The White Dog
Copyright © 2006 Jordan White
Recently I heard of an Indian tribe which has been petitioning for permission to occasionally kill bald
eagles (Haliaeetus leucocephalus), which are an endangered
species, protected under law in the
The Indian tribe holds that they only want to kill a few birds, although the ones they kill must be fine specimens.
You see, these Indians believe that the bird must be sacrificed to deliver their prayers to the Great Spirit,
or Creator. It is an old ritual, and one, they contend, must be preserved. After all, the ritual pre-dates the founding of the
Let me take you back in time, for a moment. Let’s go back almost 200 years, to 1809. At this time, a tribe of Indians, the Seneca Nation (part of the celebrated Iroquois Confederacy), also engaged in an age-old ritual. In the interest of space, I will leave out many details, but the ceremony involved the strangling, hanging, roasting, and eventually, the consumption of a spotless white dog. The sacrifice of the white dog was considered to be a Thanksgiving offering to the Creator, and was accompanied by dances and songs.
By 1809, most other tribes had abandoned this ritual. But
the Senecas considered it an important part of their tribal identity and took great pride in it.
But there were rumblings within the tribe to do away with the custom.
They spoke about it to the tribe’s spiritual leader,
This was hard for
Though not all Senecas agreed with
Today, in 2006, the tribe that wishes to continue the killing of the magnificent bald eagles might learn
from this man. In 1809, it is doubtful that the relatively humane
execution of a dog was patently illegal, but
Does the killing of a lovely bird really please its Creator? Or is this tribe merely holding onto an old tradition that needs to be re-thought?
I’m not going to say what the tribe should do. I’m not in a position to judge.
But I’m proud that