In Search for the Book from Heaven
"But seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33
In 1831 four Indians from the Nez Perce (French-meaning “nose rings”) and Flathead Indian tribes of the northwest arrived in St. Louis and met with General William Clark. What brought them to St. Louis that they would travel over 2,000 miles and risk their very lives? Was their quest for guns, power and technology?
The following is a powerful story of how people can have a hunger for truth. To understand the whole story we must go back over 28 years to 1803.
The Louisiana Purchase
In the year of our Lord 1803 the United States had bought a tract of land larger than the original United States from the French. Most of the area was unexplored and there was hope of a possible water route to the Pacific Ocean from the Missouri River. President Jefferson sent a team out to explore the region.
The Lewis and Clark expedition started from St. Louis and eventually ended at the Pacific Ocean. During their trip back home they stayed for a time with the Nez Perce Indians while they waited for the snow to melt. While they were with the Nez Perce, the men would talk with the Indians at campfires and share information about the world, the United States and about the Holy Bible. They called the Bible the “Book from Heaven”. They believed that one day someone would come to their tribe and bring to them the message of Heaven. Year after year they waited, but no one came.
After 25 years, the Nez Perce decided that since no white man had come, then they would go in search of this “Book from Heaven.” They chose five of their bravest men one of which would come back after two days. Their names were:
- Black Eagle
- Man of the Morning
- Rabbit Skin Leggins
- No Horn on His Head
For over a thousand miles these four men traveled over the great Rocky Mountains through forest and trackless plains. In October of 1831, they came to St. Louis where they were told they could meet with William Clark of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Once they met it was weeks before they announced that their reason for being there was their search for the “Book from Heaven.” General Clark had no Bible that they could possibly understand nor did he know of anyone who would go with them to take back the message of the Gospel. Some weeks later, Black Eagle died and not long after him, Man of the Morning followed him, too, in death.
By the spring of the next year, with only two of them left, they made ready for their long trip back home. General Clark gave them a banquet at his home. During the dinner Clark asked No Horns on the Head to say a few words. The following words from this quiet man were to be captured on paper. They were never to be forgotten from those who heard them.
"I came to you over the trail of many moons, from the setting sun. I came with one eye partly open for my people who sit in darkness. I go back with both eyes closed. How can I go back blind to my blind people? I made my way to you with strong arms through many enemies and strange lands that I might carry much back to them. I go back with both arms broken and empty. Two fathers came with us; they were braves of many snows and wars. We leave them asleep here by your great water and tepees. They were tired in many moons and their moccasins wore out...
My people sent me to get the White Man’s Book of Heaven. You took me to where you allow your women to dance as we do not ours, and the Book was not there. You worship the Great Spirit with candles, and the Book was not there. You showed me the images of the Great Spirit and the Good Land beyond, but the Book was not among them. You make my feet heavy with gifts and my moccasins will grow old carrying them, yet the Book is not among them.
"When I tell my poor blind people after one more snow, in the big council, that I did not bring the Book, no word will be spoken by our old men or by our young braves. One by one they will rise up and go out in silence. My people will die in darkness and they will go on a long path to other hunting grounds. No White Man will go with them, and no White Man’s Book of Heaven will make the way plain. I have no more words."
The speech is found in William Barrow’s 1883 book, “Oregon: The Struggle for Possession.” According to one source, Barrow was there when the speech was made.
When they left, No Horns on the Head died near the mouth of the Yellowstone River. Rabbit Skin Leggins was the only one of the four to make it back. Within a year, he was killed in a battle with the Blackfeet Indians.
Was their trip in vain?
After the two Indians left, they met up with an American painter, George Catlin, who painted portraits of them. When Catlin heard of their story, he could not believe it. Later, he wrote William Clark, who replied, “It is true; that was the only object of their visit and it failed.”
Both painted by George Catlin
Sometime that same year a man named William Walker, who was visiting St. Louis, heard the story from General Clark. Later, Walker wrote to a friend in New York about the story and it was later published in The Christian Advocate and Journal.
Soon missionaries were coming to the Northwest lands to evangelize the different tribes. By 1836, Reverend Henry Spalding and his wife, Eliza, came to live with the Nez Perce Indians and teach them about the Book of Heaven.
The Reverend Henry Spalding
By 1840, a Nez Perce boy was born and was trained in the scriptures and was later baptized. This small boy would become chief of his people. His name, Chief Joseph, was the one who said the famous words, “I will fight no more, forever.” Many others came to know the Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore, the four chiefs did not die in vain.
Some have written that the four Indians were not looking for the Bible at all, but for medicine or guns or technology. The speech is agreed to be the actual speech. Yet others say it was the Book of Mormon.
Today, there is such a push to suppress anything that promotes Christianity. History is being altered and rewritten. I am thankful for those that have preserved this great testimony about those who were seeking the one true God. May God allow other stories like these to surface and encourage Christians, but also challenge them to seek the Lord.
Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. John 15:13
You may be reading this and you have never answered the most important question in your life and that is …
How does anyone get to heaven?
First realize that they cannot get to heaven on their own merits. The Bible says that “For all have sinned and come short (that means everybody can’t get to Heaven on their own) of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23)
Jesus Christ (who is the Son of the living God) came to earth and was born of a virgin woman (therefore he was not born of the curse of mankind) he lived a sinless life and died on a cross for all the sins in the world. Three days later, God the Father raised Him from the dead. He was seen of 500 witnesses and returned to heaven. God’s word says that if we believe these things and call upon the Lord, we will be saved. Romans 10:9 - 13