Slocum, John (1842–1897)
John Slocum, a Native American prophet and visionary, was
a member of the Squaxin people who resided on Puget Sound
in the state of Washington. Among his people he was known as
Squ-sacht-un. As a young man he had lived on the Skokomish
reservation, where he attended a Presbyterian church and also
became familiar with the Roman Catholic faith. In October of
1881 he found himself giving strong consideration to the problems
that afflicted the Native Americans of Puget Sound and
the manner in which they had been ravaged by alcohol, gambling,
and general immorality. He was himself among the
guilty. As he contemplated his condition, he became ill and apparently
died one morning about 4 a.m. He was considered
dead by those present and preparation began for his burial.
Then in the middle of the afternoon, he awoke and announced
to all present that he had been to heaven. He saw the light, so
frequently mentioned in accounts of near-death experiences,
and faced a life review. He also, at one point, looked down
upon his own body.
At the gates of heaven, according to Slocum’s account, he
had been turned back because of his immoral life. He encountered
some angelic beings who gave him a choice of going to
Hell or returning to Earth to teach his people the way to heaven.
He announced that all should be Christians and requested
that a church be built. Within a short time, some 50 people associated
with the church. The movement subsequently spread
among the various Native American groups in the area.
The teachings of the new church combined elements of
Presbyterianism, Catholicism, and the traditional religion of
his people. Among the traditional practices, members of a secret
society were known to go into a trance and commune with
various spirit entities. Slocum taught a form of Christianity, but
downplayed the Bible in favor of his own contacts with heaven
that he felt were more immediate and relevant than an old
book. He emphasized moral living as a prerequisite to heaven.
A short time after the founding of the church, he fell ill
again. His wife, Mary, began to pray for him. In her concern
she began to shake and tremble. When Slocum recovered, he
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Slocum, John
attributed his getting better to the shaking. Very soon afterwards,
the members began to copy Mary Slocum’s movements
and soon were demonstrating a range of exuberant body movements
that had been a familiar part of revival and camp meetings
among Protestant religious groups. Because of this shaking,
they became known as the Shaker religion. The members
also adopted a form of ritualized prayer for the sick.
The Shaker Church was incorporated in 1892. Slocum led
it for the rest of his life but as the end of his earthly life drew
near, he withdrew from the public, and the exact place and
date of his death is unknown. His church continues to the present.

Barnett, H. G. Indian Shakers A Messianic Cult of the Pacific
Northwest. Carbondale, Ill. Southern Illinois University, 1957.
Mooney, James. ‘‘The Ghost-Dance Religion and the Sioux
Outbreak of 1890.’’ In the Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau
of Ethnology. Compiled by J. W. Powell. Washington Government
Printing Office, 1896.

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