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Reservation Fever

AUGUST 01, 1964 by R. J. RUSHDOONY

Among various "mistaken correlations" are the notions:

·                             that inflation causes prosperity,

·                             that toads cause warts,

·                             that labor unions raise real wages,

·                             that snake dances bring rain.

In checking on snake dances, inquiry was made of the Reverend R. J. Rushdoony, who spent many years as a missionary among the American Indians. His response included the following "extraneous information."

I have had some experience with medicine men. In many respects, they were backward, supersti­tious, and irresponsible characters who hated progress. In other re­spects, they were shrewd, calcu­lating psychologists who put our psychiatrists to shame with their diabolical knowledge of man’s na­ture and weaknesses.

An important point about the snake dance, and many similar ceremonies: We assume them to have been religious services. They were not. They were magical, pre­scientific attempts at controlling nature. The Indians had very lit­tle religion in our sense of the term, a concern with ultimate issues, and an attempt to order life and society in terms of ulti­mate truth. Rather, their concern was with health (hence the medi­cine man) and power, over nature and over men. A welfare order was thus their major interest. Some tribes, especially in the Southwest, were more or less communistic. Among those Plains Indians who were more nearly in­dividualistic, the chief had the ascendency… until defeat and servile conditions made the medi­cine man, like Sitting Bull, able to seize power from the hands of the military leaders. It is a grimly ironic fact that we today remem­ber Sitting Bull, and call him a "chief," which he was not, and forget the real leaders of the Sioux tribes.

I believe that an interesting and important point can be made by developing this facet of Indian life. Today, we find that historic Christianity is giving way to so­cial gospel teachings (welfare economics, if you can call it eco­nomics), and to mental health programs as a substitute for reli­gion. As an Indian told me in 1945, the white man today has "reservation fever." 

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August 1964

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