The Shoshone Indians believed that winter was Hell. It wasn’t the fire that killed and destroyed their souls. It was the cold, freezing weather, the north frigid winds blowing their fierce anger across the open prairies. It was the daily need to keep warm, to keep their families free from sickness and disease. They worked hard to keep their loved ones from starving, because food was scarce when the temperatures dropped to life threatening conditions. Winter was cruel and unforgiving in a land of ice and frost.
For now, the sun shone brightly, and the summer was in full bloom. Berries covered the bushes, sap flowed from the pines, and the air was scented with fruity, sweet fragrances. Sego Lily, a Shoshone woman, was gathering berries in her marsh grass basket. She enjoyed the fields of daisies, wild roses, and ferns, as she cast her eyes upon a a red-tailed hawk swooping low in the sapphire sky.
Another young Shoshone woman was gathering berries with her. Unlike Sego Lily, she didn’t like picking berries, and would have rather been in camp sleeping. She was named “Thimble Berry” but went by “Betty”. Her fingers were stained purple from the fruit. She wanted to start a conversation to make the time pass more quickly.
When their tribe would camp near the mission that was started by the Jesuits, she liked to sit and listen to the stories that were told about the Bible. She was thinking of a story about a rich man and a poor man, and how there was a chasm that couldn’t be crossed for the poor man to give the rich man a drink of water.
She asked Sego Lily, “What do you think that Chasm was that the Jesuit talked about?”
Sego Lily smiled, and with a gleam in her eye, said, “I think he was talking about Hell.”
“No, Hell is cold, and water would freeze before it got to the rich man anyway, if he tried to cross Hell.”
Sego Lily also listened to the Bible stories, and with the information gathered, she tried to persuade Betty that to the Jesuits, Hell was viewed differently than their beliefs.
The fiery place the Jesuits talked about was where the people who didn’t believe in the “Son of the Creator” would go. They were the ones that rejected holiness, and refused to love the one true God. To Sego, this was a hard part of the teaching that the priests brought to their area.
One of their leaders, long ago, had a dream that black robes would visit their nation, and tell their people about the true Great Spirit, and how to know Him better. When the black robes came, they built a mission on a hill, and did strange things. They brought statues that represented different people in their religion. They made lanterns out of soup cans, and decorated the large wooden worship building with beautiful art work. They built a permanent house to live in next to the mission chapel. They seemed like a rigid, well educated people, these black robes. She thought she would see more love from them though, and was a little disappointed about the rules they all had to follow. There was singing, but with such stiffness. Their clothes looked restrictive too. They were a peaceful lot though, and she did immensely enjoy their stories.
She told Betty, while she picked the purple tart berries, “This Son of God, Jesus, was the one who told this story about the chasm that could not be crossed. My understanding is that there was a rich man dressed in fine clothes. He lived in such luxury. He must have had a wicked heart though, because he went to Hades. Hades is another word for Hell. The beggar who stood by the rich man’s gate, Lazarus, had sores, and even the dogs licked them. He was so poor, just begging for a little morsel of bread. The story doesn’t say if the rich man helped him.”
Just then, a Monarch butterfly danced across Sego Lily’s basket. She continued, “The poor man, when he died, was taken up with angels at his side, but the rich man, when he died about the same time, went to Hell. He saw Lazarus with Abraham a long ways off. Abraham was a special man who had a great covenant with God, way back before Israel was a nation. The rich man calls out to Abraham to have pity on him. He begs Abraham to send Lazarus to bring him a drink of water.”
“Abraham tells the rich man that there is this great chasm that no one can cross. If they are on the one side, they can’t go to the other. Abraham said that the rich man had everything while he lived on earth, but Lazarus had nothing, and he was now being comforted. Then, the rich man wants Abraham to send Lazarus to warn his brothers about this place of torment that he is in. Abraham tells the rich man that they wouldn’t listen to the prophets like Moses, and that even if one were to rise from the dead, they would refuse to listen.”
Sego’s basket was overflowing, so she helped Betty finish filling hers.
Betty said, “So Heaven is a place of angels and comfort for our troubles, and Hell is a place for rich people?”
Sego Lily, with a chuckle, explained, “I think Hell is for people who disobey God. The ones who don’t accept the forgiveness God offers through His Son, Jesus. Jesus is the one who returned from the dead, and acquired the keys of death and hell.”
The evening was coming to a close, and color started to fill the sky with soft pink colors, and the sun highlighted the edges of the clouds. Sego Lily and Betty said a soft prayer to the Creator for giving them such a pleasant day, and for the many berries they picked. Heading back to camp, a lively deer jumped across their path. They were thankful for the stories the Jesuits told, and were hopeful to hear more about Heaven and Hell.
If you would like to know more about the Old Mission and the Jesuits, here is a link:http://www.visitidaho.org/attraction/parks/coeur-dalenes-old-mission-state-park/