"My father," he pleaded with President Monroe, "the Great Spirit holds all the world in his hands. I pray to him that we may not be removed from our lands. . . . Take pity on us and let us remain where we are".
Such was the petition of Kanakuk, peace prophet and leader in 1819, when the Kickapoos were ordered to leave the fertile corn lands of their fathers in Illinois and move out into the rugged hills of Missouri, among their traditional enemies, the Osages.
The effect of the petition was much the same as that which Naboth sent unto Ahab when that "president" of God's people coveted Naboth's heritage.
And what had they to charge against Kanakuk or his people? Their claim to the land was unquestioned. Were they objectionable or dangerous as neighbors? Surely not. No one pretended it. The doctrine Kanakuk taught his kindly people was a close parallel of the Ten Commandments, with the added clauses of non-resistance to violence, and of abstinence from drinking, gambling, and horse-racing.
Catlin, who visited the Prophet in his new home in 1831, and erronoeusly supposed the Kickapoo got these teachings from the Bible and the Christian missionaries, says (p. 697):
I was singularly struck with the noble efforts of this champion of the mere remnant of a poisoned race, so strenuously laboring to rescue the remainder of his people from the deadly bane that has been brought amongst them by enlightened Christians. How far the efforts of this zealous man have succeeded in Christianizing, I cannot tell; but it is quite certain that his exemplary and constant endeavors have completely abolished the practice of drinking whiskey in his tribe, which alone is a very praiseworthy achievement, and the first and indispensable step toward all other improvements. I was some time amongst those people, and was exceedingly pleased and surprised also to witness their sobriety and their peaceable conduct, not having seen an instance of drunkenness, or seen or heard of any use of spirituous liquors whilst I was among them.- (Catlin, Vol. II, p.98).
In 1883 there was a great renewal of his teaching among his people, and their kin in the Indian Territory. Their ritual consisted chiefly of a ceremonial dance. The doctrine taught the same code as the Ten Commandments, but especially forbade drinking, gambling and horse-racing. - (14 Ann. Rep. B. A. E., p. 706).
In 1885 the local Indian agent, Patrick, wrote in a curiously superior vein of this ancient faith revived.
These Indians are chaste, cleanly, and industrious, and would be a valuable acquisition to the Prairie band if it were not for their intense devotion to a religious dance started among the northern Indians some years since. This dance was introduced to the Prairie band about two years ago by the Absentee Pot-tawatomies and Winnebagoes, and has spread throughout the tribes in the agency. They seem to have adopted the religion as a means of expressing their belief in the justice and mercy of the Great Spirit and of their devotion to him, and are so earnest in their convictions as to its affording them eternal happiness that I have thought it impolitic, so far, to interfere with it any further than to advise as few meetings as possible and to discountenance it in my intercourse with the individuals practising the religion. It is not an unmixed evil, as, under its teaching, drunkenness and gambling have been reduced 75 per cent., and a departure from virtue on the part of its members meets with the severest condemnation. As some tenets of revealed religion are embraced in its doctrines, I do not consider it a backward step for the Indians who have not heretofore professed belief in any Christian religion, and believe its worst features are summed up in the loss of time it occasions, and the fanatical train of thought involved in the constant contemplation of the subject. - (Comr., 6.) (Mooney's "Ghost Dance Religion," 14 Ann. Rep. B. A. E., p. 706).