Many Smokes


This English language term is often attributed to unnamed Native Americans of many tribes. The meaning in English may be different from the meaning in native languages. Probably, “Many” meant “more than could reasonably be expected.” Probably, “Smokes” meant campfires, although I have read that one or more of the half-dozen tribes who ranged into what is now Yellowstone Park as hunter-gatherers referred to the collective plumes of steam from the geysers as “Many Smokes” in their native tongue.

The hunter-gatherers were a nomadic tribal people who moved about when their food source moved somewhere else. In the film, “Dances with Wolves,” the Sioux were hunter-gatherers who followed buffalo. The buffalo, being large shaggy beasts, tended to move to high country during the summer in order to get to cooler terrain when temperatures got too hot. The gatherers in the tribe tended to be women and children who gathered grains, roots, berries, nuts, small game, and fish when the tribe settled for a time as the principle game stopped moving. They also, opportunistically gathered while traveling when they recognized edible plants.

Bear in mind that the Sioux, the Crow, the Cherokee, and other tribes did not simply spring up one day. All of them were descendents of earlier Paleo Indians (the Clovis People), who inhabited what is now the United States for 10,000 years or longer. The name Clovis was attached to these earlier people by the first finder of some of their arrowheads (Clovis Points) in Clovis, New Mexico. The later native tribes essentially hunter-gathered as their long ago ancestors did. Some of the tribes today have stories that specifically mention Mastodons being the main food source that was followed and hunted.

Did the Paleo Indians and the later Native American tribes know God? Yes. They knew what God allowed them to know. They were all descendents of Adam. The natural world in which they lived was God’s handiwork. People today get confused about God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. The natives attributed the Great Father (God) as having a spirit form. It was their way of saying what Christians say today, “God in three persons.”

They were not present on the continent where Jesus was sent as the Christ to bear all sin upon himself. But, that does not mean that they are not saved. It also does not mean that any people before the time of Jesus are not saved. Web search, “How do people who lived and died before Jesus get to heaven?” I like the way Pastor John MacArthur answers the question. Pastor MacArthur builds his answer on Christian Biblical scripture. Web search John 14:6-9 and Revelation 21:3.

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