Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beata: The Munsee Prophet

The parents of John Henry Kluge were Moravian missionaries at White River.  John Henry appears to have been born during Beata's career as a Native prophet.

For a number of reasons - including that her career as a prophet may have been short - we don't know much about Beata.  We don't even know her Indian name.  She was given the name Beata at her baptism, apparently when she was a young woman. Like other Munsee Delawares, Beata left Ohio for the White River in present-day Indiana.  She also turned away from her Christian faith as was common among her people after the Gnaddenhutten Massacre.

The careers of Native prophets tend to begin with visions. Beata's career is no exception. Her vision was recorded in one of the diaries of the White River Moravians in a February, 1805 erntry:

There had appeared to her one evening while she was alone in front of her house , two men, whom she could not recognize,  and whose voice alone she could hear.  These told her..... "We came to tell you that God is not satisfied with you Indians, because at your sacrifices you do so many strange things with wampum and all kinds of juggling.....You Indians will have to live together again as in olden times, and love one another sincerely.  If you do not do this, a terrible storm will arise and break down all the trees in the woods, and all the Indians will lose their lives in it."
It so happened that "a bilious fever was raging" and it took the lives of many White River Delawares in the period of just a few days.  Knowing little about modern medicine, the Delawares blamed the fever and deaths on witchcraft.  For some time Beata was believed to be a good witch finder.  But before long Beata felt that witchcraft had become so rampant that the task of witch-finding was overwhelming.  This ended her career as a spiritual leader and from then on we hear no more about her.


Gipson L. H. (Editor). Moravian Indian Mission on the White River: Diaries and Letters, May 5, 1799 to November 12, 1806;  page 333.

Cave, Alfred (2006).  Prophets of the Great Spirit: Native American Revitalization in Eastern North America.  Page 81

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