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Religion on the

Cattaraugus Indian Reservation

Again, the Cattaraugus Indian Reservation is a separate entity, however much of it is located within the boundaries of the Town of Collins. Therefore, we shall take a brief look at the religious organizations located on the reservation. The churches, which are historically significant to the Reservation, have already been named throughout this portion of our historic recollection. I shall proceed by giving a brief explanation of the religious groups and their dates of establishment.

The Quakers --- 1806

The State Baptist Convention --- 1854

The United Mission Presbyterian Church --- 1856

Church built 1857
Stands today: Route 438

The Methodist --- (approximately 1880)

The Mormons --- 1952

The Assembly of God --- 1959

The Teachings Of:
Handsome Lake

The most important revival for the Native American came from the prophet: Handsome Lake. Handsome lake was a Seneca Indian. After suffering years of alcoholism, a miraculous recovery took place. His recovery helped him gain great stature amongst his people. He began calling for a return to traditional Indian values. These values included repudiating the individualism of white culture and restoration of communal Indian qualities.

Handsome Lake claimed to have met with Jesus, thus saving himself and receiving a message to save his people. He claimed that Jesus told him that following the white man's ways was losing his people. These words inspired many of the Iroquois to refute what they had learned from the white man, giving up such deprivations as gambling, and whiskey.

Although Handsome Lake's preaching insisted on the return of Native American values, they also insisted that the Native American listen to the teaching of white missionaries. He also encouraged his male followers to give up hunting and take up farming. Since the females had been the traditional farmers in Native American customs, this placed them into more domestic roles. The women who resisted the change were deemed witches!

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This page last updated: January 21, 1999