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Handsome Lake (Ganioda’yo)
illustration ©2013 Roy Boney, Jr.
Handsome Lake (1735–1815) was a Seneca leader and religious prophet. He led a reportedly dissolute life before becoming seriously ill in 1799. During his long illness, he claimed a vision revealing the will of the Great Spirit. Upon his recovery, he began to preach a religion he called Gai'wiio (Good Message) that combined elements of Christianity and Indian beliefs; he urged his people toward temperance and a strict moral code, and advocated their giving up a nomadic life in favor of agriculture. Elected a tribal leader in 1801, he convinced the U.S. government to guarantee Iroquois land boundaries and to stop liquor sales on the reservation. His story appears in Native American Classics: Graphic Classics Volume 22.