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This article is about the Native American prophet. For the musical instrument, see Neolin (musical instrument).

Neolin (the Delaware Prophet) was a prophet of the Lenni Lenape, who was derided by the British as "The Imposter."[1] Beginning in 1762, Neolin believed that the native people needed to reject European goods and abandon dependency on foreign settlers in order to return to a more traditional lifestyle.[2] He made arguments against alcohol, materialism, and polygamy. Neolin emphasized that the favor of God in blessing the Indians with game to hunt would be spoiled if they did not forsake their evil collusion with the alien white men. Neolin's most famous follower was Pontiac.


In 1761 Neolin went through a period of fasting, incantation and dreaming. It was then that he saw his purpose was to go see the Master of Life ("Keesh-she'-la-mil'-lang-up, or a being that thought us into being").[3] The Master of Life told him that the path to Heaven was to reject the ways of the European Americans and to return to the traditional way of living (the ways of their ancestors). Primarily he mentions to stop drinking alcohol, participate in respectful monogamous relationships and sexual abstinence, live by the bow and arrow, and to dress themselves in animal skins.

The Master of Life also called for the American Indians to drive the British settlers out of their land. This is why he allied with Pontiac on a military campaign.

There is great resemblance between the religion that Neolin introduced to the Lenni Lenape and Christianity, perhaps because of the exposure to Christianity through missionaries.[4]

Around 1761, hundreds of Ohio Indians became disciples of the Indian visionary Neolin (meaning "The Enlightened One," in Algonquian).[5] The core of Neolin's teachings was that Indians had been corrupted by European ways and needed to purify themselves by returning to their traditions and preparing for a holy war. "Drive them out," he declared of the settlers.[6] A confederacy of tribes organized by a group of chiefs who had gained influence by adopting Neolin's ideas laid plans for a coordinated attack against the British in the spring of 1763. The principal figure among them was the Ottawa chief Pontiac, renowned as an orator and political leader. This combination of inspirational religious and political leadership was a pattern in the long history of Indian resistance to colonial expansion in North America. Neolin, however, rejected the uprising, and called for the tribes to lay down their arms.[7]

In 1762, Neolin was shown a prayer by the Master of Life, to be said every morning and evening. Neolin's greatest work was the "Great Book of Writing", a chart in which he mapped the path a person’s soul took to get to the Indian heaven.


The Trout, also called Maya-Ga-Wy, was an Ottawa prophet on the scene in the early 1800s. He was noted for having carried on the legacy of Neolin and Pontiac, advocating the return to traditional ways as a means of combating European domination. His beliefs were rather extreme, not only condemning alcohol and the fur trade, but also the consumption of bread ("food of the Whites") and the wearing of hats.[8]

Neolin's teachings, as adopted by Pontiac, affected the policy "of nearly twenty tribes from Lake Ontario to the Mississippi, including among them the Ojibwa, Ottawa, Potawatomi, Seneca, Huron, Miami, Shawnee, and Delaware."[5]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Chiefs - Ottawa, Neolin Biography - Galafilm, Montreal". Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  2. ^ Trafzer, Clifford E. As long as the grass shall grow and rivers flow a history of Native Americans. Fort Worth: Harcourt College, 2000
  3. ^ M'Cullough, John. Recollection of the Delaware Prophecy (of 1760s), 1808
  4. ^ Bell, Ashley Neonta. "Neolin and Tenskwatawa: A Comparison of Two Nativist Prophets" (PDF). Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  5. ^ a b John, Donald (2005-01-01). "Neolin - Encyclopedia of Religion". HighBeam Research. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  6. ^ Ojibwa (2011-10-29). "Neolin: the Delaware Prophet". Native American Netroots. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  7. ^ "Neolin". Ohio History Central. 1 July 2005. Retrieved 28 August 2012. 
  8. ^ "Chiefs - Ottawa, Neolin Biography". Galafilm, Montreal. Retrieved 2012-11-11. 
  • Barrett, Carole, Harvey Markowitz, and R. Kent Rasmussen, eds. American Indian Biographies. Pasadena, CA: Salem Press, 2005.
  • Cave, Alfred A. “The Delaware Prophet Neolin: A Reappraisal,” Ethnohistory 46 (1999), 268.
  • Hunter, Charles. "The Delaware Nativist Revival of the Mid-Eighteenth Century," Ethnohistory 18 (1971): 39-49.

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