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p. vii


The motives which have induced me to write the present history, have been, principally, to fulfil my obligations as Apostolical Missionary; to have before me the means of presenting to these poor Indians an account of the errors entertained by them during their state of heathenism, and to contrast the same with the light they now enjoy as Christians. Also, to leave to my successors such instruction, as will relieve them from the trouble and labor that I experienced, in procuring a knowledge of the belief, usages, and customs, i.e., the Religion, which these natives possessed in their heathen state; persuaded as I am, that being ignorant of this, it will be difficult to remove their erroneous belief, and give them an understanding of the true Religion. It is difficult, I confess, if unacquainted with their language, to penetrate their secrets, as they do not all understand the signification of their usages and customs; this knowledge being confined to the chiefs of their tribes, and the old men who officiate as priests; and when they reveal any thing, to their children, it is only to such as they intend to rear for their successors, and these, are enjoined to keep fast the secrets, and not communicate them to any one, under pain of severe chastisement. A veil is cast over all their religious observances, and the mystery with which they are performed, seems to perpetuate respect for them, and preserve an ascendancy over the people. This is the reason that the ceremonies of the dances, in their grand feasts, (which are properly

p. viii

exercises of religion,) cannot be understood. They have never had the use of writings, letters, or characters of any description. All their knowledge is from tradition, which they preserve in songs for their dances, and these are introduced, by the chief, at their festivities, in a language distinct from that, in common use. Others unite with them, but without understanding the meaning of what they do, or articulate; perhaps, the songs thus introduced, are in the primitive language.

Perchance, some one may enquire, how I have obtained so much information, relative to the secrets or religion of these natives, when, up to the present time, no other Father has written on the subject.

We are to suppose it a truth, that there are many things hidden, not only, in the Divine Prophecies, but in human events, also, which cannot be comprehended, or known but by the Divine Will; and as God, almost always, makes use of the most humble instruments for his purpose, to me, he assigned three aged Indians, the youngest of whom was over seventy years of age. They knew all the secrets, for two of them were Capitans, and the other a Pul, who were well instructed in the mysteries. By gifts, endearments, and kindness, I elicited from them their secrets, with their explanations; and, by witnessing the ceremonies which they performed, I learned, by degrees, their mysteries. Thus, by devoting a portion of the nights to profound meditation, and comparing their actions with their disclosures, I was enabled, after a long time, to acquire a knowledge of their religion. There are yet, many things, which I do not understand, because they have not been disclosed to me, with that clearness that I could wish, but, always so confusedly, that I was unable to penetrate their meaning.

Next: Chapter I. Of What Race of People Are These Indians?