A Profusion of Spires: Religion in Nineteenth-Century by John Webster Grant

By John Webster Grant

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Ganiodaio, or Handsome Lake, a Seneca of the Allegany band in western New York, shared in the general demoralization of the Iroquois of his area that followed the American Revolution and the loss of most of their lands. Laid low in 1799 by an illness generally attributed to alcoholism, he fell into a deep trance from which he awakened with a program for the renewal of his people that was subsequently expanded as the result of further visions. On the one hand, the Iroquois should accommodate themselves to the new circumstances imposed by the hegemony of the white man.

By 1783 a village had sprung up at Kingston, and in 1784 and 1785 the main body of loyalists moved into lands set aside for them between the present Quebec border and the Bay of Quinte. Others established homes on the Niagara and Detroit frontiers. z Insight into factors shaping the American Tory mind is of no help, however, in identifying the origins of those who came to be known in Upper Canada as United Empire Loyalists. Prominent Tories found a refuge in the maritime provinces or, more often, in England.

Dreams received even greater attention, if that was possible, than they did among hunting peoples. They were believed to reveal hidden desires or to foretell calamities, and their messages had to be acted out if the desires were to be fulfilled or the calamities averted. The persistence of these common elements recalled an earlier period when Iroquoians too had depended solely on primary resources. Although hunting had lost much of its economic significance, its importance as a means by which a young man might attain prestige kept alive the religious practices associated with it.

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