Author of the Month

Henry Hudson in a Time of Prophecy (cont.)
By Evan Pritchard

The leadership had studied the skies and consulted with the seers and prophets, and had prepared songs, stories, and special gifts for the visitors. In the minds of the less informed, the visitors might be prophets themselves, from a highly advanced race of beings living across the water. It was incredibly important for the future of the earth that things go well for the predicted visitors and for their hosts. The Munsee remembered this in 1849 and mentioned it in their letter to Zachary Taylor:

“Previous to your arrival into our vast Continent, our Ancient Prophets and wise men had a Vision and Revelation in regard to your coming, though they did not understand fully the meaning of it, whether it was to be the Almighty himself or our fellow men, this was a matter of deep consideration for a while with our forefathers until you did arrive.

“Our ancient men, without any delay made a Song concerning their expectation of your coming. Likewise a Drum was made for the purpose, out of the shell of a Sea Turtle. The drumming and their singing of the song were connected together and were performed jointly together, and also dancing which was performed with great solemnity in honor of your coming.”

The lodge leaders and uninitiated alike were bracing themselves for this spiritual test. Thus the stage was set for the arrival of the unsuspecting Henry Hudson, a compassionate man for the most part, a free spirit who felt a sense of fondness for Native Americans, probably more than for his crew. They were also prepared for the arrival of Officer Robert Juet, a treacherous man who would later have his own captain killed in a mutiny that he apparently had planned for years. Ironically, except for three pages from Hudson’s diary, Officer Juet’s ship’s log is all that has survived to record the journey from the Europeans’ perspective. On the other hand, the “seven fires” wampum belt is in pristine condition, in the hands of William Commanda, an Algonquin Nation elder of Quebec who has been highly decorated by the Canadian Government for his spiritual leadership and work for social equality. He himself is only 16 winters short of a “fire” and has walked the earth to spread the message of the prophets.

Both Juet’s log and the wampum belt are four hundred years old. While the meaning of Juet’s narrative has been lost to most until now, the teachings of that belt have been carefully preserved as they have been passed down for four hundred years to elders like Eddie Benton Banaise, the Medicine Chief of the Three Fires lodge and author of The Mishomis Book.

The Europeans came in search of a navigable passage through North America to the Far East. Henry Hudson’s ship, the 85-foot long Half Moon, attempted to pass through the icy waters of northern Canada, but they found the waterway crowded with icebergs and the ship’s crew nearly mutinied. (Juet leaves this out of his diary.) Hudson turned south to seek other passages west, hoping to find one at 40 degrees latitude. Earlier in the trip, the Half Moon had visited Nova Scotia not far from St. John’s, New Brunswick, and there was conflict there with the natives. Juet explains away his violent acts,“They would have done the same to us,” implying that the natives didn’t get a chance to do anything first.

Unable to fulfill his duties as described in writing by the Dutch East India Company’s corporate directors, Hudson went south to warm the hearts of his “frozen” crew of mutineers and also to search for the fabled places his hero Giovanni di Verrazzano described in his diary of 1524. Suddenly finding himself with no schedule, a “free spirit,” Hudson somehow slipped into the Algonquin equivalent of dreamtime. On August 28, by the dark of the moon (which signified to the elders of the secret lodges the end of the first lunar year since the eclipse of the fourth fire) Hudson entered and explored the gateway to the river of the Lenape, or “ordinary people.” For the people on shore, the prophecies had been fulfilled, and nothing short of disaster could convince them otherwise. Henry Hudson, the ever-punctual Londoner, had arrived precisely on time.

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