Who was Neolin?

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Neolin was an Algonquin Delaware (Lenni Lenape) prophet living in the Ohio country in 1761 preparing for his vision quest by fasting, invocations, and dreaming. In his vision, he followed a path which divided into three paths. As he camped at the fork he saw the three paths become brighter as darkness fell. The next morning he found that following the first two paths led to fire coming out of the earth, while the third path led to a white mountain. There, a beautiful woman told him he must bath in the river and ascend the mountain with his left foot and hand in order to meet the Master of Life.

At the top of the mountain, tired and naked, he saw a village and a voice told him to approach because he had previously purified himself. A man dressed in white at the village gate led him to the Master of Life who gave him a gold fringed hat and told him he was the creator of the heavens and earth and all men. Because the creator loved him, Neolin must do what the creator loved and reject what he hated. He was told the creator hated his people's sexual promiscuity and their practice of taking many wives. He hated their addiction to alcohol, their greed and materialism, their strife and violence, and their practice of witchcraft.

The Master of Life told Neolin he hated their toleration of European immigrants most of all. The Master of Life promised him that if his people rejected European ways and returned to the traditions of their ancestors, including the wearing of deer skins and hunting with bow and arrow, they would be blessed with lots of game to hunt.

Returning from his vision, he introduced an inscribed prayer stick and taught his followers how to pray morning and evening. To reinforce the lessons of his vision, he marked deer skins with his revelation, called them the "Great Book", and sold them to his followers in exchange for animal hides. The markings showed that the path of the soul to the afterlife was narrow and beset by many vices, represented by marks across the path. According to Neolin, happiness lay in avoiding the proscribed vices and in preparing for holy war against the European immigrants.

Neolin's revelation spread quickly, resulting in greater cooperation among the Mississippi valley tribes. Among the prophet's followers was the Ottowa chief Pontiac, who dreamed of a grand union of all the northeastern tribes to drive out the British (while Neolin's vision was broadly anti-European, Pontiac's vision was specifically anti-British). In 1763, Neolin was actively urging the Ojibwa, Ottowa, and Potawomani to join Pontiac's uprising to expel the British. After Pontiac's uprising collapsed within two years, Neolin's influence dissipated among the tribes.

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