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Observations placeholder

Mircea Eliade - John Slocum's Indian Shakers



Type of Spiritual Experience


John Slocum (Squ-sacht-un) was a member of the Squaxin Island Tribe, Coast Salish, and a reputed holy man and prophet who founded the Indian Shaker Church in 1881 [not part of the Shaker movement].

Slocum was introduced to Christianity by missionaries working in Washington's Puget Sound region. In 1881 he became ill and subsequently fell into a trance where he was "transported to heaven". While in trance he was told how to "bring Native American peoples to salvation. This experience was similar to that described by other 19th-century Native American prophets, including Wovoka, Tavibo and Smohalla". In 1886, he began preaching a message he designated "Tschadam".

About a year later, Slocum once again became ill. While his wife, Mary Thompson Slocum, cared for him, she started shaking uncontrollably in his presence. When he recovered, he interpreted her shaking as a spiritual manifestation which saved him from death. Slocum then incorporated shaking or twitching into the religion. This practice led non-natives to call the Church the "Indian Shaker Religion." Slocum and some of his followers were imprisoned regularly for their opposition to government-mandated acculturation programs for Pacific Coast peoples.

The Indian Shaker Religion is still practiced but it now combines traditional native beliefs and customs with Christian beliefs and is as such a religion as opposed to a spiritual movement.

A description of the experience

Mircea Eliade – Shamanism Archaic techniques of ecstasy

John Slocum, creator of the Shakers movement, opposed the old Indian religion and especially the medicine men.

This did not prevent the shamans from joining Slocum’s movement; for in it they found the ancient tradition of celestial ascents and experiences of mystical flight, and like the shamans, the Shakers could resuscitate the dead.

The principal ritual of this sect consisted in prolonged contemplation of the sky and a continuous shaking of the arms, elementary techniques that are also found in even more aberrant guises, in the ancient and modern Near east, always in connection with shamanising groups.

The source of the experience

Native American Indians

Concepts, symbols and science items


Raising the dead


Science Items

Activities and commonsteps



Frenetic exercise