for supremacy. The Indian of the old way is arrayed against the Indian of the new way. The conservative Indian calls his Christian brother a traitor to his race, a man ashamed of his ancestors, a man who condones all the wrongs the white man has done his people, and a man who is at best an imitator and a poor one. On the other hand the Christian Indian calls his "feather wearing" (Adîstowäe') brother, "a blind man in the wilderness," a nonprogressive, behind the times, a man hopelessly struggling against fate, a heathen and a pagan. Even so, the followers of Handsome Lake constitute an influential element and the other Indians are affected by their beliefs whether they are willing or not. As was remarked in the beginning, Handsome Lake crystallized as a social unit the people whom he taught and those who follow him today constitute a unit that holds itself at variance with the social and accepted economic systems of the white communities about them. They assert that they have a perfect right to use their own system. They argue that the white man's teachings are not consistent with his practice and thus only one of their schemes for deceiving them. They assert that they wish to remain Indians and have a right to be so and to believe their own prophet. They are largely instrumental in conserving the systems peculiarly Indian and though they are a minority they control a majority of the offices in the nations to which they belong. Among the Onondaga and Tonawanda Seneca
they hold most of the offices. In connection with the Allegany and Cattaraugus Seneca I use the word control, advisedly, since there may be times when the majority of councilors may be of the Christian party. Even so, the "conservative" party controls enough to maintain the system that they deem right.
When their poverty is urged as an argument against their religion and social system they assert that the true follower of the prophet will be poor and suffer much in this world but that his condition in the "new world above the sky" will be in direct contrast. They therefore esteem poverty, lowly surroundings and sickness as a sure indication of a rich heavenly reward and point to the better material surroundings and wealth of their brethren of the white man's way as an evidence that the devil has bought them.
The writer of this sketch has no complaint against the simple folk who have long been his friends. For a greater portion of his lifetime he has mingled with them, lived in their homes and received many honors from them. He has attended their ceremonies, heard their instructors and learned much of the old-time lore. Never has he been more royally entertained than by them, never was hospitality so genuine, never was gratitude more earnest, never were friends more sincere. There is virtue in their hearts and a sincerity and frankness that is refreshing. If only there were no engulfing "new way" and no modern rush, no need for progress, there could scarcely be a better devised system than theirs. It was almost perfectly fitted for the conditions which it was designed to meet, but now the new way has surrounded them, everything which they have and use in the line of material things, save a few simple maize foods and their ceremonial paraphernalia, is the product of the white man's hand and brain. The social and economic and moral order all about them is the white man's, not theirs. How long can they oppose their way to the overwhelming forces of the modem world and exist? How long will they seek to meet these overwhelming forces with those their ancestors devised but devised not with a knowledge of what the future would require? My Indian friends will answer, "Of these things we know nothing; we know only that the Great Ruler will care for us as long as we are faithful." Asked about the clothes they wear, the houses they live in, the long house they worship in, they reply, "All these things may be made of the white man's material but they are outside things. Our religion is not one of paint or feathers; it is a thing of the heart." That is the answer; it is a thing of the heart--who can change it?