A SECOND AND REVISED EDITION
F. SHOBERL, JUN., LONG ACRE.
Designed & Etched by W. H. Brooks, A. R. H. A.
I bore her away in my arms from the battle of Warriors. page 23.
London, Published by Colburn & Bentley, April 1830.
ARE RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED
BY HIS FRIEND AND COUNTRYMAN,
It has been thought that the introduction prefixed to the first edition, and which was intended as a mere framework upon which to hang the traditions, was not satisfactorily contrived, and that the title did not set forth the true nature of the work. I think so myself, and have therefore suppressed that introduction, and given to the work a strictly accurate title. I have supplied the place of the introduction with a brief statement of the opportunities I have had of studying the Indian character, and with an exhibition of proofs of the genuineness of the traditions themselves. The public having been pleased to say that "if the matter was genuine, the manner was good," and that a successful attempt to "stamp the legends with the character of authenticity" would elevate them to the dignity of "historical records," I have been at some pains to collect and offer the required proofs.
I was born within twelve miles of a principal tribe of Indians, within two miles of a small band, and within six miles of two other small bands, of that tribe. They were a remnant of the Pawkunnawkuts, who, at the first settlement of the country, were a very numerous, powerful, and warlike nation, but at the time of my birth had dwindled in numbers to about five hundred souls, and were restricted in territory to some six or seven thousand acres. They then, and at present, sank their primitive appellation in the less poetic name of Gayheads, which was given them by the white people with reference to the little elbow or promontory of land where they lived. Though the manners and customs of the Whites had made sad inroads on the primitive Indian character, there yet remained, at the time of my birth, enough to make them objects of ardent and profitable interest.
The recollections of my earliest childhood are of Indians. My grandfather had an old Indian woman in his house for the greater part of the first fifteen years of my life. Our house-servants and field-labourers were chiefly Indians. It was my grandfather's custom, and had been that of his ancestors, ever since their settlement, a hundred and fifty years ago, in the vicinity of the tribe, to take Indian boys at the age of four or five years, and keep them until they had attained their majority, when they usually left us, chiefly to become sailors—an employment in which their services were specially valued. During my minority we had three of these little foresters in our house, and these drew around them their fathers, and mothers, and sisters, and brothers: very frequently our house was an "Indian Camp" indeed. From the boys I learned the sports and pastimes of Indian childhood, and, from the aged, their traditional history and wild legends of supernatural horrors. So thoroughly has my mind become imbued with their superstitions, that at times I find difficulty in reconciling myself to the plain matter-of-fact narratives of the men of my own creed and colour. I have to pinch myself like one awaking from an unpleasant dream, and to say to the wild creations of Indian fancy, "Ye are shadows all."
It is quite impossible that any one, who has not been among and "of" the North American Indians, should be able to form even a tolerable idea of the extent to which they are acted upon by their superstitions. They are governed entirely by them; they enter into their conceptions of every occurrence. The old Indian woman, before mentioned, afforded a striking example of the strength of their faith in these "thick coming fancies." There was nothing, I believe I may say in the world, which was not with her a "spirit." The waves were "spirits"—the meteors were "spirits"—the winds singing their lullabies were "spirits"—the thunders were "spirits." In the long winter evenings, when seated before the wood fire, which at that season of the year is perpetually burning on a New England hearth, the sound was heard of a cricket chirping in the hollow wood; starting with alarm she would exclaim "a spirit!" and minutes would elapse before she would regain her composure. Seated in a little chair at her side, how I used to enjoy her long but never tedious stories of the wonderful things she had seen and heard—of the phantoms which had visited her bedside, or whispered strange things in her ear—of the several conversations she had had, face to face, with the Father of Evil! Once in particular she had seen the latter grim personage when she was returning from a "husking frolic," i.e. an assemblage of persons met for the purpose of stripping the husks from Indian corn. She described him as a rather tall and exceedingly gaunt old gentleman, wearing his hair much as Andrew Skurliewhitter is described as wearing his in "The Fortunes of Nigel;" his face the colour of flame, his eyes green as grass, an enormous yellow cocked hat upon his head, and his robe of woven sea-weed. She averred that he had neither a club foot as some have pretended, nor a "sooty black skin" according to the opinion of others. She described the spot where she saw him with such exceeding accuracy, that I never thereafter, for more than ten years, passed the particular "bush in the little valley, three steps from the gate," by daylight, without a shudder, and never at all by night. She had seen the spirit of her mother, too, employed in knitting woollen hose for her father's spirit. There was not one of my ancestors to whom she had been personally known—and she was very aged at the time of my birth—who had not appeared to her after death, each "with a circumstance" whose simplicity and truth to nature almost impressed you with a belief that such a thing had really been.—I implicitly believed all old Mima's stories, for could I be made to entertain a suspicion that she who watched every night by my pillow, and gathered me berries, and waded into the water to pluck lilies for me, and procured me a thousand playthings—the devices of savage ingenuity—could tell me false tales? It was from this aged Indian woman that I heard some of the traditions which are recorded in these volumes; and from these preceptors and playmates of my childhood I acquired that acquaintance with their manners, customs, and superstitions, and knowledge of their disposition, and imbibed that sympathy with their sufferings, which have led to the publication of these volumes. I feel, indeed, a singular interest in them—an interest the strength of which is scarcely to be accounted for on the common principles of youthful friendships.
My acquaintance with them did not terminate with the period which sent me forth into the wide world a traveller for gain or pleasure, an adventurer in quest of wealth or happiness. I have since travelled among the Chickasaws, the Cherokees, the Creeks, and the Shawanos, besides the nondescripts who figure in the drunken riots which daily occur on the Levee of the city of New Orleans. And my frequent visits to the scenes of my childhood, and renewal of acquaintance with the red associates of my youth, have served to keep alive and vivid the recollections of the period which may be said to have afforded me almost as many opportunities of studying their character as if I had been born an Indian.
I conceived, more than ten years ago, the idea of collecting the various traditions and popular Indian stories, with a view to their publication at a convenient day. Believing that a collection of their traditions, illustrated by elaborate notices of their peculiar customs and manners, would be both instructive and amusing, I set myself down to the reading of the books which should add to the fund of legendary lore I had acquired by my residence among them. In all my travels, and these have been through every state but one in the American Union, and the "territories," with the exception of Michigan and the "North Western," my inquiries have been for "Indians," and respecting "Indian traditions." If I saw an Indian, I questioned him as to his ideas of a future state, the creation of man, &c. and endeavoured to wile from him an "auld warld story," to use Edie Ochiltree's language. I think I have never lost sight of my object in any situation where any thing could be done for its advancement.
I had been early led to place a greater value upon the traditions of the Indians than has been attached to them by those who do not view them as a series of authentic annals. For myself, I hold them in the light of historical records, mixed up indeed with much that is fabulous, but not in a greater degree than the early annals of other unenlightened nations, who could not perpetuate them by means of letters. After all it will remain for the reader to fix the degree of estimation in which these traditions shall be held, and to determine the degree of credit that is to be attached to them.
I cannot but think that I have rendered an acceptable service to the world in preserving these traditions from the oblivion that surely awaits them in their uncollected state. The North American Indians are a people, who, in the nature of things, and according to that which has happened to all, are doomed to be of the number of those
In a very few years nothing will remain of them but a nameless barrow. The day may come, when even conjecture will be at fault, as with the builders of the western mounds, in determining who they were, from whom they originated, what were their peculiar opinions, and the various other matters and things concerning them.
It has been by some thought necessary that I should present to the public proofs of the genuineness of these traditions. I shall proceed to give such as I have been able to collect, and the nature of the case will admit of my offering. Where they rest on my own word that they are authentic, the corroborating testimony I rely upon is their asserted conformity with Indian ideas, opinions, customs, and phraseology.
The first tradition, in the collection, "The Man of Ashes," is referred to by Mr. Johnstone, residing at Piqua, in the state of Ohio, and acting as agent for the American government among the Shawanos tribe at that place, in a communication made by him to the American Society of Antiquaries, and published in the first volume of their Transactions. Not having that work at hand, I cannot name the page. I also heard it from a Shawano when I was at Piqua, in 1823. It is probably an account mixed up with much that is fabulous of their first meeting with, and massacre of, a party of white people in alliance with a hostile tribe.
The second tradition, "Pomatare, the Flying Beaver," was related to me at the same time by the same Indian. It is also briefly referred to by Mr. Johnstone, in the communication in which mention is made of the first tradition. Many other writers speak of a tradition current among the Indians, of their having crossed the sea to arrive at their present place of residence. I cannot help regarding it as a very strong corroboration of this tradition, that all the American Indians call the world—i.e. the place where they dwell—their ideas extend no further—an "island." Does not the universality of this opinion prove that they are from a common stock, and once—perhaps ages ago—had demonstration of the fact that water flows between the continent upon which they now dwell, and that from which the tradition supposes they came?
The tradition entitled "The Alarm of the Great Sentinel," (Vol. 1, p. 61,) rests on the authority of Heckewelder, the well-known Moravian missionary at Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, and may be found in "Transactions of the American Philosophical Society." (Phila., 1819, Vol. 1, p. 206). Much controversy has prevailed in America respecting the degree of credit to be attached to this writer. None have pronounced him dishonest, but several have accused him of having a very strong bias towards the Indians, and of permitting his prejudices to colour his elaborate accounts of their modes and manners. Two very able writers, Mr. Duponceau, and Mr. Rawle, have come forward to vindicate him from the charge of partiality, and I think have fully done so. The tradition probably refers to an unsuccessful attempt at surprisal by their enemies.
"The Mother of the World" is told briefly in Hearne's "Journey to the Northern Ocean," p. 342. Hearne has been generally reckoned an accurate reporter of what he heard and saw on that journey. His assertion that the Indians have no religion is, however, totally untrue. Mackenzie also refers to the same tradition, in his "General History of the Fur Trade," prefixed to his "Voyage to the Northern Ocean." (London, 1801, quarto, cxviii). Mackenzie is a high authority in all that relates to the Indians.
"The Fall of the Lenape" (Vol. 1, p. 87) is told by Mr. Heckewelder, in the volume before referred to, page 36. It is undoubtedly an authentic account of the overthrow of the Delawares by the Iroquois, aided by the insidious counsels of the white people.
"The Marriage of the Snail and the Beaver" (Vol. 1, p. 103) is referred to by Lewis and Clarke, in "Travels to the Pacific Ocean." (London, 1815, Vol. 1, p. 12.) It probably relates to the marriage and consequent settlement of the founder of the Osage Indians with a woman of a tribe whose totem or badge was a beaver.
"The Choice of a God" (Vol. 1, p. 117) was related to me by my old Indian nurse. I heard a rather different version of it from a venerable clergyman of the name of Thaxter. He had it from a Captain Richardson, who was killed at Cape Breton in the "Old French War." It is a very common tradition, though it has not, as far as I know, been before in print. This tradition also refers to the first meeting of the natives with the whites.
"The Resurrection of the Bison" (Vol. 1, p. 143) is told by James in his "Account of an Expedition to the Rocky Mountains." (London, 1823, Vol. 1, p. 257). I have been informed that it is a common tradition among the Rocky Mountain Indians.
"The Wahconda's Son" (Vol. 1, p. 147) is also from James's "Account of an Expedition to the Rocky Mountains" (London, 1823. Vol. 1, 251), and is mentioned by other writers and travellers. This also refers to a transaction in which white people were concerned.
"The Idols" (Vol. 1, p. 173) is referred to by Lewis and Clarke in "Travels to the Pacific Ocean" (London, 1815, Vol. 1, p. 146). It is a genuine Indian superstition.
"The Discovery of the Upper World" (Vol. 1, p. 201) is referred to by James in his "Account of an Expedition to the Rocky Mountains." (London, 1823, Vol. 1, p. 258); by Heckewelder in the work before referred to, p. 242, and numerous other writers.
For the tradition entitled "Love and War" (Vol. 1, p. 213) I am indebted to Mr. Henry Schoolcraft. It is taken from a work of his published some years ago, the title of which I forget. No other alterations had been made in this tradition than those which were requisite to make it conform strictly to what I deemed were Indian manners, customs, phraseology, and opinions.
The series of traditions entitled "Legends of the Happy Hunting-Grounds," (commencing at p. 225 of volume first) being in my estimation by far the most interesting and valuable in the volume, deserve a more elaborate commentary with a view to the authenticating them. They are all of them genuine, but there is but one of them that belongs, as has been supposed in the tradition, exclusively to the tribe of whom it is related. Thus "Akkeewaisee, the Aged," which is supposed to describe the heaven of the people called the Dahcotahs, describes also that of many other tribes. Keating assigns the belief to the Dahcotahs. (See his Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Petre's river. London, 1825, Vol. 1., p. 410).
The second tradition in the series, "The Delaware Heaven," I believe is peculiar to the tribes which compose that nation, and rests upon the authority of Loskiel. (History of the Missions of the United Brethren. Lond. 1794, p. 35). He was a Moravian missionary, and has been esteemed an accurate and faithful relator of what he saw.
The third of these series of traditions relating to the future residence of the soul, entitled "The Hunting-Grounds of the Blackfoots," is a current tradition with many tribes, but, in order to give it a more distinct shape, I have assigned it to the Blackfoot tribe.
The legend entitled "The Stone Canoe" is referred to by Mackenzie. ("Voyages from Montreal to the Frozen Ocean." Quarto, London, 1801, Prelim. Account, cxix).
"The Little White Dove" I have heard of frequently, and yet I cannot at this moment give any authority. It was probably an American author—certain I am that it is a genuine tradition.
The last of the Legends, entitled "The Teton's Paradise," is so well and so generally known to be a genuine tradition, that I shall content myself with referring only to Hearne. ("Journey to the Northern Ocean," p. 346). He does not indeed speak of it as a Teton tradition, but as it is known to prevail over the entire northern and western region, I have assigned it to the Tetons.
"The Legends of Creation," with which the second volume commences, are very interesting, for a number of them clearly refer to the great Deluge. The first of these legends, "The Two Chappewees," is in two parts: one is copied nearly verbatim from Captain (now Sir John) Franklin's admirable account of his Journey to the Polar Ocean; the other is referred to by Hearne.
The second of these legends, "Sakechak, the Hunter," is referred to by Charlevoix, (in his Journal. London, 1761. Vol. 11, p. 228). The accuracy of this writer is well established: no traveller in that region may be so safely relied on. P. de Acosta is of opinion that this and all the other traditions do not respect the universal deluge, but another peculiar to America. I do not agree with him in opinion: I have always thought that all refer to the deluge mentioned in the first Chapter of Genesis.
"The Bird of Ages." This legend of the Creation is referred to by Mackenzie. ("General History of the Fur Trade." Quarto. London, 1801, p. cxviii). Reference is made to the same tradition in Hearne's "Journey to the Northern Ocean."
"The Great Hare" is referred to by Charlevoix in his "Journal." (London, 1761, vol. 11. p. 142.) He refers to another tradition in which there is mention made of another deity who opposed the designs of the Great Hare. This he thinks of foreign extraction, and so do I, from the circumstance that the opposing god is there called the "Great Tyger," which animal is not found in Canada.
Legend of the "The Six Nanticokes" is referred to by Loskiel. ("History of the Mission of the United Brethren." London, 1794, p. 24). The version I have given is from the relation of an old Indian preacher by the name of Hiwassee.
"The Coming of Miquon" (Vol. 2, p. 99) is told by Heckewelder ("Trans. of American Philos. Soc." Vol. 1, p. 54), and is the genuine Delaware tradition of the first meeting of the Lenni Lenape with the white people, whom they say they were the first to welcome. Mr. Heckewelder says "he had the relation from an intelligent Delaware Indian," and that it "may be considered as a correct account of the tradition existing among them of this momentous event." It will be seen that the first coming of the white people is referred to in several other traditions.
"The Funeral Fire" (Vol. 2, p. 115) is copied from the volume of Mr. Schoolcraft before referred to. I have made the additions and alterations required to make it in keeping with Indian phraseology and opinions.
"The Portioning of the Sons" (Vol. 2, p. 125) is referred to by Keating in his "Narrative of an Expedition to the Source of St. Peter's River." (London, 1825. Vol. 1, p. 233).
"The Maiden's Rock" (Vol. 2, p. 131) is copied from Keating's Narrative, Vol. 1, p. 290.
"The Expedition of the Lenni Lenapes" (Vol. 2, p. 141) is told by Heckewelder in the Vol. of Philosophical Transactions before referred to, p. 29.
"Ghitshee Gauzinee." (Vol. 2, p. 181). For this tradition I am indebted to the excellent work of Mr. Schoolcraft.
"Ampato Sapa" (Vol. 2, p. 189) is told by Keating. ("Narrative," &c. Vol. 1, p. 310).
"The Caverns of the Kickapoo" (Vol. 2, p. 201) is referred to by Keating in the before-mentioned narrative, Vol. 1, p. 250.
"The Mountain of Little Spirits" (Vol. 2, p. 207) is referred to by Lewis and Clarke in "Travels to the Pacific Ocean." (London, 1815, Vol. 1, p. 72). This may be regarded as a genuine Indian superstition.
"The Valley of the Bright Old Inhabitants" (Vol. 2, p. 223) is referred to by Adair in his "History of the American Indians." (Quarto. London, 1775, p. 237).
"The Legend of Moshup" (Vol. 2, p. 261) is one of those related to me by my old Indian nurse. It is, I think, corroborated in a communication made to the Massachusetts Historical Society, and published in their Transactions; but, not having been able to find a copy in England, I must beg the reader to rest satisfied with my assertion that, independently of my nurse's version, a communication made to the before-mentioned society stamps the tradition as genuine.
"The Phantom Woman" (Vol. 2, p. 273) I heard from a Winnebago Indian at Washington, and I have somewhere met with it in print; I dare not assert, but I think, that it is referred to by a Mr. McKenney, in a book of travels published some years ago in America.
"The Two Ghosts" (Vol. 2, p. 285) is from Mr. Schoolcraft's work.
"The Vision of the Abnakis Chief." (Vol., 2, p. 303). This was a legend of my old nurse, and evidently refers, like several others, to the coming of the Whites.
"The Lake of the White Canoe" (Vol. 3, p. 1) is a common tradition in the region where the incidents are supposed to have happened. I should remark, however, that the tale is not always told of Indians, but by some is supposed to have happened to a pair of White lovers. The better account, however, makes them Indians. What adds to the interest of this tradition is, that Mr. Thomas Moore has made it the subject of a beautiful ballad entitled "The Lake of the Dismal Swamp." His having taken up the story should, I am aware, have prevented me from attempting to tell it, since it is impossible that any thing from my pen should equal his beautiful poetical version.
"A Legend of the Bomelmeeks" (Vol. 3, p. 33) I heard from an Indian of the Seneca tribe, whom I saw at Albany, in the State of New York. I am not aware of its having been in print before.
"The King of the Elks" (Vol. 3, p. 47) I heard from the same old Indian story-teller. I am not aware of its resting on any other foundation.
"The Daughters of the Sun" (Vol. 3, p. 77) is referred to by Leyden in his "Scenes of Infancy," and by Bertram in his "Travels through the Carolinas." (London, 1794. p. 25).
"The Island of Eagles"—(Vol. 3, p. 117). I heard this tradition from an Indian whom I saw at Wheeling, in the State of Ohio, in 1823. I had before read Carver's description of this island, and upon meeting with this Indian, who had been there, and questioning him, he related this tradition.
"Legend of Aton-Larre." This I heard from an old Indian at Fayetteville, North Carolina, while I was travelling through that state in 1819.
"The Fire Spirit." (Vol. 3, p. 167). This was derived from the same source as the last. I have read or heard a rather different version, but I cannot recollect where.
"The Origin of Women." (Vol. 3, 175). For this tradition I have to confess my obligation to a work which has, I suspect unjustly, been considered a very indifferent authority—"Hunter's Memoirs." I have never been able to convince myself that Hunter had not passed a part of his life among the Indians.
"The Hill of Fecundity" (Vol. 3, p. 183) is referred to by James in his "Account of an Expedition to the Rocky Mountains." (London, 1823, Vol. 1, p. 253).
"Legend of Coatuit Brook." (Vol. 3, p. 305) This is mentioned in the "Transactions of the Massachusetts Historical Society;" but I cannot, for the reason before given when referring to these transactions, name the volume and page. However, the tradition I have given—much fuller than the former—was told me by an Indian of the Marshpe tribe, dwelling in the vicinity of the Brook Coatuit.
"The Spirit of Vapour" (Vol. 3, p. 313) is referred to by Mackenzie in his "General History of the Fur Trade," page cvi, prefixed to his "Journal of a Voyage to the Frozen Ocean." (Quarto. London, 1801).
"The Devil of Cape Higgin" (Vol. 3, p. 321) was related to me by my old nurse, and is a well known tradition, though not otherwise in print than through my means.
"The Warning of Tekarrah" is a genuine tradition related to me by a Mr. Clarke, an American gentleman of worth and intelligence, who left England in June last for the United States.
But, while I distinctly aver the authenticity of those traditions which rest upon my own authority, and submit the proofs of the genuineness of the others, it must be understood that they have, with a few exceptions, been much elaborated, though always with a careful reference to the manners, customs, rites, opinions, &c. of the people whose history they were supposed to tell. I have endeavoured to tell these stories as I thought a genuine Indian would tell them, using only their figures, types, and similitudes, and rejecting all inappropriate phrases, and those which savoured of a foreign origin. I cheerfully submit to the public whether I have not faithfully executed the task which I proposed to myself—that of giving a collection of genuine Indian traditions in the peculiar phraseology, and in strict consonance with the known habits and customs, of that singular people.
The Man of Ashes.
Pomatare, The Flying Beaver.
The Alarm Of The Great Sentinel. A Tradition of the Delawares
The Mother of the World. A Tradition of the Dog-Ribs.
The Fall Of The Lenape
The Marriage Of The Snail And The Beaver.
The Choice Of A God.
The Resurrection Of The Bison.
The Wahconda's Son.
The Idols. A Tradition of the Ricaras.
Discovery of the Upper World. A Tradition of the Minnatarees.
Love And War.
Legends Of The Happy Hunting-grounds.
I.—Akkeewaisee, The Aged.
II.—The Delaware Heaven.
III.—The Hunting-grounds Of The Blackfoots.
IV.—The Stone Canoe.
V. The Little White Dove.
VI. The Teton's Paradise.
In the year 1695, a number of savans associated in Paris for the purpose of procuring information respecting the American Indians. They were called shortly The Theoretical and Speculative Society of Paris, but their title at large was The Society for Prosecuting Researches in the Western Hemisphere, and for procuring Speculations to be made, and Theories drawn up, of the Origin and History of its Ancient and its Present Inhabitants. The undertaking met with almost prompt and cordial support; the proudest names and the brightest lights of the age were enlisted in it. The celebrated Madame de Maintenon became the patroness, forbidding, however, the Society to speculate upon her affairs; the illustrious Duke de Rohan became the president; the Czar Peter an honorary member; and the Society was otherwise royally and nobly officered and befriended. So numerous were the applications to be received as members, that it was found necessary to establish the rule, since adopted by certain colleges, of conferring diplomas upon all who asked for them. It is stated, that there was as loud a call upon the time and attention of the publishing committee, no fewer than seven hundred papers of theories and speculations, all essentially varying, having been presented at the second weekly meeting.
It will be seen from the date that it was a very important era in speculative philosophy. Father Hennepin had just returned from Canada, and published his Discovery of a Large Country, the greater part of which had remained unknown till then, and has not been seen since. Other French missionaries were daily arriving from New France, as the French possessions in America were denominated, and spreading tales, partly true, partly-false, of the wonderful things they had seen. The questions so very important and so essential to be solved, whether the ancient inhabitants of North America, the race which is supposed to be extinct, were of Malay origin, and came from Australasia, or from the islands of the Pacific Ocean, and whether the surviving race are descended from the Tartars, the Scandinavians, the Jews, or the Welsh, began to be agitated about this time, though they were not debated with the profound shrewdness and sagacity which Adair, Barton, Boudinot, and other enlightened men, have since evinced on the subject.
With a view to remove the difficulty, and solve the problem, if it were solvable, it was determined by this learned Society to dispatch forthwith to America a man, whose mind should be well stored with science, literature, and philosophy, whose constitution and habits of body should be equal to the hardships he must necessarily undergo, and who should be of a temper to despise the dangers he must of course encounter, in prolonged travels among scattered tribes of wild and barbarous Indians. It was almost impossible, the Society knew, to find a person fitted in every respect for the mission. In an age of theories, it is no easy matter to meet with a man possessed of the common elements of being, who has not submitted to the tyranny of opinion, and adopted the theory most in vogue. Few of us like to be singular, and hence we often adopt opinions, which, at first, we entertain most unwillingly, but which, after we have defended a few times, we come to love most heartily. Nothing so heightens our passion for a beautiful woman as obstacles thrown in our way; nothing so confirms our admiration of a theory as shallow cavils; a weak battery raised against a besieged town always increases the courage, and heightens the resistance, of the besieged.
In respect of the person who should be sent on this honourable mission, the Society were for a long time much perplexed, and began to fear the "foundering of their hobby from want of a jockey of required weight." It was necessary that he should be deeply imbued with classic lore, and profoundly skilled in languages, because he was to "detect lingual affinities," and further, might have to read manuscripts, and decipher inscriptions, of the ancient people. He was required to be deeply conversant with military science, in all its details, for he was to report of the nature of Indian tactics, fortifications, and defensive structures; and it was essential that he should be a theologian, for he was not only to sow the Word as he went, but to gather, if possible, from the religious opinions, rites, and observances, of the nations scattered over North America, proofs of a similitude to other people, or to accumulate data for the opposite belief. It was very difficult to discover a man so eminently gifted and taught, and the Society found themselves heavily burthened with the search. Nevertheless one was at length found, imbued to a reasonable degree with the requisite qualities in the person of M. Philippe Verdier, of the city of Nanci. They applied to him to undertake the proposed mission, and he consented, protesting, according to custom, his utter unworthiness, and his belief that France had many sons more competent to the task than himself.
M. Verdier had studied in his youth, with the view of becoming a priest, and was profoundly skilled in the learning proper for that vocation. Afterwards, when he had abandoned all thoughts of entering the priesthood, he served in Holland under Condé, and there, and in many other countries, in succeeding wars, acquired the character of a valiant soldier and expert tactician. Excellence in poetry and metaphysics came to him naturally, and a thorough acquaintance with languages, both dead and living, by laborious study and prolonged travel. He had resided some time in the Australasian islands and those of the Pacific Ocean, and had travelled over the Peninsula of Malacca and the Island of Madagascar. He had thence brought numerous things which have since been of great service to philosophers, in explaining difficulties and solving problems connected with the antiquities and history of the western aborigines. His museum of curiosities contained a feathery mantle such as were found enwrapping the American mummies, a pair of mocassins made of the rind of plants, curious carvings which were pronounced by the French savans to resemble much the pieces of sculpture brought by M. Jaques de Numskull from the Ohio, and a human cranium or two, to which were added a Madagascar humming-bird, and a Malacca pepper plant. From the nature of these acquisitions, he was supposed to be well qualified to decide upon the merits of that part of the theory of the indigenous inhabitants of America, which represents the extinct race as descended from the Malays of eastern Asia!!!
M. Verdier was quite as well qualified to act upon the other theory. He had travelled to Tartary in the suite of the French ambassador, and resided some years at the court of the Great Khan, where he had acquired the Tartar language, and become deeply learned in the history and customs of that ancient people. He had taken numerous drawings of their physiognomy and features, and many casts of Tartar visages. With a view to learn their opinions of the Deity, and a future state, he had officiated for a full year as the conjuror or powwow of a tribe. When he returned to Europe, he brought with him a couple of human teeth, a pipe, a bow and arrow, a jackall, a wild sheep, a sharp-nosed, thievish Siberian cur, with his sleigh and harness, and a very pretty Samoyede girl, the last with a view to ascertain the peculiar cast of features and shade of complexion which should mark a half-breed, which he was so fortunate as to possess in a short time thereafter, together with a couple of copies to bestow upon his friends.
It was a singularly lucky circumstance that the learned association were apprised in season of the merits of M. Verdier. There was not another man in France so well qualified to perform the generous behests of the Society, and to prosecute their enquiries to a beneficial result. It would seem as if he had aimed his studies, directed his researches, timed his travels, and planned his occupations, with a kind of presentiment, that he should in time be called to the very task he undertook. Indeed some have said that there was an actual precognition of it, by means of a vision, while he was yet a student in theology with the Abbé Guissot. But, the Society, upon the motion of a learned member, caused their doubts of the truth of the story to be placed upon record.
Previously to the departure of M. Verdier, a special meeting of the Society was called, and a committee of thirty members appointed to prepare suitable directions, in the form of interrogatories, for his guidance. They were to report on two different sets, the first (A.) which were to relate to the ancient inhabitants of the country; the second (B.) to the race who were its then possessors. After a sitting of twenty days in the hall of the Sorbonne, the Committee reported on the papers A. and B., which were accepted without debate.
1. He was to ascertain when the tumuli, or mounds, were built, and for what use.
2. Who built them? Were they Malays? If they were Malays, did they come from Australasia, or from the Islands of the Pacific Ocean?
3. If they were not Malays, who were they? Were they Mauritanians, vide Postel; or Scandinavians, vide Busbeck; or Canaanites, vide Gomara, and John de Lery; or descendants of the tribes led captive by Psalmanazar, vide Thevet; or of Shera and Japhet, vide Torniel; or a colony of Romans, vide Marinocus; or Gauls, vide James Charron; or Friezelanders, vide Hamconius and Juffredus Petri; or Celtæ, vide Abraham Milius; or Phoenicians, vide Le Compte; or Carthaginians, vide Father Acosta, &c. &c.?
4. Had this ancient people the art of embalming human bodies, or is that art of modern invention, as some pretend?
5. If M. Verdier find they are of Malay origin, he must ascertain in what year of the world they went to America, and who was their leader;
6. How long they resided there, and under which pope they were driven away or exterminated.
7. In what manner, and by what conveyance, was the transportation made? Did they cross Behring's Straits, or on the ice from Japan to California? Were the first settlers the crew of some vessel or vessels driven to the western continent by stress of winds, or were they led thither by some far-sighted captain?
8. Finally, how many ships did it take to carry them over?
Many pages of remarks, by different members, were appended to this paper. The other paper, marked B., read as follows:
1. Is the similarity of physiognomy and features between the present race of American Indians and the Asiatic Tartars strong enough to induce an unprejudiced observer to pronounce them members of the same great family of mankind, or, to speak so as to be understood, 'does an Indian look like a Tartar?'
2. Are the coincidences of sound and signification in the languages of North America and Tartary sufficiently numerous and unequivocal to induce one to pronounce them of a common origin?
3. Do the customs and manners of the North American Indians correspond in any material degree with those of their supposed brethren, the Tartars?
4. Are there any animals, wild or domestic, tameable or untameable, in America, which are of a species known to exist at this day in Tartary? And is there any thing in the vegetable kingdom of the west which bears marks of derivation from that country?
5. Is there any reason to think these Indians descended from the Welsh? What are we to think of the voyage of Madoc and his supposed colonization of the Western continent? Upon this point M. Verdier will do well to examine their pedigrees with great care.
The committee deem it altogether impossible to particularise all the subjects upon which questions may be put, to the fair furtherance of the objects which the Society has in view in sending out M. Verdier. A great deal must be left to his discretion and judgment. Many reflections will occur to him, as he personally surveys the monuments, and becomes acquainted with the people of that continent, which does not occur to us, and perhaps never would to him but for such visit.
The Society hope every thing from the zeal, the perseverance, and the talents, of their missionary. They hope to be able to record as a benefactor to this Society, to the kingdom, to the world, not only M. Verdier, but the gentleman who first recommended him to their notice.
Thus furnished with ample directions, and with a letter to the governor of the French possessions in Canada, M. Verdier set out upon his travels in May 1697. The Society liberally afforded him the means of conciliating the Savages, furnishing him with abundance of those articles which they were supposed to covet, such as beads, knives, &c. The ship in which he sailed had a very short passage, at least for a period when the arts of ship-building and navigation were so little understood, and landed him safely at Quebec some days before the setting-in of winter. The dignity of our traveller's mission, the high reputation of the Society under whose auspices he acted, together with his own merit, attested by strong letters of introduction, operated to procure him a most cordial and gratifying reception. All ranks joined in evincing unbounded respect both for him and his object, and in placing all possible helps within his reach. One admitted him to his museum of Indian curiosities, another presented him with a bundle of Indian manuscripts, a third took measures with the Indian chiefs for his unmolested passage through their country, a fourth instructed him in the Indian language, and taught him the peculiarities of their hundred dialects. Nor were the women behind the other sex in kindness to our traveller. He was invited to take up his abode altogether with the Ursuline nuns, with whom he rose to such high favour, that they would confess to no other during his stay in the city. The married ladies were quite as courteous as those who were vowed to a single life, and feasted and caressed him beyond our ability or wish to describe.
He did not leave Quebec until the return of spring, when, in the prosecution of his object, he bade adieu to his pleasant quarters, and travelled into the country of the Iroquois or Five Nations. His friend, the Governor, persuaded him much to take an interpreter with him, and nominated good old father Luke Bisset for that purpose. But M. Verdier declined, trusting that the "coincidences of sound and signification," (suggested in query 2, paper B,) would free him from all difficulties on that score. He hired an Indian, who had come to Quebec to dispose of his furs, to act as his guide, and a French boy to carry his change of linen and his presents, the last named being a labour to which no Indian will submit, unless he has become an outcast from his tribe, or otherwise disgraced and dishonoured.
They set out for the country of the Iroquois in the month of May, 1698. After travelling for many weeks, at a great rate, for the Savages are inconceivably swift walkers, and can endure great fatigues, they arrived at the principal town of the Five Nations. There, and elsewhere within the limits of that confederacy, our traveller abode two full years. The public must not expect to find in this brief introduction a cursory statement, much less a minute journal of his curious observations and discoveries during that period. The Editor would make a very bad use of the confidence reposed in him, if he were to attempt either. Public curiosity, however, will be gratified, for the highly learned and philosophical reports of M. Verdier on the philology, origin, history, manners, and customs, of the Aborigines of America, will soon be published under the eye of a competent gentleman. But, for the immediate satisfaction of those who have had their minds highly excited on the subject, and prefer to have their knowledge in advance, the Editor begs leave to observe, that these reports fully prove that the Indians of North America and the Tartars of the Eastern continent are of a common stock. The former, M. Verdier proves, by a long train of reasoning, to be descended from a Calmuck, who, in the year 622, (the year of Mahomet's flight from Mecca) married a Samoyede woman, and, with a party of his countrymen, crossed Behring's Straits to the Western Continent. The exceedingly subtle and plausible process by which he arrived at the exact year in which they crossed, and determined that the emigrants were of two different tribes—again, that the chief was tall and lean, his wife short, pursy, and thick-breathed, proved the value of trifling circumstances to the creation of beautiful theories, and with what wonderful ingenuity philosophic minds apply themselves to subjects capable of being theorised. Thus, from the circumstance that the Indian curs, when they were possessed of a bone, would snarl and show their teeth if one went near them, and even hide it in the ground rather than have it taken from them, he drew the conclusion that they were the true canis sibericus, which is known to possess these singular traits of canine sagacity and ferociousness. Additional proof was found in the fact, that an Indian dog of the same species bit M. Verdier in his heel, setting his teeth in precisely the same spot, where, some years before, a Tartar dog had placed his, making but a single scar. He caused an Iroquois cur to be tied by his tail to a log of wood, and the celerity with which he drew it, yelping and screaming over a bed of ice, fully convinced M. Verdier that he was a legitimate descendant from those which perform the part of dray-horses among the Tartars. So much for canine resemblances, which one would think of little importance, yet were the chief prop to a learned theory upon this very subject, published some years ago by an erudite American gentleman.
His inquiries concerning the other object of his mission were as deep, and his conclusions as profitable. It may be remembered, that the principal aim of the Society in sending M. Verdier to America, was to ascertain who were its primitive inhabitants, and the builders of the stupendous mounds found there. Having, by severe study, mastered the Indian language and its numerous dialects, he assumed the dress of a chief, and set out for the Ohio. He took with him seven Indian chiefs belonging to the Seneca tribe, great warriors, great talkers, and great smokers, who could live seven days without food, and feast the next seven without intermission. Their names, rendered into English, were The Flying Medicine, The Hollow Bear, The Little Dish, The Wicked Cow, The Black Mocassins, The Big Thief, and The Guard of the Red Arrows. The party were provided with parched corn and jerked beef, the common hunting provisions of the Indians. Though filled with pacific intentions, and meaning to rely for safety principally on the calumet, or pipe of peace, they nevertheless went completely armed. It would have ill suited Indian ideas of dignity and honour had they left behind what they believe to be the essential emblems of both.
Three years were spent by M. Verdier in surveying the country west of the Alleghany mountains. In that time he visited and examined all the mounds or tumuli, "deciphered a great many resemblances of inscriptions," and penetrated into many saltpetre caves in search of mummies and triune idols. He succeeded in proving to his own satisfaction, and, as we shall see, to that of his employers, that the tumuli were erected for burying-places; that their builders were Malays who chartered the ship Argo from Jason, and came over from the Sandwich Islands in the ninth year of pope Boniface the third; that they had the art of embalming in nitre, and were adepts at making triune idols. They were idolaters, worshippers, he was convinced, of Brahma and his Hindoo brothers. He was puzzled for a while to tell what became of them finally; nor were his doubts cleared up until he travelled into Mexico. A residence of a few months among the Aztecas of that region convinced him that they were, to use the words of an eminent American philosopher, whose cogitations upon this subject have been read from Labrador to Tobolsk, "descendants of the extinct race." He examined the pyramids of Cholula, which agreed in all respects with the works in Ohio, and thence argued that the Malays who built the former were also the builders of the latter.
Though M. Verdier had been very industrious, and had theorised and speculated himself almost into insanity, he thought he had not done enough to secure a gracious reception at home. With a view to make himself master of all which could aid him in preparing his report, he determined to call a general meeting of the Indian tribes, in order to acquire a knowledge of their traditionary lore, and it is from this period that he seems to have laboured to a more useful purpose than that of making "velvet purses of sows' ears, and twisting ropes of sand." The shafts of ridicule may with propriety be levelled at all attempts to ascertain the origin of the American Indians, but their Traditions are their history and learning, and therefore entitled to respectful consideration. He dispatched messengers to all the tribes far and near, with the information that a grand council would be held at Machilimakinak, i.e. a great place for turtles, in the moon next after the gathering of the corn, at which they were invited to attend and offer sacrifices to the Great Spirit. They were especially requested to bring with them their story-tellers as well as their pow-wows, or priests, with whom M. Verdier was anxious to confer. Nothing more fully proves the excellence of his heart than his willingness to meet and confer, as the phrase of our day is, with "ministers of a different denomination." But M. Verdier was a charitable man, and partook of none of that bigotry laid often unjustly to the charge of Roman Catholics. He believed that many went to heaven who denied the infallibility of the pope; and feared that many took the downward road who made that dogma the standard of their faith.
As the time fixed for the convening of the grand council approached, Indians were observed in every direction proceeding to the rendezvous. Never within the memory of the Indian had there been so full a council. There were plenipotentiaries from many of the New England tribes, from some who lived far down the Mississippi, and others who hunted in the shade of the Rocky Mountains—to say nothing of those who came from the regions of Polar ice. Their lodges covered a thousand acres. The spot selected for their encampment was a prairie of almost boundless extent, having on one side a forest impervious save to an Indian hunter. This forest abounded with game, and vast herds of buffaloes were feeding on the skirts of the prairie. It may be observed in passing, that sites for the temporary sojourn of the Savages are always chosen with reference to facilities for the prosecution of the chace, and for obtaining water and fuel. That, selected in this case, afforded each of these in abundance, and to our traveller a prospect as replete with natural beauty as it was with novelty. He beheld, stretched out before him, a green meadow extending farther than the eye could reach, diversified only by groupes of Indian bark huts, and parties of hunters going to or returning from the chace—of women employed in the various duties imposed upon them in savage life, and children playing at the simple games of savage childhood. There, was a hunter, stately and tall, his eye like the eagle's, and his foot like the antelope's, cautiously approaching an angle of the grove, where his wary eye detected a deer; here, a proud chief, his crest surmounted by an eagle's feather, haranguing the warriors of his tribe with far more dignity and grace than Alexander displayed in giving audience to the Scythian ambassadors, or Hannibal in his address to his army before the battle of Cannæ. It was a novel scene to M. Verdier, and he enjoyed it with all the zest of a profound and philosophic observer of human character.
When the nations were all assembled, Shongo Tongo, or the Big Horse, a chief of the Ottoes, rose, and said:—
"Father, you see before you the warriors of many nations. All the red men of the land are gathered together in the great plain where no trees grow. They have come at your bidding, and at your bidding have buried their war-clubs. They forget that they have been enemies. They smoke in the calumet of peace, and are friends because you wish them to be so. Is it well?
"My father, your children will dance before your tent. It is thus we honour the brave. It is thus we honour the stranger."
To this speech, M. Verdier returned a suitable answer, adapting his words to their simple comprehension, yet using the metaphorical style so common among them. He was glad, he told them, that "words of peace were in their mouths; that there was a mild sky, and that the winds were low. He wished it was always so."
They heard him without giving any tokens of approbation, for it is very uncommon for the Indian to bestow such upon an orator. When he had finished his speech, their wild dances commenced by the striking up of their instrumental and vocal music. The instruments were a gong made of a large keg, over one of the ends of which was stretched a skin which was struck by a small stick, and an instrument consisting of a stick of firm wood, notched like a saw, over the teeth of which a smaller stick was rubbed forcibly backward and forward. They had besides rattles made of strings of deer's hoofs, and also parts of the intestines of an animal inflated, inclosing small stones, which produced a sound like pebbles in a small gourd. With these, rude as they were, very good time was preserved with the vocal performers, seated around them, and by all the natives as they sat, in the inflection of their bodies, or the movements of their limbs. After the lapse of a little time, three individuals leaped up and danced around for a few minutes; then, at a concerted signal from the master of the ceremonies, the music ceased, and they retired to their seats uttering a loud noise, which, by patting the mouth rapidly with the hand, was broken into a succession of sounds, somewhat like the hurried barking of a dog. In the intervals of dancing, a warrior would step forward, and, striking the flagstaff they had erected with a stick or a whip, would recount his martial deeds. This ceremony was called striking the post, and whatever was then said might be relied upon as truth, for the custom bound every warrior to expose the falsehood of the striker, and disgrace him for exaggeration if he indulged in it.
A tall, grey-headed chief rose, and, after lashing the post with his whip, commenced the narration of his exploits. He was succeeded by a young and ardent warrior, whose soul apparently was full of poetry, and burning with love of martial glory. After walking leisurely twice or thrice around the post, he quickened his step, and broke out into the following wild song of boasting and triumph:—
These were not exactly the kind of tales which M. Verdier had crossed the ocean and threaded the forest to hear, but he patiently awaited their conclusion. At a signal from a venerated chief, their martial narratives were dropped, and all retired to their seats. The dance was succeeded by a feast, of which the chiefs and warriors, together with their guest, first partook, and afterwards the men of inferior note. Before a mouthful was tasted, however, the best and juiciest pieces of the deer were selected as an offering to the Great Spirit. They were not laid upon the fire till the priest had been called to the performance of certain rites and ceremonies by the following hymn, chanted in their peculiarly solemn and impressive manner:—
When the priest had performed certain ceremonies over the holocaust, he retired, and the hymn was resumed as follows:—
When the feast and sacrifices were concluded, M. Verdier rose and addressed the assembly in these words:
"Brothers and warriors, I have come from a far country to listen to the words of an Indian's mouth. I have left behind me my father, and my mother, and my wife, and my children, and the burial-places of my ancestors, and the council-fire of my great chief, and the temples of the Master of Life, to dwell with the Indians in their wigwams, to go with them to the chace, to feast with them, to talk with them, to offer sacrifices with them. I knew the dangers I must encounter before I could enter their habitations. I knew how dreadful was the rage of the Great Ocean, and how dismal the howling of the winds upon it, in the season of darkness, but I said I will despise the dangers, for I want to look upon the face of the red man, and smoke with him in the calumet of peace.
"Brothers and warriors, I am here—I am glad I came. I have seen the red man—I love him. And I have called together all the red men of the land, that I may learn more of their thoughts and love them more; that I may be able to carry back to my sons, and to the chiefs and the warriors of my own land, proofs of their wisdom, and sagacity, and valour.
"Brothers and warriors, the history of the red man is found only in his traditions, it exists but in his memory. Will you instruct me in those traditions? Will you relate to me the tales which have been handed down to you from old times—the traditions which tell of the great actions of your fathers, of the favours, and mercies, and punishments, of the Great Spirit? These are the things I would hear. I came hither to hear them. The Great Spirit forbid you should refuse my request!"
When M. Verdier had finished his speech, Meshewa, a young warrior of the Shawano nation, rose and said:
"Brothers and warriors, I am a little man, no higher than the shoulder of my brother Meshepeshe, yet I must speak, the Great Spirit bids me speak. He says to me, Wild Horse, rise and relate a tradition of your nation. I will relate this tradition, but I will tell you no lie. Who is there that ever saw Meshewa look upon the ground, or hold his hand before his eyes, when he told his story? He looks up bold as an eagle, he opens his mouth fearlessly, and they who hear his words write them down on the green leaf of their memory.
"Brothers and chiefs, we have here with us a man, whose face is of the colour of the skin of a plucked plover—he listens. He has come, as he has told you, from a land which lies beyond the Great Salt Lake. I believe him, for he does not hide his face, or look ashamed when he speaks.
"Chiefs and brothers, this man was once a warrior, but, when he was no higher than the tree of twelve moons, he offered sacrifice in his own country to the Great Spirit, and knew all the rites proper to be observed in his worship. When the winter snows are rushing to the embrace of the Great River, and the birds have returned to their bowers, and the sap is recruiting the soul of the thirsty tree, he will go to his wife and children, who live very far towards the morning sun. The woman with the bright eyes will come out of her wigwam to meet him, and will ask him if he has brought back his heart. His son will climb to his knee, and weep to have the traditions of our country told him. Our brother will not fear to answer the questions of the woman, for he is prudent and wise. And shall we not teach him to still the cry of the boy? We shall.
"Brothers and chiefs, the stranger loves to hear our words, ask him if he does not. He desires that our mouths should open, and repeat the stories which have been told us by our fathers, and the fathers and mothers of our fathers—stories of deeds which were done when the oak trees, now dying of age, were saplings no higher than my knee. Shall he hear them? He shall. The Good Spirit bids us speak, but he bids us speak only truth. If we lie he will be angry with us, and will give us up to our enemies, or the beasts of prey. He will spoil our harvests. And when were deer ever found in the hunting-path of the liar?
"Brothers and chiefs, I am young. The sprout from the seed of the oak, planted on the day I was born, yet bends to the earth with the weight of the wild cat. The knees of my father are not feeble with age, nor is his hair thin or white. My mother has a young panther in her lodge, she gives it her own milk. Yet I will tell you a story. It is a tale of my nation, a tale of an old day, delivered from father to son till it has reached my time. Listen!"
The youthful chief then rose, and related the Shawano tradition, entitled "The Man of Ashes."
A great while ago, the Shawanos nation took up the war-talk against the Walkullas, who lived on their own lands, on the borders of the Great Salt Lake, and near the Burning Water. Part of the nation were not well pleased with the war. The head chief and the counsellors said the Walkullas were very brave and cunning, and the priests said their god was mightier than ours. The old and experienced warriors said the counsellors were wise, and had spoken well; but the Mad Buffalo(1), and the young warriors, and all who wished for war, would not listen to their words. They said that our fathers had beaten their fathers in many battles, and that the Shawanos were as brave and strong now as they ever were, and the Walkullas much weaker and more cowardly. They said, the old and timid, the faint heart, and the failing knee, might stay at home and take care of the women and children, and sleep and dream of those who had never dared bend a bow, or look upon a painted cheek, or listen to a war-whoop; while the young warriors went to war, and drank much blood. And, when two moons were gone, they would come back with many prisoners and scalps, and have a great feast, and eat Walkullas roasted in the fire. The arguments of the fiery young orators prevailed with all the youthful warriors; but the elder and wiser listened to the priests and the counsellors, and remained in their villages, to see the leaf fall and the grass grow, and to gather in the nut and follow the trail of the deer.
Two moons had passed—then a third—then came the night enlivened by many stars—but the warriors returned not. As the land of the Walkullas lay but a woman's journey of six suns from the villages of our nation, our people began to fear that our young men had been overcome in battle, and were all slain. The head chief and the counsellors, and all the warriors who had remained behind, came together in the great wigwam, and called the priests, to tell them where their sons were. Chenos, who was the wisest of them all, as well he might be (for he was older than the oak-tree whose top dies by the hand of Time), answered that they were killed by their enemies, the Walkullas, assisted by men of a strange speech and colour, who lived beyond the Great Salt Lake, fought with thunder and lightning, and came to our enemies on the back of a great bird with many white wings. When he had thus made known to our people the fate of the warriors, there was a dreadful shout of horror throughout the village. The women wept aloud, and the men sprung up and seized their bows and arrows, to go to war upon the Walkullas, and the strange warriors who had helped to slay their sons; but Chenos bade them sit down. "There is one yet living," said he. "He will soon be here. The sound is in my ear of his footsteps, as he crosses the hollow hills. He has killed many of his enemies; he has glutted his vengeance fully; he has drunk blood in plenteous draughts. Long he fought with the men of his own race, and many fell before him; but he fled from the men who came to the battle armed with the red lightning, and hurling unseen death. Even now I see him coming. The shallow streams he has forded, the deep rivers he has swum. He is tired and hungry; and his quiver has no arrows, but he brings a prisoner in his arms. Lay the deer's flesh on the coals, and bring hither the pounded corn. Taunt him not, for he is valiant, and has fought like a hungry lion."
As the wise Chenos spoke these words to the grey-headed counsellors and warriors, the Mad Buffalo walked, calm and cool, into the midst of them. There he stood, tall and straight as a young pine; but he spoke no word, looking with a full eye on the head chief and the counsellors. There was blood upon his body, dried on by the sun, and the arm next his heart was bound up with the skin of the deer. His eye looked hollow, and his body gaunt, as though he had fasted long. His quiver had no arrows; but he had seven scalps hanging to the pole on his back, six of which had long black hair, but that which grew upon the seventh was yellow as the fallen leaf, and curled like the tendrils of the wild ivy.
"Where are our sons?" enquired the head chief of the warrior.
"Ask the wolf and the panther," he answered.
"Brother, tell us where are our sons!" exclaimed the head chief, louder than before. "Our women ask us for their sons—they want their sons. Where are they?"
"Where are the snows of the last year?" asked the head warrior. "Have they not gone down the swelling river into the Great Lake? They have, and even so have your sons descended the stream of Time into the lake of Death. The great star sees them as they lie by the water of the Walkulla, but they see him not. The panther and the wolf howl unheeded at their feet, and the eagle screams, but they hear him not. The vulture whets his beak on their bones; the wild cat rends their flesh: both are unfelt—because they are dead."
When the head warrior had told these things to our people, they set up their loud death-howl. The women cried; but the men sprung up, and took down their war-spears, and their bows and arrows(2), and filled their skins with parched corn, and prepared to dry meat for their journey, intending to go to war with the Walkullas and their allies, the slayers of their sons. But the chief warrior rose again, and said—
"Fathers and warriors, hear me, and believe my words, for I will tell you the truth. Who ever heard the Mad Buffalo lie, and who ever saw him afraid of his enemies? Never, since the time that he chewed the bitter root, and put on the new mocassins(3), has he lied, or fled from his foes. He has neither a forked tongue nor a faint heart. Fathers, the Walkullas are weaker than we; their arms are not so strong, their hearts are not so big, as ours. As well might the timid deer make war upon a hungry wolf, as the Walkullas upon the Shawanos. We could slay them as easily as a hawk pounces into a dove's nest and steals away her unfeathered little ones; the Mad Buffalo alone could have taken the scalps of half the nation. But a strange tribe has come among them—men whose skin is as white as the folds of the cloud, and whose hair shines like the great star of day. They do not fight, as we fight, with bows and arrows and with war-axes, but with spears, which thunder and lighten and send unseen death. The Shawanos fall before it, as the grapes and acorns fall when the forest is shaken by the wind in the Beaver-Moon(4). Look at the arm nearest ray heart; it was stricken by a bolt from the stranger's thunder. But he fell by the hand of the Mad Buffalo, who fears nothing but shame, and his scalp lies at the feet of the head chief.
"Fathers, this was our battle. We came upon the Walkullas, I and my brothers, when they were unprepared. They were just going to hold the dance of the green corn. The whole nation had come to the dance; there were none left behind, save the sick and the very old. None were painted; they were all for peace, and were as women. We crept close to them, and hid in the thick hazles which grew upon the edge of their camp; for the Shawanos are the cunning adder, and not the foolish rattlesnake. We saw them preparing to offer a sacrifice to the Great Spirit. We saw them clean the deer, and hang his head, and his horns, and his entrails, upon the great white pole with a forked top, which stood over the roof of the council-wigwam. They did not know that the Master of Life(5) had sent the Shawanos to mix blood with the sacrifices. We saw them take the new corn, and rub it upon their hands, and breasts, and faces. Then the head chief, having first thanked the Master of Life for his great goodness to the Walkullas, got up, and gave his brethren a talk. He told them that the Great Spirit loved them, and had made them victorious over all their enemies; that he had sent a great many fat bears, and deer, and mooses, to their hunting-grounds; and had given them fish, whose heads were very small and bodies very big; that he had made their corn grow tall and sweet; and had ordered his suns to ripen it in the beginning of the harvest-moon, that they might make a great feast for the strangers, who had come from a far country on the wings of a great bird to warm themselves at the Walkullas' fire. He told them they must love the Great Spirit, take care of the old men(6), tell no lies, and never break the faith of the pipe of peace; that they must not harm the strangers, for they were their brothers, but must live in peace with them, and give them lands, and wives from among their women. If they should do these things, the Great Spirit, he said, would make their corn grow taller than ever, and direct them to hunting-grounds where the mooses should be as thick as the stars.
"Fathers and warriors, we heard these words, but we knew not what to do. We feared not the Walkullas; the God of War(7), we saw, had given them into our hands. But who were the strange tribe? Were they armed as we were, and was their Great Medicine like ours? Warriors, you all knew the Young Eagle, the son of the Old Eagle, who is here with us; but his wings are feeble, and he flies no more to the feast of blood. Now, the Young Eagle feared nothing but shame. He said, 'I see many men sit around a fire, I will go and see who they are.' He went. The Old Eagle looks at me as if he would say, Why went not the head warrior himself? I will tell you. The Mad Buffalo is a head taller than the tallest man of his tribe. Can the moose crawl into the fox's hole?—can the swan hide himself under a hazle-leaf? The Young Eagle was little, save in his soul. He was not full grown, save in his heart. He could go, and not be seen or heard. He was the cunning black snake, which creeps silently in the grass, and none think him near till he strikes; not the foolish rattlesnake, which makes a great noise to let you know he is coming.
"He came back, and told us that which made us weep. He told us, there were many strange men a little way from us, whose faces were white, and who wore no skins, whose cabins were white as the snow upon the Backbone of the Great Spirit, flat at the top, and moving with the wind like the reeds on the bank of a river; that they did not talk like the Walkullas, but spoke a strange tongue, the like of which he had never heard before. Many of our warriors would have turned back to their own lands; the Flying Squirrel said it was not cowardice to do so. But the Mad Buffalo never turns on his heel till he has tasted of the blood of his foes. And the Young Eagle said he had eaten the bitter root, and put on the new mocassins, and had been made a man, and his father and the old warriors would cry shame on him if he took no scalp. Both he and the Mad Buffalo said they would go and attack the Walkullas and their allies alone. But the young warriors said they would also go to the battle, and with a great heart, as their fathers had done. And then the Shawanos rushed upon their foes.
"The Walkullas fell before us like rain in the summer months; it was as a fire among the dry rushes. We went upon them when they were unprepared—when they were as children; and for a while the Great Spirit gave them into our hands. But a power rose against us, which we could not withstand. The strange men came upon us armed with thunder and lightning. Why delays my tongue to tell its story? Fathers, your sons have fallen, like the leaves of the forest-tree in a high wind; like the flowers of spring after a frost; like drops of rain in the Sturgeon-Moon. Warriors, the sprouts which shot up from the roots of the withered oaks have perished. The young Braves of our nation lie, food for the eagle and the wild cat, by the arm of the Great Lake.
"Fathers, the bolt from the strangers' thunder entered my flesh, yet I did not fly: these six scalps I tore from the Walkullas; but this has yellow hair. Have I done well?"
The head chief and counsellors answered he had done well; but Chenos answered "No. You went into the Walkullas camp," said he, "when the tribe were feasting to the Great Spirit, and you disturbed the sacrifice, and wickedly mixed human blood with it. Therefore has this evil come upon us; for the Great Spirit is very angry."
The head chief and the counsellors asked Chenos what must be done to appease the Master of Breath.
Chenos answered—"The Mad Buffalo, with the morning, will offer to him that which he holds dearest."
The Mad Buffalo looked fiercely on the priest, and said—"The Mad Buffalo fears the Great Spirit; but he will offer none of his kin, neither his father nor his mother, nor the children of his mother; but he will kill a deer, and, with the morning, it shall be burned to the Great Spirit."
Chenos said to him, "You have told the council how the battle was fought, and who fell; you have showed the spent quiver, and the seven scalps, one of which has shining hair, but you have not spoken of your prisoner. The Great Spirit keeps nothing hid from his priests, of whom Chenos is one. He has told me you have a prisoner, one with tender feet and a trembling heart."
"Let any one say the Mad Buffalo ever lied," said the head warrior. "He never spoke but truth. He has a prisoner, a woman, taken from the strange camp; a daughter of the sun; a maiden from the happy islands, which no Shawano has ever seen. And as soon as I have built my house, and gathered in my corn, and hunted, and brought home my meat, she shall live with me and become the mother of my children."
"Where is she?" asked the head chief.
"She sits on the bank of the river, at the bend where we dug up the bones of the great beast, beneath the tree which the Master of Breath shivered with his lightnings. I placed her there because the spot is sacred, and none dare disturb her. I will go and fetch her to the council fire. But let no one touch her, or show anger, for she is fearful as a young deer, and weeps like a child for its mother."
Soon he returned, and brought with him a woman whose face was hidden by a veil whiter than the clouds. The head chief bade her, by signs, to throw the covering from her face, and stand forth before the council. She did so; but she shook like a reed in the winter's wind, and many tears ran down her cheeks, though the head warrior kept at her side, and with his eyes bade her fear nothing. The Indians sat as though their tongues were frozen, they were so much taken with the strange woman. Well might they be. Why? Was she beautiful? Go forth to the forest when it is clothed with the flowers of spring, look at the tall maize when it waves in the wind, and ask if they are beautiful. Her skin was white as the snow which falls upon the mountains beyond our lands, save upon her cheeks, where it was red; not such red as the Indian paints when he goes to war, but such as the Master of Life gives to the flower which grows among thorns. Her eyes shone like the star which never moves, and which guides the bewildered Indian hunter through the untravelled wilderness to his home. Her hair curled over her head like wild vines around a tree, and hung upon her brow in clusters, like bunches of grapes. Her step was like that of a deer when he is scared a little. The Great Spirit never made any thing so beautiful, not even the sun, the clouds, or the stars.
The Mad Buffalo said to the council, "This is my prisoner. I fought hard for her. Three warriors, tall, strong, and painted, three pale men armed with the red lightning, stood at her side. Where are they now? I bore her away in my arms, for fear had overcome her; and, when night came on, I wrapped skins around her, and laid over her the leafy branches of the tree to keep off the cold, and kindled a fire, and watched by her till the sun rose; for I love her. Who will say that she shall not live with the Mad Buffalo, and be the mother of his children?"
Then the Old Eagle got up, but he could not walk strong, for he was the oldest warrior of his tribe, and had seen the flowers bloom many times, and the infant trees of the forest die of old age, and the friends of his boyhood laid in the dust. He went to the woman, and laid his hands on her head, and wept(8). The other warriors, who had lost their kindred and sons in the war with the Walkullas, did the same, shouting and weeping very loud. The women also wept, but they did not come near the prisoner.
"Where is the Young Eagle?" asked the Old Eagle of the Mad Buffalo. The other warriors, in like manner, asked for their kindred who had been killed.
"Fathers, they are dead," answered the head warrior. "The Mad Buffalo has said they are dead, and he never lies. But let my fathers take comfort. Who can live for ever? The foot of the swift step, and the hand of the stout bow, become feeble; the eye of the true aim grows dim, and the heart of many days quails at the fierce glance of warriors. 'Twas better that they should die like brave men in their youth, than become old men and grow faint."
"We must have revenge. We will not listen to the young warrior, who pines for the daughter of the sun; revenge we will have!" they all cried. Then they began to sing a very mournful song, still weeping. The Mad Buffalo offered them the pipe of peace, but they would not take it.
When the strange woman saw them weeping and singing so mournfully, she crept close to the head warrior for protection. Tears rolled down her cheeks, and she often looked up to the house of the Great Spirit, and talked; but none could understand her, save Chenos, who said she was praying to her god. All the time, the Old Eagle, and the other warriors, who had lost their sons, were begging very hard that she should be burned to revenge them. But Chenos stood up, and said:
"Brothers and warriors! our sons did very wrong when they broke in upon the sacred dance the Walkullas had made to their god, upon the coming in of the new corn, and he lent his thunder to the strange warriors, and they killed ours easily. Let us not draw down his anger farther upon us by doing we know not what. It may be if we offer this woman upon his fire, he will himself come with his thunder and strike us, as he did the sacred tree, and we shall all die. Let the beautiful woman remain this night in the wigwam of the council, covered with skins, and let none disturb her. To-morrow we will offer a sacrifice of deer's flesh to the Great Spirit; and, if he will not give her to the raging fire and the torments of the avengers, he will tell us so by the words of his mouth. If he do not speak, it shall be done to her as the Old Eagle and his brothers have said."
The head chief said, "Chenos has spoken well; wisdom is in his words. Make for the strange woman a soft bed of skins, and treat her kindly, for it may be she is the daughter of the Great Spirit."
Then the Indians all returned to their cabins and slept, save the Mad Buffalo, who, fearing for the life of his prisoner, laid himself down at the door of the lodge and watched.
When the morning came, the head warrior went to the forest and killed a deer, fat and proper for an offering, which he brought to Chenos, who prepared it for a sacrifice; and he sang a song while the flesh lay on the fire:—
Song of Chenos.
"Let us listen," said Chenos, stopping the warriors in their dance. "Let us see if the Great Spirit hears us."
They listened, but could not hear him singing. Chenos asked him why he would not speak, but he did not answer. Then they sung again:—
"Hush," said Chenos, listening; "I hear the crowing of the Great Turkey-Cock; I hear him speaking." They stopped, and Chenos went close to the fire, and talked with his master, but nobody saw with whom he talked. "What does the Great Spirit tell his prophet?" asked the head chief.
Chenos answered, "He says the young woman must not be offered to him; he wills her to live, and become the mother of many children."
Many of the chiefs and warriors were pleased that the beautiful woman was to live. They wished to make her their daughter; but those who had lost their brothers and sons in the war were not appeased. They said, "We will have blood. We will have revenge for our sons. We will go to the priest of the Evil Spirit, and ask him if his master will not give us revenge."
Not far from where our nation had their council-fire there was a great hill, covered with stunted trees, and moss, and rugged rocks. There was a great cave in it, how great none of the Indians could tell, save Sketupah, the priest of the Evil Spirit, for no one but he had ever entered it. He lived in this cave, and there did worship to his master. It was a strange place, and much feared by the Indians. If a man but spoke a word at the mouth of it, somebody from within mocked him in a strange, hoarse voice, which sounded like the first of the thunders. And just so many and the same words as the man at the mouth of the cave spoke, the spirit in the cave repeated.
Sketupah was a strange old creature, whom the oldest living man of the nation never saw but as he now was. He would have been very tall if he had been straight, but he was more crooked than a warped bow. His hair looked like a bunch of snakes, and his eyes like two coals of fire. His mouth reached from ear to ear, and his legs, which were very long, were no bigger than a sapling of two snows. He was, indeed, a very fearful old man, and the Indians feared him scarcely less than the Evil One. Many were the gifts which our nation made to Sketupah, to gain his favour and the favour of his master. Who but he feasted on the fattest buffalo hump? Who but he fed on the earliest ear of milky corn?—on the best things which grew on the land or in the water? The fears of the Indian fed him with the choicest things of the land.
The Old Eagle went to the mouth of the cave, and cried with a loud voice, "Sketupah!"
"Sketupah," answered the hoarse voice of the Evil Spirit from the hollow cave. Soon Sketupah came, and asked the Old Eagle what he wanted.
"Revenge for our sons, who have been killed by the Walkullas and their friends, who live beyond the Great Lake, and came on the back of a great bird. Revenge we must have."
"Revenge we ask, revenge we must have," said the hoarse voice in the cave.
"Will your master hear us?" asked the Old Eagle of the priest.
"My master must have a sacrifice, he must smell blood," said the ugly old man. "Then we shall know if he will give you revenge. Go in the morning to the woods, and take a wolf, a rattlesnake, and a tortoise, and bring them to me at the mouth of the cave, when the great star of day is coming out of the Suwaney."
The Old Eagle, and the other chiefs and warriors who asked revenge, did as Sketupah bade them. They went to the woods, and took a wolf, a tortoise, and a rattlesnake, and brought them, the wolf growling, the snake hissing, and the tortoise snapping his teeth, to the priest.
He bade them build a fire of pine, and the tree which bears poisonous flowers, and the hemlock, and the grape-vine which bears no fruit. They did as he bade them, and made the fire flame high. Then Sketupah prepared the sacrifice. First he skinned the wolf, then he shelled the tortoise. He bound the wolf's skin upon himself with the snake, and with his entrails he fastened the shell of the tortoise upon his head. Then he laid the carcasses of the wolf, and the snake and the tortoise, upon the fire, and danced around it, while he sang to his master the following song:—
He ceased singing, and listened, but the Evil Spirit answered not. Just as he was going to begin another song, they saw a large ball rolling very fast up the hill towards the spot where they stood. It was the height of a man. When it came up to them it began to unwind itself slowly until at last a little strange-looking man crept out of the ball, which was made of his own hair. He was no higher than my shoulders. One of his feet made a strange track, the like of which the Indians had never seen before. His face was as black as the shell of the butter-nut, or the feathers of the raven, and his eyes as green as grass. And stranger yet was his hair, for it was of the colour of moss, and so long that, as the wind blew it out, it seemed the tail of a fiery star. There he stood, grinning and laughing very loud. "What do you want of me?" he asked Sketupah.
The priest answered, "The Shawanos want revenge. They want to sacrifice the beautiful daughter of the sun, whom the Mad Buffalo has brought from the camp of the Walkullas."
"They shall have their wish," said the Evil Spirit. "She shall be sacrificed. Go and fetch her to the hill."
Then the Old Eagle, and the chiefs and warriors, went to fetch the beautiful maiden to the hill of sacrifice. They found her sitting in her cabin, with the chief warrior watching at her door. He would have fought for her, and had already raised his spear to strike the foremost warrior, when Chenos commanded him to be still; "for," said he, "my master will see that she does not suffer. Before the star of day sets in the Mighty River, the nation of Shawanos shall see whose god is greatest and strongest—Sketupah's, or mine."
Then they built the fire, fixed the stake, and bound the beautiful woman to it. Till now the head warrior had stood still, for he looked that the priest of the Great Spirit should snatch her away from the Evil One. But when he saw her bound to the stake, and the flames beginning to arise, he shouted his war-cry, and rushed upon the priest of the Spirit of Evil. It was in vain; Sketupah's master did but breathe upon the face of the stern warrior, when he fell as though he had stricken him with a blow, and never breathed more. The Evil Spirit then commanded them to seize Chenos.
Then they seized the priest of the Master of Breath, to bind him for the flames. But Chenos shouted aloud, "Come, Master of Life, for the hands of the Evil One are upon me. Come, break my bands, and redeem me from the flames they have kindled for me."
As soon as he had said this, very far over the tall hills, which Indians call the Backbone of the Great Spirit, the people saw two great lights, brighter and larger than stars, moving very fast towards the lands of the Shawanos. One was just as high as the other, and they were both as high as the goat-sucker flies before a thunderstorm. At first they were close together, but as they came nearer they grew wider apart. Soon our people saw, by their twinkling, that they were two eyes, and in a little while the body of a great man, whose head nearly reached the sky(9), came after them. Brothers, the eyes of the Great Spirit always go before him, and hence nothing is hid from his sight. Brothers, I cannot describe the Master of Life as he stood before the warriors of our nation. Can you look steadily on the star of the morning? No. Nor could you look upon the mighty being whom the voice of Chenos in distress had called from beyond the River of Rivers. When you tried to do so, you were dazzled with his brightness, and turned away your eyes to look upon trees and streams.
When the Evil Spirit saw the Spirit of Good coming, he began to grow in stature, and continued swelling until he was as tall and big as he. When the Spirit of Good came near, and saw how the Evil Spirit had grown, and that he had thrown away the calumet of peace, he stopped, and, looking very angrily at the Evil Spirit, said, with a voice that shook the very hills, "You lied."
"I did not," answered the Evil Spirit.
"You did. You promised to stay among the white people, and the nations towards the rising sun, and not trouble my Indian people any more."
"Ay, ay," answered the Evil Spirit, "but this woman came from my country; she is white, she is mine. I came for her."
"You came to destroy her; do I not find her bound to a stake, and the flames kindled to destroy her? Nor was she yours, for I gave her for a wife to the warrior whom you have killed."
"I must have her," said the Spirit of Evil saucily.
"When your strength grows to be greater than mine, and your eyes see farther, and your spirit waxes stronger, and your heart fuller of justice and valour, then you may say must. Tell me no more lies, bad Manitou, lest I punish you. Go back to the nations of the East, and see you trouble my brave Indians no more."
The cowardly spirit made no answer, but shrunk down to the size he was of when he first came to our people. Then he began as before to roll himself up into his own hair, which he soon did, and then rolled away as he came into the hollow hill. When he was gone, the Great Spirit also shrunk till he was no larger than a Shawano, and began talking to our people in a soft and sweet voice:—
"Men of the Shawanos nation, I love you, and have always loved you. I bade you conquer your enemies, I gave your foes into your hands. I sent great herds of fat deer, and many bears and mooses, to your hunting-grounds, and made my suns so shine upon your fields, that your corn grew up like trees. Who lived so well, who fought so bravely, as the Shawanos? Whose women bore so many sons as yours? Is not the Suwany a lovely river? Are not the young sprouts of the oak, and the heart of the ash which grow upon its banks, the stoutest and the toughest in all the land for bows? The grass grows high, the water is cold and sweet, is it not a pleasant land? It is, and the Shawanos have been a favoured, and a happy people.
"Why did you disturb the sacrifice which the Walkullas were offering to me at the feast of green corn? Why did you fall upon them when they had laid down their weapons, and wiped off their paints to dance in my name? You even slew the priest who offered me the offering. I was angry, and gave your warriors into the hands of their enemies, only I let the head warrior escape to tell you the fate of your young men.
"Men of the Shawanos nation! The strange people, who came over the Salt Lake on the great bird, are your brothers. Though they are white, and you are red, though their hair is of the colour of the setting sun, and yours is as black as charred wood, yet you are brothers. I made you all, and I made you all alike. The Shawanos are red, because fear never enters their hearts to scare the blood from their cheeks: the heart of the white man is the heart of a bird; it is chilled with fear, therefore he is pale. I brought the Shawanos from the land of white men; then he was white, but living among bears, and snakes, and tigers, and bloody-minded warriors, has made him strong in heart, and he has lost his paleness.
"My good Shawanos! The Walkullas and their allies, from over the Great Lake, killed many of your warriors, and have thinned your nation, but I will give you other and stronger men. You have now but three tribes—soon there shall be four, and the fourth shall be great and powerful beyond all other Indians.
"Shawanos, hear my words and forget them not; do as I bid you, and you shall see my power and my goodness. Offer no further violence to the white maiden, but treat her very kindly. If you do not so, then shall my anger be upon your nation, and you shall fall by the hands of women, and wild beasts, and the lightnings of my breath.
"Go now, and rake up the ashes of the sacrifice-fire into a heap, putting all the coals together, and gathering up the brands. When the great star of evening rises, open the ashes, put in the body of the Mad Buffalo, lay on much wood, and kindle a fire in it. Let all the nation be called together, for all must assist in laying wood upon the fire. But they must put on no pine, nor the tree which bears white flowers, nor the grape-vine which yields no fruit, nor the shrub whose dew blisters the flesh. The fire must be kept burning two whole moons; it must not go out, it must burn day and night. On the first day of the third moon, put no wood on the fire, but let it die. On the morning of the second day, the Shawanos must all come to the heap of ashes, every man, woman, and child, must come, and the aged who cannot walk must be helped thither. Then Chenos and the head chief must bring out the beautiful woman, and place her near the ashes. Be not terrified at what you see, and do what Chenos shall tell you; this is the will of the Great Spirit."
When he had finished these words, he began to swell until he had reached his former bulk and stature. Then at each of his shoulders came out a wing of the colour of the gold-headed pigeon. Gently shaking these, he took flight from the land of the Shawanos, and was never seen in those beautiful regions again.
The Shawanos did as he bade them. They put the beautiful woman into the house of the great council, and then went and raked up the coals of the fire and the unquenched brands, and covered them with ashes. When the morning came, they laid the body of the head warrior on the ashes, and built a great fire over it. They kept this fire burning two whole moons. But they were careful to burn no pine, nor the tree which bears poisonous flowers, nor the vine which yields no grapes, nor the shrub whose dew blisters the flesh. On the first day of the third moon, they let the fire go out, and with the next sun all the Shawanos, men, women, and children, even the aged whose knees trembled so much that they could not walk, came or were brought together beside the embers. Then the priest and the head chief brought the beautiful woman from the cabin, and placed her beside the ashes. The Mequachake tribe, who were the priests of the nation, stood nearest, then the Kiskapocoke tribe, who were the greatest warriors. By and by, there was a terrible puffing and blowing in the ashes, which flew towards the sun, and the great star, and the River of Rivers, and the land of the Walkullas. At last, the priests and warriors who could see began to clap their hands, and dance, crying out "Piqua!" which in the Shawanos tongue means "a man coming out of the ashes," or a "man made of ashes." They told no lie. There he stood, a man tall and strait as a young pine, looking like a Shawanos, but he was handsomer than any man of our nation. The first thing he did was to utter the war-whoop, and cry for paint, a club, a bow and arrow, and a hatchet, which were given him. But looking around he saw the white maiden, and straight dropping all his weapons of war, he walked up to her and gazed in her eyes. Then he came to the head chief, and said, "I must have that woman for my wife."
"What are you?" asked the head chief.
"A man made of ashes," he answered.
"Who made you?"
"The Great Spirit. And now let me go, that I may take my bow and arrows, and kill my deer, and come back, and take the beautiful maiden to be my wife."
The chief said to Chenos, "Shall he have her? Does the Great Spirit give her to him?"
Chenos said, "Yes, for they love each other. The Great Spirit has willed that he shall have her, and from them shall arise a tribe to be called 'Piqua.'"
Brothers, I am a Piqua, descended from the "man made of ashes." If I have told you a lie, blame not me, for I have but told the story as I heard it. Brothers, I have done!
Though it could not be doubted that the Indians were delighted with the tale which had just been related to them, for they relish story-telling with as much zest as the Wild Arabs, they did not express their pleasure by any of those boisterous emotions of joy and satisfaction which, in civilized countries, and among men of a less taciturn disposition, are accorded to a good story well told. They neither shouted, nor clapped their hands, nor gave any other indication of pleasure. It is a strong as well as universal trait of the Indian that he is perfectly master of his feelings, never suffering them under any circumstances to escape from his controul and management. At the stake and the feast, in the field and the council, he alike subdues his mind, and utters but a gruff "Hah!" at scenes and tales which would make an Englishman very noisy and boisterous. That they liked the stories which had been told them, could be gathered from nothing that they said or did. It would have been accounted highly disgraceful to testify their approbation by exclamations. But their perfect silence and deep stillness spoke their satisfaction as plainly as the noisiest joy could have done. The attention of an Indian is more all-absorbing than that of a white man. It is never distracted or divided, he is never listless or absent. With dilated nostrils, and in a posture slightly inclined forward, he listens with his whole soul. Not a word escapes him. While an educated white man would be continually snapping the thread of the narrative by a reference in his mind to parallel passages in his former reading, the savage sees nothing but the present speaker, hears nothing but a tale fraught with incidents to which his own recollections are not permitted to offer a parallel. The next portion of the manuscript carries us to the Tale of Pomatare, or the Flying Beaver.
(1) Mad Buffalo.—p. 1.
The name assumed by the warrior is generally expressive of something seen in the dream which follows the feast of initiation into manhood. Whatever object was then seen becomes the "medicine," and the name assumed has some relation to the guardian spirit. Thus Little Bear, Black Bear, Bender of the Pine Tree, Snapping Turtle, Guard of the Red Arrows, &c.
(2) War-spears, and bows and arrows.—p. 5.
It may interest some of our readers, especially the military, to know the manner in which the Indians arm themselves for combat. They generally go well armed, that is, they are well provided with offensive weapons. Such as have intercourse with the Europeans make use of tomahawks, knives, and fire-arms; but those whose dwellings are situated to the eastward of the Mississippi, and who have not an opportunity of purchasing these kinds of weapons, use bows and arrows and also the Casse-Tête or War-Club.
The Indians who inhabit the country which extends from the Rocky Mountains to the South Sea, use in fight a warlike instrument that is very uncommon. Having great plenty of horses, they always attack their enemies on horse-back, and encumber themselves with no other weapon than a stone of middling size, curiously wrought, which they fasten, by a string about a yard and a half long, to their right arms, a little above the elbow. These stones they conveniently carry in their hands till they reach their enemies, and then, swinging them with great dexterity as they ride full speed, never fail of doing execution. Some of these western tribes make use of a javelin, pointed with bone, worked into different forms; but their general weapons are bows and arrows, and clubs. The club is made of a very hard wood, and the head of it fashioned round like a ball, about three inches and a half in diameter. In this rotund part is fixed an edge resembling that of a tomahawk, either of steel or flint. The dagger is peculiar to the Naudowessie nation. It was originally made of flint or bone, but since they have had communication with the European traders they have formed it of steel. The length of it is about ten inches, and that part close to the handle nearly three inches broad. Its edges are keen, and it gradually tapers towards a point. They wear it in a sheath made of deer leather, neatly ornamented with porcupine quills; and it is usually hung by a string decorated in the same manner, which reaches as low as the breast.
Among the Delawares the offensive weapons formerly in use were bows, arrows, and clubs. The latter were made of the hardest wood, not quite the length of a man's arm, and very heavy, with a large round knob at one end. For other descriptions of Indian weapons of war, see Long, Loskiel, and Mackenzie—especially the latter.
(3)Since he chewed the bitter root, and put on the new mocassins.—p. 6.
The ceremony of initiation into manhood is one of the most important that occurs among the Indians, and displays in a remarkable degree the power which superstition has acquired over their minds. It varies essentially among the different tribes, but the following description will briefly exhibit the custom which has obtained in the tribes named in the tradition, and will give a tolerable idea of that in use among the more remote bands.
"At the age of from fifteen to seventeen years, this ceremony (that of initiating youth into manhood) is usually performed. They take two handfuls of a very bitter root, and eat it during a whole day; then they steep the leaves and drink the water. In the dusk of the evening, they eat two or three spoonfuls of boiled corn. This is repeated for four days, and during this time they remain in a house. On the fifth day they go out, but must put on a pair of new mocassins. During twelve moons, they abstain from eating bucks, except old ones, and from turkey-cocks, fowls, bears, and salt: During this period they must not pick their ears, or scratch their heads with their fingers, but use a small stick. For four moons they must have a fire to themselves to cook their food with; the fifth moon, any person may cook for them, but they must serve themselves first, and use one spoon and pan. Every new moon they drink for four days a decoction of the bitter snake-root, an emetic, and abstain from all food, except in the evening, when they are permitted to eat a little boiled corn. The twelfth moon they perform for four days what they commenced with on the first four days; the fifth day they come out of their house, gather corn cobs, burn them to ashes, and with these rub their bodies all over. At the end of the moon they undergo a profuse perspiration in the Sweating-house, then go into the water, and thus ends the ceremony. This ceremony is sometimes extended to only four, six, or eight, months, but the course is the same."
After this they are at liberty to assume the arms of a man, and take upon themselves the quest of glory. And they have adopted one at least of the maxims of civilized life—"none but the brave deserve the fair." They are not deemed worthy to attempt the siege of the forest maiden's heart till they have been received into the fraternity of warriors. There can be no doubt whatever that this is essentially an Order of Knighthood; and as such the custom is entitled to receive a more lengthened notice than I am permitted to give it in this place.
(4) Beaver-Moon.—p. 6.
With the Indians every month has a name expressive of its season. The appellations will vary of course as the circumstance which gives the month its name is more or less hastened or deferred. The "corn-moon" of the Iroquois, on the northern lakes, would hardly be the corn-moon of the Creeks in Georgia. The Northern Indians call March, (the month in which their year begins,) the worm-month, because in this month the worms quit their retreats in the bark of the trees, where they have sheltered themselves during the winter.
April is the moon of plants.
May the moon of flowers.
June the hot moon.
July the buck-moon.
August is called the sturgeon-moon, because that fish becomes abundant in this month.
September, the corn-moon, because the corn is gathered in that month.
October, the travelling-moon; as at this time they leave their villages, and travel towards the place where they intend to spend the winter.
November, the beaver-moon; the month of commencing their hunts for the beaver.
December, the hunting-moon, because they employ this month in pursuit of game.
January, the cold moon, as this month has the most intense cold of any month.
February, the snow-moon, because most snow falls in this month.
The Delawares, while they lived on the Atlantic coast, called March the shad-moon; after they removed to the interior they called it the sap-moon; October was their corn-moon, &c.
It may be remarked, that the designations given to the months are derived from some remarkable trait of character, peculiarity of season, or extraordinary event. Were they in England, they would suit those names to the prominent circumstance occurring in the month. The March of the present year would probably have been the "Month of the Silver Cross," i.e. "The Catholic Month;" and, were they living at the West End, and frequenters of the Park, at the season when it is crowded with beautiful faces, that season would undoubtedly receive the name of the "Season of Starflowers," or the "Month of the Rainbow birds."
(5) Master of Life.—p. 7.
The belief entertained by savage nations respecting the Supreme Being, and a future state, is always entitled to a most respectful consideration, because, when it admits the existence of a supreme, over-ruling, almighty intelligence, it furnishes the believer with an unanswerable argument for his creed. I have, therefore, devoted a few pages to the subject, which I presume no one will think misapplied. Hearne says, "Religion has not as yet begun to dawn among the Northern Indians—I never found any of them that had the least idea of futurity."—(Hearne's Journey to the Northern Ocean.) And Colden, in his History of the Five Nations, says, "It is certain they have no kind of public worship, and I am told they have no radical word to express God, but use a compound word signifying the Preserver, Sustainer, or Master of the Universe; neither could I ever learn what sentiments 'they have of future existence."—(Colden's History of the Five Nations, p. 15.) I have found no other writer who has advanced a like opinion to the two quoted above, and little importance has been attached to their opinions with respect to Indians. Charlevoix, the most accurate observer of Indian manners who has yet committed his thoughts to paper, says, "Nothing is more certain, than that the savages of this continent have an idea of a First Being, but, at the same time, nothing is more obscure." They agree in general in making Him the First Spirit, the Lord and Creator of the world. "Every thing," says be, "appears to be the object of a religious worship."—(A Voyage to North America, by Father Charlevoix, vol. ii. 107.) Heckewelder affirms, that "Habitual devotion to the Great First Cause, and a strong, feeling of gratitude for the benefits which He confers, is one of the prominent traits which characterise the mind of the untutored Indian."—(Heck. Hist. Ace. p. 84.) Loskiel says, (History of the Mission of the United Brethren, p. 33) "The prevailing opinion of all these nations is, that there is one God, or, as they call Him, one Great and Good Spirit, who has created the heavens and the earth, and made man and every other creature." Mackenzie affirms that they believe in a future state of rewards and punishments. I have observed that they had not any particular form of religious worship, but, as they believe in a good and evil spirit, and a state of future rewards and punishments, they cannot be devoid of religious impressions.—(Mackenzie's General History of the Fur Trade, vol. i p. 145, 156.) The religion of the Mandans, say Lewis and Clarke, (vol. i. p. 138,) consists in the belief of one Great Spirit. As their belief in a Supreme Being is firm and sincere, so their gratitude to Him is fervent and unvarying. They are tormented by no false philosophy, led astray by no recondite opinions of controversialists, whether He is all in all, or shares a "divided throne." Simple and unenlightened sons of nature, they hold the belief which has never failed to present itself to such, that there is a God, and to be grateful and worship that God is the second innate principle of our nature. There are no people more frequent and fervent in their acknowledgments of gratitude to God. Their belief in Him is universal, and their confidence in his goodness and mercy almost exceeds belief. Their Almighty Creator is always before their eyes on all important occasions. They feel and acknowledge, his supreme power. They also endeavour to propitiate Him by outward worship or sacrifices. These are religious solemnities, intended to make themselves acceptable to the Great Spirit, to find favour in His sight, and to obtain His forgiveness for past errors and offences.
In Winslow's "Good News from England, or a relation of remarkable things in that plantation," anno. 1622, occur the following remarks on the subject of the belief of the Indians of that country in a Supreme Being.
"A few things I thought meete to add heereunto, which I have observed amongst the Indians, both touching their religion, and sundry other customes among them. And first, whereas myselfe and others, in former letters, (which came to the presse against my wille and knowledge,) wrote that the Indians about us, are a people without any religion, or knowledge of any God, therein I erred, though wee could then gather no better, for as they conceive of many divine powers, so of one whom they call Kietan to be the principall maker of all the rest, and to be made by none. Hee (they say) created the heavens, earth, sea, and all creatures contained therein."
Long says, the tribes in the shade of the rocky mountains believe the Wahconda to be "the greatest and best of beings, the creator," &c.
In conclusion it may be affirmed, that a constant, abiding, and unwavering belief in the existence of a Supreme Being, and in his goodness, is that entertained by the Western Indians.
(6)Take care of the old men.—p. 8.
The American Indians pay great respect to old age. They will tremble before a grandfather, and submit to his injunctions with the utmost alacrity. With them, especially with the young, the words of the ancient part of the community are esteemed as oracles, and their sayings regarded with the veneration paid of yore to the leaves of the Sybil. If they take during their hunting parties any game that is reckoned by them uncommonly delicious, it is immediately presented to the eldest of their relations.
From their infancy they are taught to be kind and attentive to aged persons, and never let them suffer for want of necessaries and comforts. The parents spare no pains to impress upon the minds of their children the conviction that they would draw down upon themselves the anger of the Great Spirit, were they to neglect those whom in his goodness he had permitted to attain such an advanced age. It is a sacred principle among the Indians, that the Great Spirit made it the duty of parents to maintain and take care of their children until they should be able to provide for themselves, and that, having while weak and helpless received the benefits of maintenance, education, and protection, they are bound to repay them by a similar care of those who are labouring under the infirmities of old age. They do not confine themselves to acts of absolute necessity; it is not enough that the old are not suffered to starve with hunger or perish with cold, but they must be made as much as possible to share in the pleasures and comforts of life.(Heck. 152, 153.) He goes on to remark that they are frequently carried to the chase on a horse, or in a canoe, that their spirits may be revived by the sight of a sport in which they can no longer participate. 153. "At home the old are as well treated, and taken care of, as if they were favourite children. They are cherished, and even caressed, indulged in health, and nursed in sickness, and all their wishes and wants attended to. Their company is sought by the young, to whom their conversation is considered an honour. Their advice is asked on all occasions, their words are listened to as oracles, and their occasional garrulity, nay even the second childhood often attendant on extreme old age, is never with the Indians a subject of ridicule or laughter."
Age is every where much respected, for, according to their ideas, long life and wisdom are always connected together.
Young Indians endeavour by presents to gain instruction from the aged, and to learn from them how to attain to old age. Loskiel, part I, p. 15
Age seemed to be an object of great veneration among these people, for they carried an old woman by turns on their backs, who was quite blind and infirm, from the very advanced period of her life. Mackenzie, 293.
(7) God of War.—p. 8.
The terms, Great Spirit and God of War, are synonimous with many of the Indian tribes, but not with all. The Hurons call him Areskoui; the Iroquois, by a slight deviation, Agreskoui. Other nations have adopted other names.
(8) He went to the woman, laid his hand on her, and wept.—p. 14.
Being then out of all hopes of surprising their enemies, three or four of the eldest of them laid their hands on my head, and began to weep bitterly, accompanying their tears with such mournful accents as can hardly be expressed; while I, with a very sorry handkerchief I had left, made shift to dry up their tears; to very little purpose however, for, refusing to smoke in our calumet, they thereby gave us to understand that their design was still to murder us. (Hennepin's Voyage, printed in Transactions of American Ant. Soc. Vol. I. page 83, and see page 85 of the same vol.)
This "imposition of hands," accompanied with tears, was for the purpose of exciting compassion for the recent loss of their relations in conflict, and thus procuring revenge.
I am by no means certain that the above is a correct explanation of the practice, though, in the tale or tradition in which I have introduced it, I have considered it so. Tonti, in his relation of De La Salle's Expedition, supposes it to arise from a more subdued feeling. The passage, as the reader will see, is replete with poetical beauty. His words are—"We arrived in the midst of a very extraordinary nation, called the Biscatonges, to whom we gave the name of weepers, in regard that upon the first approach of strangers, all these people, as well men as women, usually fall a-weeping bitterly: the reason of this practice is very particular; for these poor people imagining that their relations or friends deceased are gone a journey, and continually expecting their return, the remembrance of 'em is renewed upon the arrival of new passengers; but forasmuch as they do not find in their persons those whose loss they lament, it only serves to increase their grief. That which is yet more remarkable, and perhaps even very reasonable, is that they weep much more at the birth of their children than at their death, because the latter is esteemed only by 'em, as it were a journey or voyage, from whence they may return after the expiration of a certain time, but they look upon their nativity as an inlet into an ocean of dangers and misfortunes."
(9) A great man whose head nearly reached the sky.—p. 26.
The God of the Indians has always a corporeal form, and is generally of immense stature. He is chiefly represented as a man possessed of great dimensions and mighty corporeal strength. Sometimes however he takes the shape of a beast. Charlevoix says: "Almost all the Algonquin nations have siren the name of the Great Hare to the first spirit. Some call him Michabou, i.e. God of the Waters; others Atoacan, the meaning of which I do not know. The greatest part say that, being supported on the waters with all his court, all composed of four-footed creatures like himself, he formed the earth out of a grain of sand taken from the bottom of the ocean, &c. Some speak of a God of the Waters, who opposed the design of the Great Hare, or at least refused to favour it. This God is, according to some, the Great Tiger." Charlevoix, ii, 107, 108. And see tradition supra. The Hurons believe him to be the sun. Ibid. The same author remarks (page 109) that "the Gods of the savages have, according to their notions, bodies and live much in the same manner as we do," &c.
Carver says "the Indians appear to fashion to themselves corporeal representations of their Gods, and believe them to be of a human form." Wennebea, one of the Indian chiefs seen by Long in his expedition to the source of St. Peter's River, thought the Great Spirit had a human form, and wore a white hat. It surely cannot after this be held that the "ideas of an Indian have always a degree of sublimity."
I have never seen an Indian who believed the Supreme Being to have other than a human form, or to be of less than Almighty power and dimensions. An Indian, who was in the service of the Author during the entire period between childhood and manhood, and used to delight and astonish him with his sublime though most natural conceptions of Infinity and the Godhead, always called him the Great Good Man. The "Prince of the power of the air," he very appositely called the "Little Bad Man."
Pomatare rose and said:—"Brothers, a very great while ago, the ancestors of the Shawanos nation lived on the other side of the Great Lake, halfway between the rising sun and the evening star. It was a land of deep snows and much frost; of winds which whistled in the clear cold nights, and storms which travelled from seas no eye could reach. Sometimes the sun ceased to shine for moons together, and then he was continually before our eyes for as many more. In the season of cold, the waters were all locked up, and the snows overtopped the ridge of our cabins; then he shone out so fiercely that men fell down stricken by his fierce beams, and were numbered with the snow which had melted, and run to the embrace of the rivers. It was not like the beautiful lands, the lands blessed with soft suns and ever-green vales, where we now dwell. Yet it was well stocked with deer, and the waters with fat seals and great fish, which were caught just when the people pleased to go after them. Still our nation were discontented, and wished to leave their barren and inhospitable shores. The priests had told them of a beautiful world beyond the Great Salt Lake, from which the glorious sun never disappeared for a longer time than the duration of a child's sleep, where snow-shoes were never wanted—a land clothed with eternal verdure, and bright with never-failing gladness. The Shawanos listened to these tales till their minds came to loathe their own simple comforts; they even forgot the spot which contained the ashes of their ancestors; all they talked of, all they appeared to think of, was the land of the happy hunting-grounds.
"Once upon a time, in the season of opening buds, and the singing of birds, and the whistling of the breeze among the wild flowers, the people of our nation were much terrified at seeing a strange creature, much resembling a man, riding along the adjacent waves upon the back of a fish. He had upon his head long green hair, much resembling the coarse weeds which the mighty storms of the month of falling leaves root up from the bottom of the ocean, and scatter along the margin of the feathery strand where we now dwell. Upon his face, which was shaped like that of a porpoise, he had a beard of the colour of ooze. Around his neck hung a string of great sea-shells, upon his forehead was bound another made of the teeth of the cayman, and in his hand was a staff formed of the rib of a whale. But, if our people were frightened at seeing a man who could live in the water like a fish or a duck, how much more were they frightened when they saw, that from his breast down he was actually a fish, or rather two fishes, for each of his legs was a whole and distinct fish. And, when they heard him speak distinctly in their own language, and still more when he sang songs sweeter than the music of birds in spring, or the whispers of love from the lips of a beautiful maiden, they thought it a being from the Land of Shades, a spirit from the happy fishing grounds beyond the lake of storms, and ran into the woods like startled deer. And this was his song:
"And there he would sit for hours, his fish-legs coiled up under him, singing to the wondering ears of the Indians upon the shore the pleasures he experienced, and the beautiful and strange things he saw, in the depths of the ocean, always closing his strange stories with these words, shouted at the top of his lungs: "Follow me, and see what I will show you!" Every day, when the waves were still, and the winds had gone to their resting-place in the depths of the earth(1), to get sleep that they might come out refreshed for their race over the green vales and meadows, the monster was sure to be seen near the shore where our tribe dwelt. For a great many suns, they dared not adventure upon the water in quest of food, doing nothing but wander along the beach, watching the strange creature as he played his antics upon the surface of the waves, and listening to his charming songs, and to his invitation, "Follow me, and see what I will show you!" But the longer he stayed, the less they feared him. They became used to him, and as, the oftener the tiger glares upon you from the thicket, the oftener you hear the whoop of death, the more you come to despise them, so in time they began to think him a spirit who was neither made for harm, nor wished to injure the poor Indian. Then they grew hungry, and their wives and little ones cried for food. And as hunger does away all fear, except that which relates to the satisfying it, in a few days three canoes, with many men and warriors, no longer decorated with war-paint, no longer armed with bows and arrows and sharp spears, but with the pale cheeks of men of peace, and bearing the implements of fishermen, ventured off to the rocks in quest of the finny brood.
"When our fathers reached the fishing-place, they heard, as before, the voice shouting, "Follow me, and see what I will show you!" Presently the Man-Fish appeared, sitting on the water, with his legs, or the fins which served for legs, folded under him, and his arms crossed on his breast, as they had usually seen him. There he sat, eyeing them attentively, while they tried to bring up the fat things of the deep. When they failed to draw in the fish they had hooked, he would make the very water shake, and the deep echo with shouts of laughter, and would clap his hands with great noise, and cry, "Ha! ha! my boy, there he fooled you!" When they caught any he was very angry, and would scold like an old woman when her husband returns from hunting and brings no meat. When they had tried long and patiently, and taken little, and the sun was just hiding himself behind the dark clouds which skirted the Region of Warm Winds, the strange creature, popping up his head within a few paces of the canoe, cried out still stronger than before, "Follow me, and see what I will show you!" Kiskapocoke, who was the head man of the tribe, asked him what he wanted, but he would make no other answer than "Follow me!" Kiskapocoke said, "Do you think I will be such a fool as to go, I don't know with whom, and I don't know where?"
""Ah! but see what I will show you," cried the Man-Fish, throwing up one of his odd legs, and flirting the water all over the speaker in the boat.
""Can you show us any thing better than we have yonder?" asked the warrior, pointing to their cabins on the shore—"good wives, good children, good dogs—plenty of deer, plenty of train-oil, plenty of every thing?"
""Yes, and plenty of storms in the moons of falling leaves and melting ice, and plenty of snow in the time between them; and oftentimes plenty of hunger, and always plenty of danger from bears, and wolves, and painted warriors. But go with me, and see what I will show you—a land where there is a herd of deer for every one that skips over your ice-bound hills, where there are vast droves of creatures larger than your sea-elephants, called, in the language of the people of the land, bisons, where there is no cold to freeze you, where the glorious sun is always soft and smiling, where the trees and the fields are always in bloom, where the men always grow tall as stately pines, and the women beautiful as the stars of night."
"Our fathers began now to be terrified, and wished themselves on the land. But, the moment they tried to paddle towards the shore, some invisible hand would seize their canoes, and draw them back, so that an hour's labour did not enable them to gain the length of their boat in the direction of their parted friends and relatives. Then there was much laughing all around them, and fins of all sizes, shapes, and colours, flirted the water over them, till they were as wet as if they had been swimming. At last Kiskapocoke said to his companions, "What shall we do?"
""Follow me!" said the Man-Fish, popping up his head as before.
"Then Kiskapocoke said to his companions, "Let us follow him, and see what will come of it." So they followed him, he swimming and they paddling, until night came. Then a great wind and deep darkness prevailed, and the Great Serpent commenced hissing in the depths of the ocean. They were terribly frightened, and thought not of living till another sun, but of perishing in the great deep, far from the lands of their fathers, and without glory. But the Man-Fish kept close to the boat, and bade them not be afraid, for nothing should hurt them, if they only followed him and saw what he would show them. And thus they continued, amidst the raging of the winds and the waves, and the thunders and the lightnings, to paddle their slender canoes till the sun arose.
"When morning came, nothing could be seen of the shore they had left. The winds still raged, the seas were very high, and the water ran into their canoes like melted snows over the brows of the mountains in the months of spring. But the Man-Fish handed them large shells, wherewith they were enabled to bale it out. As they had brought neither food nor water with them, and had caught neither fish nor rain, they had become both hungry and thirsty. Kiskapocoke told the strange creature they wanted to eat and drink, and that he must enable them to do both. "For," said he, "since you brought us here, you would be a very bad fish to let us starve or die of thirst."
""Oh! very well," answered the Man-Fish; "stop where you are then, while I go down, and get you victuals and water; and be sure, this time, that you do not follow me." With that he made a plunge into the depths of the wave. Down he went, how far our fathers could not say, only this they knew that, when he came back again, he puffed and blew like a whale, and said, he was very tired. He brought with him a great bag full of parched corn, not at all wet, a great shell full of good sweet water, and a big piece of roasted fish. "I am confoundedly tired, and I got scorched into the bargain," said he, muttering to himself. "So much for having a cross wife."
"Thus they went on paddling and paddling, day and night, wet, cold, and sometimes hungry, for two moons and a half, till at last, one morning, the Man-Fish cried out "Look there!" Upon that they rubbed up their eyes, and, looking sharp in the direction he pointed, saw land, high land, covered with great trees, and glittering as the sand of the Spirit's Island(2). Behind the shore rose tall mountains, from the tops of which issued great flames, which shot up into the sky as the forks of the lightning cleave the clouds in the Hot Moon. The waters of the Great Salt Lake broke into small waves upon its shores, which were covered with seals sporting, and wild ducks pluming themselves, in the beams of the warm and gentle sun. Upon the shore stood a great many strange people, but, when they saw our warriors step upon the land, and the Man-Fish coming up out of the water, and heard his cry, "Follow me!" they all ran into the woods like startled deer, and our fathers saw no more of them.
"When our fathers were all safely landed, the Man-Fish told them to let the canoe go, "for," said he, "you will never need it more." They had travelled but a little way into the woods when he bade them stay where they were, while he told the Spirit of the land that the strangers he had promised were come, and with that he descended into a deep cave near them. Soon he returned, and with him a creature as strange as himself, or still stranger. His legs and feet were those of a man; he had leggings and mocassins like an Indian's, tightly laced, and beautifully decorated with wampum; but his head was like a goat's, even to the huge horns and long beard; his hands were a goat's fore-feet, and the upper part of his body was covered with moss-coloured hair, soft and shining, like that of the goats which browse upon the steeps of the Spirit's Backbone. Yet he talked like a man, though his voice was the voice of a goat, and his language was one well understood by our fathers. He stood up, with his feet or hands, whichever they might be called, resting upon a little rock before him, like a goat which clambers up to nip the loftier buds, and made them a long speech.
""You are going to a beautiful land," said he, "to a most beautiful land, men from the Clime of Snows. There you will find all the joys which an Indian covets. The beasts you will see will be fat, tame, and numerous as the trees of the forest, and the fowls and birds which will cover your waters and people your woods will be sleek as the forehead of a young girl. Then, how lovely and kind are its maidens, how green and gay its hills and valleys, how refreshing the winds which sweep over the bosom of the great lake on its border, how sweet, clean, and cool, the beautiful streams which wind along its corn-littered vales! Oh, it is a lovely land, and the strangers have done well to leave the misery which awaited them in the regions of the star that never sets, for the peace and happiness which will be theirs in the land of unceasing summer."
"Brothers and chiefs! our ancestors travelled many moons under the guidance of the Man-Goat into whose hands the Man-Fish had put them when he retraced his steps to the Great Lake. They came at length to the land which the Shawanos now occupy. They found it, as the strange spirits had described it, a fit abode for the Great Spirit, a land of good and happy enjoyments to his creatures. They married the beautiful and affectionate maidens of the land, and their numbers increased till they were so many that no one could count them. They grew strong, swift, and valiant, as panthers, bold and brave in war, keen and patient in the chace. They overcame all the tribes eastward of the River of Rivers, and south to the further shore of the Great Lake. The dark-skin, whose eye beheld their badge of war, fawned on them, or fled, became women before them, or sought a region where neither their war-cry nor the twanging of their bows was heard breaking the silence of the dark night.
"Brothers, we are called Shawanos from the name of the river which runs through our hunting-grounds. This is all I have to say."
(1) The winds had gone to their resting-place in the depths of the earth.—p. 50.
The Indians think that a calm is caused by the winds' steeping. They believe that it is quite as necessary for them to be refreshed by rest and slumber, as for man to have his periodical exemptions from fatigue. I never met with an Indian who entertained any thing like the opinion of their cause current among philosophers. Attempting once to explain the phenomenon to a groupe of Indians, I found myself treated with as much contempt and abhorrence as a company of pious Christians would express for an Atheist who broadly avowed his creed.
(2) Glittering at the sand of the Spirit's Island.—p. 55.
The Chipewas say, that some of their people, being once driven on the bland of Maurepas, which lies towards the north-east part of lake Superior, found on it large quantities of heavy, shining, yellow sand, that from their description must have been gold-dust. Being struck with the beautiful appearance of it, in the morning, when they reentered their canoe, they attempted to bring some away; but a spirit of amazing size, according to their account sixty feet in height, strode into the water after them, and commanded them to deliver back what they had taken. Terrified at his gigantic stature, and seeing that he had nearly overtaken them, they were glad to restore their shining treasure; on which they were suffered to depart without further molestation.
Once upon a time, a young Indian of the Delaware nation, hunting in the lands which belonged to his tribe, had the good fortune to take captive an old white owl, who had for his lodge a hollow oak in which he dwelt with his family. As it was a time of great scarcity among the Indians, all their late hunts having been singularly unsuccessful, the hunter determined to kill the owl and make a present of its flesh to the maiden he loved, who had tasted no food for many suns. As he was rubbing his knife upon a stone, that it might be sharp and do the murder easily, the owl, who, with his leg tied to a tree, was looking on with a very curious and knowing air, turning his head first one way and then another, now scratching it with his untied claw and now shaking it as the beams of the sun came into his eyes, asked him what he was doing. The young hunter, who, being a good and brave warrior, scorned to tell a lie(1) even to an owl, answered that he was making ready to cut off his head.
"Poh, poh," said the cunning old fellow, "if you kill me, what will my wife, and my daughters, and my little ones, do? My woman is old and blind, and the rest are but so-so. Who will catch mice for them, pray?"
"They will be adopted into other families, I suppose," answered the hunter, "or the old woman will get another husband."
"Such may be the Indian custom," said the owl, "but it is not the custom of my nation. Besides, the woman is so old and ugly that the Evil One would not take her for a second wife. No, no, if you take my life, the little ones will starve. Their eyes are very weak in the day time, and they are too young and shy to go out by night. If you kill me they will starve," repeated the owl.
"I am very hungry," said the hunter. "Neither fish nor flesh has been taken by my nation for many days; the maiden whom I love is dying for want of food. You would be a nice dish for her."
"Old and tough, old and tough," said the owl, winking very knowingly. "But does not the Lenape hunter know that there are things to be worse feared than death? The warrior should fear captivity and disgrace before the evils of an unsatisfied appetite."
"The Delawares are men," said the hunter, proudly. "They are the masters of the earth, they are never captured. They will themselves take care that no disgrace falls upon them. The owl must be cooked for the dinner of the Lenape maiden."
"The youngest son of the head chief of the Gray Owls is this night to marry my daughter," said the captive. "May I not go to the feast? The guests are assembled, the food is prepared, they wait but my presence."
"No," answered the hunter.
"Then will a warrior of the Delawares be a greater fool than the Mingo who married a rattlesnake, and forgot to cut off her tail. He will be deaf to the voice of a Great Medicine; the owl bids him beware."
"Is my brother a Medicine?" asked the alarmed hunter.
"He is," answered the grave old bird, shaking his head. "If now the Delaware hunter will suffer the owl to return to his family in the hollow oak, the good deed shall never be forgotten by my tribe. There shall be two eyes watching for the safety of the Delawares upon every tree around their lodges. While they, wearied out by war or the chase, are sleeping in darkness and imagined security, the owl shall stand sentry, and warn them if danger should be nigh. When they hear the voice of the owl, calling out in the depths of the night, 'Up! up! danger! danger!' let them grasp their bows and war-spears, and be men."
"Go," said the hunter, cutting the string which bound the prisoner to the tree of death. So the old white owl, with a couple of mice in his claws, went back to his lodge in the hollow oak, to comfort his old woman whom the Evil One would not have, and to see his daughter married to the young gray owl, while the youthful hunter departed to pursue a deer, which that moment appeared in a glade of the neighbouring forest.
Many seasons had passed away, flowers had sprung up to wither, and the sprouts from the seed of the oak had become lofty trees that bent not with the weight of the panther. The young hunter married the maiden for whose sake he would have killed the old white owl; their children were many and good; and the hunter himself had become head chief of the Unamis or Turtles, the most potent tribe of Delawares, and who reckon themselves the parent of all other Indians. They had fought many great battles; they had warred with the nations of the North and the South, the East, and the West, with the Shawanos of the Burning Water, the Mengwe of the Great Lakes, the Sioux who hunt beyond the River of Fish, and the Narragansetts who dwell in the land of storms: and in all and over all they had been victorious. The warriors of the Smoking Water had confessed themselves women, the Sioux had paid their tribute of bear-skins, the Narragansetts had sent beautiful shells for their women, and the Mengwees had fled from the war-shout of the Delawares, as a startled deer runs from the cry of the hunter. Our warriors had just returned from invading the lands of the latter tribe, and had brought with them many scalps. They were weary and exhausted, but an Indian warrior never admits that he is either. So they feasted and rejoiced loud and long. They sung in the open ears of their people their exploits, the foes by their valour laid low, or duped by their cunning, or victims to their patience in awaiting the proper moment for attack, or to their speed and celerity in pursuit. And they danced the dance of thanksgiving in honour of their protecting Wahconda, and gave the scalp-yell for every scalp taken, as is the custom of Indian warriors when returned from a successful expedition.
The song and the dance finished, the Unamis, who are the grandfather of nations, were sleeping quietly in their lodges on the beautiful banks of the Lenape wihittuck, dreaming of no danger, keeping no watch. Buried in deep slumber, and communing with the Manitou of Dreams(2), they lay, one in the arms of his wife, another by the couch of his beloved maiden, one dreaming over dreams of war and slaughter, another of love and wedded joys, one in fancy grasping the spear and the war-club, another and a younger the bosom of a dusky maiden of his tribe. Over their heads the tall forest tree waved in the night wind, giving the melancholy music of sighing branches; beside them ran the clear waters of the river, slightly murmuring as they rolled away to the land, which our nation gave to their good brother Miquon. All was so hushed in the camp of the Unamis that the lowest note of the wren could have been heard from limit to limit.
Hark! what noise is that? I hear a rustling of the dry grass and low bushes, at the distance of three bowshots from the camp of the sleeping Unamis. I behold the grass bowed down, I see the bushes yielding to some heavy creature is pressing through them. Is it the buffalo? No, he has neither the power nor wit to hide himself. Is it the deer? No, he has gone to drink of the salt waters of the Great Lake. Is it the cougar? No, for he never crouches except when he springs on his victim. Hush! I see one of the unknown beasts raising itself above the copse. Slow and warily, first appears an eagle's leather, then a black scalp-lock, then a pair of shining eyes, but they are neither the wolfs, nor the wild cat's. Oh! I know him now, and I know his band. It is they who let the Leni Lenape fight the Allegewi while they looked on, it is the dogs of the lakes, the treacherous Mengwe. Slowly they dropped again into the copse, and the band moved onward to gain that fatal station which should give into their power the unsuspecting Unamis. But they did not know that two curious eyes were watching their every movement; they did not know that perched on the limb of a decayed tree in front of their hiding-place sat an old white owl.
Nothing said the owl, it was not time yet, and he suffered the treacherous Mengwe to approach within two bowshots of the sleeping warriors. All at once, with a voice that penetrated every glade of the forest, this great sentinel over mankind shouted "Up! up! danger! danger!" All the birds of the species were alert at their posts, and all within hearing of the shout of their chief repeated the words of alarm. "Up! up! danger! danger!" rung through the hollow woods, and reverberated among the hills. Up sprung the Unamis, and sallied cautiously out to find the cause of alarm. They were just in time to discover the backs of the flying Mengwe, from whose treacherous spears they were saved by the timely cry of their vigilant and grateful sentinel, the old white owl.
Since that time, the hunters of the Delawares never harm this wise and good bird(3). When in the night it is heard sounding its notes, or calling to its mate, some one in the camp will rise, and taking some glicanum, or Indian tobacco, will strew it on the fire, that the ascending smoke may reach the bird, and show him that they are not unmindful of his kindness to them and their ancestors.
(1) Scorned to tell a lie.—p. 61.
The Indians pay a most scrupulous attention to truth, not because they attach any peculiar moral virtue to it, or think the breach of it will be punished, but because they esteem the telling a lie a mark of cowardice. Civilized nations view lying as both unmanly and criminal; the Indian, as indicating the fear of the liar to meet the consequences of disclosing the truth. It has been adduced by more than one writer to prove the existence of an innate love of truth in the human breast.
(2) Manitou of Dreams.—p. 66.
The life of an Indian is regulated by his dreams. There is not a single enterprise of any importance undertaken till the Manitou of sleep has been consulted. When a child is born, the nature of his future occupation is taught by dreams; when he arrives at manhood, the name by which he is in future to be known is given in consequence of what is seen in the dream which follows the feast of initiation into manhood.
There is nothing in which they have shown more superstition and extravagance, than in what regards their dreams; but they differ much in the manner of explaining their thoughts on this matter. Sometimes it is the reasonable soul that wanders out, while the sensitive soul continues to animate the body; sometimes it is the familiar genius that gives good advice about future events; sometimes it is a visit they receive from the soul of the object they dream of. But, in whatsoever way they conceive of a dream, it is always regarded as a sacred thing, and as the means which the Gods most usually employ to declare their will to men.
"Prepossessed with this idea," says Charlevoix, (a writer I delight to quote) "they cannot conceive that we should take no notice of them. For the most part they look upon them as desires of the soul inspired by some spirit, or an order from it. And, in consequence of this principle, they make it a duty of religion to obey these commands. A savage, having dreamt that his finger was cut off, really had it cut off when he awoke, after he had prepared himself for this important action by a feast. Another, dreaming that he was a prisoner in the bands of his enemies, was greatly embarrassed. He consulted the jugglers, and, by their advice, got himself tied to a post, and burned in various parts of the body."—Charlevoix, ii. 18.
Dreams are resorted to for the purpose of procuring a proper Manitou or guardian spirit for the child. This is the most important affair of life. They begin by blacking the face of the child; then it must fast for eight days, without baring the least nourishment; and, during this time, his future guardian genius must appear to him in his dreams. Every morning, they take great care to make him relate them. The thing the child dreams of most frequently is supposed to be his genius; but no doubt this thing was considered at first only as a symbol or shape under which the spirit manifests itself.
Nor is this potency of dreams peculiar to one tribe or nation; it obtains, both as a belief and practice, throughout the entire continent, over which that perfect anomaly in the human kind, the red men, are scattered. Equally among the Esquimaux of the regions of eternal ice, and the Abipones of Paraguay, dreams are reckoned the revelations of the God of the Universe.
(3) Wise and good bird.—p. 68.
It is singular that the owl should be the symbol of Wisdom, Minerva's bird, alike with the classic Greeks and Romans, and the American savages. This is one of the many arguments to be drawn from existing manners and customs, to prove that the peopling of the western continent by the race who at present occupy it took place at a period, which may well have permitted their drawing upon classic models for a portion of their beautiful figures and allegories. Unhappily, our desire to know them thoroughly and truly has only been awakened since their minds have been corrupted, and the strong traits of their character blunted by a participation in our enervating and demoralising comforts! They can now be studied only in the reports made of them by early travellers.
In the frozen regions of the North, beyond the lands which are now the hunting-grounds of the Snakes and Coppermines, there lived, when no other being but herself was, a woman who became the mother of the world. She was a little woman, our fathers told us, not taller than the shoulders of a young maiden of our nation, but she was very beautiful and very wise. Whether she was good-tempered or cross, I cannot tell, for she had no husband, and so there was nothing to vex her, or to try her patience. She had not, as the women of our nation now have, to pound corn, or to fetch home heavy loads of buffalo flesh, or to make snow-sledges, or to wade into the icy rivers to spear salmon, or basket kepling, or to lie concealed among the wet marsh grass and wild rice to snare pelicans, and cranes, and goosanders, while her lazy, good-for-nothing husband lay at home, smoaking his pipe, and drinking the pleasant juice of the Nishcaminnick by the warm fire in his cabin. She had only to procure her own food, and this was the berries, and hips, and sorrel, and rock-moss, which, being found plentifully near her cave, were plucked with little trouble. Of these she gathered, in their season, when the sun beamed on the earth like a maiden that loves and is beloved, a great deal to serve her for food when the snows hid the earth from her sight, and the cold winds from the fields of eternal frost obliged her to remain in her rude cavern. Though alone, she was happy. In the summer it was her amusement to watch the juniper and the alders, as they put forth, first their leaves, and then their buds, and when the latter became blossoms, promising to supply the fruit she loved, her observation became more curious and her feelings more interested; then would her heart beat with the rapture of a young mother, whose gaze is fixed on her sleeping child, and her eyes glisten with the dew of joy which wets the cheeks of those who meet long parted friends. Then she would wander forth to search for the little berry whose flower is yellow, and which requires keen eyes to find it in its hiding-place in the grass, and the larger which our white brother eats with his buffalo-meat; and their progress, from the putting forth of the leaf to the ripening of the fruit, was watched by her with eager joy. When tired of gazing upon the pine and stunted poplar, she would lie down in the shade of the creeping birch and dwarf willow, and sink to rest, and dream dreams which were not tinged with the darkness of evil. The sighing of the wind through the branches of the trees, and the murmur of little streams through the thicket, were her music. Throughout the land there was nothing to hurt her, or make her afraid, for there was nothing in it that had life, save herself and the little flower which blooms among thorns. And these two dwelt together like sisters.
One day, when the mother of the world was out gathering berries, and watching the growth of a young pine, which had sprung up near her friend the flower, and threatened, as the flower said, "to take away the beams of the sun from it," she was scared by the sight of a strange creature, which ran upon four legs, and to all her questions answered nothing but "Bow, wow, wow." To every question our mother asked, the creature made the same answer, "bow, wow, wow." So she left off asking him questions, for they were sure to be replied to in three words of a language she could not understand. Did he ask for berries? no, for she offered him a handful of the largest and juiciest which grew in the valley, and he neither took them nor thanked her, unless "bow" meant "thank you." Was he admiring the tall young pines, or the beautiful blossoms of the cranberry, or the graceful bend of the willow, and asking her to join him in his admiration? She knew not, and leaving him to his thoughts, and to utter his strange words with none to reply, she returned to her cave.
Scarcely was she seated on her bed of dried leaves when he came in, and, wagging his tail, and muttering as before, lay down at her feet. Occasionally he would look up into her face very kindly, and then drop his head upon his paws. By and by he was fast asleep, and our mother, who had done no evil action, the remembrance of which should keep her awake, who never stole a beaver-trap(l), or told a lie, or laughed at a priest, was very soon in the same condition. Then the Manitou of Dreams came to her, and she saw strange things in her sleep. She dreamed that it wan night, and the sun had sunk behind the high and broken hills which lay beyond the valley of her dwelling, that the dwarf willow bowed its graceful head still lower with the weight of its tears, which are the evening dew, and the dandelion again imprisoned its leaves within its veil of brown. So far her dreams so closely resembled the reality, that for a time she thought she was awake, and that it was her own world—her cave, her berries, and her flowers, which were before her vision. But an object speedily came to inform her that she dwelt in the paradise of dreams—in the land of departed ideas. At the foot of her couch of leaves, in the place of the dog which she had left there when she slept, stood a being somewhat resembling that she had beheld in the warm season, when bending over the river to lave her bosom with the cooling fluid. It was taller than herself, and there was something on its brow which proclaimed it to be fiercer and bolder, formed to wrestle with rough winds, and to laugh at the coming tempests. For the first time since she was, she turned away to tremble, her soul filled with a new and undefinable feeling, for which she could not account. After shading her eyes a moment from the vision, she looked again, and though her trembling increased, and her brain became giddy, she did not wish the being away, nor did she motion it to go. Why should she? There was a smile upon its lip and brow, and a softness diffused over every feature, which gradually restored her confidence, and gave her the assurance that it would not harm her. She dreamed that the creature came to her arms, and she thought that it passed the season of darkness with its cheek laid on her bosom. To her imagination, the breath which it breathed on her lips was balmy as the juice of the Sweet Gum Tree, or the dew from her little neighbour, the flower. When it spoke, though she could not understand its language, her heart heaved more tumultuously, she knew not why, and when it ceased speaking, her sighs came thick till it spoke again. When she awoke it was gone, the beams of the star of day shone through the fissures of her cavern, and, in the place of the beautiful and loved being lay the strange creature, with the four legs and the old "bow, wow, wow."
Four moons passed, and brought no change of scene to the mother of the world. By night, her dreams were ever the same: there was always the same dear and beloved being, each day dearer and more beloved, coming with the shades, and departing with the sun, folding her in its arms, breathing balm on her lips, and pressing her bosom with its downy cheek. By day, the dog was always at her side, whether she went to gather berries or cresses, or to lave her limbs in the stream. Whenever the dog was there, the more beloved being was not; when night came, the dog as surely disappeared, and the other, seen in dreams, supplied his place. But she herself became changed. She took no more joy in the scenes which once pleased her. The pines she had planted throve unnoticed; the creeping birch stifled the willow and the juniper, and she heeded it not; the sweetest berries grew tasteless—she even forgot to visit her pretty sister, the rose. Yet she knew not the cause of her sudden change, nor of the anxiety and apprehension which filled her mind. Why tears bedewed her cheeks till her eyes became blind, why she trembled at times, and grew sick, and feinted, and fell to the earth, she knew not. Her feelings told her of a change, but the relation of its cause, the naming to her startled ear of the mystery of "the dog by day, and the man by night," was reserved for a being, who was to prepare the world for the reception of the mighty numbers which were to be the progeny of its mother.
She had wandered forth to a lonely valley—lonely where all was lonely—to weep and sigh over her lost peace, and to think of the dear being with which that loss seemed to her to be in some way connected, when suddenly the sky became darkened, and she saw the form of a being shaped like that which visited her in her sleep, but of immense proportions, coming towards her from the east. The clouds wreathed themselves around his head, his hair swept the mists from the mountain-tops, his eyes were larger than the rising sun when he wears the red flush of anger in the Frog-Moon, and his voice, when he gave it full tone, was louder than the thunder of the Spirit's Bay of Lake Huron. But to the woman he spoke in soft whispers; his terrific accents were reserved for the dog, who quailed beneath them in evident terror, not daring even to utter his only words, "bow, wow." The mother of the world related to him her dreams, and asked him why, since she had had them, she was so changed—why she now found no joy in the scenes which once pleased her, but rather wished that she no longer was, her dreams being now all that she loved. The mighty being told her that they were not dreams, but a reality; that the dog which now stood by her side was invested by the Master of Life with power to quit, at the coming in of the shades, the shape of a dog, and to take that of MAN, a being who was the counterpart of herself, but formed with strength and resolution, to counteract, by wisdom and sagacity, and to overcome, by strength and valour, the rough difficulties and embarrassments which were to spring up in the path of human life; that he was to be fierce and bold, and she gentle and afraid. He told her that the change she complained of, and which had given her so much grief, wetted her cheek with tears, and filled her bosom with sighs, was the natural result of the intimate connection of two such beings, and was the mode of perpetuating the human race, which had been decreed by the Master of Life; that before the buds now forming should be matured to fruit, she would give birth to two helpless little beings, whom she must feed with her milk, and rear with tender care, for from them would the world be peopled. He had been sent, he said, by the Good Spirit to level and prepare the earth for the reception of the race who were to inhabit it.
Hitherto the world had lain a rude and shapeless mass—the great, man now reduced it to order. He threw the rough and stony crags into the deep valleys—he moved the frozen mountain to fill up the boiling chasm. When he had levelled the earth, which before was a thing without form, he marked out with his great walking-staff the lakes, ponds, and rivers, and caused them to be filled with water from the interior of the earth, bidding them to be replenished from the rains and melted snows which should fall from the skies, till they should be no more.
When he had prepared the earth for the residence of the beings who were to people it, he caught the dog, and, notwithstanding the cries of the mother of the world, and her entreaties to him to spare its life, he tore it in pieces, and distributed it over the earth, and the water, and into air. The entrails he threw into the lakes, ponds, and rivers, commanding them to become fish, and they became fish. These waters, in which no living creature before moved, were now filled with salmon, trout, pike, tittymeg, methy, barble, turbot, and tench, while along the curling waves of the Great Lake the mighty black and white whale, the more sluggish porpoise, and many other finny creatures, sported their gambols. The flesh he dispersed over the land, commanding it to become different kinds of beasts and land-animals, and it obeyed his commands. The heavy moose, and the stupid we-was-kish, came to drink in the Coppermine with the musk-ox, and the deer, and the buffalo. The quiquehatch, and his younger brother, the black bear, and the wolf, that cooks his meat without fire, and the cunning fox, and the wild cat, and the wolverine, were all from the flesh of the dog. The otter was the tail of the dog, the wejack was one of his fore-paws, and the horned horse, and the walrus, were his nose.
Nor did the great man omit to make the skin furnish its proportion of the tribes of living beings. He tore it into many small pieces, and threw it into the air, commanding it to become the different tribes of fowls and birds, and it became the different tribes of fowls and birds. Then first was seen the mighty bird which builds its nest on trees which none can climb, and in the crevices of inaccessible rocks—the eagle, which furnishes the Indians with feathers to their arrows, and steals away the musk-rat and the young beaver as his recompense. Then was the sacred falcon first seen winging his way to the land of long winters; and the bird of alarm, the cunning old owl, and his sister's little son, the cob-a-de-cooch, and the ho-ho. All the birds which skim through the air, or plunge into the water, were formed from the skin of the dog.
When the great man had thus filled the earth with living creatures, he called the mother of the world to him, and gave to her and her offspring the things which he had created, with full power to kill, eat, and never to spare, telling her that he had commanded them to multiply for her use in abundance. When he had finished speaking, he returned to the place whence he came, and has never been heard of since. In due time, the mother of the world was delivered of two children, a son and a daughter, both having the dark visage of the Indian race, and from them proceeded the Dog-ribs, and all the other nations of the earth. The white men were from the same source, but the father of them, having once upon a time been caught stealing a beaver-trap, he become so terrified that he lost his original colour and never regained it, and his children remain with the same pale cheeks to this day.
Brothers, I have told you no lie.
(1) Never stole a beaver-trap.—p. 76.
Thieving is considered disreputable among the Indians; that is, it is highly criminal and infamous to steal from each other. Thieves are compelled to restore what they have stolen, or to make satisfactory amends to the injured party; in their default, their nearest relations are obliged to make up the loss. If the thief, after sufficient warning, continues his bad practices, he is disowned by his nation, and any one may put him to death the next time he is caught in the act of stealing, or that a theft can be clearly proved to have been committed by him. "I once," says Heckewelder, "knew an Indian chief who had a son of a vicious disposition, addicted to stealing, and would take no advice. His father, tired and unable to satisfy all the demands which were made upon him for the restitution of articles stolen by his son, at last issued his orders for shooting him, the next time be should be guilty of a similar act"—Heckew., 328.
Theft is always looked upon as a blot which dishonours a family, and every one has a right to wash away the stain with the blood of the delinquent. "Father Breb[oe]uf," says Charlevoix, (vol. ii. p. 28) "one day saw a young Huron who was killing a woman with a club; he ran to him to prevent him, and asked him why he committed such violence. 'She is my sister,' replied the savage; 'she is guilty of theft, and I will expiate by her death the disgrace she has brought upon me and all my family.'"
The Delawares are the grandfather of nations, the parent stock from which have proceeded the many tribes who roam over the woods of this vast island. From them are descended the red men of the east and the west, of the shores of the Great Sea and of the northern lakes. Among these the Mengwe was a favoured grandchild. In the days that are gone, the Delawares fought his battles, his war was theirs; and the hostile shout that woke in his woods was answered by the defiance of the sons of the Leni Lenape.
But the Mengwe was ungrateful, and forgot these benefits; he was treacherous, and raised his hand against his benefactors and former friends. His hostile bands invaded the lands of his grandfather, but they were defeated, and fled howling to their wilderness. The Mengwe, by their cunning and duplicity, had brought all the tribes of the land upon the Lenape, whose sons nevertheless continued in possession of their hunting-grounds, for they were very brave. Still their enemy continued his arts. He first sought to raise quarrels and disturbances, which in the end might lead to wars between the Lenape and the distant tribes who were friendly to them, for which purpose they privately murdered people on one or the other side, seeking to make the injured party believe that some particular nation or individual had been the aggressor. They left a war-club painted as the Lenape paints his in the country of the Cherokees, where they purposely committed a murder, and that people, deceived by appearances, fell suddenly on the Lenape, and a bloody and devastating war ensued between the two nations. They frequently stole into the country of the Lenape and their associates, committing murders and making off with plunder. Their treachery having at length been discovered, the Lenape marched with a powerful force into their country to destroy them. Finding that they were no match for the brave Delawares, Thannawage, an aged and wise Mohawk, called the different tribes of the Mengwe to the great council-fire. "You see," said he, "how easily the sons of our grandfather overcome us in battle. Their pole is strung full of the scalps of our nation, while ours has but here one and there one. This must not be; the last man of the Mengwe is not yet prepared to die. We must become united, the Mohawks, the Oneidas, the Onondagos, the Cayugas, and the Senecas, must become one people; they must move together in the conflict, they must smoke in one pipe, and eat their meat in one lodge." The people listened to the words of Thannawage, and the five nations became one people.
Still, though united they did not prevail over the Lenape and their connexions; the latter were most usually victorious. While these wars were at their greatest height, and when neither could decidedly pronounce themselves conquerors, the Bigknives arrived in Canada, and a war commenced between them and the confederated Iroquois. Thus placed between two fires, and in danger of being exterminated, they resorted to their old cunning and knavery. They sent a deputation of their principal warriors, with the sacred calumet (1) and the belt of peace, to the sons of their grandfather. But they appeared not to wish for peace, but to be guided by wisdom and compassion alone, and to be fearful only of being considered as cowards. "A warrior," said they, "with the bloody weapon in his hand should never intimate, a desire for peace, or hold pacific language to his enemies. He should shew throughout a determined courage, and appear as ready and willing to fight as at the beginning of the contest. Will a man who would not be thought a liar threaten and sue in the same breath; will he hold the peace-belt in one hand, and smoke the unpainted calumet, while his other hand grasps a tomahawk? Will he strike his breast, and say 'I am brave and fearless,' yet shew that he is a mocking-bird? No, men's actions should be of a piece with their words, whether good or bad; good cannot come out of evil, neither can the brave man feel faint-hearted, or the fawn become a tiger. The Mengwe were brave: they would not abase themselves in the eyes of the Lenape by admitting that they were vanquished, or proposing peace. They made use of their women to soften the hearts of our nation. They said to their wives and the wives of the Lenape, Are you tired of the fathers of your children?—to the mothers, Does the Lenape hate her sons?—to our young women, Do the eyes of the maidens turn with aversion from the youths of your nation? if the wife is tired of her husband, if the mother hate her sons, if the dark-eyed maiden feels no grief when the Lenape youth goes forth to battle and certain death, nor sheds a tear when he paints his face, and dresses his hair, and fills his quiver with arrows, then let them remain silent, and the messengers of the Mengwe will return to their nation."
The women to whom they spoke were moved by the eloquence of the treacherous Iroquois, and they persuaded the enraged combatants to bury their hatchets, and make the tree of peace grow tall and firm-rooted. They lamented, with great feeling and many tears, the loss which their country had sustained in these wars: there was not a woman among them who had not lost a son, or a brother, or a father, or a husband. They described the sorrows of bereaved mothers and widowed wives; the pains mothers endured ere they were permitted to behold their offspring; the anxieties attending the progress of their sons from infancy to manhood, from the cradle to the hour when they chewed the bitter root, and put on new mocassins; these unavoidable evils they had borne: but, after all these trials, how cruel it was, they said, to see those promising youths reared with so much care, and so tenderly beloved, fall victims to the insatiable rage of war, and a prey to the relentless cruelty of their enemies. "See them slaughtered," cried they, with tears and groans, "on the field of battle. See them put to death as prisoners by a protracted torture, and in the midst of lingering torments. Hark, the death-cries! 'Tis the Iroquois, 'tis the Delawares, 'tis the Delawares returning from battle! I see the beautiful young warriors among them, crowned with flowers, their faces painted black, and their arms tied with cords. Hark! they are singing their death-song. 'I am brave and intrepid, I do not fear death, I care not for tortures. Those who fear them are less than women. I was bred a warrior; my father never knew fear, and I am his son.' Then we behold them surrounded with flames, their flesh torn from their bones, the skin of their head peeled off, coals heaped thereon, and sharp thorns driven into their flesh. The thought of such scenes makes us curse our own existence, and shudder at the thought of bringing children into the world."
Again they gave utterance to loud lamentation and wailing for the unavoidable separation they were doomed to experience from their husbands. The men they had selected for their partners, who were to protect and feed them, to cherish and make them happy, left them exposed to hunger and a thousand enemies, while they courted dangers in distant regions. Or, if they followed their husbands, they were exposed in a greater degree than those husbands themselves to the risks attending the perilous warfare.
Then the young maidens took up the song, and painted the share of sorrows which fell to them. Often, when beloved by a youthful hunter, their hearts were doomed to wither in the pang of an eternal separation. The eyes they so loved to look upon were soon to be deprived of their lustre—the step so noble, fearless, and commanding led them but to death. They called passionately upon their countrymen and upon the Iroquois to put a stop to war. They conjured them, by every thing that was dear to them, to take pity on the sufferings of their wives and helpless infants, their weeping mothers, and beloved maidens; to turn their faces once more towards their homes, families, and friends; to forgive the wrongs each nation had suffered from the other, lay aside their weapons, and smoke together in the pipe of peace and amity. They had each given sufficient proofs of courage; the contending nations were alike high-minded and brave: why should they not embrace as friends who had been respected as enemies?
Thus spoke the women, at the prompting of the artful Mengwe; it is not necessary to say that they were listened to. The Delawares at length came to believe that it would be an honour to a powerful nation, who could not be suspected of wanting either courage or strength, with arms in their hands and recent victory perched on the staff of their nation, to assume that station by which they would be the means, and the only means, of saving the Indian race from utter extirpation.
To the voice of the women the artful Mengwe added many arguments, which were of weight with the unsuspecting Delawares, and many pleas addressed to their generosity. There remained, they said, no resource for them but that some magnanimous nation should assume the part and situation of the woman(2).
It could not be given to a weak and contemptible tribe; such would not be listened to: it must be given to a valiant and honoured tribe, and such were the Delawares—one who should command influence and respect. As men, they had been justly dreaded; as women, they would be respected and honoured; none would be so daring or base as to attack or insult them; as women, they would have a right to interfere in all the quarrels of other nations, and to stop or prevent the effusion of Indian blood. They entreated them, therefore, to become the woman in name and in fact; to lay down their arms and all the insignia of warriors; to devote themselves to planting corn and other pacific pursuits, and thus become the means of preserving peace and harmony among the nations.
Unhappily, our nation listened to this croaking of a raven; and forgot how many times it had been heard before disturbing their slumbers and ringing its echoes in the hollow night. They knew it was true that the Indian nations, excited by their own wild passions, were in the way of total extirpation by each other's hand. And, foolish men! they believed, notwithstanding all past experience, that the Mengwe were sincere, and only wished the preservation of the Indian race. As if the panther could forget its nature, or the rattlesnake cease to remember its means of defence; as if the Mengwe had forgotten the blood of their race, which had been shed by the sons of the Lenape, and could think of forgiveness while their defeats were the subject of every dream.
In a luckless hour, the Delawares gave their consent, and agreed to become women. Then the Iroquois appointed a great feast, and invited the Delaware nation to it. They came at the bidding of their treacherous foes, and were declared by them, in the following words, to be no longer men and warriors, but women and peace-makers. "We dress you," said the orator, "in a woman's long habit, reaching down to your feet, and we adorn your ears with rings," meaning that they should no more take up arms. "We hang a calabash, filled with oil and medicines, upon your arm. With the oil you shall cleanse the ears of other nations, that they may attend to good and not to bad words; and with the medicine you shall heal those who are walking in foolish ways, that they may return to their senses, and incline their hearts to peace. And we deliver into your hands a plant of Indian corn and a hoe, which shall be the emblems of your future calling and pursuits." So the great peace-belt, the chain of friendship, was laid upon the shoulders of the new mediator, who became a woman, buried the tomahawk, planted the corn, and forgot the glories which Areskoui confers upon the successful and dauntless warrior.
Before this, no Mengwe had been permitted, even when at peace, to visit the country of the Delawares. Whenever such had appeared, whenever the blue feather of an Iroquois was seen in a glade of the Lenape wihittuck, its possessor was hunted down as one hunts a wolf or a bear. But, now the woman had voluntarily abandoned her bow and her spear, what had she to do with weapons of war? The former warrior needed now no paints, unless to attract the eye of a maiden; the Mengwe needed not to fear the Lenape women. Then the pleasant glades of the Lenape wihittuck became thronged with curious eyes and false hearts; hostile feet threaded the mazes of her forest; hostile hands were laid upon the most fertile spots of her territory. To-day, came a few Iroquois; they wished for but a little piece of land—they had it. To-morrow, came another band; they wanted permission to kill a very few deer—it was granted them, and the cry of the hunter of the lakes was heard from the sea to the mountains. One remained, that the seeds of peace might not wither; another, to protect, oh changed times! the woman, who was the peace-maker, from the tomahawks of hostile tribes. But, while they were amusing the Lenape with flattering tales and the songs of mocking-birds, they were concerting measures to destroy them. They left war-clubs, such as the Delawares used, in the lands of the Cherokees, to incite them to fall upon us. Why delays my tongue to finish its tale? The fatal unmanning of our tribe wrought our ruin. The white people encroached upon us, because we were women and could not resent; the men of our own colour were not more just or generous. The Delawares stand abased by the children of their grandchild, overthrown by men defeated in a hundred battles. They are no longer warriors, but women.
Brothers, I would weep, were I not a man, for the downfall of my nation.
(1) Sacred Calumet.—p. 89.
The text deserves an elaborate comment, as connected with the wars of the savages; in other words, their sole employment. The pipe of peace, which is termed by the French the Calumet, for what reason has never been learned, is about four feet long. The bowl is made of red marble, and the stem is of light wood, curiously painted with hieroglyphics in various colours, and adorned with feathers of the most beautiful birds; but it is not in the power of language to convey an idea of the various tints and pleasing ornaments of this much esteemed Indian implement.
Every nation has a different method of decorating these pipes, and they can at first sight tell to what band it belongs. It is used as an introduction to all treaties, and great ceremony attends the use of it on these occasions.
The assistant of the great warrior, when the chiefs are assembled and seated, fills it with tobacco mixed with certain herbs, taking care, at the same time, that no part of it touches the ground. When it is filled, he takes a coal that is thoroughly kindled, from a fire which is generally kept burning in the midst of the assembly, and places it on the tobacco.
As soon as it is sufficiently lighted, he throws off the coal. He then turns the stem of it towards the heavens, after this, towards the earth, and now holding it horizontally, moves himself round till he has completed a circle, by which first action he is supposed to present it to the Great Spirit, whose aid is thereby supplicated; by the second, to avert any malicious interposition of the Evil Spirits; and, by the third, to gain the protection of the Spirits inhabiting the earth, the air, and the waters. Having thus secured the favour of those invisible agents, in whose power they suppose it is either to forward or obstruct the issue of their present deliberations, he presents it to the hereditary chief, who, having taken two or three whiffs, blows the smoke from his mouth, first towards heaven, and then around him upon the ground.
It is afterwards put in the same manner into the mouths of the ambassadors or strangers, who observe the same ceremony; then to the chief of the warriors, and to all the other chiefs in turn, according to their gradation. During this time, the person who executes this honourable office holds the pipe slightly in his hand, as if he feared to press the sacred instrument, nor does any one presume to touch it but with his lips.
The calumet of the savages, is properly the tube of peace, but they comprehend under this name the pipe also, as well as its tube. The custom is to smoke in the calumet when you accept it, and perhaps there is no instance where the agreement has been violated, which was made by this acceptance. The savages are at least persuaded that the Great Spirit would not hare met a breach of faith unpunished. If, in the midst of a battle, the enemy presents a calumet, it is allowable to refuse it; but, if they receive it, they most instantly lay down their arms. There are calumets for every kind of treaty. In trade, when they have agreed upon the exchange, they present a calumet to confirm it, which readers it, in some manner, sacred. When it concerns war, not only the tube, but the feathers which adorn it, are painted red.
La Hontan enters into many speculations as to the origin of this instrument and practice, and very properly scoots the idea that it was derived from the ancient caduceus of Mercury. He supposes that it arose from their habit of using the pipe while deliberating in council.
(2) Assume the part and situation of the woman.—p. 94.
This signifies the disarming of a man, who thenceforth may become a mediator or peace-maker, and is never allowed to resume the weapons or practices of warfare. In addition to this, the "metaphorical woman" is liable to be called to take part with the real woman in the labours of the field and the cabin.
If my brother knows anything of the Osages, as they are called by the people of his nation, but by themselves, and all the neighbouring tribes, the Wasbashas, he knows that they live on the banks of the large and beautiful river, the Osage, which empties itself into the Missouri, at the distance of a hunter's journey of three suns from its mouth. Once the people of my nation were all united like a family of children which have but one mother, but subdivisions of the original stock have taken place, and they are now divided into three tribes, the Great Osages and the Little Osages, who have raised their cabins on the south bank of the river, and the sister's sons who broil their meat on the banks of the stream which our white brother calls the Vermilion. Are we brave and valiant? Ask the nations around us. Behold the Dahcotah scalps drying in the smoke of our cabins! Are we strong? Here is the bow of an Osage boy—bend it. Are our women beautiful? Look at them, and be convinced.
The story which our fathers told us of our origin is this, and they believed it, for their lips never dealt in falsehood, nor were their tongues forked. The father of our nation was a SNAIL. It was when the earth was young and little: it was before the rivers had become wide and long, or the mountains lifted their peaks among the clouds, that this snail found himself passing a quiet existence on the banks of our own beloved river. His wants and his wishes were but few and well supplied, and as quiet and rest, and the freedom to move neither often nor much, were to him the height of happiness, he was happy. He seldom hunted, and, when he did, it was in the immediate neighbourhood of his lodge, never moving unless at the call of hunger, and then according to his nature he satisfied his appetite upon whatever was nearest at hand, rather than take the chance of faring better by going further. And thus lived our great forefather, the snail.
At length the region of the Missouri was visited by one of those great storms which so often scatter desolation over it, and the river, overflowed by the melted currents of snow and ice from the regions of the mountains, swept away every thing from its banks, and among other things the drowsy snail. Seated upon a log, and enjoying greatly a circumstance which gave him all the pleasure of travel without its fatigue, our lazy ancestor drifted down many a day's journey, till the torrent, subsiding, left him and his log upon the bank of the River of Fish. He mow found himself in a strange country, but there was plenty of slime, both on ground and leaf, and there was no occasion for rapid motion; then what cared he? It was in the middle of the season of hot suns, which beamed fiercely upon him, till he became baked in the slime to the earth, and found himself as incapable of moving as the clod upon which he dwelt. Gradually he grew in size and stature, and his form experienced a change, till at length what was once a snail, creeping upon all-fours on the earth, ripened into man, erect, tall, and stately, strong of limb, rugged of purpose, and formed to overcome by either strength or cunning, every thing which dwelt on the earth, or in the air, or in the water. For a long time after his change from a beast to a human being, he remained stupified, not knowing what he was, where he was, or by what means to sustain life. At length recollection returned to him: he remembered that he was once a snail, and dwelt upon another river—he remembered where that river lay. He now became animated with a wish to return to his old haunts, and accordingly directed his steps towards that part of the great island from which he had been removed. Hunger now began to prey upon him, and bade fair to close his eyes before he should again behold his beloved haunts on the banks of the Osage. The beasts of the forest were many, but their speed outstripped his; he could not catch them: the birds of the air fluttered upon sprays beyond his reach; the fish, gliding through the waves at his feet, were nimbler than he, and eluded his grasp. Each moment be grew weaker, the films gathered before his eyes, and in his ears there rang sounds like the whistling of winds through the woods in the month before the snows. At length, wearied and exhausted, he had laid himself down upon a grassy bank to die.
As he lay, thinking of nothing but food and the means of obtaining it, some one at his side said, with a voice soft as the bleat of a young kid, "Wasbasha?"
Our father, who had heard birds sing and wail, and beasts cry and growl, but never till now had heard one utter intelligible sounds, answered "Eh!" Raising himself with difficulty, upon his side he beheld that which spoke to him. He saw, mounted upon a noble beast, white as the snow of winter, a being, like to nothing which is seen among the sons of the earth. He was tall of stature, his eyes glittered like the stars of morning, or the tears of a young maiden who weeps for joy, and his hair shone like the blush of sunset upon the folds of a cloud. His was indeed a glorious form; and power as well as beauty sate enthroned upon it: while the Wasbasha gazed, he trembled like a fawn caught in the toils of the hunter, or the wolf penned in the crevice of a rock. Again the glorious being spoke to our terrified but admiring father.
"Why does he who is the kernel of the snail look terrified, and why is be faint and weary?"
"That I tremble," answered our father, "is because I fear thy power, and quail before the lightnings of thine eye—that I am faint is because I lack food."
"As regards thy trembling, be composed; the Master of Breath punishes not till sin is committed—thou hast not sinned, be calm. But art thou hungry?"
"I have eaten nothing," replied our father, "since I ceased to be a snail."
Upon hearing this the Great Spirit drew from under his robe a bow and arrow, and bade our father observe what he would do with it. On the topmost limb of a lofty maple, at the distance of a bowshot, sat a beautiful bird, with its bright green neck and train of variegated feathers, singing and fluttering among the red leaves of its nestling-tree. Bending the bow, he placed before it an arrow, and, letting it fly, the bird dropped dead upon the earth. A deer was seen at a still greater distance, browzing upon the tree which supplies its best-loved food. Again the skilful archer drew his bow, and the animal lay food for the son of the snail.
"There are victuals for you," said the Spirit, "enough to last you till your strength enables you to beat up the haunts of the deer and the moose. And here is the bow and arrow—the heart of the fir supplies the one, the other is the thigh-bone of the buck. Son of the mighty river, you are naked and must be clothed. The winter is coming; the snows will descend, and the winds will leave their caverns in the mountains towards the setting sun, to war upon the unsheltered kernel of the snail.—You must be clothed."
Saying this, the Great Being called our father to him, and taught him how to skin the deer, and how to apply it for the protection of his person from the frost, and the wind, and the snow. Having done this, and given him the beasts, and fishes, and all feathered creatures, to be his food and his raiment, he bade our father farewell, and took his departure for his home beyond the mountains; and he who had received the gifts proceeded on his journey towards the Osage.
Strengthened, and rendered cheerful and buoyant, by invigorating food and refreshing sleep, our father's steps were light, and his journey was soon near its completion. He soon trod upon the banks of his beloved river; a few more suns and he would sit down upon the very spot, where, for so many seasons, he had crawled on the slimy leaf, so often dragged his lazy legs over the muddy pool. He had seated himself upon the bank of the river, and was meditating deeply on these things, when up crept from the water a stranger looking animal with four legs, a broad tail covered with scales like a fish, and two short ears nearly hidden by the long fur which covered his body. His colour was that of the berry which grows within a prickly husk, and is eaten by our Indian people with their roasted opossums. Approaching our father in a saucy and menacing manner, and displaying a set of teeth which were none of the handsomest, he demanded, in an angry tone, "Who are you?"
"I am a snail," answered our father. "Who are you?"
"I am head-warrior of the nation of beavers," answered the other. "By what authority have you come to disturb my possession of this river? We have held it from the time that Chappewee's musk-rat brought up the earth from the bottom of the deep waters. By what right do you come to disturb our possession of this river?"
"It is not your river," answered the Wasbasha. "It has been mine ever since the melted snows ran into it. It was mine while I was a weak, and foolish, and lazy snail; and it is surely mine now I am a wise and valiant man, and a courageous and expert hunter."
While they stood quarreling hard, and at the point of coming to blows, there crept out of the water another creature—a young maiden beaver—just like the one who was disputing our father's right to his land, only far more beautiful and glossy. She enquired what they were quarrelling about.
"Why," answered the chief warrior of the beavers, "the strange creature with whom I was talking, and who, I am sure, is nothing but a polecat sewed up in a deer-skin, says he owns all the river. He says the Great Being who is over man and beast, the Master whom even beavers worship, gave it to him."
"Is that all?" replied the maiden; "but you need not answer, for I listened with a curious ear to your discourse, and heard it all. It is not worth going to war about, father—make peace with the stranger, and each of you retain a sufficiency of the water of the river for his purposes; and then you can help each other when enemies assail you." And then, casting a fond look upon the Osage, she called her father aside, and whispered a long time in his ear, frequently turning her beautiful eyes, bright with love, upon our ancestor. When they had done talking, the old warrior came up to the son of the snail and asked him, in an altered tone, to go home with him to his cabin. So the Osage went home with the chief beaver and his beautiful daughter.
They soon came to a number of small cabins built on the banks of the river, and into one of these they entered, the beaver bidding the Osage first wipe his feet upon the mat which lay beside the door. The Osage found the floor of the cabin strewed with the newly-gathered branches of the box and fir. The roof and walls were white as the robe which our white brother folds around his breast, and a cool, refreshing air entered the building through the windows which opened on the river. Around the room—which was four steps of a long-legged man each way—were hung skins, and skulls, and scalps of otters—trophies of the wars which the beavers had waged with that nation. In one corner of the room sat a beaver-woman, combing the heads of some little beavers, whose ears she boxed very soundly when they would not lie still. The warrior whispered the Osage that she was his second wife, and was very apt to be cross when there was work to be done, which prevented her from going to see her neighbours. Those whose heads she was combing were her children, he said, and she who had made them rub their noses against each other and be friends was his eldest daughter.
Then calling aloud, "Wife," said he, "what have you to eat? The stranger is undoubtedly hungry; see, he is pale, his eye has no fire, and his step is like that of a moose."
Without replying to him, for it was a sulky day with her, she called aloud, and a dirty-looking beaver entered. "Go," said she, "and fetch the stranger something to eat."
With that the beaver-girl passed through a small door into another room, from which she soon returned, bringing some large pieces of willow-bark, which she laid at the feet of the warrior and his guest. While the warrior-beaver was chewing the willow, and the Osage was pretending to do so, they fell to talking over many matters, particularly the wars of the Beavers with the Otters, and their frequent victories over them. He told our father by what means the beavers felled large trees, and moved them to the places where they wished to make dams; how they raised to an erect position the poles for their lodges, and how they plastered them so as to keep out rain. Then he spoke of their employments when they had buried the hatchet; of the peace, and happiness, and tranquillity, they enjoyed when, gathered into companies, they rested from their labours, and passed their time in talking, and feasting, and bathing, and playing the game of bones, and making love. All the while the young beaver-maiden sat with her eyes fixed upon the son of the snail, at every pause moving a little nearer, till at length she was at his side with her fore-paw upon his arm; a minute more and she had placed it around his neck, and was rubbing her soft furry cheek against his. Our ancestor, on his part, betrayed no disinclination to receive her caresses, but returned them with equal ardour. The old beaver, seeing what was going on, turned his back upon them, and suffered them to be as kind to each other as they pleased.
At last, turning quickly round, while the maiden, suspecting what was coming and pretending to be abashed, ran behind her mother, said he, "To end the foolery, what say you, son of the snail, to marrying my daughter? She is well brought up, and is the moat industrious girl in the village. She will flap more wall with her tail in a day than any maiden in the nation; she will gnaw down a larger tree betwixt the rising of the sun and the coming of the shadows than many a smart beaver of the other sex. As for her wit, try her at the game of the dish, and see who gets up master; and for cleanliness, look at her petticoat."
Our father answered that he did not doubt that she was industrious and cleanly, able to gnaw down a very large tree, and to use her tail to very good purpose; that he loved her much, and wished to make her the mother of his children. And thereupon the bargain was concluded.
That day the beaver-maiden became the wife of the Osage, and all the nation of beavers assembled to eat the marriage-feast. The Osage went out and killed a lusty raccoon, upon which he fed; but his wife and all her kindred fed upon the tender bark of the young poplar and alder. A peace was made between the two nations, which was to last for ever, but it was broken a long tune ago; and they now take each other's scalps whenever they can. The next day, the Osage and his wife departed for the former haunts of the snail, where in a few moons they arrived, and where their descendants have dwelt to this day.
Brothers, if this is a lie, blame not me, but our fathers and mothers who told it to us. I have done.
The Author may perhaps be suspected of intending this as a satire upon Buffon's highly imaginative description of the habits of the Beaver. Let the reader compare it with that description, and he will be able to judge for himself. If the tale is a lie, he has only to say in the language of the Indian—"Blame not me." Several more recent travellers bear witness, however, to the genuineness of the Tradition.
After a pause of the usual length, Miacomet, an aged Narragansett, rose and said:
"Brother, I am a Narragansett, and my father and mother were Narragansetts. I live a journey of more than two moons towards the rising sun. But you will say the name of the Narragansetts is unknown to you, and will ask what deeds have they done. Are they warlike? can they fast long, travel far, and bear the tortures of the flame, without betraying tears and groans? The tribes of the north, and the south, and the west, of the Great River, and the Broad Lake, and the Spirit's Backbone, will say this, for they know us not. Our hunting-fields lie far apart, and our war-paths are over different forests. But it is only to those who live a far way off, who have never heard the roaring of the Great Lake in the time of storms, or killed the fish, whose body is a mountain, that the Narragansetts are unknown. Our neighbours know us well, brother; they have both seen and felt us. Come to our cabins, brothers, and come in what guise you like. If you come in peace, you shall be welcome, and we will make a feast for you. We will hunt the nimble deer with you, and show you where the mighty eagle roosts, and where the fish with shining scales abides. If you come painted, your war-pipe filled, your bow bent, your arrow sharp and barbed, your heart strong, and your cry loud, we too will paint ourselves; we will smoke our pipe of war, we will bend our bow, make sharp our arrows, and stout our hearts, and will cry our war-cry, till the startled heron shall wing his way from the swamps to his hiding-place among the hills, and the deer shall escape from the open space to the tangled covert. Our shouts shall be as loud as the roar of the Lake of Whales in the time of the Herring-Moon.
"Brother, we have with us a chief, whose face is of the colour of the plucked pigeon; he listens. He has crossed the great waters in the season of storms, he has forded the shallow streams and swum the deeper, and threaded the dreary woods, and faced unaccustomed dangers, that he may learn our traditions, our customs, our laws, and our opinions of the Great Spirit. He has come, if he does not lie, from a far country, a land very beautiful to the eye, a land of many villages and much people, but who are not so wise and warlike as we are. He has left his father and mother, and wife and children, and the bones and burial-place of his ancestors, to listen to the wisdom of the Indians, and to be instructed by them in the history of their tribes. Shall we enlighten him? Shall we teach him the things which we know, that be may go back to his countrymen prepared to repeat to them the words of wisdom which fell from our lips; that, when he returns to his own fire-place, he may make the young doves coo, and the eyes of then mother glisten, with the tales he has heard in the camp of the Red Man.
"Brother, the Narragansetts have a tradition which I will repeat before you. It has come down to us from old days, and we believe it, for it was told us by our fathers, who were men of truth. I know not how long since the thing was done; I cannot number the rings upon the oak since the day of its date, nor the moons that have been born and have died. But I know it was done, and done in the lands which my tribe now occupy. Listen.
"The Narragansetts are the oldest people in the world; older than the Pequods; older than the Iroquois. When they were created, no one knows, save the Great Spirit—how, ask not me, for I do not know. We were when we first knew we were; we lived when we first found we had breath, further than that I cannot tell you. How should I know more? If a man, while he was wrapped in a deep sleep, should be carried to a far land which he had never seen before, would he know where he was when he waked? or could he tell how he came thither? no, nor can I tell you the manner of the creation of man, or name, with certainty, his creator.
"But this we do know—when we are born, we are helpless children. The Narragansetts once were such. Even when they had grown to the stature of men, their warriors were nothing but big boys; their chiefs and councillors no wiser than old women. There was a time when they had no bow and arrow, no hatchet, no canoe, no cabin, no corn. They were ignorant and foolish as white men. They would have mistaken the track of the moose for that of a wild cat; they would have thought the tread of a land-tortoise the trail of the grey snake; they would have killed an owl and feasted upon it, for a heath-hen. They had nothing but feet to walk with, hands to catch fish with, and tongues which loved best to utter wicked lies and speak foolish words. They were only fit to serve bad spirits, the men of the Spirit of Evil, whom they called Hobbamock(l). And they did serve him, night and day, but he would give them very little for their worship, treating them worse than he treated any tribe upon the borders of the Great Lake. The Pequods killed more whales; the people of Nope raised more poke. When a Narragansett caught a deer, it was always a sick one, and had no fat upon it, and when he speared a fish, it had only a backbone. He was, in truth, a very ungrateful master."
There was among the Narragansetts a very wise conjuror(2) or priest, whose name was Sasasquit. He was the priest of the Good Spirit; he was a good man; much better than the rest of the tribe, for he never served the Evil Spirit. He said to the Narragansetts, "If you were better men, if you served my master, the Good Spirit, as you do the Evil Spirit, he would give you abundance of good things. You would not, as you do now, catch fish with heads as big as mine, and bodies no bigger than my arm, but would take fat fish, and would take them with little trouble. You would snare birds more easily, and, perhaps, have other gifts which now you do not dream of."
The Sachem said to the people, "Sasasquit talks well, but talking well is the business of a priest. Let us say to him, that we will take for our God the Spirit which gives us the best gifts, and bid him tell his master so."
The Narragansetts liked well what the Sachem had said, and went in a body to Sasasquit. "We have come," said they, "to offer our services and worship to the Great Spirit, if he will pay us better for our worship than Hobbamock has done."
Sasasquit replied, "It is not for the worth of your worship, that the Great Spirit will grant your wish, but because he loves to vex the Evil Spirit. Come to-morrow to the Great Hill, when the sun first comes out of the water, and you shall see whose God is the most generous—yours, or mine."
Early the next day the tribe all gathered to the place where Sasasquit had agreed to meet them. With them came Pocasset, the priest of the Evil Spirit, wearing his robes of magic, a bear's-skin, curiously painted with figures of beasts, and birds, and fishes, and the skin of a dog's head drawn over his own, with the teeth standing out. When all the tribe had assembled, Sasasquit asked the Sachem, Miantinomo, to repeat what he had before said, that the Narragansetts would serve the Spirit that should make them the greatest and best gifts. Then Miantinomo repeated what he had before said, and all the Indians promised as he had promised. Pocasset also made them a very long speech. I have forgotten what he said, only I know he said, that "his master would have the best of the bargain yet."
Then Sasasquit climbed up a great tree, till he came to the topmost bough, when he commenced calling upon the Great Spirit. And this was the song he sung:
When Sasasquit had finished his song, the Narragansetts saw coming towards them, from the far regions of the North, a very big man, taller than the tallest pine of the forest, and as large around as the shade cast by a great tree full of leaves. Yet, monster as he was, he came through the air ten times as swift as the swiftest eagle could fly, using his hands and feet as a frog uses his legs in swimming. It was but a breath, while he came from the farthest hill in view to the place where the nation were assembled together. Down he flapped, but spoke not a word, while he laid, at the feet of Sasasquit, a beautiful canoe, made of a great tree hollowed out by fire. "There," said he gruffly, "the Great Spirit sends this to the Devil's children, the Narragansetts."
"What is it? what is it?" they all asked, crowding around, for none of them knew what it was good for, or guessed the use it was to be put to. The big man told them, in their own language, that it was a thing wherein to float upon the water, to go to catch fish, and to cross streams. When he had explained to them what it was good for, he said he would show them how to use it. He carried the canoe to the water, and having made a paddle, placed Sasasquit in it, and taught him how to move the canoe by its aid. Our people were mightily pleased with the gift, and spent the remainder of the day in learning how to manage it. "The Great Spirit is very good," said they, "and has shown a great deal more love for us than Hobbamock has done, for he never gave us any thing for our worship and sacrifices, except promises and lies." They decided, however, that they would wait and see what he would do for them before they bestowed their worship upon his rival.
The next day the Narragansetts came together in the same place, as soon as they could see the sun, very curious to know what the Evil Spirit would give them to equal or surpass the Good Spirit's gift. They waited until Pocasset had finished his invocation, and, with lessening patience, a still longer time, but in vain. No sound was heard, no sign was visible. Nothing was seen to announce the coming of the Bad Man, or any of his friends. Our people grew very angry, and talked, not only of bestowing all their worship upon the Good Spirit, and giving him all their choice tribute of oysters and lobsters, but also of roasting Pocasset. They said, "The priest of the Evil Spirit is good for nothing. When Sasasquit called upon his master, he heard him, and at his request sent us a good gift; but Pocasset's master hears him not, though he has sung him a song which makes our ears cry for deafness." They had just caught hold of Pocasset, and were going to pull him to pieces, when there was a great noise of thunder, though they saw no lightning, and a little creature started up out of the ground, and stood in the midst of them. Never was a more ugly, misshapen monster seen upon the earth. He was no bigger than a child that has seen the flowers bloom and the corn ripen twice. Yet he appeared to be very old, for his hair was of the colour of the moss upon the sunny side of the oak; his teeth were rotten and decayed; his knees were bent out like warped bows; and his voice was not the voice of a young man, but sounded like the voice of the muck-a-wiss singing in the hollow woods in the summer moons. His face was covered with hair of the colour of the feathers of the blue heron, and stood out like the feathers of a duck that plumes itself in the warm sun, on the shores of the lake. His skin was blacker than charred wood, or the black raven. The Narragansetts were dreadfully frightened, and were going to run away, when Pocasset stopped them, saying, "Don't be afraid, it is my master. Don't you know him whom you have served so many years? Why he won't hurt you."
"More than you know, Poke," grunted the ugly little creature, putting his moss-coloured hair behind his great yellow ears. "But do not be afraid, Narragansetts, the Little Man loves you, and is come to make you a gift. What do you think these are?"—showing them a bow and a sheaf of arrows. The Narragansetts all declared they could not tell, and begged the Little Man to tell them the names, and shew them the uses of the strange instruments.
"I will," said he. "Now tell me what bird that is which sits upon the dry branch of the aged hemlock by the little stream?"
One answered, and told him it was the bird which sang in the morning to wake lazy sleepers, and to tell the bashful lover who loitered around the couch of his maiden that the eyes of the sun would soon be upon them.
"The bird that has sung in the morning shall never sing in the evening," said the monster grinning. With that, drawing the bow to his ear upon the side farthest from his heart, he put an arrow before it, and, letting it fly, the bird fell dead upon the earth beneath the tree. The Indians, upon seeing this exploit, shouted and hurraed, and made such a noise, that the roaring of the sea could scarcely be heard for it. They begged Hobbamock to shew them how he killed the bird at the distance of a stone's throw, which he did at their request again and again, and each time they repeated their hurrahing and shouting. "And now," said he, "whose gift do you like best—the Great Spirit's, or mine?"
They all answered that "they liked his gift best, because it would enable them to kill their enemies, the Mohegans."
"Will you continue to worship me?"
They were upon the point of answering "Yes," when Sasasquit asked them to wait till another sun, before they gave themselves to the Evil One. "To-morrow," said he, "I will kindle a fire, and burn a sacrifice to my master, and see if he wills that the Wicked Spirit shall have the Narragansetts for ever."
On hearing this, they agreed to wait till another day, and so they told the Evil Spirit, who grew dreadfully angry thereupon, and, shaking his hair and breathing flames, sank into the earth, to the great joy of the Indians.
Up with the sun was Sasasquit; and about his business he went. He built the fire of sacrifice, piling it high with the driest trees of the forest, and he laid thereon the best offering he could procure—a fat fish from the river beside his cabin. He sung as before a song or invocation, in which he mentioned the wants of the wretched Indians, and the cunning endeavours of the Evil Spirit to keep them in his service, and ended by begging his master to shew his own superiority, and enable his priest to foil the tricks of his adversary. The tribe assembled, just as they had done on the previous days. But they were more anxious now than they had been before, because the more there is in the cabin of a man, the greater is his thirst to increase his store, and the stronger his inclination for that he hath not. Nor did they before even dream that the Great Spirit could do such things as be had done for them. Being taught that he could bestow valuable gifts where he liked, they expected something which should far surpass all they had before received.
They had not waited long when they saw a large black eagle flying swiftly from the east, directly towards their village. When they first saw him, he was high in the air, higher than the summit of Haup—high as the mighty hills which Indians call the Alleghany, or hills of the Allegewi. Gradually he descended, and, when he came near, they saw that he bore a man upon his back. Nearer and nearer came the eagle and his rider, and soon alighted on a little hill, a few steps from the Indians. The man then got down from his strange horse. "Oh! ho!" said he, "I wish I had taken my buffalo-cloak with me, it will be cold flying back."
"What have you brought us now?" asked the people, crowding around him.
"Oh, a thing or two," answered he that rode the eagle.
With that he pulled out of the pouch at his side a long black, dirty-looking leaf, which smelt very strong, and also a little bowl about the size of a man's thumb, with a long, slender handle fixed to it. Said he to a boy standing near him, "Run, my pretty fellow, and bring me some fire." Whilst the boy was bringing the fire, he fell to rubbing the black leaf to pieces between the palms of his hands. The boy brought him the fire. Then he put the powdered dust into the little bowl, placed the fire upon the top of the dust, and fell to making a great smoke, like that which the wind of spring brings from off the face of the Great Waters. The Indians asked him what he called the black leaf.
"Bacca, bacco, tobacco," answered he.
"What is it good for?" demanded they.
"Good for—good for—why—why," exclaimed he, seemingly puzzled, "why, good for many things. Good for the tooth-ache—good to drive away the blue devils."
The Indians, though they were well enough acquainted with devils, did not know what he meant by "blue ones," nor do they know to this day. They asked him to let them smoke in the pipe, which was the name by which he called the instrument with the little bowl. They liked it very well upon trying it, but they could not be persuaded to think it of as much value as the bow and arrows which the Bad Spirit had given them. The man who rode the eagle perceived their minds, and said "I have another present."
He bade them bring him a small stick, which they did, and then he began to beat the eagle. It screamed terribly beneath the lash, and turned round upon him with its mouth open, as if it would fight him, but he only beat it the harder. At last it did the thing he wanted it should do, and dropped a little heap of seeds, white, flat, and not so large over as the nail upon the little finger of a full-grown man. The man did not beat the eagle any more after this, but stroked down its feathers gently, and told it he was very sorry for what he had done. "Now," said he to the Indians, "take the seeds to the water and wash them." They washed the seeds as he directed, and brought them back to him. "Build a fire," said he. They built a fire. Then he took some of the seeds and raked them up in the ashes of the fire, stirring them continually, until they were of the colour of a Narragansett's skin. When he had roasted them as much as he would, he called the tribe around him, and bade them taste the parched seeds. They all cried out that the seeds were good, very good, and begged him to beat the eagle, till they had procured enough to satisfy them all, but he would not. They asked him what the seeds were called. He told them "corn-maize," and said he would shew them another way to cook it. He bade them bring him a big, flat stone, and a little round one, and to fill their great stone-kettle with water, and to make it hot, while he pounded the corn. The man that rode the eagle pounded the corn, and the Narragansetts boiled the water. When the water was hot, he shook the pounded corn into the water, until it became quite thick, stirring it quickly all the while. When it had cooled, so that it could be eaten, he tasted it, bidding the Narragansetts do the like. "Charming hominy," said he. The Indians ate very heartily of it, and declared nothing was ever so good before, and again, one and all thanked the Great Spirit, and said he was very kind—much kinder than the Evil Spirit. They were, as once before, just about to declare themselves servants to the master of the man that rode the eagle and sent them the corn, when a very spiteful old woman—one who was always full of mischief—got up, and advised them to wait a little longer, and give the Little Man one more chance. "The longer the trial between the two spirits lasted, the more the Indians got, the better," she said, and our people said the same. Upon this the man got up on his winged horse, very sorrowful but not very angry, and flew away, leaving them the remainder of the seeds, which, he told them, must be planted in the earth when the winter had departed, and the trees were putting out their leaves, and the little blue and yellow flowers began to peep through their frost-nipped coverings.
The next sun, when the Narragansetts went out of their lodges, there sat the ugly little creature, with the moss-coloured beard and yellow ears, perched upon the top of a high tree. They spoke to him, but he made no answer—asked him what he had brought them—still no answer. All the while his eyes were intently fixed upon the waters of the Great Lake, which began to be tossed about with a high wind. At last, when they were tired of watching his motions, and some of the boldest, now grown familiar with him and no longer chilled with fear, talked of stoning him from his roost, he cried out, pointing with his finger, "Look yonder!" They now beheld, in the direction he bade them look, far away on the foaming bosom of the Great Lake, something resembling a great, white fowl. It was moving very swiftly towards the land of the Narragansetts. The nearer it approached, the more our people were puzzled to tell what it was; some said it was a duck, some thought it a cloud, and others that it was the Good Spirit who had taken a new form, and was coming to offer more proofs of his love for the Narragansetts. They asked the ugly little man upon the tree what it was, but he only showed his teeth like a dog that guards a bone, and would not make answer.
The strange creature was now very near, and seemed a more wondrous object than ever. It had a body shaped very much like the canoe which the Great Spirit had given the Indians; but it was as much larger as an old bear is larger than a cub, the minute it is born, or an eagle is larger than a humming-bird. It had wings, white as the wings of the sea-gull, and as large over as a small lake. When it had come near the shore, its many wings were drawn up and hidden, and in their stead three tall poles were displayed, with many short ones crossing them, to one of which the Little Man jumped from his perch on the tree.
The Indians were more astonished at this object than they had been at any of the others. It did not appear to possess life, yet how came it thither. Unable to tell what it meant, our people fled, startled and frightened, into the deep thicket, and there held a council, and debated what was best to be done. At length, encouraged by the thought that, of all the strange creatures which had visited them, none had ever attempted to harm them, they called up courage, and returned to the shore. They now beheld a canoe, moved by long paddles and filled with men, approaching the shore where they stood. It struck on the beach, and out of it came many savages, the colour of whose faces was like that of the stranger who is with us. They commenced talking to the Narragansetts in a language which none of them understood, any more than they understood the cry of the catamount. The Narragansetts were preparing to use upon the strangers the bows and arrows which the Little Man had given them, when one of them, laughing very loudly and sillily, held up a strange-shaped thing, which had a long neck to it like the ugly bird which cries in the brakes in the beginning of darkness. This he often raised to his mouth, turning the top of the neck into it, and drinking something from it, which he seemed to love very much. At last, down he tumbled on the ground, singing very badly, and making very hideous mouths, though the Indians could not tell what he laughed and mouthed about. There he lay on his back, kicking as a frog swims, till the Little Man went up to him, and took away the thing which held the maddening draught. The Narragansetts demanded of the Little Man what he had there.
"A bottle," he replied.
"What is there in it?" they asked.
"Good stuff! good rum(3)—very good rum," said he, shaking the bottle, and winking with both eyes. "Here, taste and see," and he held out the the bottle.
"T-a-s-t-e and s-e-e," cried the man who had fallen down, hiccuping.
The Narragansetts tasted of the rum, and liked it so well, that in a little time they had drunk all there was in the bottle, and ask the Little Man if he had any more. "Oh, great plenty," answered he, "the White Men, like those who came in the canoe, let me have it dog-cheap. I get almost all my worshippers by it; oh, I buy a great many worshippers by it. Yes, plenty of good rum—Indians may have it almost for nothing. The white men will bring me plenty of good rum."
"If you will let us have plenty of drink, like that in the bottle, plenty of rum, you shall be our master," said the Indians. "It is a great deal better than the Good Spirit's corn."
The bargain was soon made between the Evil Spirit and the Narragansetts. The Evil Spirit agreed that his white men should let the Indians have as much rum as the Narragansetts wanted, and they in return were to be his servants. So, from that day to this, the Narragansetts have served the Evil Spirit. They get from the Good Spirit the canoes which enable them to cross rivers and catch fish, and the corn which fills their bellies, but the bows and arrows which lead them to engage in bloody wars, and the rum which makes dogs, and bears, and hogs, and wild cats of them, they get from the Devil and the pale faces. Yet it must be told that neither spirit has exactly kept his word. The Great Spirit sometimes withers the corn by withholding rain from it, or sweeps it away by sending too much; and the Evil Spirit often lets the pale faces drink up all the rum before it reaches the Indians.
(1) Hobbamock—p. 120.
This was the Indian Devil. "Another power they worship, whom they call Hobbamock, and to the northward of us, Hobbamoqui; this, as farre as wee can conceive, is the Devill; him they call upon to cure their wounds and diseases. When they are curable, hee perswades them hee sends the same for some conceiled anger, but, upon their calling upon him, can and doth help them; but, when they are mortall, and not curable in nature, then he perswades them Kiehtan is angry, and sends them diseases whom none can cure; insomuch, as in that respect onely they somewhat doubt whether hee bee simply good, and therefore in sicknesse never call upon him. This Hobbamock appears in sundry formes unto them, as in the shape of a man, a deare, a fawne, an eagle, &c., but most ordinarily at a snake."—Purchas' Pilgrims.
Dr. Jarvis, a shrewd and learned American theologian and writer, observes, "This Hobbamock, or Hobbamoqui, who "appears in sundry forms," is evidently the Oke or Tutelary Deity, which each Indian worships; and Mr. Winslow's narrative affords a solution of the pretended worship of the devil, which the first settlers imagined they had discovered, and which has since been so frequently mentioned on their authority, without examination. The natives, it was found, worshipped another being besides the Great Spirit, which every one called his Hobbamock, or Guardian Oke. This the English thought could be no other than the Devil, and accordingly they asserted, without farther ceremony, what they believed to be a fact."
(2) Conjurors.—p. 121.
Both Charlevoix and Heckewelder have treated of Indian priests, and conjurors, and jugglers, as though they were separate professions, and several late writers have fallen into the same error. Hear Carver:
"The priests of the Indians are at the same time their physicians, and their conjurors; whilst they heal their wounds, or cure their diseases, they interpret their dreams, give them protective charms, and satisfy that desire which is so prevalent among them, of searching into futurity. ***** When any of the people are ill, the person who is invested with this triple character of doctor, priest, and magician, sits by the patient, &c."—Carver, 251, 252.
My opinion is decidedly with Carver, that the two professions are conjoined. The physician never uses his simples, without invoking, in his quality of priest, the aid of the Supreme Being.
The appearance which they make, and the dress in which their incantations are performed, deserve mention for their singularity. The following passage from Mr. Heckewelder describes their appearance, and is the original of those in Mr. Cooper's Novels of The Prairie and Last of the Mohicans: "The dress this juggler had on consisted of an entire garment, or outside covering, made of one or more bear-skins, as black as jet, so well fitted and sewed together that the man was not in any place to be perceived. The whole head of the bear, including the mouth, nose, teeth, ears, &c., appeared the same as when the animal was living, so did the legs with long claws; to this were added a huge pair of horns on the head, and behind a large bushy tail, moving as be walked, as though it were on springs; but for these accompaniments, the man walking on all-fours might have been taken for a bear of an extraordinary size. Underneath there his hands were, holes had been cut, though not risible to the eye, being covered with the long hair, through which he held and managed his implements, and he saw through two holes set with glass."—Hist. Account, p. 288, 289.
He then describes the practice of these medical gentlemen of the forest: "He approaches his patient with a variety of contortions and gestures, and performs by his side, and over him, all the antic tricks that his imagination can suggest. He breathes on him, blows in his mouth, and often makes an external application of the medicines which he has prepared, by throwing them over in his face, mouth, and nose; he rattles his gourd filled with dry beans or pebbles; pulls out, and handles about a variety of sticks and bundles, in which be appears to be seeking for the proper remedy; all which is accompanied with the most horrid gesticulations, by which he endeavours, as he says, to frighten the Spirit or the disorder away," &c.—Hist. Acc.. 225.
An Indian physician never applies his medicines without accompanying them with mysterious ceremonies, to make their effect supernatural. He therefore prepares his roots and herbs with the most singular ceremonies, and, in mixing them up, invokes the aid of the Great Spirit. He also accompanies his directions with various gesticulations and enigmatical expressions. The ceremonies he uses are various. Sometimes he creeps into the oven where he sweats, howls, and roars, and now and then grins horribly at his patient. Altogether I cannot conceive of a more irrational manner of performing Esculapian duties, than that adopted by the "faculty" of the Western Wilderness.
That the Indians were made drunk by Hendrick Hudson, at his first interview with them, seems well settled. A tradition also prevails among the Iroquois, that a scene of intoxication occurred with a party of the natives on the arrival of the first ship in their waters.
The same tradition prevailed among the tribe named in the tale. See also the tradition of The Coming of Miquon in the second volume.
The men of my nation, the Minnitarees, believed that the bones of the bison, which they had slain and divested of their flesh, rose again, clothed with renewed flesh, and quickened with life, and became fat and fit for slaughter in the succeeding hot month. To us it appeared incomprehensible that thousands should be slaughtered every year by the many tribes of red men that roam over the country of the bisons, yet that they should increase yearly. When we asked our priests about this, they replied that they did not die, but rose again from the plains and the prairies, the same in flesh and form as when they were slaughtered and stripped by us. For a long time, very few of us believed the words of the priests, they had lied to us so often.
Once upon a time a party of the people of our nation, who were out upon a hunting-excursion, lost one of their number, a boy, and returned to the village lamenting his loss. Believing him to have been killed or taken prisoner by the cruel Sioux, with whom they were then at war, and who had been seen prowling about their village they assembled a war-party, and set out to avenge his death. They had marched a weary way, and were just entering the country of the Sioux, when they espied a herd of bisons, one of which they succeeded in killing. Guess their astonishment, when, on opening the belly of the animal, they found the long-lost boy, alive, well, sleek, and hearty, after having been imprisoned there one entire year. Relieved from his captivity in the belly of the bison, the boy told us how it happened.
He said that when he left his hunting, companions, he proceeded onward a considerable distance in search of game, till he found a bison, which he was so fortunate as to kill. He removed the flesh from one side of the animal, but had not time to remove that from the other side, when night came on, and a great rain set in. Finding that he could not reach his village that night, and it being in the middle of a prairie, where no bark or branches could be had with which to form a hut, he was for some time at a loss to know what he should do to avoid the pelting of the storm which raged in the skies. At last, he bethought himself of a method, which was, to remove the entrails from the bison, and creep into the hollow space: he did so. But, during the night, and while he slept, the flesh of the bison that he had cut off grew over the side again. In the morning when he awoke he found himself in darkness. For many nights there was no motion of the animal. At last the various intestines and viscera began to grow. He felt from time to time with his hands to learn their increase, rightly judging that, when they had arrived at full size, the animal would return to life. That period at length arrived. His residence began to grow warm, at first moderately so, but increasing in heat till respiration became difficult. At length he began to feel with his hand a pulsation in the heart of the animal, and to hear the sound of wind in its veins, its arteries, and its intestines. Soon he found himself rocking about as a canoe is tossed on the waves of the great water; and then he knew the animal had returned to the full enjoyment of life.
Brothers, I am an Otto, and a chief. I am a man of courage and truth. I have been a warrior, and a hunter of the bear and wolf ever since the great meeting of aged counsellors and brave-warriors pronounced me a man. I never fled from a foe; and none ever saw me afraid. Who will say that the Guard of the Red Arrows was ever other than a man in his heart? When the Padoucas bound him to the stake, and kindled fires around him;—when they thrust sharp, heated stones into his flesh, and tore off his nails with fiery pincers, did they force a cry from him? did they see his cheek wear the badge of a woman's weakness? No, I am a man. Brother, I will tell you a tale. While the nation of the Ottoes had their hunting-grounds in the shade of the Mountains of the Great Being, they were led in war to battle—in peace were advised in council by a brave and warlike chief, who was called Wasabajinga, or the Little Black Bear. He was the head chief of the nation, and its greatest warrior. His martial exploits and daring deeds were the theme of all the tribes who roamed through the vast woods between the Mississippi and the Mountains of the Setting Sun, the Missouri, and the Lake of the Woods. All had heard of his great deeds; and many had seen and felt his prowess. He was stronger than the bear, he was swifter than the deer, he was nimbler than the mountain-cat or the panther. Who was so expert at stealing horses(1) as Wasabajinga?—by his cabin-door stood the best in all the land; and they had belonged to the Konzas, the Pawnees, the Omawhaws, the Puncas, the Sioux, and other tribes whose eyes were sharp and arrows long, but neither so sharp nor so long as those of the Otto warrior. He had entered alone the camp of the Missouries, at the time when the stars are the sole torches of night, and had brought thence many scalps; he had crept to the lodge of an Arrowauk, and taken the beloved maiden. He had struck dead bodies(2) of all the nations around—Osages, Padoucas, Bald-heads, Ietans, Sauxs, Foxes, and Ioways. And who had such eyes for the trail and the chase as he? He could show you where the snake had crawled through the hazel leaves; he could trace the buck by his nipping of the young buds; he could spring to the top of the tallest pine with the ease of the squirrel, and from thence point out unerringly where lay the hunting-lodges and grounds of all the tribes of the land; he could endure as much fasting as the land-tortoise, or the bear of the frozen north, and march as long as the eagle could fly; never hungry till food was placed before him; never tired when there was more glory to be won. Strong, healthy and nimble, Wasabajinga lived to learn that there was no one in the wilds able to cope with him in battle, and to have his wisdom as loudly applauded as his valour.
At home it was the good fortune of this famous chief to be equally prosperous and happy. He had nine wives, all beautiful as the path of the Master of Life—all good and amiable. Though they all lived in the same cabin(3), ate out of the same bowl, warmed themselves at the same fire, and slept' on the same skins, there was a fair sky among them—it never thundered and lightened in the cabin of the Otto warrior. One nursed another's child as kindly as if it were her own; one performed the field-tasks allotted to another, who in return prepared the bison meat for the fire, and drew home the fuel from the woods. There was peace, and the calmness of a summer day, in the cabin of Wasabajinga—he lived the happiest of his nation.
His children were many—ten sons were in their father's cabin; each could bend his father's bow, each poise his father's spear, and each wield his father's war-club. Daughters he had but one, who grew up the most beautiful of all the maidens of the land. She had a skin much whiter than that of Indian maidens generally; her teeth were white and even; her hair long, black, and glossy, as the feathers of the raven; her eyes mild as the dove's in the season of its mating; and her step was that of a deer who is scared a little. And she was good as she was beautiful. No one ever saw her cross or sulky like other women; nothing made her angry. Though she was beloved by her parents, and a great favourite with all the wives of her father, yet she never claimed exemption from the duties which belong to Indian females. Willingly would her little hands have laid hold of the faggot, and her small feet have travelled forth with her mother to the labours of the field of maize; but the fond affection of all around her, and their belief that she was something more than mortal, protected her from a call to share in their labours. She was allowed no part in the cutting-up of the bison; she was not permitted to pound the corn, or winnow the wild rice, or bring firing from the woods. It was the pride of the youthful part of the tribe to prepare ornaments for her person. The young maidens (for she was envied by none) wove wampum, and made beads for her; the young men passed half their time in hunting the red and blue heron for the gay tuft upon his crown, and the Spirit Bird for his train of yellow, green, and scarlet, that her hair might vie in colours with the beautiful bow that rests upon the mountains after the rains. They made her bracelets for her wrists, and anklets for her legs, of the teeth of the fish with shining scales, and pendants for her ears of the bones of the birds of night and music. Thus lived Mekaia, or the Star-flower, which was the name of the beautiful Otto, till she had reached her seventeenth summer.
It was a little before sunset upon a pleasant day in the month of green-corn, that a young man riding upon a noble white horse was seen entering the great village of the Ottoes. He appeared to be very young, but he was tall and straight as the hickory-tree. He was clothed as our brother is clothed, only his garments were scarlet, and our brother's are black. His hair, which was not so dark as that of the Indians, was smooth and sleek as the hair on the head of a child, or the feathers on the breast of the humming-bird. His head was encircled with a chaplet made of the feathers of the song-sparrow and the red-headed-woodpecker. He rode slowly through the village without stopping till he came to the lodge of Wasabajinga, when he alighted, leaving his good horse to feed upon the grass which grew around the cabin. He entered the lodge of the chief. The stern old warrior, without rising from his bed of skins, asked him who he was, and whence he came. He answered that he was the son of the great Wahconda, and had come from the lodge of his father(4), which lay among the high mountains towards the setting-sun.
"Have you killed any buffaloes on your journey?" demanded Wasabajinga.
"No," answered the young god.
"Then you must be very hungry," said the chief.
The young man answered that the son of the Wahconda had his food from the skies, because the flesh of the animals which lived on the earth was too gross for him. He lived, he said, upon the flesh of spirit beasts, and fishes, and birds, roasted in the great fire-place of the lightnings, and sent him by the hands of the Manitous of the air. His drink was the rain-drops purified in the clouds.
The chief asked him if he had come on a message from the Wahconda to the Little Black Bear of the Ottoes.
The young man answered that he had. He said his father had shewn him from the high mountains of the west the beautiful daughter of the Otto chief—had told him she was good as she was beautiful, and bidden him come and ask her for his wife. His father, he said, bade him tell the Bear of the Ottoes, that, though his daughter must now leave her father, and mother, and nation, and accompany his son into the regions of ever-bright suns, and balmy winds, yet, in a few seasons more, when the knees of the chief had become feeble, and his eyes dim with the mists of age, and his time had come to die, that he should rejoin his daughter and tend her little ones, and be as joyful as the bird of morning on the banks of the rapid river that glided through the valley of departed souls.
"How shall I know that the Wahconda has said this?" asked the chief.
"I will do these things for a sign," answered the boy-god. "To-morrow, when the sun first rises from his slumbers behind the hills of the east, he shall show himself in a cloudless sky. In the space of a breath, darkness shall cover the face of the heavens, the thunder(5), which is the voice of my father, shall roll awfully, but the lightnings, which are the glances of his eye, shall be spared. Before the Indians shall have time to raise themselves from the earth, upon whose cold bosom, in their terror, they will prostrate themselves, the darkness shall be recalled from the earth and shut up in the cave of night. The moment the thunders cease, the lightnings, which are the glances of his eye, shall commence their terrific play over the face of the cloudless sky. By these signs ye shall know that I am the Wahconda's son."
"If these things shall be done," said the chief, "the maiden shall be yours."
It was soon told in the village, that the Wahconda's son had come from his father's lodge among the mountains, to ask the beautiful Star-flower for his wife. And it was also told, that with the rising of the sun on the next morning, he would convince the Little Black Bear, that he had not a forked tongue, nor spoke with the lips of a mocking-bird. There was little sleep that night in the Otto village. Our nation awaited with great dread and much trembling the coming of the morning, fearing danger to themselves and the very earth on which they dwelt, from the threatened waking of the Wahconda's voice, and the glancing of his eye.
The nation had assembled beside the cabin of the warrior, when the sun came out from behind the mountains. The young man kept his promise. When the sun first came in view, there was not a cloud on the face of the sky. In the space of a breath, thick darkness overspread the earth, rendering it as dark as the darkest night, and the thunders rolled so awfully, that the very earth seemed to reel like a man who has drunken twice of the fire-eater, which the brothers of our friend sell us in the Village of the High Rock. But what astonished our people most was, that no lightning accompanied the thunder. In a few minutes the darkness was driven away by the same mighty hand which called it forth; the thunder became as mute as the sleep of a child which is filled with its mother's milk, and the sun shone out full and clear as before the Wahconda had shut his mouth. Then succeeded most terrific lightnings; lightnings which rent the solid trees, and clove asunder the flinty rocks. A moment, and they too were called back;—the Great Being had closed his eyes, and the lightnings were imprisoned between their lids. The Indians stood for a moment aghast, and then fell on their faces in worship of the Being who could command all things so promptly to do his bidding, and who kept his mouth shut, and his eyes closed, in mercy to the poor creatures of the earth.
When they had recovered from their fright, they rose to an upright posture, and paid their obeisance to the stranger, now proved to be the Wahconda's son by signs that no one would dare dispute. He showed his love for them by the kind look he gave them. Turning to the Little Black Bear, he said, "Has the Wahconda's son proved himself worthy to have the beautiful daughter of the Otto chief to be his wife?"
Wasabajinga answered, "The Wahconda's son has proved himself worthy to have for his wife the daughter of the head chief of the Ottoes. The chief gives her to him (6), in the presence of all his nation."
The chief went into his lodge, and brought out his daughter. The son of the Wahconda then went up to the beautiful maiden, and fondly pressing her in his arms, called her his wife, and told her that, moved by her beauty and goodness, he had left the pleasant skies of his dwelling, to come into the cold and misty region where the Ottoes had their lodges. She wept, but the tears came not from her heart, and smiles beamed through them, as the stars of night shine through mist, or the sun of a spring morning looks, through a cloud of vapour. Then the beautiful couple went through the Indian form of marriage(7). When this was ended, the tribe gathered to the feast in the cabin of the chief. Rich and juicy was the bear's meat, set out on the buffalo robe, and ripe were the berries, and sweet was the roasted corn, which the women brought to feed the guests. They sung, and danced, and recounted their warlike exploits in the ears of the listening boy. They told of their hostile visits to the countries of the Padoucas and Bald-heads; they mimicked the cry of terror which burst from the letans when a painted man of the Ottoes crept with an uplifted hatchet into their camp by midnight, and took five scalps as they slept. Then one arose and sung a song of marriage. Brothers, this was the song he sung:
Designed & Etched by W. M. Brookefield R. H. A.
Then mounting the noble Horse they bade farewell.
When the feast was concluded, the songs and dances, and sacrifices, finished, the Wahconda's son prepared to take his departure to the mountains where his father dwelt. The tribe attended him to the edge of the forest, which had been the hunting-grounds of the Ottoes ever since the rivers ran, and there they left him to pursue his journey with his beautiful and happy wife to the abodes of spirits, and great warriors, and just men. But before the chief parted from his daughter, he made her husband a long speech, and prayed that peace might ever be between them and their people. He told him he had given him his all—his dearly beloved daughter, to whom he must be kind and affectionate. He must not put heavy burdens upon her; he must not send her to cut wood, nor bring home the bison's flesh, nor pound the corn, for her hands had never been hardened in tasks like these, nor her shoulders bowed in her father's house to the labours of the field, or forest, or cabin. "She had been," he said, "the darling of her father's household, and knew not labour but by name."
The Wahconda's son smiled at the words of the old chief, and told him "that services, like those he had mentioned, were never required of women in the Wahconda's dwelling. The people of the happy vales and the spirits of the mountains fed not," he said, "upon bison's meat, nor pounded corn; and the sun, which was the same at all seasons, beamed so warm, that they kept no fires. It was a lovely land, far pleasanter than that which the Ottoes abode in, nor was it subject to those dreadful storms and tempests which terrified and annoyed those who dwelt upon the banks of the Great River." And then, mounting his noble horse, and taking his little wife behind him, he again bade them farewell and rode away.
He had been gone two moons—the third was in its wane, and the parents had become consoled for the loss of their daughter. It was upon a clear and beautiful evening in the Moon of Harvest, when the forest was losing its robe of green, and putting on its garment of brown and scarlet, and cool and steady winds were succeeding to the hot and parching breezes of summer, that the Ottoes assembled to dance and feast in the cabin of their chief. It was one of the most beautiful nights ever beheld. Nothing was heard to break the stillness of the hour, save the rustling of the branches of the cedar and pine, the slight music of a little rivulet, and the mournful singing of the wekolis, perched in the low branches of the willow. The feast was prepared, the Master was propitiated, and they were sitting down to partake of the good things of the land and water, when suddenly the earth began to move like the waters of lake Huron, when agitated by winds from the regions of the frozen star. Upon every side of them, above them, and beneath them, the earth thundered, with a rattling sound. In vain did the Ottoes attempt to leave the cabin; they rolled about like a canoe launched upon a stormy river, or a ball tossed upon frozen water. The rocking of the earth continued throughout the hours of darkness. When light came, it was frightful to behold the disfigured face of the earth. In some places lakes were scooped out, and mountains piled up on their brink. Trees were rooted up and broken; little streams had disappeared, even large rivers had ceased to be. The tall magnolia lay broken in many pieces, the larch tree had been snapped like a rotten reed. The flowers of the meadows were scorched and seared, the deer in the thicket lay mangled and bruised, the birds sat timid and shy on the broken bough. The people called their priests together, and demanded why these things were. The priests answered, "Because the Master of Life was angry, but with whom they knew not. Yet soon should they learn, for there was one coming hither who would be able to tell them."
Three suns had passed, and the knowledge of the cause still remained hidden from them. On the morning of the fourth day, when the chief went out of his lodge, he found his beloved daughter weeping by the door of the cabin. Oh! how changed was the beautiful Mekaia—she was no longer a Star-flower. The brightness of her eye had departed, as the beauty of the green fields and leafy forests is driven hence by the chills of winter, her cheek was sunken and hollow, her long black locks lay uncombed upon her shoulders, and the joy and cheerfulness which once warmed her heart, and made her foot lighter than the antelope's, were no more. She, whose feet were fleeter than the deer's, now walked feebly, and rested oft; she, whose tongue outchirped the merriest birds of the grove, and warbled sweeter music than the song-sparrow, now spoke in strains as gloomy and sad as the bittern that cries in the swamps when night is coming on, or the solitary bird of wisdom perched among the leaves of the oak. The father sat down by her, and asked her whence she came.
"From the valley upon this side of the mountains," she answered.
"Where is thy husband?" demanded Wasabajinga.
"Dead," answered the Starflower, and wept afresh.
"Wah!" exclaimed the warrior, and hid his face with his hands. When he had sat thus awhile, he inquired the manner of his death. She told him, that, before they reached the mountains of the Wahconda, they saw a pale man coming towards them, mounted on a low, black horse. When he came up them, he asked her husband if he would buy blankets, and beads, and the fire-eater. That the Wahconda's son answered, "No;" and told him it was very—very bad in him to carry the fire-eater, to destroy the poor misguided Indians. The man upon the black horse answered, "That he was a better man than the Wahconda's son, for he was no heathen, but lived where men worshipped a greater Wahconda than his father in a beautiful house built with hands, and not beneath the shade of the cypress and the oak." Upon this, her husband did but smile, when the pale man elevated the spear he carried in his hand, and, with the bolts which issued from it, struck him to the earth, from which he never rose again. Then there came a cry of mourning from the cabin of the Little Black Bear. The women rushed out, and tore their hair, and cut their flesh with sharp stones, through grief for the death of the husband of their beloved Starflower. And they sung a melancholy lament, for the youth who had perished in the morning of life, while the down was yet upon his cheek, and his heart had never felt the shaft of sorrow. They sung how happy the lovers were, ere the malice and cruelty of white men destroyed their joys; ere their sacrilegious hands had laid one low in the dust, and left the other to pine under the bereavement, till death would be a blessing. They painted the anger and grief of the great Wahconda when he found the darling of his house numbered with the slain. They sung that, exasperated with the children of earth for the murder of his beloved son, he called upon his earthquakes to deface and lay waste their country. They bade the eye note how well these ministers of his wrath had performed his dread commands. So they sung—"For many a weary day's journey upon the banks of the Mighty River, for many a long encamping in the direction of the setting sun, the land lies in ruins. The bough is broken, and the solid trunk is rent. The flower lies bleeding, and the voice of the dove is hushed. But see, he has bidden the marks of havoc be effaced from the country of the Ottoes, because it is the native land of the beautiful woman who had become the wife of his son."
Long was the mourning continued, and deep the grief, which for many a moon pervaded the cabins and camp of the Ottoes. The Great Wahconda did not permit the Starflower to remain long upon the earth, but soon called her away to be re-united to his beloved son in the land of spirits. Yet she often returns to look upon the place of her birth, to breathe on the things she loved, and to sit beneath the shade of the trees she planted. In the season of flowers, she is often seen by moonlight, binding together the choicest which grow on the prairie, and her voice is often heard in the sighs of the breeze in spring. The Wahconda's son never comes with her, for he fears the treachery and violence of the pale faces.
(1) Stealing horses—p. 148.
Stealing horses is one of the most meritorious acts an Indian can perform, and is boasted of at his feasts among his other praiseworthy deeds. Next to scalping, it is the greatest feat of the Indian warrior. Before going out to war they pray to the Great Spirit to favour them, among other things, with the ability to steal horses.
(2) Struck dead bodies.—p. 148.
Striking the dead, or the disabled body of a living person, is considered the third in the scale of honours. These things are regulated, among the Indians, with the nicety which attends the distribution of academical prizes at the Universities.
(3) Lived in the same cabin, &c.—p. 149.
All the wives of an Indian reside under the same roof. As an Indian is despotic in his family, there is seldom any domestic disagreement in his cabin; if there be, the whip is called in to arbitrate the difference, and the dispute is soon adjusted. I shall notice this subject in a note in another part of the work.
(4) Lodge of his father.—p. 152.
The dwelling-place of the Supreme Being is variously located by the Indians. I shall not notice their reported belief, which places the Good Spirit "above the blue sky," and gives the Evil Spirit the Antipodes. Such, as it is mentioned by Loskiel and by Purchas, are the opinions of the Eastern Indians. These are obviously derived from the white people. The following may be pronounced the unsophisticated traditions of the different tribes on this point, and they are very curious.
"About thirty miles below the falls of St. Anthony, at which I arrived the tenth day after I left Lape Pepin, is a remarkable cave of an amazing depth. The Indians term it Wakon-teebe, that is, the Dwelling of the Great Spirit. The entrance into it is about four feet wide; the height of it fire feet. The arch within it is near fifteen feet high, and about thirty feet broad. The bottom of it consists of fine, clear sand. About twenty feet from the entrance begins a lake, the water of which is transparent, and extends to an unsearchable distance; for the darkness of the cave prevents all possibility of acquiring a knowledge of it. I threw a small pebble towards the interior parts of it with my utmost strength: I could hear that it fell into the water, and, notwithstanding that it was of so small a size, it caused an astonishing and horrible noise, that reverberated through all those gloomy regions. I found in this cave many Indian hieroglyphics, which appeared very ancient, for time had nearly covered them with moss, so that it was with difficulty I could trace them. They were cut in a rude manner upon the inside of the walls, which were composed of a stone so extremely soft, that it might easily be penetrated with a knife; a stone every where to be found near the Mississippi." Carver's Travels, p. 39, 40.
Very many of the Western Indians believe that the Supreme Being has his residence in the Rocky Mountains; and some of them make him the Sun.—Charlevoix, ii, 180, 117.
The Chippeways suppose the islands in Lake Superior to have been, from their first formation, the residence of the Great Spirit, and relate many stories of enchantment and magical tricks that had been experienced by such as were obliged, through stress of weather, to take shelter there.—See one of them further on.
The Hurons believe that Michabou, the God of the Waters, and sometimes their Great Spirit, formerly dwelt at Michillimackinac where he was born.
(5) The thunder.—p. 153.
The Indians have but one way to account for atmospherical phenomena; it is always by the intervention of a Supreme or Spiritual Being of the earth, the air, or the waters. Thus they ascribe earthquakes to the moving of the Great Tortoise which bears the Island (continent) on its back. They say he shakes himself or changes his position. The Missouri Indians believe earthquakes to be the effect of supernatural agency, connected like the thunder with the immediate operations of the Master of Life. Thunder and lightning impress them with inconceivable terror. Their opinions of the cause are various. Some take it for a voice of a particular species of men who fly in the air. Others say the noise comes from certain birds that are unknown to them. The Montagnais say it is the effort of a genius to bring up a snake which he hath swallowed; and they found this notion on observing that when the thunder falls upon a tree, it leaves something like, the shape of a snake.
The Konzas believe that, when a man is killed in battle, the thunder takes him up, they do not know whither. In going to battle each man traces an imaginary figure of the thunder on the soil, and he who represents it incorrectly is killed by the thunder.
The Delawares, who knew nothing of the cause of natural phenomena, nor do they desire to be informed of them, conceived thunder to be a spirit dwelling in the mountains, and now and then sallying forth to make himself heard. Some of them imagined it to proceed from the crowing of a monstrous turkey-cock in the heavens; others from enraged evil spirits.
Carver says in his Travels: "We had just landed, and were preparing to set up our tents for the night, when a heavy cloud overspread the heavens, and the most dreadful thunder, lightning, and rain, issued from it that ever I beheld. The Indians were greatly terrified, and ran to seek such shelter as they could. The Indian chiefs themselves, though their courage in war is usually invincible, could not help trembling at the horrid combustion."—Carver, 56. The southern Indians believe thunder to be the voice of the Almighty.—Adair, 86. They believe that Minggo Ishto Eloa, "the great chieftain of thunder" sometimes binds up the clouds and withholds rain.—Ibid., 89.
Eclipses they attribute to the attempts of the Evil Spirits to embarrass the labours of the luminary which is eclipsed. "The first lunar eclipse," says Adair, "I saw, after I lived with the Indians, was among the Cherokees in 1736; and, during the continuance of it, their conduct appeared surprising to one who had not seen the like before; they all ran wild, this way and that way, like lunatics, firing their guns, whooping and hallooing, beating of kettles, ringing horse-bells, and making the most horrid noises that human beings possibly could. This was done to assist the suffering moon."—Adair, 65.
(6) The chief gives her to him.—p. 156.
Marriages among the Indians are proposed and concluded in different ways. Thus, among the Delawares, the parents on both sides, having observed an attachment growing up between two young persons, negotiate for them. This generally commences from the house where the bridegroom lives, whose mother is the negotiatrix for him, and begins her duties by taking a good leg of venison or bear's meat, or something else of the same kind, to the house where the bride dwells, not forgetting to mention that her son has killed it. In return for this, the mother of the bride, if she otherwise approves the match, which she well understands by the presents to be intended, will prepare a good dish of victuals, the produce of the labour of women—such as beans, Indian corn, or the like—and then, taking it to the house where the bridegroom lives, will say, "This is the produce of my daughter's field, and she also prepared it." From this time (if the presents be accepted) not only presents of this kind are continued on both sides, but articles of clothing are presented to the parents of each party by way of return for what they have received, and of these the young people always have a share. The friendship between the two families daily increasing, they do their domestic and field-work jointly, and when the young people have agreed to live together, the parents supply them with necessaries, such as a kettle, dishes, bowls, &c. &c.
The men who have no parents to negotiate for them, or who otherwise choose to manage the matter for themselves, have two simple ways of attaining their object. The first is by stepping up to the woman whom they wish to marry, saying, "If you are willing, I will take you as wife;" when, if she answers in the affirmative, she either goes with him immediately, or meets him at an appointed time or place. The other method is—(I give it in their bad English)—"Indian, when he see industrious squaw, which he like, he go to him, place his two fore-fingers close aside each other, make two look like one—look squaw in the face—see him smile, which is all one he say yes! So he take him home."
Among the Iroquois, Miamis, &c. treaties of marriage are entirely carried on by the parents; the parties interested do not appear at all, but give themselves up entirely to the will of those on whom they depend. The parents, however, do not conclude any thing without their consent, but this is only a formality. The first advances must be made by the matrons. Not but that, if any girl were to continue too long without being sued for, her family would act underhand to procure her a suitor.
In some places the young man is contented to go and sit by the side of the young woman in her cabin; and, if she suffers it and continues in her place, it is taken for her consent, and the marriage is concluded. The customs of the different tribes do not essentially vary. What should you say, my fair readers, at being "wooed and won" in this way?
(7) Indian farm of marriage.—p. 156.
The Indian nations differ but little from each other in their marriage ceremonies. The tribes that inhabit the borders of Canada have the following custom:—When every preliminary is agreed on, and the day appointed, the friends and acquaintance of both parties assemble at the house or tent of the oldest relation of the bridegroom, where a feast is prepared on the occasion. The company who meet to assist at the festival are sometimes very numerous; they dance, they sing, and enter into every other diversion usual at any of their public rejoicings. When these are finished, all those who attended merely out of ceremony depart, and the bridegroom and the bride are left alone with three or four of the nearest and oldest relations on either side; those of the bridegroom being men, and those of the bride women.
Presently the bride, attended by these few friends, having withdrawn herself for the purpose, appears at one of the doors of the house, and is led to the bridegroom, who stands ready to receive her. Having now taken their station on a mat, placed in the centre of the room, they lay hold of the extremities of a wand about four feet long, by which they continue separated, whilst the old men pronounce some short harangues suitable to the occasion. The married couple after this make a public declaration of the love and regard they entertain for each other, and still holding the rod between them they dance and sing. When they have finished this part of the ceremony, they break the rod into as many pieces as there are witnesses present, who each take a piece, and preserve it with great care. The bride is then re-conducted out of the door as she entered, where her young companions wait to attend her to her father's house; there the bridegroom is obliged to seek her.
Another manner of performing the ceremony is said to be peculiar to the Naudowessies. When one of their young men has fixed on a young woman he approves of, he discovers his passion to her parents, who give him an invitation to come and live with them in their tents. He accordingly accepts their offer, and by so doing engages to reside in it for a whole year in the character of a menial servant. During this time he hunts, and brings all the game he kills to the family; by which means the father has an opportunity of seeing whether he can provide for the support of his daughter and the children that might be the consequence of their union. When this period is expired, the marriage is solemnized after the custom of the country, in the following manner:—Three or four of the oldest male relations of the bridegroom, and as many of the bride's, accompany the young couple from their respective tents to an open part in the centre of the camp. The chiefs and warriors being here assembled to receive them, a party of the latter are drawn up into two ranks on each side of the bride and bridegroom, immediately on their arrival. The principal chief then acquaints the whole assembly with the design of their meeting, and tells them that the couple before them, mentioning at the same time their names, are come to avow publicly their intention of living together as man and wife. He then asks the young people alternately whether they desire that the union may take place. Having declared, with an audible voice, that they do so, the warriors fix their arrows, and discharge them over the needs of the married pair; this done, the chief pronounces them man and wife. The bridegroom then turns around, and, bending his body, takes his wife upon his back, in which manner he carries her, amidst the acclamations of the spectators, to his tent. The ceremony is concluded by the most plentiful feast the new-married man can afford, and songs and dances, according to the usual custom, conclude the festival.
Among the Quapaws, as I have been informed, the husband, on the consummation of his marriage, presents his wife with a leg of deer, and she in return offers him an ear of maize.
With the above characteristic and wild song, chanted with the action and in the tones peculiar to the Indian story-teller, and which, in truth, is always the manner in which their traditions are related, the Little Snake, the principal chief of the Ricaras, and who was as celebrated throughout the wilds of the west for his skill in song as Carolan in the palace of his mountain lord, or Blondel at the court of Coeur de Lion, commenced his tale. As far as the visual organ was concerned, Mr. Verdier was before acquainted with the curious images to which it referred. He had seen, a few miles back, from the Mississippi, a small "willow-bank," rising in the words of the song above a "shallow and turbid stream," upon which were two stones bearing a great resemblance to the human form, and a third having a still greater resemblance to a dog. He knew that they were objects of exceeding veneration with all the tribes of the west, especially with the Ricaras, and that whenever they passed them, and they often deviated many miles from their path for that purpose, they never failed to make an offering, generally of some ornament, or valued part of their dress, or martial equipment, to propitiate the intelligences supposed to inhabit the statues, and render them favourable to their wants and wishes, and to their success in war, or the chace He saw that the continued observance of this rite for a long period, probably for ages, had collected around the "Idols" a large heap of stones, sticks, blankets, deer-skins, eagle's' feathers, &c., but he had remained till now in ignorance of the tradition, which assigned to them a past existence as human beings. He knew that every thing which is not in the common order of things, even a tree singularly shaped, or presenting an unusual excrescence, a blade of grass twisted into an uncommon form, a berry or a stalk of maize growing to an unusual size, become, in the eyes of these wild and superstitious children of the forest, invested with supernatural interest; but he had supposed that it was the mere resemblance which these statues bore to human beings that had caused the Indians to regard them as objects worthy of the most hallowed form of their rude worship.
It may be as well to say in this place, what I had contemplated making the subject of a note. It is this—that Indian poetry always wants the correspondence of the last sound of one verse with the last sound or syllable of another. There cannot, I imagine, be found a single instance of their having attempted to produce the "harmonical succession of sounds," which has imparted so much richness and beauty to the cultivated languages. It is necessary to state this, that my readers may not suppose that the omission to make the lines rhyme grew out of an attempt to give to the poetry an appearance of greater originality, and of greater singularity and wildness, the supposed first step to success. I could not, consistently with my determination to represent truly the manners and customs of that interesting and hard-used race in their own style and method, attempt to introduce rhyme into their rude lyrics. The poetry I have given, though it may want the inspiration of Indian poetry, will be found to possess its method. Another trait of Indian poetry to be noticed is the frequent repetition of favourite passages and incidents.
The Indian story-teller, having paused a moment to recruit his strength and voice, which had suffered by his energy, and to gather the opinion of the audience, which, for the first time in the present assembly, was expressed by audible signs of satisfaction, an unusual occurrence in an Indian audience, resumed his tale as follows:—
(1) Okkis.—p. 175.
The particular object of the devotion of an Indian is termed his "Okkis," or "Medicine," or "Manitou," all meaning the same thing, which is neither more nor less than a "household God." The latter, however, may mean a spirit of the air; the former is tied to one predicament. It is selected by himself, sometimes at a very early age, but generally at the period when he enters the duties of life, and is some invisible being, or, more commonly, some animal, which thenceforward becomes his protector or intercessor with the Great Spirit. The Indians place unbounded confidence in these Okkis, and always carry them wherever they go, being persuaded that they take upon them the office of sentinels. Hence, they sleep in perfect security, convinced of the entire good faith of the guardian. There is no possible form which they have not permitted these "medicines" to take. Birds, beasts, and especially of the carnivorous species, are most frequently the adopted sentinels; but sticks, trees, stones, &c., have been known to be selected for that responsible office. If they prove treacherous, and permit any disaster to happen to their charge, they are frequently soundly whipped, and sometimes committed to the flames.
Not only are inanimate objects elected to take the guardianship of individuals—they sometimes become protectors of the national interests. There is a large, fiat rock, about ten miles from Plymouth, Massachusetts, which continues to receive tribute from the Indians, probably from having, at a former period, been their tutelary genius. It is called, if I mistake not, by the white people resident in the neighbourhood, "The Sacrifice Rock," and is still deeply venerated by the few Indians spared by the cupidity of the Pilgrims and their descendants.
Lewis and Clarke, in the account of their Travels across the Rocky Mountains, (vol. i. p. 163) speaking of the national great Memahopa, or "Medicine Stone," of the Mandans, remarks: "This Medicine Stone is the great oracle of the Mandans, and, whatever it announces, is received with the most implicit confidence. Every spring, and on some occasions during the summer, a deputation visits the sacred spot, where there is a thick porous stone, twenty feet in circumference, with a smooth surface. Having reached the place, the ceremony of smoking to it is performed by the deputies, who alternately take a, whiff themselves, and then present the pipe to the stone; after this, they retire to the adjoining wood for the night, during which it may be safely presumed, that all the embassy do not sleep. In the morning, they read the destinies of the nation in the white marks on the stone."
(2) The mulberry bark.—p. 187.
The Dress of the Indian women.—The dress of the Indian females is regulated, of course, by the nature of the climate. The Southern Indians, by which I mean those occupying the tract of country which is now parcelled out into the States of Louisiana, Florida, Missouri, Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia, at the period of its first settlement by the whites, wore cloaks of the bark of the mulberry tree, or of the feathers of swans, turkeys, &c. The bark they procured from the young mulberry shoots that came up from the roots of the trees which had been cut down. After it was dried in the sun, they beat it to make all the woody part fall off; and then gave the threads that remained a handsome beating; after which, they bleached them by exposing them to the dew. When they were well whitened, they spun them about the coarseness of pack-thread, and wove them in the following manner: two stakes were set in the ground about a yard and a half asunder; having stretched a cord from one to the other, they fastened their threads of bark, double, to this cord, and then interlaced them in a curious manner into a cloak of about a yard square, with a wrought border round the edges. Such is nearly the description given by Du Pratz in his history of Louisiana.
(3) Willow cage.—p. 189.
Indian children, instead of being placed in cradles, are suspended from the boughs of trees beyond the reach of wild animals, in baskets woven of twigs of the willow, when they can be easily procured: the motion, which is a kind of circular swing, is far more pleasant than that of the cradle in use among civilized nations.
(4) Moon alive.—p. 189.
The astronomical knowledge of the Indians is very small, and they entertain singular ideas respecting the heavenly, bodies. When the sun sets they imagine it goes under water. When the moon does not shine, they suppose she it dead; and some call the three last days before the new moon, the naked days. Her first appearance after her last quarter is hailed with great joy. If either sun or moon is eclipsed, they say the sun or moon is in a swoon. I have mentioned before their opinion of the cause of shooting-stars. Adair, who was acquainted only with the Florida Indians, says that when it thundered and blew sharp for a considerable time, they believed that the beloved or holy people were at war above the clouds; and they believed that the war was hot or moderate, in proportion to the noise or violence of the storm. Of all the writers who have ever written on the Indians, Adair, with the usual exception of La Hontan, is the worst. He wrote with a preconceived determination to make them a portion, or "the remnant," of the ten tribes of Israel, to whom they bear about the same resemblance that an Englishman bears to an Otaheitean.
(5) Mortals go in clay.—p. 192.
The Indian mode of worship is wild and singular in the extreme. Nutall, a judicious and scientific traveller, thus describes the solemnity:
"This morning, about day-break, the Indians, who had encamped around us, broke out into their usual lamentations and complaints to the Great Spirit. Their mourning was truly pathetic, and uttered in a peculiar tone. The commencing tone was exceeding loud, and gradually fell off into a low, long continued, and almost monotonous bass; to this tone of lamentation was modulated the subject of their distress or petition. Those who had experienced any recent distress, or misfortune previously blackened their faces with coal, or besmeared them with ashes."—Nutall, p. 190.
I will quote one more extract from a favourite author for the benefit of those who may wish to view the Indian as a worshipper of the Eternal Being whom they are early taught to worship. "From the age of about five years," says Long, "to that of ten or twelve, custom obliges the boy to ascend to a hill-top, or other elevated position, fasting, that he may cry aloud to the Wahconda. At the proper season his mother reminds him that 'the ice is breaking up in the river, the ducks and geese are migrating, and it is time for you to prepare to go in clay.' He then rubs his person over with a whitish clay, and is sent off to the hill-top at sunrise, previously instructed by a warrior what to say, and how to demean himself in the presence of the Master of Life. From this elevation he cries out to the great Wahconda, humming a melancholy tune, and calling on him to have pity on him, and make him a great hunter, horse-stealer, and warrior. This is repeated once or twice a week, during the months of March and April."—Long's First Expedition, vol.. i. p. 240.
The Minnatarees, and all the other Indians who are of the stock of the grandfather of nations, were once not of this upper air, but dwelt in the bowels of the earth. The Good Spirit, when he made them, no doubt meant, at a proper time, to put them in the enjoyment of all the good things which he had prepared for them upon the earth, but he ordered that their first stage of existence should be within it, as the infant is formed, and takes its first growth in the womb of its natural mother. They all dwelt under ground, like moles, in one great cavern, which covered the whole island; when they emerged, it was in different places, but generally near where they now inhabit. At that time, few of the Indian tribes wore the human form; some had the figures or semblances of beasts. The Paukunnawkuts were rabbits, some of the Delawares were ground-hogs, others tortoises, and the Tuscaroras and a great many others, were rattlesnakes. The Sioux were the hissing-snake(1); but the Minatarees were always men. Their part of the great cavern was situated far towards the Mountains of Snow.
The great cavern in which the Indians dwelt was indeed a dark and dismal region. In the country of the Minnatarees it was lighted up only by the rays of the sun which strayed through the fissures of the rock, and the crevices in the roof of the cavern, while in that of the Mengwe it was dark and sunless. The life of the Indians was a life of misery compared with that they now enjoy, and it was endured only because they were ignorant of a fairer or richer world, or a better or happier state of being. Clothes they had none; they lived and died naked as they came into the world. Their food was mice, and snakes, and worms, and moles, with now and then a bat, and the roots of trees, which crept downward from the regions of the upper air till they reached the subterranean abodes of the poor benighted Indian. They ate sand, it is true, and fed upon a dirt which glittered like the sun, but which was tasteless, and contained no nutriment, and they grew poor upon it, and early sickened and died. A miserably poor and weak race they were, and the Great Spirit was kindest, when he took them from their dismal dwellings to the happy mansions in the green vales and quiet lakes which lie hid in the mountains. And, so well convinced were the Indians that the exchange would be for the better, that they celebrated the death of a man with great rejoicing, but wept and howled loud and long when a child was born. And thus they dwelt, in the caverns which lie beneath the surface of the earth, unknowing of the beautiful and glorious world over their heads, till the Good Spirit sent agents for their deliverance.
There were among the Minnatarees two boys, who, from the hour of their birth, showed superior wisdom, sagacity, and cunning. Even while they were children, they were wiser than their fathers and mothers. They asked their parents whence the light which streamed through the fissures of the rock and played along the sides of the cavern came, and whence and from what descended the roots of the great vine. Their father said he could not tell; and their mother only laughed at the question, which appeared to her very foolish. They asked the priest; neither could he tell, but said he supposed the light came from the eyes of some great wolf. The boys told him he was a fool. They asked the king tortoise, who sulkily drew his head into his shell, and made no answer. But, when they asked the chief rattlesnake, he answered that he knew, and would tell them all about it if they would promise to make peace with his tribe, and on no account ever to kill one of his descendants. The boys promised, and the chief rattlesnake then told them that there was a world above them, composed of ore more shining than that they had tossed in boyish play in each other's eyes—a beautiful world, peopled by creatures in the shape of beasts, having a pure atmosphere and a soft sky, sweet fruits and mellow water, well-stocked hunting-grounds and well-filled ponds. He told them to ascend by the roots, which were those of a great grape-vine. A while after the boys were missing. Another while they had not returned; nor did they come back until the Minnatarees had celebrated the feast of rejoicing for their death(2), and the lying priest had, as he falsely said, in a vision seen them inhabitants of the Land of Spirits.
One day, the Indians were surprised by the return of the boys. They came back singing and dancing, and were grown so much, and looked so different from what they did when they left the cavern, that their father and mother scarcely knew them. They were sleek and fat; and when they walked it was with so strong a step that the hollow space rung with the sound of their feet. Their bodies were covered with something which the Minnatarees had never seen before, but which they since know was feathers and the skins of animals. They had blankets wrapt around them of the skins of racoons and beavers. Each of them had at his back a bundle of beautiful ripe grapes, and of the flesh of a great animal, which they had been taught to kill by people looking much like the Minnatarees, only handsomer and stronger—people who lived by hunting, and delighted in shedding the blood of each other, who painted their bodies with strange figures, and loved to drink a water which made them crazy and boisterous.
On first emerging from the caverns, they came, they said, into a world where all was light and beauty. It was directly over that part of the cavern where our tribe dwelt. They saw a great round ball of fire, which gave light and heat to the earth, and whose beams it was which had shot down through the fissures of the rock, partially illumining the cavern. The earth above them they had found covered with green, and scented with sweet-smelling flowers. Here and there were beautiful groves of trees, in whose shady branches birds of soft notes and varied and lovely plumage were singing all the day long. Its waters, which flowed cool and clear, were peopled by sportive fishes, and by many kinds of fowls, whose motions in their element were beautiful to the eye; and whose meat, when cooked, was exceedingly sweet to the taste. They saw a beautiful river, gliding rapidly through banks, shaded by lofty trees; its smooth current wafting the Indian brave to distant expeditions of war and the chase. Here were vast herds of wild animals, called by the inhabitants bisons, whose flesh they had found very good and juicy, and which animals were killed with arrows and sharp spears. The eyes of the boys glistened like coals of fire, and became of double size, while they described the beauties and wonders of the upper earth.
The Indians were very much delighted with the boys' story. They tasted of the meat, and the grapes, and liked them so well, that they resolved to leave their dull residence under ground, for the charms of the upper air. All the inhabitants of the cavern agreed to leave it for the newly-discovered hunting-grounds, except the ground-hog, the badger, and the mole, who said as their maker had placed them there, there they would live, and there they would die. The rabbit said he would live sometimes below and sometimes above, and the rattlesnake, and the tortoise, promised to spend the winter in the caverns, which they always do.
When the Indians had determined to leave their habitations under ground, they agreed to do it at different points, that they might sooner be on the surface. The Minnatarees began, men, women, and children, to clamber up the vine. One half of them had already reached the surface of the earth, when a dire mishap involved the remainder in a still more desolate captivity within its bowels. There was among the Minnatarees a very big and fat old woman, who was heavier than any six of her nation. Nothing would do but she must go up before certain of her neighbours. Away she clambered, but her weight was so great, that the vine broke with it; and the opening, to which it afforded the sole means of ascending, closed upon her and the rest of the nation. Other tribes fared better: in particular the beasts. The tortoise, who always took the lead, because he was descended from the Great Tortoise who bears the world on his back, and can live both on the land and in the water, very easily crept out, but the Monseys or Wolves, who dwelt under Lake Onondaga, did not emerge so easily. After trying to reach the upper air for a long time in vain, one of their number, a cunning old wolf, discovered a hole through which he crept out. He soon caught a deer, which he carried down to his tribe, who found it so sweet that they redoubled their exertions to reach a spot where such good things were to be had, and fortunately soon reached it in company with the Turkeys, whom they overtook on the way. The Mengwe crept out of the same hole, but it was a long while afterwards. The Tortoise, the Wolves, and the Turkeys, all confederated to declare war against the Bears, who were a very numerous and savage tribe; and the hatchet has not been buried yet. But they made a firm peace with the Rattlesnakes, which lasted till the coming of the Big-knives, when the latter broke the calumet of peace by biting an Indian, whom they mistook for a white man. Since then these two people have also been at war.
When the Minnatarees arrived in the upper air, they established themselves on the spot where they now reside. Very soon after, a party of strange men appeared among them, mounted on animals, or rather they seemed a part of strange animals, with four legs, possessed of great fleetness, and whose long and beautiful tails swept the earth where they trod. They attacked the wonderful creatures with their bows and arrows, and succeeded in killing one of them, upon which the others ran away. Not at first perceiving that the man and horse were two distinct animals, how much were they surprised to see the former fall to the earth, as if one part of the compound of the animal was dead, and the other still active, having received no injury. They at length succeeding in capturing the horse, and, after admiring the beauty of his form, and becoming familiar with him, they proceeded to tie one of their young men upon his back with cords that he might not fall off. The horse was then led cautiously by the halter until he became sufficiently tame to ride alone, and without a leader. It was in this manner that our nation procured the horse, and from this one sprung the breed we now have.
Brothers, this is what our fathers told us of the manner in which the Minnatarees and other Indian tribes became possessed of their present hunting-grounds, and of the way in which our nation procured the horse.—I have done.
(1) The Hissing-Snake.—p. 201.
This snake is the most remarkable of the different species of snake that infest the western wilds. It is of the small speckled kind, and about eight inches long. When any thing approaches, it flattens itself in a moment, and its spots, which are of various dyes, become visibly brighter through rage; at the same time it blows from its mouth, with great force, a subtle wind, that is reported to be of a nauseous smell, and, if drawn in with the breath of the unwary traveller, it is said, will infallibly bring on a decline, that in a few months must prove mortal. So says Carver.
(2) Feast of rejoicing for their death.—p. 204.
The early travellers report, that some of the tribes on the banks of the Mississippi, in the words of the text, "celebrated the death of a man with great rejoicing."
Many a winter has passed away, and many a season's snow mixed with the deep current of the great lake Superior, since the fame of Wanawosh was sounded along its shores. He was the son of an ancient line, who had preserved the chieftainship in their family from the remotest times. His fathers had all been renowned warriors and hunters, and hence he cherished a lofty pride of ancestry, and the belief that he himself, as well as they, were better than those by whom he was surrounded. To the reputation of his descent from eminent ancestors he added the advantages of a tall and commanding person, and the dazzling qualities of great personal strength and activity—qualities ever appreciated most highly by those who are deficient in mental power. His bow was renowned throughout the surrounding tribes, for its weight and extraordinary dimensions; and there were few that could raise his ponderous war-club, or poise his mighty spear. He was often known to have shot one of his flint-headed arrows through the body of a deer, and to have beat in the skull of a male buffalo with a single blow of his club. His counsel was as much sought as his prowess was feared, so that he came in tune to be equally famed as a hunter, a warrior, and a sage. But he had now passed the meridian of his days, and the term Akkeewaisee, "one who had been long above the earth," was familiarly applied to him. Such was Wanawosh, to whom the united voice of the nation awarded the first place in their esteem and the highest seat in authority. Even had he wanted the hereditary power and dignity, the esteem, and affection, and veneration, of his people, would have conferred upon him rule, quite as potential in its nature as that which he enjoyed by his birthright. But pride was the ruling passion of this great chieftain, and to that he sacrificed every other passion.
Wanawosh had an only daughter, who had now lived to witness the budding of the leaves for the eighteenth spring. Her father was not more celebrated for his deeds of strength and valour, than his gentle daughter for her goodness, her slender and graceful form, her dark and beaming eyes, and her black and flowing hair. There had never been seen, among the Indian nations, so lovely and perfect a maiden as the daughter of Wanawosh. Warriors came from distant tribes to court the fair daughter of the chieftain but they departed, some with bitter reproofs for their presumption, and none with encouragement or permission to hope.
Among others, her hand was sought by a youth of humble parentage, one who had no other merits to recommend him, but such as might arise from a graceful person, a manly step, and an eye beaming with the fires of youth and love. These were sufficient to attract the favourable notice of the daughter; but they were by no means satisfactory to the father, who sought an alliance more suitable to his rank and the high pretensions of his family. Little thought he of the happiness of his daughter, so that he secured for his son-in-law a warrior of celebrity.
"Listen to me, young man," he replied to the trembling hunter, who had sought the interview, "and be attentive to what you hear. You ask me to bestow upon you my daughter, the chief solace of my age, and my choicest gift from the Master of Life. Others have asked of me this boon, who were as young, as active, and as ardent, as yourself. Some of these persons had better claims to become my son-in-law than you. Some of them had struck the enemies of their country in distant forests, others had been leaders of successful expeditions. Young man, have you considered well who it is that you would choose for a father-in-law? Have you reflected upon the deeds which have raised me in authority, and made my name known to every one who has ever heard of the Chippewas, and dreaded as the bolt of death by all the enemies of my nation? Where is a chief who is not proud to be considered the friend of Wanawosh? Where is a hunter who can bend the bow of Wanawosh? or a warrior who can wield his club, or poise his weighty lance? And who is he, whose proudest wish is not, that he may some day be equal in bravery to Wanawosh? Have you not also heard, that my fathers came, ages ago, from the land of the rising sun, decked with plumes, and clothed with authority? Have you not heard, that my family have been chiefs of the Chippewas ever since the moss-covered oaks on the hills were little sprouts?
"And what, young man, have you to boast that you should claim an alliance with my warlike line? Have you ever met your enemies on the field of battle? Have you ever brought home a trophy of victory? Where are the prisoners your arm has made; where have you hung your scalps? Have you ever proved your fortitude, by suffering protracted pain, enduring continued hunger, or sustaining great fatigue? Is your name known beyond the humble limits of your native village? Do the warriors of distant tribes relate your splendid deeds, and, when they speak of a war with the Chippewas, take into account the lance of the son of Kayneewee? Go then, young man, and earn a name for yourself. It is none but the brave that can ever hope to claim an alliance with the house of Wanawosh. Think not my ancient and honoured blood shall mingle with the humble mark of the Awausees, fit totem for fishermen."
The intimidated lover departed, but he resolved to do a deed that should render him worthy of the daughter of Wanawosh, or perish in the attempt. He called together several of his young companions and equals in years, imparted to them his design of conducting an expedition against the enemy, and requested their assistance. Several embraced the proposal immediately; others were soon brought to acquiesce, and, before ten suns had set, he saw himself at the head of a formidable party of young warriors, all eager, like himself, to distinguish themselves in battle. Each warrior was armed, according to the custom of the period, with a bow and quiver of arrows, tipped with flint or jasper, and each carried a mushkeemoot upon his back, provided with a small quantity of parched and pounded corn, mixed with a little pemmican or pounded meat. Each was furnished with a kind of stone knife, and a war-club of hard wood, fastened to a girth of deer-skin. In addition to this, some carried the ancient sheemaugun or Indian lance, consisting of a smooth pole above one fathom in length, with a spear of flint firmly tied on with splints of hard wood, bound down with deer's sinews. Thus equipped, and each warrior painted in a manner to suit his fancy, and ornamented with appropriate feathers, they repaired to the spot appointed for the war-dance.
A level grassy plain extended for some distance from the lodge of Wanawosh, towards a point of land jutting into the lake. Lodges of green bark were promiscuously interspersed over this spot, with here and there a cluster of trees, or a solitary pine, which had escaped the fury of tempests for a thousand years. A belt of yellow sand skirted the lake shore in front, and a tall forest of oaks, pines, and poplars, formed the back-ground. In the centre of this green, stood a large pine, shattered and branchless from the conflicts of the elements, with a clear space around, famous as the scene of the war-dance, time out of mind. Here the youths assembled with their tall and graceful leader, distinguished, not only by his bearing, but by the feathers of the white eagle, which he wore on his head. A bright fire of pine-wood blazed upon the green, throwing its gleams upon the surrounding darkness. The young warrior led his men twice or thrice in a circular manner around this fire, with a measured step and solemn chant. Then, suddenly halting, the war-whoop was raised, and the dance immediately begun. An old man, sitting at the head of the ring, beat time upon the drum, while the grim array of warriors made the woods re-echo with their yells. Each warrior chanted alternately the verse of a song, all the rest joining in chorus:—
Thus they continued the dance for two days and nights, with short intermissions; when, dropping off, one by one, from the fire, each sought his several way to the place appointed for the rendezvous, on the confines of the enemy's country. A braver or more determined war-party never left the village of the Chippewas. Their leader was not among the last to depart; but he did not quit the village without bidding a tender adieu to the daughter of Wanawosh. He imparted to her his firm determination, to perform an act that should establish his name as a warrior, or die in the attempt. He told her of the hitter pangs he had felt at her father's taunts—that his soul spurned the imputations of effeminacy and cowardice, implied by his language. He declared, that he never could be happy, either with or without her, until he had proved to the whole tribe the strength of his heart, which is the Indian term for courage. He said, that his dreams had not been so propitious as he could wish; but that he should not cease to invoke the favour of the Great Spirit in his behalf. He repeated his protestations of inviolable attachment, which she returned, and, pledging vows of mutual fidelity, they separated.
They never met again. The war-party, which he led, were conducted by him to victory. After having distinguished himself by most heroic bravery, he received an arrow in his breast, just as the enemy had fled, with the loss of many of their best warriors. On examining his wound, it was perceived to be beyond the power of cure. He languished a short time, and expired in the arms of his friends.
From the hour that she received the intelligence of his death, from the moment that the ominous death-howl met her ear, no smile was ever seen in the once happy lodge of Wanawosh. His daughter pined away by day and by night. Tears and sighs sorrow and lamentations, were heard continually. No efforts to amuse were capable of restoring her lost serenity of mind. Persuasives and reproofs were alternately employed, but employed in vain. It became her favourite custom to fly to a sequestered spot in the woods, and there sit under a shady tree, and sing her mournful laments. She would do so for days together. The following fragment of one of these songs is yet repeated:—
Thus she daily repeated her plaintive song. It was not long before a small bird of beautiful plumage flew upon the tree, beneath which she usually sat, and, with its sweet and artless notes, seemed to respond to her voice. It was a bird of strange character, such as she had never seen before. It came every day and sang to her, remaining until it became dark. Her fond imagination soon led her to suppose that it was the spirit of her lover, and her visits to the favourite spot were repeated with greater frequency. She now gave herself up to singing and fasting. Thus she pined away, until that death which she had so fervently desired came to her relief. After her decease, the bird was never more seen. It became a popular opinion with her nation, that this mysterious bird had flown away with her soul to the land of bliss. But the bitter tears of remorse fell in the tent of Wanawosh, and he lived many years to regret his false pride and his harsh treatment of the unfortunate youth.
Let my brother listen to my words, and ponder deeply. Let him remain mute, and his question shall be answered. He has asked the opinion which the red men of the wilderness entertain of the Country of Souls;—he has asked us whither the spirits of good men repair when the sleep which knows no waking has come over them. Again, I say, let my brother listen deeply, for the words he will hear are concerning the question he has asked. We shall sing in his ears no tale of bloody deeds—of scalps taken from stricken warriors, or of victims bound to a naming stake. Our songs shall be songs of a state far happier than that enjoyed by mortals; we shall tell of worlds, the air of which is purer, the sun brighter, the moon milder, and the stars far more glorious—of the Land of the Happy Hunting-Grounds. As my brother will see, each nation has its own beloved place of rest for the soul. It is well. Could the Chippewas dwell with the Hurons, whose blood they have so frequently shed? Could a man of the Pawnee Loups embrace an Omawhaw, who carried at his back the scalps of his wife and his children? No; and, therefore, as they could not on earth dwell in peace together, so each has in the world of souls his separate hunting-grounds, his own rivers, lakes, valleys, mountains, forests, where no envious hunter may intrude, which no bloody-minded warrior may invade. An insurmountable and eternal barrier is placed between tribes who had formerly been at war, lest they disturb the peace of the blessed shades by a renewal of the quarrel, and shake the glorious mansions with the violence of wars, like those they wage on earth. My brother asks how, the Dahcotahs know these things. I answer, it was seen by one of them in his sleep; it came in the shape of a dream to a very wise man of our nation.
There was among us, in the days that are gone, a priest who was much beloved by his Master, and was taught by him to know the future as he knew the present, and to see and speak truly of things unseen by other eyes. He had been many years on the earth, and was now called "Akkeewaisee," a name signifying his great age. That he might better converse with, and worship his master he had taken up his abode in a hollow hill, near the great village of the Dahcotahs. Thither the tribe resorted, to be taught those things which were necessary to be known in respect to the proper ordering of the hunt or the war expedition, to the season at which the corn should be planted, or the gathering of the tribe at the chosen waters of the salmon should take place. Having never known any thing predicted by him prove false; having ordered, under his guidance, all their hunting and war expeditions right, and never failed, when relying on his presentiments, to go to the haunts of the salmon, at the proper season, and to return from thence with full bellies and glad hearts, they listened to the words of Akkeewaisee, the Aged, and believed the tale which he told them of the Land of Spirits.
Akkeewaisee, the Aged, was sleeping on his bed of skins and soft grass, when the Manitou of Dreams came to him, and led him out of the hollow cave towards the Wanare-tebe, or dwelling-place of the souls of the Dahcotahs, and their kindred tribes. Onward they travelled for many suns, over lofty mountains, up whose rocky sides they were obliged to scramble as a wild goat scrambles; now swimming deep rivers, now threading mazy forests, now frozen in the regions of intense cold, and now burnt in those of great heat, till at length they came to a very high rock, the edge of which was as sharp as the sharpest knife. Waiting, at its hither end, their turn to essay the dangerous test of their good or bad deeds, the unerring trial of their guilt or purity, stood many souls of Dahcotahs, and others whom Akkeewaisee had known on the earth. He stood and beheld the punishment of the bad, and the blessed escape of the good from the dreadful ordeal to which all alike were subjected. He saw a Dahcotah attempt the dangerous passage who had been too lazy to hunt, who had lain whole days stretched out upon his mat, while his wife begged food of the husbands of other women, and his children were clothed with skins, the produce of the labours of other men. He saw him precipitated from the dizzy height into the depths below, where the Evil Spirit received him into ids arms, and condemned him to that—to the criminal—hardest of punishments, a life of labour and fatigue. The great stick of wood was placed upon his shoulders, and a great pail of water in each hand, while the evil creature appointed to be his task-master flogged him incessantly to incite to a quicker walk. Again was the passage attempted by another. A Dahcotah came forward, who had dared to paint his cheeks as a warrior paints, and to shave his crown to the scalp-lock, and to prepare a sheaf of arrows, and to strike the painted pole, that stood by the council fire, and to dance the war-dance, and to utter the whoop of a warrior. Yet, when he came to the field where the hostile Tetons were assembled to do battle with his tribe—when his brothers had rushed like men upon their foes—he wiped the paint from his cheeks, he cut off the scalp-lock, he threw away his sheaf of arrows, he forgot that he had struck the war-pole, or danced, or whooped, and fled from the field as a deer flies from the bark of a dog. Him the master of the fetes of the bad ordained to a ceaseless warfare with the shades of the Tetons, from whom he had fled. He saw a liar attempt the dreadful passage—he fared no better than those who had preceded him; a reviler of the priests, and disbeliever in their power, met with the same fate. He saw the son of the aged Tadeus-kund, who had beaten his mother and spat in the face of his father, double chained to a wheel which moved over the floor of the abyss, at the top of the speed of the unnatural son.
Then came the turn of the good to make the trial of the rock. He saw pass safely over all who had been good to their parents, who had hunted well, fought bravely, told no lies, nor ridiculed, nor doubted, the priests. Having seen them all arrive in safety at the other end of the rode, the spirit conducted Akkeewaisee over also. They had yet a long way to travel, but they were guided by their observation of the encamping places of the souls who had preceded them. At each of these places tents were pitched, and fires always lighted where they could warm themselves, and rest until they had driven away the pains of fatigue, and recovered strength to pursue their journey. After many moons of weary travel, they arrived at the habitation of the Waktan Tanka, or Great Spirit. It was situated in the middle of a flowery vale, watered by cool and refreshing streams, and shaded by groves of larch and cypress. Many villages of the dead were scattered over it; here one, and there one, like single buffaloes feeding on a prairie. Akkeewaisee asked if the souls of his father and mother had reached the happy vale, and was directed to the village in which they dwelt. He found, gathered in this village, the souls of all his race who had passed the rock; the joyful reunion had there taken place for a long succession of ages—of fathers and mothers, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters: they now composed one great family. Their life—the life of all assembled in the valley of the Waktan Tanka—was blissful and happy beyond measure. They planted corn, which never failed to grow tall; they hunted the buffalo through flowery vales, till they pierced his side with a never-varying arrow, Akkeewaisee asked the spirits if it was permitted to them to revisit the land of the living. They answered never, except when children were about to die, and then their departed relatives recrossed the rock of judgment to guide their tender feet to their latest home.
Having lain three moons in the trance, the soul of the Aged Man reanimated his body, and he awoke. He related to the people of the tribe his dream of the Land of departed Spirits, and it has travelled down to my time as I have told it to my brother.
The stranger has been shown the Dahcotah land of souls—let him behold that of the Delawares. The Delawares, who are the grandfather of nations, believe that the habitation of good spirits is beyond the beautiful sky, which forms the partition between them and those who are doomed yet longer to inhabit the frail, and sickly, and feverish, tenement of flesh. The road to this bright land of spirits leads over a mighty and fearful rock, upon which the sky rolls to and fro with a stupendous sound. I am asked, "How do the Delawares know this?" I will tell you.
There were, once upon a time, in the tribe of the Unamis or Turtles, the most potent and warlike tribe of the Delawares, two valiant warriors, who feared nothing greatly but shame and disgrace. One of them loved and was beloved by a beautiful girl of the same nation, who, in a thoughtless moment, for at no other would she have made her lover incur so great a danger, expressed a wish to know if the soul of her deceased sister remembered the promise she had made her, of feeding with sweet berries, and nursing in her bosom, the spirit of the little bird which dropped dead from the bough of the locust-tree on the evening of her own death. The other warrior had lost his mother, whom he tenderly loved, and he wished to go and see, with his own eyes, if they used her well in the land of spirits, nor bowed her back to heavier burdens than accorded with the faintness of advanced years. They concluded, one to gain a smile from his beloved maiden, and the other to gratify his affectionate regards for his mother, to obtain a view of the Land of departed Souls; but it was not till they had been frequently reminded of their undertaking, and their courage had been repeatedly taxed(1), that, brave as they were, they could make their hearts strong enough to face the spirits of the winds that rove about the sky, or the thunders that leap from the black cloud. They left the village of the Unamis, and travelled for many moons in a path very crooked and difficult to be travelled, till at length they came to a mighty and fearful rock, upon which the sky was rolling to and fro with a tremendous sound, and a motion resembling that of the waves of the Great Lake Superior, when tossed about by a tempest. The winds were gambolling about the pathway, not as upon the earth, invisible to the eye, but in shapes, some of which were the most beautiful ever beheld, and some more frightful than ever entered into the conception of a son of the earth. The stars, which the inhabitants of the world are accustomed to see chained to their allotted bounds, were there floating and dashing about in the thin air, like a boat moving on troubled waters. After travelling with extreme pain and suffering for a long time upon this road, now buffetted by the terrific and angry forms of the north and east winds, and now soothed and comforted by the ministering shapes of the breezes of the west and south—now assisted by the strength of their own hearts, and by turns assailed or protected by the stars, they reached the Land of Souls. It was a beautiful country, they said, and the employments to which souls were there subjected, produced to them all the pleasant consequences they produced on earth to those who followed them, while they were unattended by the labour and difficulties attached to them in the earthly stage of existence. The sky was always cloudless, and a perpetual spring reigned throughout those happy regions. The forests were always full of game, and the lakes of fish, which were taken without the laborious pursuit and painful exertion of skill, which were necessary to secure them in the earthly habitation. The embodied forms of their friends retained the same wishes, inclinations, and habits, which had belonged to them while occupying the terrestrial house. So say the Unamis.
Another tribe of Delawares do not believe as the Unamis do—they think that the land of departed souls lies in another part of the sky, and that the path to it is not over mighty and fearful rocks, through the hideous army of embattled winds, and among the bounds and rebounds of unchained stars. There were once, but the time was many ages ago, in the tribe of the Unalachtas, two fearless and prudent hunters, who had one father, but not one mother, who had never offended the Great Spirit, or the inferior spirits, but duly observed in all their actions a full and unceasing remembrance of the Giver of all good gifts, as well as those who take a lesser part in the government of the world; and, whether in their cabins or in the wild forests, had never failed to offer sacrifices to him of the most valued part of all their acquisitions. When they came to the river or the lake, they threw in a large piece of their tobacco, and cast in birds, whose throats had been cut, and feathers plucked from the tip of the wings, to propitiate and render favourable to their prayers the haughty Michabou, the God of the Waters. When the kind and beneficent sun rose, they were careful to throw into the fire, to which he imparts the heat, a portion of every thing they intended to use that day; and when the mistress of bad spirits, the Moon, came out of the far woods, they took great care to propitiate the evil intelligences which sit upon her horns, plotting mischief to mortals, by liberal gifts of petun, or collars of beads, or ears of maize, or skins of animals. When their feet stood upon the edge of the mighty cataract, then was the most valued dog precipitated, then was the most valued drink poured into the overwhelming torrent, to appease the angry spirit of the abyss. And thus, performing their duties to the Great Master and their fellow-creatures, lived the two good Unalachta hunters.
But death at length at their request came to them. They wished to see the Country of Souls, and to judge with their own eyes if its situation and its delights had been truly told to them. Much had it been talked of, but who were they that talked? They were mortals—men, who had never quitted the corporeal state, nor stood forth disembodied spirits; things with the feelings which attend human nature. They wished to see if thorns and arrows would not wound the flesh of those who had departed hence; nor fire burn, nor cold freeze, nor hunger pinch, nor repletion distress, nor grief draw tears, nor joy produce excitement. Bending low before the Master of Life, with clay upon their heads, one of them, the elder, thus addressed him:
"Spirit of the Happy Lands! Tamenund, and the son of his father's wife, are on their knees before thee, with clay spread on their hair. It is not required that we name our wishes to thee; if thou art, as we think, the all-pervading and all-knowing spirit, thou knowest what they are before we have uttered them; if thou art not gifted with these attributes, why should we pour our words into the ears of one unable to grant us the boon we ask? We wish to die for a time; we wish that our eyes may be enabled to see the Happy Hunting-Grounds, if there be such grounds, and our ears to drink in the music of the streams which our fathers told us welled softly along beside the village of the dead. Master of Life, hear us, and grant our request."
Tamenund, and the son of his father's wife, lay down upon their couch of skins and soft grass, when the dews first began to descend upon the earth, and the deep sleep of death came over them. They found that their prayers had been heard, and themselves released from the thraldom of life and the load of the flesh. The spirit, unchained from the matter that shrivels and becomes dust, danced about like the winds of spring over the bosom of a prairie. It could stand upon the slenderest stalk of grass without bending it, and ascend and descend upon the sunbeams, as a healthy boy rung up and down a slight hill. Soon they found themselves irresistibly impelled by a wish to rise, and travel towards the bright track in the skies, where the light of innumerable stars is mingled in such confusion. They rose, and as a canoe, moving in the vicinity of the dwelling of Michabou, is drawn rapidly towards it by the hands of unseen spirits, so were they hurried towards the road of souls, which our white brother calls the Milky Way. They came to it, and found it thronged by innumerable hosts of spirits of all colours, all bound in the same bright path to the same glorious home. After travelling in this path for two suns, they came to a great city surrounded by the shade of a high wall. Within this wall, which was of immense extent, enclosing rivers and lakes, and forests and prairies, and all the things which are found on earth, dwelt the souls of good men; without, hovering around, as a hawk hovers around a dove's nest, into which he dares not pounce, because he sees near it a bent bow in the hands of a practised archer, were the souls of the bad, debarred entrance, and, as often as they approached very near, driven away by the ministering spirits of the Great Master of ail. Within the wall were all the things which give pleasure to the red man; the river filled with fishes disporting in their loved element, the lakes thronged with glad fowls, wheeling in their devious paths, and the woods with beautiful birds, singing their soft songs of love and joy from the flowery boughs of the tulip-tree and the Osage apple. They saw in the open space a panther, fangless and powerless, and heard in the thicket the growl of a fat bear, that could neither bite nor scratch. The speed of the bison was outstripped by that of the spirits; the wings of the wild turkey and soland-goose could not convey them out of the reach of the sprightly inhabitants of the City of Souls. Their corn grew up like trees, with two ears upon every stalk, and the produce of their bean-garden was a thousand for one. But while the souls of the good were so happy, and their joys so many, miserable, miserable was the state of the bad who were excluded from the city. They saw the happiness of the good souls, many of whom had been known to them on the earth, and they gnashed their teeth with impotent rage, and uttered a war-whoop, as a leg-broken bear growls or a chained man threatens, at the sight of the bliss of which they were not permitted to partake.
When they had remained three suns in the Joyful Abodes, the Great Spirit bade them prepare for their return to the earth. He told them there were human duties for them to perform before they could be permitted to take up their residence for ever in the Happy City. He bade Tamenund remember, that he had not taught his little son how to toughen a young ash bow, nor how to splint a shaken arrow. And he told the son of his father's wife that he had suffered the bird of his cabin to sow more corn than she could gather in, and that he must return to the earth, and see that her shoulders were not bowed by the heavy task of the harvest. "There were other duties for them to perform," he said, "and many must yet be their years on the earth."
In obedience to the orders of the Great Master of all, they returned to the Unalachta village, and again re-animated the bodies they had left. Tamenund taught his son how to toughen a young ash bow, and splint a shaken arrow; and the son of his father's wife forgot the dignity of an approved hunter, to assist his beloved woman in harvesting the corn. They lived long, and acted well, and when their years were many, when their limbs had grown feeble and their eyes dark with the mists of age, when they could no longer bend the bow of their youth, nor run the race of vigorous manhood, they were called from the earth, to enjoy that happiness which they had been permitted to behold with the eyes of humanity.
(1) Courage had been repeatedly taxed.—p. 234.
There is nothing which an Indian will not attempt to perform when his courage is taxed, or the honour of his nation called in question. "An Omawhaw," says Long, "being on a visit to the Pawnees, was present at a kind of grand incantation, during which many extraordinary feats were performed. He there saw, for the first time, the mountebank trick of appearing to cut off the tongue, and afterwards replacing the severed portions without a wound. 'There,' said Katterfelto, 'your medicine is not strong enough to enable you to perform this operation. The stranger, jealous of his national honour, and unwilling to be exceeded, unhesitatingly drew forth his knife, and actually cut off nearly the whole of his tongue, and bled to death before their eyes."
The Blackfoot believes that his fathers have told him truly, when they told him that the people of his tribe, when released from the load of flesh, come to a steep mountain, up whose huge projecting sides they have to scramble. After many moons of unwearied labour, tired and exhausted, they reach the top, from which they behold the land of the dead. They see stretched out before them an extensive plain, interspersed with new tents, pitched by the sides of beautiful streams, the banks of which resound with the humming of bees and the music of birds, and are shaded from the summer sun by the ever-blooming tree with great white flowers. Some of the tents are pitched upon hills, some in valleys, some to meet the whispering breezes of the Month of Buds, and some the strengthening winds of the Harvest-Moon. While, from the top of the mountain they are absorbed in contemplation of this delightful scene, the inhabitants of the happy land discover them, and come singing and dancing along, clothed in new skins, to meet them, with the blanket of friendship widely spread to the winds (1). Those Indians who have led good lives approach with that fearless step and eye which the recollection of good deeds always inspires, and are received with every demonstration of joy common among Indians; but those who have embrued their hands in the blood of their countrymen, and betray, by their pale cheeks and trembling steps, that they expect and deserve punishment, and those whose foreheads have been in any way blackened by the smoke of the breath of the Spirit of Evil, are told to return whence they came, and without more words are pitched down the sides of the mountain. Women, whose hard hearts have made their feeble hands take the life to which they had given birth, quenching the little spark struck out from the half-burnt brand, never reach the mountain at all, but are compelled by the Master of all to hover around the seats of their crimes, with branches of the mountain pine tied to their legs. The melancholy sounds heard in the still summer evenings, and which ignorant white men think the screams of the goat-sucker, or the groans of the owl, are the moanings of these wicked and unhappy mothers, lamenting the unnatural murder of their helpless little ones. They are trying to recall them to life, that their doom may be revoked, and that they may be permitted to approach the mountain.
In the Blackfoot land of souls, all are treated according as the deeds they have done have been good or evil in their intent or their consequences. If they have truly and faithfully performed those things for which they were sent upon the earth, if they have been good sons, good husbands, good fathers, good friends; if they have fought bravely, hunted well, told no lies, nor spoken evil of the Great Spirit, nor made laugh at his priests, they know neither pain nor sorrow, their time is spent in singing and dancing, and they feed upon mushrooms, which are very abundant and grow without cultivation. They are attended to the Happy Regions by the shades of their dogs and guns, and the shades of their huts and every thing they contained are ready for them the moment they arrive in these happy regions. The souls of bad men, which are not separated from the good save by the different feelings and pursuits which belonged to them in life, wander about, haunted by the phantoms of the persons or things they have injured. If a man has destroyed his neighbour's canoe, or his gun, or his bow and arrows, the phantoms of the wrecks of this property obstruct his passage wherever he goes. He sees every where the bow, self-drawn, ready to impel an arrow pointed at his breast, the gun ready poised, the canoe threatening to sink him. If he has been cruel to his dogs and horses, they also are permitted to torment him, and to hunt him down, as he in his life-time hunted the wolf and the deer. The ghosts of the men whom he injured in life are now permitted to avenge their wrongs, and to inflict on his shade pains commensurate with those he made them suffer. The spirit of the man, from whom he stole the ear of soft maize, now snatches from his hungry lips the red-gilled mushroom, and he, into whose crystal stream he threw impure substances, in revenge, strikes from his lip the gourd of crystal water. The good hunter, whose bowstring he enviously cut, fillips him on the forehead; the warrior whose spear he broke when no human eye beheld him, now, informed of the unmanly deed by the Spirit who sees all, spits in his face, as a coward should be spat upon. The soul of the horse which he overrode, or otherwise maltreated, runs backwards upon him, with elevated heels and a loud neigh; the dog he whipped too much or too often rushes upon him with open mouth, and the growl of bitter and inextinguishable hatred. He steps into the canoe, it sinks beneath him, and, when his chin is level with the water, it rises beyond his reach. Lo, there is a gun before him, and the shade of a stately stag nipping the phantom of a youthful hazel. He makes the attempt to point the gun towards it, and just as he supposes he has attained the object, and puts forth his hand to give vent to the winged weapon of death, he finds the gun has changed its position—the muzzle is pointed towards his own breast. Thus opposed, thwarted, baffled, by every thing around him, despised by all things, whether gifted with life or not, he passes an existence, the horrors of which may be felt but not described.
The soul of the Blackfoot never returns to earth, except to forewarn his friends of their approaching dissolution. When the Great Spirit says to him, "Spirit of a Blackfoot, the son or the daughter of your father is about to leave the green vales of the earth,"—"the foot of your father is shaking off the drowsiness of age, that he may prepare for the long journey of spirits,"—"the babe that was born yesterday will be journeying hither to-day,"—"the heart of your kind mother wants courage to die,"—"the soul of your beloved maiden, much as it longs for the arms of its tender lover, faints at the near prospect of the pang that rends asunder the flesh and the spirit—go, and comfort them,"—then, and then only—always at the bidding of the Great Master, never of its own accord—does the soul revisit the gross and unhappy world it has left. Then does it knock at the ear of the sleeper, whispering, "Take courage, for the Master despises cowards—meet the pang as a brave warrior—as a good hunter—as a wise priest—as a beauteous maiden should meet it, and rejoin the happy souls of thy race, in the valley of the kind and good Waktan Tanka." The sleeper, thus admonished, wakes with the words of the spirit deeply engraved on the green leaf of his memory—that leaf never becomes dry. Is he a warrior, and has he the fate to be taken in the toils of the enemy?—when bound to the stake, and the fire scorches his limbs, and the pincers rend his flesh, and the hot stone sears his eye-balls, and the other torments are inflicted, that serve to feed the revenge of the conqueror, and test the resolution of the captive, no groan can be forced from him, in the utmost extremity of his anguish; he never stains his death-song with grief, but dies as he lived, a man, because he knows that the Great Spirit despises cowards. Is he a hunter?—he enters boldly the den of the black bear, though surrounded by her cubs, and he laughs at the cry of the catamount, though he crouches for his bound. Is he a priest?—he calls louder and more frequently and joyfully than before upon his familiar spirit; he thanks the Master that his prayers are heard; and he is to be permitted to visit the happy lands. And what if the tears of the bright-eyed maiden do drop on the bosom of those who pillow her head in the Hour of Dread, they are not tears of sorrow, but flow from an eye, by the command of Him who made it the window of the soul, fated to the weakness of tears, and a heart prone to irresolution and trembling. The Great Waktan Tanka knows that he made her with the heart of a dove, that shakes at the fall of a leaf, and the soul of a song-sparrow, that utters its cry of fear at the fall of a flake of snow. He will not number tears and sighs, and tremblings and faintings, among the transgressions of a woman.
This is all I have to say.
(1) To meet them with the blanket of friendship widely spread to the winds.—p. 246.
The Indian manner of displaying friendship is very singular; in that mentioned in the second extract, the reader will perceive a strong resemblance to the Oriental practice of saluting a new acquaintance, as depicted in that admirable tale, The Crusaders.
"When they were within a mile of us, the Indian suddenly stopt. Captain Lewis immediately followed his example, took the blanket from his knapsack, and, holding it with both hands at each corner, threw it above his head, and unfolded it as he brought it to the ground, as if in the act of spreading it. This signal, which originates in the practice of spreading a robe or a skin as a seat for guests to whom they wish to show a distinguished kindness, is the universal sign of friendship among the Indians of the Missouri and the Rocky Mountains. It is repeated three times."—Lewis and Clarke, i. 355.
"As our canoes approached the shore, and had reached about three score rods of it, the Indians began a feu-de-joie, in which they fired their pieces loaded with balls, but at the same time they took care to discharge them in such a manner as to cause the balls to fly a few yards above our heads; during this, they ran from one tree or stump to another, shouting and behaving as if they were in the heat of battle. At first I was greatly surprised, and was on the point of ordering my attendants to return their fire, concluding that their intentions were hostile; but, being undeceived by some of the traders, who informed me that this was the usual mode of receiving friends, I happily desisted."—Carver, 15.
"Among the Shoshonees of the Rocky Mountains, they put their left arms over the right shoulder of the person they welcome, clapping his back, and applying their left cheek to his, shouting, 'Ah, hi e! Ah, hie e!' I am much rejoiced, I am much pleased to see you."—Lewis and Clarke, i. 363.
"When two parties of those Indians meet," (the Northern Indians,) says Hearne, "the ceremonies which pass between them are quite different from those made use of in Europe on similar occasions; for, when they advance within twenty or thirty yards of each other, they make a full halt, and in general sit or lie down on the ground, and do not speak for some minutes. At length one of them, generally an elderly man, if any such be in the company, breaks silence, by acquainting the other party with every misfortune that had befallen him, &c. When he has finished his oration, another orator of the other party relates, in like manner, all the bad news."—p. 332.
Where is the land of the Chepewyans? Where have that tribe of valiant warriors and expert hunters built their lodges? I will tell you. It is in the regions of almost perpetual snows; regions whose suns are never warm enough to pierce the frozen earth, which, therefore, produces nothing but moss. No sweet ears of corn grow to reward the toils of the woman; no wild flowers spring up for the youthful maiden to pluck. The child wanders forth to gather no berries; no bird of sweet music sings on the branch; no butterfly flits in the valley. Chill and dreary are the autumns, cold and bitter the winters; men drink melted ice, when in other lands buds are bursting open, and wear for a summer garment the skins of the otter and the beaver. Instead of the mild and whispering breezes of southern skies, we have the wild winds rushing impetuously forth from their caves in the icy north, and the sun of the land of the Chepewyans, knowing his uselessness, and the inability of his beams to rend the fetters which ice has thrown around our bleak hills and verdureless plains, stays with us but for a little season, leaving us for many weary days to be lighted only by the glare of the moon and stars, on the field of ice and snow. Yet the Chepewyan is not without his pleasures, as those who live in the land of the sun have their pains. He may drive from their frozen dens the beasts that make their beds in the bank of snow, and he may pursue the bear on the iceberg, and the musk-ox in the glade. In summer he may strike the salmon as he glides through the waters of the Bear Lake, and send his darts through the brown eagle, and make captive the white owl, hidden in the foliage of the dwarf-pine. In the winter, when the storm of hail rattles around his lodge of ice, stretched out on his bed of moss, he may recount the glories of his nation, and the great deeds of his fathers; And he may solace himself for the privations he endures, in his present state of being, by fancying those he will enjoy in that land of rest upon which he will enter when his spirit goes hence, and returns to the body no more.
A Chepewyan chief sat by the fire of his cabin in the time of winter, and the hour of a fall of snow, and told, in the ears of the listening tribe, a legend of the land of souls, the Chepewyan tradition of the Happy Hunting-Grounds. Let the assembled nations listen, and hear it repeated by the tongue of his son, who sat with open ears at his father's knee, drinking in the beloved words of beloved lips, and engraving them deeply on the core of his heart.
"Once upon a time," my father began, "there lived in our nation a most beautiful maiden, the flower of the wilderness—the delight and wonder of all who saw her. She was called the Rock-rose, and was beloved by a youthful hunter, whose advances she met with an equal ardour. No one but the brave Outalissa was permitted to whisper tales of love by the side of her nocturnal couch in the hour of darkness(1). The rock-moss he gathered was always the sweetest; and the produce of his hunt, however old and tough, was, in her opinion, the youngest and tenderest. They had loved from childhood, and with the deepest affection. But it was not permitted them to become inhabitants of one lodge, the occupants of one conch. Death came to the flower of the Chepewyans, in the morning of her days, and the body of the tender maiden was laid in the dust with the customary rites of burial. First, dressed in the richest garb she possessed, the gay-tinted robe of curiously woven feathers, and decked out with the ornaments bestowed upon her by the youth she loved, they placed her in the grave, lined with pine branches, amidst the groans and lamentations of the whole nation. The men howled loud and long, and the women cut off their hair, and scarred their flesh, and pierced their arms with sharp knives, and blackened their faces with charred wood. When the earth covered her from human sight, then woke their loudest burst of sorrow—all wept, save him who had most cause to weep; he stood motionless as a tree in the hour of calm, as the wave that is frozen up by the breath of the cold wind.
"Joy came no more to the bereaved lover. The chase afforded him no pleasure, for who was to share his spoils? He found no joy in pursuing the salmon, for no one lived to reward his successful quest with the smile of approbation. He told his discontent in the ears of his people, and spoke of his determination, at all events, to rejoin his beloved maiden. She had but removed, he said, to some happier region, as the Arctic birds fly south at the approach of winter; and it required but due diligence on his part to find her. Having prepared himself, as a hunter prepares himself, with a store of pemmican, or dried beef, and armed himself with his war-spear and bow and arrow, he set out upon his journey to the Land of Souls. Directed by the old tradition of his fathers, he travelled south to reach that region, leaving behind him the great star, and the fields of eternal ice. As he moved onwards he found a more pleasant region succeeding to that in which he had lived. Daily, hourly, he remarked the change. The ice grew thinner, the air warmer, the trees taller. Birds, such as he had never seen before, sang in the bushes, and fowls of many kinds, before unknown, were pluming themselves in the warm sun on the shores of the lake. The gay woodpecker was tapping the hollow beech; the swallow and the martin were skimming along the level of the green vales. He heard no more the cracking of branches of trees beneath the weight of icicles and snow;—he saw no more the spirits of departed men dancing wild dances on the skirts of the Northern clouds(2); and the farther he travelled the milder grew the skies, the longer was the period of the sun's stay upon the earth, and the softer, though less brilliant, the light of the moon. Noting these changes as he went with a joyful heart—for they were indications of his near approach to the land of joy and delight—he came at length to a cabin, situated on the brow of a steep hill, in the middle of a narrow road. At the door of this cabin stood a man of a most ancient and venerable appearance. He was bent nearly double with age; his locks were white as snow; his eyes were sunk very far into his head, and the flesh was wasted from his bones till they were like trees from which the bark had been peeled. He was clothed in a robe of white goat-skin, and a long staff supported his tottering limbs whithersoever he walked. The Chepewyan began to tell him who he was, and why he had come thither, but the aged man prevented him, by saying that he knew all. "There had passed," he said, "to the beautiful island, a little while before, the soul of a tender and lovely maiden, well known to the son of the Red Elk. Being fatigued with her long journey, he had rested awhile in his cabin, and had then told him the story of their long and affectionate attachment, and her persuasion that her lover would attempt to follow her to the Lake of Spirits. She had but just passed, and a little more speed on his part would enable him to overtake her. But he could not be permitted to carry his body, nor the body of his dog, nor his bow, nor his war-spear, beyond the door of the cabin, which was the gate of the land. He must leave them in his charge till his return, but he need not fear that harm would happen to them. So saying, he opened the gate, and gave him a glimpse of the wide and spacious road beyond.""
The Chepewyan was not long in disincumbering himself of the deadening clog of mortality. Leaving his body, and the bodies of his dog, and spear, and bow, in the hands of the gatekeeper, with a charge to have them delivered to his friends if he should not return, he entered upon the road to the Blissful Island. He had travelled but a couple of bowshots, when it met his view still more beautiful than his fathers had painted it. He stood upon the brow of a hill, sloping gently away to a smooth lake, which stretched as far as the eye could see. Upon its banks were groves of beautiful trees of all kinds, and many, very many canoes were seen gliding over its waters. A light breeze ruffled its waves—so light that they only reminded him of the opposition which a weak man makes to the will of the strong. Afar, in the centre of the lake, lay the beautiful island appointed for the residence of the good Chepewyan. And scarcely three bowshots from him, leaning upon a bank of flowers, in contemplation of the glorious scene, was the soul of her so fondly loved. Beautiful vision! The sight lends to his steps the fleetness of an antelope; he bounds forward, and is soon at her side. Into his arms she flies, and though they clasp but thin air, embrace but her resemblance, yet the doing so gives a hundred times the joy it could have done, when his spirit was clogged with the grossness of mortality, and he folded to his breast a corporeal form.
At length they reached the lake. They found upon its bank, chained by a rope of sand to the shade of a willow, two canoes made of a white stone that glittered in the sun like a field of ice. There were paddles in each canoe of the same material. The lovers were prepared for this by the tradition of their fathers, which informed them that a canoe of stone was the conveyance by which they were to reach the happy mansions. They also knew that each soul must have its separate conveyance, because the passage was to give rise to the judgment which permitted them to sit down in the happy dwellings, or doomed them to the punishment prepared for the wicked. Casting off the rope of sand, each stepped into a canoe, and committed it to the Water of Judgment. Who can describe their joy and satisfaction, when they found that, though the actions of their life-time had not been entirely pure; though the man had sometimes slaughtered more musk-oxen than he could eat, speared salmon to be devoured by the brown eagle, and gathered rock-moss to rot in the rain; though he had once made mock of a priest, and once trembled at the war-cry of the Knisteneaux, and once forgotten to throw into the fire the tongue of a beaver as an offering to the Being who bade it cross his hunting-path in a season of scarcity; and though the maiden had suffered her father to wear tattered mocassins, and her brothers broken snow-shoes, and thought of her lover when she should have been thinking of the Master of Life—still the canoes did not sink, but floated slowly on, level with the water, towards the Happy Island. They found that the paddles were not needed—once passed the Judgment test, once pronounced fit for the happy lands, the canoe moved, self-impelled, to the appointed harbour. As they floated onwards, their eyes and ears were pained by a thousand sights and sounds of horror. Now they saw a canoe sink from under the person it was appointed to judge—a father, perhaps, with his children in view; a husband, or wife, or friend, with the object dearest to their hearts, to listen to the bubling cry of their agony, as they sank to their chins in the water, there to remain for ever, beholding and regretting the rewards enjoyed by the good, and doomed to struggle, till the stars shall cease to shine, in unavailing endeavours to reach the blissful island. They beheld the lake thick and black with the heads of the unhappy swimmers, as the surface of the Great Bear Lake is dotted in summer with the wild fowl that seek subsistence in its bosom.
At length the happy pair reached the island. It is impossible to tell the delights with which they found it filled. Mild and soft winds, clear and sweet waters, cool and refreshing shades, perpetual verdure, inexhaustible fertility, adorned the retreats of the Island of Souls. There were no tempests of wind laden with snows to smother the unhappy Chepewyan caught at a distance from his cabin; no rains to sweep the hills of ice into the vales where he gathered his rock-moss, or tear his fishing-nets and weirs from their place in the river. Gladly would the son of the Red Elk have remained for ever with his beloved Rock-rose in the happy island, but the words of the Master were heard in the pauses of the breeze, discoursing to him thus:—
"Return to thy father-land, hunter, and tell in the ears of thy nation the things thou hast seen. Paint to them the joys of the Happy Island, but be careful to say that they can be enjoyed by the spirits of those only whose good actions predominate over their evil ones. Say that the Master does not expect perfection in man, but he expects that man will do all he can to deserve his love; he expects that sooner than suffer the wife of his bosom, or the children of his love, to be hungry, he will journey even to the far Coppermine for salmon, and hunt the white bear on the distant shores of the Frozen Sea. He expects from him good temper in his cabin; fearlessness and daring in war; patience and assiduity in the chase, and great and unceasing kindness to the father that begot, and the mother that bore him. What, though he have several times slaughtered more musk-beef than he can eat, speared salmon to be devoured by the brown eagle, and gathered rock-moss to rot in the rain?—what, though he have once made game of a priest, and once trembled at the war-cry of the Knistenaux, and once forgotten to throw into the fire the tongue of the beaver, as an offering to the Being who bade it cross his path in a season of scarcity?—and what though she have suffered her father to wear tattered mocassins, and her brothers broken snow-shoes, and thought of her lover when she should have been thinking of me, yet will I forgive them, and endow them with felicity, if their good deeds outweigh the bad. The Master does not expect that man will never commit folly or error. The clearest stream will sometimes become turbid; the sky cannot always be cloudless; the stars will sometimes become erratic—even snow will fall tinged with a colouring which was not in its nature when I ordered it to be. Man of the Chepewyans, write down these words on the green leaf of thy memory, nor suffer them to fade as the leaf grows dry. Be good, and thy spirit in a few more moons shall rejoin that of thy beloved rock-rose in the blissful island. Depart, son of the Red Elk; the canoe which brought thee hither will waft thee hence. Thou lingerest!—it is well! I know thy thoughts and wishes—clasp her to thy heart then. It is well! The recollection of the embrace will do more to keep thy spirit purified than all the sayings of thy fathers, and the traditional learning of thy priests. Away!"
(1) Nocturnal couch.—p. 257.
One, and the most frequently adopted method of Indian courtship, is that of approaching the couch of the beloved maiden, and whispering tales of love while she is reposing. When an Indian imagines, from the behaviour of the person he has chosen for his mistress, that his suit will be agreeable to her, he pursues the following plan.
As the Indians are under no apprehensions of robbers or secret enemies, they leave the doors of their tents or huts unfastened during the night as well as the day. Two or three hours after sunset, the slaves or old people cover over the fire, that is generally burning in the midst of their apartment, with ashes, and retire to their repose. Whilst darkness thus prevails, and all is quiet, wrapped closely up in a blanket, to prevent his being known, the lover will enter the apartment of his intended mistress. Having first lighted at the smothered fire a small splinter of wood, which answers the purpose of a match, he approaches the place where she reposes, and, gently pulling away the covering from the head, jogs her till she awakes. If she then rises up, and blows out the light, he needs no farther confirmation that his company is not disagreeable; but, if she hides her head, and takes no notice of him, be may rest assured that any farther solicitation will prove vain, and that it is necessary immediately for him to retire.
(2)The skirts the Northern clouds.—p. 250.
"The idea which the Southern Indians have of the Aurora Borealis is very pleasing and romantic. They believe it to be the spirit of their departed friends dancing in the clouds, and when the Aurora Borealis is remarkably bright, at which time it varies most in colour, form, and situation, they say their friends are very merry."—Hearne,346. And see the tradition post.
"The Northern Indians call this meteor by a less romantic name—Ed-thin, that is, "deer;" and, when that meteor is very bright, they say, that deer is plentiful in that part of the atmosphere. Their ideas, in this respect, are founded on a principle one would not imagine them to possess a knowledge of. Experience has shown them, that, when a hairy deer-skin is briskly stroked with a hand in a dark night, it will emit many sparks of electric fire, as the back of a cat will."—Ibid.
I have heard the words of the son of the Chepewyan, and the tale he has told of the Happy Island, and the Stone Canoe. It is the belief of his fathers, and he does well to treasure it up in his soul. The Knisteneaux have too their land of delight. It is in a different clime from that of the Chepewyan—how could it be, and continue a land of delight? Wars would arise between these ancient and implacable enemies, and the peace and quiet of the blessed regions be destroyed by their cries of hatred and revenge. Ask a Knisteneau to throw away his war-spear with a Chepewyan in his hunting-grounds? Ask a Chepewyan to wipe off his war-paint while there was the print of a Knisteneau mocassin in his war-path? The Great Spirit, knowing the impossibility of reconciling the jarring tribes of the Wilderness, appointed to each tribe or nation its place of happiness, and placed, between each, impassable barriers, that wars enkindled on earth might not be transferred to the Land of Souls.
The "Foot of the Fawn," the most beautiful woman of the nation, and the beloved wife of the great chief, died suddenly of the labour of nature in the Moon of Buds. The body of the deceased mother, dressed in the best garments she possessed, the robe of white fox-skin with the embroidered sandals of dressed deer-skin, the feathers with which she used to deck her long black hair, and the bracelets of pierced bones which encircled her slender wrists, were placed in the grave lined with pine branches. They buried with her all the domestic utensils she had used, and all the articles she was known to have prized. While they were filling in the earth into her grave, and erecting over it the canopy to protect it from the rains and the winds, loud were the lamentations which filled the air. They spoke of her patience, her industry, her care of her family, her love of her husband, her kindness and pity to the sick and afflicted, her benevolence to the stranger. The child, in giving birth to which she had died, was buried, according to the custom of our nation, by the side of the public footpath, or highway, that, having enjoyed but little life, merely seen the light of the sun to have its eye pained by its beams, some woman as she passed by might receive its little soul, and thus it might be born again, and still enjoy its share of existence. With these rites were the wife and child of the great chief of the Knisteneaux laid in the earth from whence they sprung.
It was many suns after the decease of the beloved Fawn's Foot, that two doves, one of which was of the size of a full grown dove, and the other a very little one, were seen sitting upon a spray by the side of the warrior's lodge. Our people, who recollected the tradition of our fathers, that the souls of the good, after their entrance upon the land of never-ceasing happiness, were transformed into doves, and that not always were little children appointed to be received into the bosom of a second mother, and to re-enter into another stage of existence, immediately conjectured that they were the spirits of the mother and the child returned to the land of their bodies, on some errand yet to be learned. They knew by the tradition of their fathers, that they had entered on the Land of Souls, for the Festival of the Dead had been celebrated, and all the rites duly observed which release the soul from its compelled attendance on the body, until the baked meats have been eaten, and the howling and the piercing of flesh, and the tearing of hair, and the weeping in secret, have taken place. "They have come! they have come! The Fawn's Foot and her child have returned from the Land of Souls," was shouted through the village. "The beautiful Fawn's Foot and her child, that disdained to be born again, but clung to its first mother, have returned to visit us, and tell us the secrets of the land of departed souls. Now we shall hear from our fathers, mothers, children, sisters, brothers, lovers, and friends. We shall be told the length of the journey to the Cheke Checkecame, and whether the traveller thither must take him stores of provisions, and go armed. We shall know if the soul of the Little Serpent, who was taken prisoner by the Coppermines, and burnt at the stake, is yet subjected to the pinches and goadings of the bad spirits in the place of torment prepared for those who die the death of fire; we shall hear about the Great Dog which stands on the hither bank of the river, over which all must pass who would enter on the land of spirits, to guard it against the approach of those who break from their chains in the place of torment before the expiation is duly made, and attempt, with impure hands, to lay hold of the pleasures of the happy regions." Thus they ran about the village, shouting and singing, until all the people were collected together, and then they moved in a procession towards the tree upon which the doves were perched. They found them—beautiful birds! but they were not birds, but souls changed into the form which betokens innocence and purity; they found them, and long and earnestly did they gaze upon the tenderly beloved beings they had formerly been, the pure souls they now were. The happiness they enjoyed in their present state was seen in their eyes, which were mild and beautiful beyond my power to tell. And great appeared the love subsisting between them. The little dovelet hopped on the back of its parent, who playfully pecked it in return, and often were the eyes of the child turned fondly on its mother, as if thanking her for the existence she had bestowed upon it, at the expense of her own life. Glorious birds with soft eyes, and skyey plumage! never hath aught so beautiful been seen in the land of the Knisteneaux.
At length the bereaved husband and father made his appearance, slowly and with eyes which would have shed tears, had they been other than those of a warrior. No sooner was he in view, than the little wings of the doves were rapidly fanning the air towards him. One, the lesser, and scarce larger than a fly, lighted on his lip, the larger crept to his bosom, as it was wont to do in life, and was fondly pressed to his heart, which loved the form it bore when living, and deeply cherished its memory, and hailed its return to the earth, in a new shape, with inconceivable delight. Having nestled awhile in his bosom, the soul of the good and beautiful Fawn's Foot perched upon his shoulders, and thus addressed the listening Knisteneaux:
"I am one of the souls of the Fawn's Foot, who died of the labour of nature, in the Moon of Buds, and the little dove at my side is the spirit of my child. It is an old tradition of our fathers, and will not therefore surprise you, that every person is gifted by the Great Master of Life with two souls. One of these souls, which is the breath, never leaves the body, but to go into another, which nevertheless seldom happens, save to that of children, which, having enjoyed but little life, is allowed to begin a new one, and live out a second and more protracted term of existence. When the breath departs from the body, the other soul goes to the region which is appointed to be the everlasting abode of the Knisteneaux. It is situated very far towards the setting sun, so far, that even those souls which are pardoned are many moons reaching it. Many dangers are to be encountered before the souls bound thither arrive. They first come to the place of torment, appointed for the souls of those who have been taken prisoners and burnt. They pass a river where many have been wrecked, and at length come to another, at the hither edge of which lies a dog of immense proportions, which attacks indiscriminately every one that attempts to cross. The souls whose good deeds outweigh the bad are assisted by the Good Spirit to overcome the dog, while the bad, conquered by him in the conflict, are incessantly worried by him thereafter. The next place of danger and dread, is the country where the spirits of the beasts, birds, fishes, &c.—all animate nature which is not man—is found. Here are the spirits of bears, and wolves, and snakes, all that is cruel, or bloody, or hideous. And these are sure to give battle to the shades of the human beings, as they cross the lands and waters where they dwell. The punishment they inflict consists alone in the terror they excite, for the jaws, so thickly studded with teeth, are but a shadow, and the claws could only retain in their grasp a shade. The dwelling place of the souls of the brutes has its enjoyments and pleasures suited to their tastes. The snail, that delights to crawl in slime, will have full permission to do so; the tortoise, and the prairie dog, and the mole, may still creep into the earth if they choose, and the squirrel still suspend himself by his tail from the bough of the tree. If the bear choose to suck his claws, none shall say him nay, and the neeshaw may bury himself as deep in the mud as he likes.
"At length the souls arrive at the region where they are destined to spread their tents for ever. I have heard from the lips of our fathers of its pleasures and its joys; all are well and truly described in your old tradition. Happiness and rest are for the good, misery and labour for the bad. Bright skies, eternal springs, and plenty of all things, reward him who did his duty well; continual storms, endless winter, parching thirst, pinching hunger, and crying nakedness, punish him who performed them ill. Men and women of my nation! forsake evil ways, and earn, by so doing, unbounded happiness. Hunter, dread not the bear, and be patient and industrious; warrior, fear not thine enemy, and shouldst thou unhappily fall into his power, bear his torments as a warrior should bear them, and sing thy death-song in the ears of his tribe. And thou, my beloved husband, persevere for a few more moons in the course which made thee the light of my eyes while living, and renders thee not less dear now I inhabit the world of spirits. Thou wilt soon rejoin the souls of thy wife and child in the land of unceasing delights. Till then, farewell."
Having spoken thus, the little doves flung out their skyey wings to catch the breath of the Great Spirit sent to waft them home, and were soon swept away from the sight of the Knisteneaux. Not so their tale, which has resisted the current of time, and survives in the memories of all our nation.
If my brother will go abroad in a clear evening in the Moon of Falling Leaves, and turn his eyes towards the cold regions of the Hunter's Star, and the north wind, and the never-melting snows, he will often see the skies flushed with a hue like that which mounts to the cheeks of a young maiden, when the name of her lover is whispered in her ear, or when that same lover presses her to his heart in the presence of curious eyes and slandering tongues. At first, he will see a faint beam darting up in the north, like the spray which shoots into the air, when the waters dash upon a rocky frontlet. Gradually he will behold it arise, till half the heavens, and sometimes the whole, is lit up with exceeding brightness. Then will he hear in the skies a noise as of half-suppressed laughter, and sometimes, though more rarely, he will behold the light-winged aërial forms of the merry laughers, as they thread the mazes of their dance among the clustering stars. The sight fills the soul of an Indian with great joy, for he thinks that it is occasioned by the spirits of his departed friends, indulging in the sport they loved so well on earth, and dancing merrily to the music of the stars. The red blush which tinges the face of night with a hue like that which mounts to the cheeks of a beautiful maiden, when the name of her beloved youth is whispered in her ear, is the flame which arises from the fires kindled by the kind spirits of the north, to thaw the frozen mist which impedes their light footsteps across the face of the heavens. And the laugh is the laugh of eager joy, which those spirits utter when, indulging in their loved pastime, they remember the occurrence which led to their glorious destiny, and made the bright and starry north their place of residence after death.
Once upon a time, the tribe of the Burntwood Tetons had assembled to hold a merry feast and joyful dance upon the coming-in of the green corn. It was a season of unusual plenty; the stalks of maize had grown almost to the height and thickness of the surrounding trees, and the ears thereon were many, sound, and sweet. Not only was this best beloved food of the Indian in great plenty, but every thing else which contributes to the enjoyment of Indian life, and makes the red man happy, was in equal abundance. Every bush was loaded with rich, ripe berries; and never, in the memory of the oldest Teton, had the woods been so stocked with game, or the waters so frequently made to ripple with the gambols of the nimble fish. The boy of twelve summers could feed all his father's children with the spoils of his feeble bow and tiny arrows, and the daughter of six would pluck more berries from the prairie and hill-side, in the space of half a sun, than could be eaten in her father's cabin by its hungry inmates for four sleeps. The Moon of Planting saw the Great Spirit in good humour with his children, the Tetons, because they had kept his commands, as laid down by his priests and prophets: the Moon of Green Corn found him equally pleased and gracious. Thence it was that he had showered prosperity upon all the undertakings of our nation, and thence that he had given to our corn to grow up like trees, and made the feet of our young warriors swift in the chase, and their hearts strong in the combat, and had given to our maidens the power to win, by their soft smiles and softer words, and endearing glances, and whispers of affection, the hearts of whomsoever they would. The Great Spirit loves to bestow gifts upon mortals, and to see them happy, and never withholds his blessings from them when they have duly besought his aid, and remembered to walk in the path he has pointed out to them. When our tribe drove the Mahas from their hunting-grounds, and came back with many scalps, it was because they invoked his protection ere they went, and offered him frequent sacrifices—when they left the bones of half their warriors to whiten on the prairies which skirt the distant Wisconsan, it was because, in the pride of their hearts, they remembered him not, and forgot that death and destruction go before the steps of the hardened and contumacious.
I have said, that the warriors of my nation had assembled to the dance and the feast. They had, and there were gathered together with them that part of the tribe which better loved the pursuits of peace than those of war—were better pleased to gather in the maize and nuts of autumn, and to spear the gliding tenants of the waters, and to follow the trail of the deer through the leafy coverts which he makes his hiding-place, than to join in the tumult, and fatigues, and bloodshed, of the strife of men. While the blithe young warriors danced their dance, the crowd around them, from time to time, approved of their performances, by loud and oft-repeated shouts of joy and delight. They said, that more expert and graceful dancers had never been seen in the tribe, and predicted, that limbs so light and agile in the dance, and eyes so true in directing the spear to the painted post, around which they were dancing, must needs show their agility and truth in the first expedition they should undertake against a foe. And the young maidens—those whose praise is sweetest, at least to the ears of youth—were equally loud in their commendations of the sprightly Tetons, who were worshipping the Master of Life in the manner supposed to be the most acceptable to him.
While our people were thus employed in their worship and dance, although it was the hottest month of summer, and the day was one of singular and overpowering heat, they were surprised and terrified by a sudden darkness, accompanied by a great fall of snow and hail. All at once, to their unspeakable consternation and confusion, there stood, in the centre of the space around which the dance was danced, a spirit of the air, wearing the form and proportions of a woman of exceeding beauty. White and pure was her skin, as the snow ere it touches the earth; her hair, which flowed to her knees in many folds, was white as the snow which was falling around her; but her eyes were blue as the sky from which she had taken her flight, and these alone, of all that appertained to her, were of a different hue from the snows which had accompanied her descent to the earth. She was of the usual height of the women of our nation, and more beautiful than any thing that had ever entered into the imagination of mortals. In a moment the dance was suspended, and, throughout the camp of the Tetons, not a voice or sound was heard, save the hushed respiration of the terrified and astonished crowd, as they gazed upon the beautiful and majestic spirit. Awhile it stood in earnest but tranquil look upon the silent warriors, and then spoke in whispers the words which I shall repeat to my brothers:
"Men of the Burntwood Tetons! I am the chief spirit of the Land of Snows—the power which, by the decree of the Great Being, presides over the regions of ice and frost. I have come from my dwelling in the far north, to look upon the brave and good Tetons, and to behold the dances which they are so famed for dancing, and to see with my own eyes their skill in shooting with the bow, and throwing the spear, and their strength in wielding the war-club, and their patience under afflictions, and their endurance of fatigue, and hunger, and cold, and want. I had heard in my dwelling-place in the bright skies that they were the best and bravest of men; I shall see if the report is true. But not for this alone have I left the glorious regions of the north; I have suffered myself to be coaxed to the earth, by a wish to feel in my bosom the workings of that soft passion, which possesses both mortals and immortals—things of the earth, and the air—and sometimes blesses with joy and happiness, but oftener afflicts with pain and misery, and days of anxiety, and nights of anguish, those whose lot it is to make it the all-controlling guest of their bosoms; thou knowest that I mean the almighty passion of love. Although I dwell in the regions of eternal frost and never-melting snows, yet would I that my bosom should feel the gentle flame; though my flesh be of the consistence and coldness of ice, I would feel the raging of a fire like that which exists in the bosoms of those who love to madness. I, who lived in the skies many, very many, ages before the Elder Chappewee brought up the earth from the bottom of the ocean to the present hour, without a touch of human passion—who never knew or wished to know joy or sorrow, hope or despair, pleasure or pain, melancholy, regret, anger, disappointment, or aught that elevates or depresses the souls of mortals—would now partake of all and each in an equal degree with the children of the earth. I would have my bosom torn with the conflicting passions of humanity—be chilled with the horrid doubts of jealousy, and with agonising fears for the duration of the affection which will become a part of my existence."
Here the Spirit of Snow ceased speaking, while her tears fell thick and fast in the shape of frozen rain upon the Tetons. Seeing the emotion of the beautiful Spirit, and fearing that further silence on the part of the tribe whom she had come to visit might be offensive to her, the aged Nikanape, who was wisest of all the men of the land, rose and addressed her thus:
"Beautiful Spirit of the Land of Snows! Thou wouldst feel, thou sayest, the passion of love, and wouldst admit to thy bosom a soft feeling of preference for one dearer than all the other beings of earth. Although thou art a spirit, and shouldst be wise, yet, to judge from thy speech—be not offended—the words of an aged Teton may better thy wisdom. They whose bosoms are not afflicted by the passions of humanity, who know neither love nor hate, nor joy nor sorrow, nor revenge nor pity, nor anger, nor the other passions and emotions which distract human life, and reduce it to a few brief and unhappy years, have only to pray that the Great Spirit would keep them in their happy state of ignorance. Why wouldst thou love?"
"To know its pleasures."
"They are fewer than the throbs of fear in the breast of a true warrior, and shorter lived than the flower that blooms to-day, and to-morrow is blasted by the unwholesome dew."
"I would know its pains."
"They are more numerous than the fire-flies which light up a summer prairie, and die but with the being who entertains the passion upon which they attend."
"I have seen otherwise. Once, while keeping my night-watch in my own clime of snows, I beheld the return of one to the embrace of a maiden from whom he had long been separated. I saw the eager flush of delight on her cheek, as she rushed into his outstretched arms, and beheld the sweet kisses of affection which were interchanged between the enraptured pair, and heard the thrilling words of heartfelt tenderness which these two did murmur in each other's ears. Was not this happiness?"
"Would he not do well who should exchange a space of time equal to thrice the years of a brown eagle, of existence so passionless as mine, for one moon of happiness like that which those lovers enjoyed?"
"The great prophet of the Tetons is a man of few words. He sees the Spirit of the Land of Snows determined to become a mortal, and why should he seek to change her mind? May it be the happy lot of a man of his nation to gain the affections of a being so beautiful as thou art! Speak, fair Spirit! my people listen in anxious hope that thou wilt call some Teton youth to thine arms."
Softly, and with a fearful look did the unearthly maiden make reply to the Teton prophet. "I saw from my place in the land of frost one whom I deemed worthy to be the husband of her at whose command the snows descend upon the earth, and the waters are locked up with a chain, the rivets of which can only be unclasped by the warm sun of summer. I beheld him, in my eyes, the bravest of all thy warriors. None hath so fleet a foot, none so sure a hand, none so fair a cheek, none so stately a form."
"Surely thou hast named the pride of our nation—thou has described the Swift Foot," replied the prophet. "Call him hither."
They carried the message to the youthful warrior, who came with the speed of foot for which he was so well known, and stood by the side of the beautiful maiden from the Land of Snows. Though it was evident that she liked the young Brave, yet was not her love shown by the signs which usually give evidence of the existence of that tender passion. No blush lit up her snowy cheek, or flushed her lily neck, as it does the cheek and neck of maidens of the earth when pressed to the enraptured bosoms of those they love. No tear bedewed her eye, no trembling seized her frame, no throb of rapture lifted the snowy mantle that hid her bosom. Her body was bent slightly forward, her snowy lips were parted like a water-lily, about to unfold itself to the face of day, and her arms were extended as if they would press to her heart, all icy as it was, the noble warrior who stood at her side.
"Dost thou love me?" she faintly asked.
"Does the dove love his little mate? does the spring bud love the beams of the sun? does a mother love her first-born? does a warrior love the shout of a foe? I love thee more than words can express; let my actions show the deep affection I bear thee. The Swift Foot will make thee the wife of his bosom."
"Dost thou know who it is that thou wouldst wed?"
"Dost thou know that when thou shalt take me to thy bosom thou wilt embrace a form of ice? Thou art warm and impassioned, I chilled and chilling as the winds of winter, and frozen as the ice of the bleak Coppermine."
"Still will I dare the union. My love shall kindle in thy bosom a warmth equal to that which possesses mine own."
"My breath is the breath of the northern blast."
"And mine hath the warmth of the breeze which blows in summer from the land of never-failing verdure. Wilt thou, beautiful Spirit! be the wife of a Teton, who has more scalps in his lodge than fingers on his hands, who has struck dead bodies of six different nations, and stolen half the horses upon which his brother warriors ride to the combat?"
"I will—I am thine, brave warrior!"
"Thou art indeed cold, beautiful Spirit!" said the Teton, as he pressed the consenting maiden to his bosom for a moment, and then, shuddering with an icy chill, his teeth shaking like the rattles of a snake, put her from him. "But thou art mine, though it were death to embrace thee."
Again, summoning all his resolution, he held her to his heart. Then calling the women to him, the warrior bade them prepare a bridal feast. The youth and the maiden then went through the Indian form of marriage, and the beautiful spirit of the Laud of Snows became the wife of the Teton warrior.
With the sun of the next day the whole tribe gathered around the bridal cabin, eager to learn if the Spirit of the North still remained to bless the arms of her husband. Soon she appeared with her beloved Teton. But oh how changed! Her cheek and neck were now suffused with blushes as deep as those which stain the cheeks of mortal maidens; her hair had changed from a snowy whiteness to a glossy brown: she had become to all appearance a beautiful mortal. Ever and anon her eyes were fondly turned on the Swift Foot, who repaid her fond glances by pressing her now warm and ardent bosom to his own. The aged Nicanape again approached the pair, and asked the Spirit if she did not regret that she had left the regions of the skies to assume the attributes of mortality. With a fond glance at the object of her love, she replied that a single moon of bliss like that she now enjoyed was worth an eternity of the cold and passionless existence which was hers before she had quitted the skies. Again was she enfolded in the arms of the doating warrior, and the crowd retired to permit the full, and free, and undisturbed, interchange of those fond attentions, which are wont to occupy the first moon of married life.
And thus passed away the first year after the marriage of the Teton Brave with the beautiful Spirit of the frozen North. Ere that year had passed, there was a stranger in their cabin—a little son, with the wondrous beauty of its mother and the fearless soul of its father. Never was there a being so beloved as the Spirit-wife was by the whole nation. Though she now possessed the soul of a human being, her breast was visited only by the softer and purer passions of human nature; anger, revenge, cruelty, jealousy, and the other turbulent passions and emotions, never came near her gentle bosom. Her love for her husband grew with the growth of years, and strengthened with the progress of time; her pity and compassion for the poor, and hungry, and sick, and fainting, knew no bounds. Ever mild and affectionate, and kind, and humane, never prone to break the quiet of her cabin by those querulous complaints and angry invectives wherewith wives destroy the comfort of their husbands, and bring storms and tempests, hail, rain, thunder, and lightning, into the sky of domestic peace, the Teton loved her better than mortal ever before loved another. Her goodness not only brought joy and happiness to her husband, but benefits to the nation, which made their lives pass as pleasantly and glide along as smoothly as a canoe floating down a quiet stream in the time of summer. When the hunters would go to their forest sports and labours, they asked the wife of the Swift Foot if their hunt should be successful, and as she told them ay or no was their expedition undertaken or abandoned. When she bade the women plant the maize, they might be sure of the fair weather without which the task could not be well accomplished; when she cast her bright eyes on the sheaf of arrows rusting on the wall, the warriors without more ado rose, and prepared the corn and pemmican, and examined the condition of their bows and casse-têtes, and painted themselves with the ochre of wrath, and sang with a hollow and sepulchral voice their songs of war, and killed the fat dog, sacred to Areskoui, for they knew that the keen look of the Spirit-wife upon the instruments of death boded victory and glory to those who should employ them in the strife of warriors. On the contrary, if, tired with a long peace, one rose with the string of wampum(1) in his hand, and said to his brothers, "The blood of him whom our foes slew in such or such a moon is not yet wiped away; his corpse remains above the earth unburied; I go to wash the clotted gore from his breast, to give him the rites of sepulture, and to eat up the nation(2) by whom the base wrongs were done him"—if, having spoken thus, the Spirit-wife but cast her meek blue eye upon him, and suffered a sigh to pass her beautiful bosom, the speaker rose, and washed off the black paint, and effaced from his cheeks all traces of the bloody design by which he had been actuated, and declared that a kind bird had whispered in his ear that the "enemy were gone to the mountain streams for sturgeon," or, "to the plains of the Osage to gather bitter snow," or, "to the prairies of the Wisconsan to hunt the buffalo," or, "to the stormy lake of Michabou(3) to take the fish wherewith the god had so plentifully stocked it." The assembled warriors, knowing that he had a sufficient motive for changing his mind, would follow his example, and lay by the weapons of war to resume those of peace, without any inquiry why he had changed his mind. And thus, more by soft persuasion, and kind entreaties, and wise prophecies, than by stern commands, and bitter denunciations, the beautiful Spirit-wife ruled the Burntwood Tetons to their glory and happiness. 
Yet, with all her love for her husband, and her children, of whom in ten springs ten stood in their father's cabin, she appeared at times to be far from happy. It was observed that nothing could induce her to go abroad after darkness had veiled the earth. When the robe of night was thrown over the face of things, then the Spirit-wife would be found seated in the darkest corner of her dwelling, nor could entreaties draw her out. Insensible to fear, while the sun shone, the moment it disappeared, her cheek became pallid as death; and if, during the period of darkness, there happened a high wind from the north, and a fall of hail, her agony knew no bounds, and excessive trembling would for awhile deprive her of the power to move, and almost to utter intelligible sounds. Her husband asked her wherefore this trembling, but could gain no answer. And thus time passed away.
The snows of ten winters had fallen to rush to the embrace of the rivers, and black clouds, and cold winds, and falling leaves, were betokening the near approach of the eleventh, when, upon a clear and starry night, a stranger, wearing a garment which glittered like ice upon which the sun is shining, and whose hair was a body of icicles, entered the village of the Tetons. He was of very small stature, being scarcely taller than the child who has seen twelve harvests: and his limbs and features were proportionably small. The colour of his skin, and the robe which he wore, as well as the shape of the latter, so nearly resembled those of the Spirit-wife on the morning she came to the Teton village, that all deemed they were of the same nation, perhaps brother and sister. When they asked the stranger who he was, and why he had come hither, he made no answer, but to the question said, with a voice that sounded like the wind of the Cold Moon:
"Have you seen my wife?"
"Wife?—What wife?" demanded the chief.
"She who yesterday fled from my arms—the beautiful Spirit of Snow."
"Ten seasons have passed," said the chief, "and the eleventh is near at hand, since there came among us a being, exceedingly beautiful, and habited much like him to whom the great chief of the Tetons is now speaking. She has become the wife of one of my Braves. Was she thine ere she was his?"
"Ten of thy seasons are but a day, nay, but an hour, nay, but a minute, in the eyes of spirits. In my computation, it was yesterday that the fair Spirit of Snow left my bosom."
"And who art thou?"
"The Spirit of Tempests—the ruler over the realms of the bleak north; he who harnesses his horses to the east winds, and drives the furious whirlwind and crashing tempest over the lands of the affrighted Tetons and their forest brothers."
"Thou seemest too small of stature to undertake wrathful purposes, and all unfit to represent the mighty winds that rend the stubborn oak, and the fierce tempests that scatter yet wilder desolation," said the Teton chief, surveying, almost contemptuously, the diminutive form of the strange Spirit.
"Tax but my powers—excite but my ire," said the demon, "and the chief of the Burntwood Tetons may rue the hour that gave birth to his doubts of the strength of the master of the northern blast. But why do I waste words upon thee? Bring hither my wicked wife."
Seeing the angry and ireful Spirit determined upon mischief, the chief departed, his bosom filled with sorrow, to summon the beautiful and beloved Spirit of Snow to the presence of the being who claimed her as his wife. He found her not unapprised of the dreadful fate which awaited her. Bathed in tears, her head reclined on the shoulder of the doting Teton, sat the lovely Spirit, her eyes now bent on him she loved so fondly, and now on their beautiful children, who slept all unconscious of the grief which wrung their fond mother's bosom. At length, with sudden resolution, she rose from her seat, and, folding the beloved warrior to her breast in one long and passionate embrace, she left the cabin.
"I have found thee at last," exclaimed the angry ruler of tempests, as the beautiful woman approached him. "Thou, who fledst from my arms to those of an earthly paramour, how dost thou like the exchange?"
"So well," replied the trembling Spirit, "that if thou wilt consent to let me remain where I am, I will never return to thee or to my clime of snows."
"Base-minded woman! And wilt thou abandon the glorious destiny of ruling the elements for the mean one of sharing in the labours of a Teton cabin?"
"The destiny which thou deemest glorious may be well abandoned for that which thou holdest mean. However well it may once have suited me to dwell in the bleak climes of the north, and be the mistress of the flaky dew, it now more glads my heart to share in the labours of a Teton cabin. I know, from my own brief experience, that the fevers and agues of mortality are to be preferred a thousand times to the unvarying, unchanging, existence of a Spirit without passion, feeling, sympathy, love, or tenderness. I pray thee let me remain as I am, and where I am."
"And so thou preferrest the earth to the sky; sensibility to insensibility; a humble Teton warrior to the mighty Spirit of the clime over which thou wast created to exert thyself a wondrous influence?"
"Let it not displease thee that I do. I have become in love with the pains of human life, and delighted with the anxieties which cling to it, as moist snow clings to a pine in the warm spring."
"Becoming a mortal being thou must die."
"I shall first have lived."
"Disincumbered of its earthly load, will return to its former starry mansion."
"Once more I ask, dost thou prefer to remain on earth? Rough and noisy though I be, yet will I not exert force to compel thee back to thine own region."
"I would remain. In my cabin is a Teton warrior—him I love; there are ten beautiful children at his side—the Spirit of Snow fed them with her own milk—the Teton warrior is their father. Thou canst not, passionless as thou art, know my feelings; but, believe me, that to part me from them is to banish all peace and joy from my soul, and to drive me into a depth of affliction, which will last till time shall be no more. Nor deem that aught save death can weaken the force of those affections which are now kindled in my bosom."
"I see, I see; and, but that stern pride forbids it, I, too, would, throw off the state of a ruler of tempests and wintry winds, to become the master of a cabin in one of the green vales of the earth, to gather around me children like thine, and to feel the hopes and fears, which have rendered thee so unlike the being thou wast. But we shall meet again. When thou wert invested with the attributes of mortality, death was also appointed to thee—a few years, and thou wilt quit the house of clay, again to rove free and unconfined among the glittering stars, and through the endless realms of space."
With these words, the Spirit of Storms took his departure from the land of the Tetons, and none ever saw him more. Released from his presence, joy again took possession of the bosom of the beautiful wife of the Teton, and the traces of tears were soon removed from her fair cheek. His assurance had quieted her soul, and fear was no longer an inhabitant of her bosom. She no longer sought the gloomy privacy of the cabin at the approach of night, but joined the dance of maidens, herself the most sportive of them all. Every season added a little stranger to the laughing and merry groupe, till twenty and seven sons and daughters were in the cabin of the Teton Swift Foot. Old age came over the husband, but not the wife. When his knees had grown feeble, and his voice faint, and his eye dim, and his heart craven, her faculties were in full perfection—her cheek still wore the blush of youth, and her step was lighter than the fawn of four moons. And, if time had abated nothing of her wondrous beauty and sprightliness, neither had it of her goodness, and kind attention to the wants of the poor Indians. Her care that they should want for nothing was as much exerted as ever—still their hunting-grounds and their rivers were the best stocked of any in all the land, and their war expeditions for forty seasons were invariably blest with success. Let not my brother wonder, then, if the Tetons almost forgot their duty to the Great Spirit, in their affection for the good being whom they deemed his fatherly care had sent among them.
At length, the Teton warrior, overcome by years, lay down and died. Then it was that deep grief visited the bosom of his still beautiful and still youthful wife. In vain, did the priest remind her that all must die—she would not be consoled. They dressed the body of the deceased warrior in his robe of fur, and then laid it, together with his spear, and bow, and war-hatchet, and sheaf of arrows, and pipe, and camp-kettle, in the house of death(4). While they were rendering the last service to the body of the Swift Foot, the wife sat motionless, looking on—when they had finished, she rose, and spoke to them thus:—
"We have now dwelt together, Tetons, for forty summers, and, during that time, there has been a pure, unclouded sky in our village. We have been friends, and so we will part. I cannot abide longer on the earth; I go to take the soul of my beloved husband to the mansion prepared for him in my own bright clime of the north. My children I leave to the care of the brave warriors and good hunters, bidding one to protect, and the other to feed them, till the Good Spirit sees fit to deprive them of the life he has given. Be this your recompense.
"It is known that, among all the red men of the forest, none are so fond of dancing, and none so excellent therein, as the Tetons. Ask any man, or any woman, of any nation, who best and most gracefully perform the War Dance, and the Scalp Dance, and the Calumet Dance, and the Dance of Green Corn, and he will answer, 'The Burntwood Tetons.' Now, if ye will continue to watch over my helpless children till their days of helplessness are past, ye shall continue to dance even after death—the spirit released from the flesh shall still caper as merrily as ever over the clear skies of the north. Those skies were once mine—to-morrow I shall resume dominion over them."
"It is cold, very cold in those regions," said the great chief. "The dance will not keep us warm, and our way will be impeded by the ice and snow."
"Neither shall be an impediment," answered the beautiful Spirit. "I will cause my little people to kindle huge fires, the flames of which, flashing over the northern skies, shall at once dissipate the flaky mists, and be a light to the steps of the dancers. And thus shall it be. When a Teton departs, his spirit shall go to the northern skies, which henceforth shall be the Teton's Paradise. There shall he enjoy, uninterrupted, his beloved pastime; and, till time shall be no more, have full permission to foot it as joyfully as he did on earth."
These were the concluding words of the Spirit-wife. When they looked up she was gone from their sight, no one knew whither. Presently there was a slight fall of snow, which soon, however, again gave place to the beams of the warm and refreshing sun. They never saw her again. They never saw her again, but they forgot neither her nor her wishes. The children she left were adopted by the nation, and became in time so many of them fathers and mothers, that, at this day, half the tribe are descended from them.
My brother asks, if the good Spirit-wife kept her promise to the Tetons. She did, as he will see, if he will but look at the northern skies in the time of summer and autumn. He will then see flashing over the face of the broad heavens the flames which the good people kindle to thaw the frosty air, and thus remove the impediments which exist to the merry dance of the souls of those Tetons, who have repaired to the Happy Abode. He will hear very plain the laugh of the sprightly dancers; and frequently, when the air is very clear, he will see their nimble forms dancing up and down the moonbeams. Who would not wish that his spirit might be permitted to go to The Teton's Paradise?
Brother, this is no lie.
(1) String of Wampum.—p. 293.
A party of Indians, intending to go to war, first observe a rigorous and protracted fast. When the fast is ended, he who is to command it assembles his friends, and, holding in his hand a string of wampum, makes a speech, in which the causes of war, and the injuries and insults which justify it, are fully and artfully set forth. When he has finished, he lays the collar on the ground, and he who takes it up, by so doing, declares himself embarked in the same expedition.
(2) Eat up the Nation.—p. 294.
This is a frequent figure of the Indian orator, when endeavouring to inflame the passions of his hearers. It signifies that a war is to be waged against the nation respecting whom the "talk" is held, in the most outrageous and destructive manner. When they wish to engage in their quarrel an ally who is not present, they send a belt of wampum, with an invitation to him to drink the "blood" or "the broth of the flesh of their enemies." It is not to be inferred from this, that the North American Indians are Anthropophagi. It is undoubtedly an allegorical manner of speaking, with frequent examples of which the Scriptures furnish us, e.g. Psalms xxvii. 2.
(3) The stormy Lake of Michabou.—p. 294.
The Indians believe that Michabou, the God of the Waters, formed Lake Superior to serve as a nursery for beavers. The rocks at the Sault de Saint Marie, or Falls of St. Mary, according to the tradition of the Indians, are the remains of a causeway made by the God in order to dam up the waters of the rivers, which supply this great lake. At the time he did this, he lived, they add, at Michillimackinac, i.e. a great place for turtles, pronounced Mak-i-naw. He it was who taught the ancestors of the Indians to fish, and invented nets, of which he took the idea from the spider's web. Very many of the northern tribes recognise this same divinity, but the Hurons alone assign Lake Superior as the place of his residence.
(4) House of Death.—p. 302.
The funeral customs of the Indians are very various, and all are sufficiently curious to merit a place in this note. I have only space for a few. The first extract relates rather to the place of deposit for the dead, than to the dead themselves. It describes the common cemetery of the tribes living west of the Rocky Mountains.
"Among the Pishquitpaws, who live beyond the Rocky Mountains, the place in which the dead are deposited is a building about sixty feet long, and twelve feet wide, and is formed by placing in the ground poles or forks six feet high, across which a long pole is extended the whole length of the structure. Against this ridge-pole are placed broad boards and pieces of canoes in a slanting direction, so as to form a shed. It stands east and west, and neither of the extremities are closed. On entering the western end we observed a number of bodies, wrapped carefully in leather robes, and arranged in rows on boards, which were then covered with mats. This was the part destined for those who had recently died: a little further on, bones half decayed were scattered about, and in the centre of the building was a large pile of them heaped promiscuously on each other. At the western extremity was a mat on which twenty-one sculls were placed in a circular form, the mode of interment being first to wrap the body in robes, and as it decays the bones are thrown into the heap, and the sculls placed together. From the different boards and pieces of canoes which form the vault were suspended on the inside fishing-nets, baskets, wooden bowls, robes, skins, trenchers, and trinkets of various kinds, obviously intended as offerings of affection to deceased relatives. On the outside of the vault were the skeletons of several horses, and great quantities of bones were in the neighbourhood, which induced us to believe that these animals were most probably sacrificed at the funeral rites of their masters."—Lewis and Clarke, ii, 24.
It was not worth while for these travellers to imply a doubt that those animals were sacrificed. The custom obtains among all the tribes of the Western continent, from Labrador to Cape Horn, of sacrificing the most valuable animals, on the death of their master. In this they are actuated by a common belief that the deceased will need their assistance in the land of spirits. See the various traditions.
The Choctaws, a tribe living near the gulf of Mexico, till very late years had a practice similar to that of the Pishquitpaws, of exposing their dead upon scaffolds, till such time as the flesh was decayed; it was then separated from the bones by a set of old men, who devoted themselves to this custom, and were called "bone-pickers;" after which, the bones were interred in some place set apart for the purpose.
With the tribes living far towards the northern lakes, the ceremonies and superstitions which formerly preceded inhumation, were these:—Charlevoix, the best writer that ever treated of the Indians, is my authority. "As soon as the sick person expires, the place is filled with mournful cries. The dead body, dressed in the finest robe, with the face painted, the arms, and all that belonged to the deceased, by his side, is exposed at the door of the cabin, in the posture it is to be laid in the tomb; and this posture is the same in many places as that of a child in the mother's womb. The custom of some nations is for the relations to fast to the end of the funeral; and all this interval is passed in tears and cries, in treating their visiters, in praising the dead, and in mutual compliments. In other places, they hire women to weep, who perform their part punctually: they sing, they dance, they weep, without ceasing, always keeping time: but these demonstrations of a borrowed sorrow do not prevent what nature requires from the relations of the deceased.
"It appears that they carry the body without ceremony to the place of interment, at least I find no mention made about it in any relation: but, when it is in the grave, they take care to cover it in such a manner that the earth does not touch it. It lies as in a little cave lined with skin, much richer and better adorned than their cabins. Then they set up a post on the grave, and fix on it every thing that may shew the esteem they had for the deceased. They sometimes put on it his portrait, and every thing that may serve to shew to passengers who he was, and the finest actions of his life. They carry fresh provisions to the tomb every morning; and, as the dogs and other beasts do not fail to reap the benefit of it, they are willing to persuade themselves that these things have been eaten by the souls of the dead.
"When any one dies in the time of hunting, they expose his body on a very high scaffold, and it remains there till the departure of the troop, who carry it with them to the village. There are some nations who practice the same with regard to all their dead. The bodies of those who die in war are burnt, and their ashes brought back to be laid in the burying-place of their fathers. Others bury their dead in the woods, at the foot of a tree; or dry them, and keep them in chests, till the festival of the dead. In some places they observe an odd ceremony for those that are drowned or frozen to death. The savages believe, when these accidents happen, that the spirits are incensed, and that their anger is not appeased till the body is found. Then the preliminaries of tears, dances, songs, and feasts, being ended, they carry the body to the usual burying-place; or, if they are too far off, to the place where it is to remain till the festival of the dead. They dig a very large pit, and make a fire in it; then some young persons approach the corpse, cut out the flesh in the parts which had been marked by the master of the ceremonies, and throw them into the fire with the bowels. Then they place the corpse, thus mangled, in the place destined for it. During the whole operation, the women, especially the relations of the deceased, go continually around those that are at it, exhorting them to acquit themselves well of their employment, and put beads in their months, as we would give sugar-plums to children, to entice them to do what we desire."
The customs among some of the tribes, especially those who have had little intercourse with the white people, are substantially the same at this day. But, it has been the effect of their acquaintance with their conquerors to make them forget every thing laudable and praiseworthy, among which was their singular veneration for the dust of their ancestors. These now bury their dead with as few ceremonies as we observe in burying a dog.
Mackenzie's description of the funeral solemnities of the Knistenaux, who live further north than Charlevoix went, is something different from the above:—The funeral rites begin, like all other solemn solemnities, with smoking, and are concluded by a feast. The body is dressed in the best habiliments possessed by the deceased or his relations, and is then deposited in a grave lined with branches. Some domestic utensils are placed on it, and a kind of canopy erected over it. During this ceremony great lamentations are made, and the departed person is very much regretted; the near relations cut off their hair, pierce the fleshy part of their thighs with arms, knives, &c. and blacken their faces with charcoal. If they have distinguished themselves in war, they are sometimes laid on a kind of scaffolding; and I have been informed that women, as in the East, have been known to sacrifice themselves to the manes of their husbands. The whole of the property belonging to the deceased person is destroyed, and the relations take in exchange for their wearing apparel any rags that will cover their nakedness.—Mackenzie, p. xcix. Journal, 148.
The Delawares, and other Indians on the Atlantic coast, buried their dead after the following manner. Immediately after death, the corpse was dressed in a new suit, with the face and shirt painted red, and laid upon a mat or skin in the middle of the hut or cottage. The arms and effects of the deceased were then piled up near the body. In the evening, soon after sunset, and in the morning before day-break, the female relations and friends assembled round the corpse and mourned over it. Their lamentations were loud in proportion to the love and esteem they bore the deceased, or to his rank, or to the pains he suffered in dying. And they were repeated daily till his interment.
The burying-places of the Delawares were at some distance from the dwellings. The graves were generally dug by the old women, as the young people abhorred this kind of work. If they had a coffin, it was placed in the grave empty. Then the corpse was carried out, lying upon a linen cloth, full in view, that the finery and ornaments, with all the effects left by the deceased, might appear to advantage. The funeral was accompanied by as great a number of friends as could be collected. It was then let down into the coffin covered with the cloth. During the letting down of the corpse, the women set up a dreadful howl, but it was deemed a shame to weep. Yet, in silence and unobserved, they could not refrain from tears. It may be seen that they had partially conformed to the customs of the white people. The "coffin" and "linen cloth" were not Indian.
The funeral ceremonies of the tribes inhabiting New England were similar to the authentic part of those practised by the Delawares. Graves were dug and the body deposited therein, together with such utensils of cookery, and weapons of war, as it was deemed would be wanted by the spirits of the deceased in the world they were about to visit. They had one custom, however, which I did not observe among the southern tribes—that of placing weights on the grave to prevent the body from getting out again, and haunting its friends.
It will be seen from these various customs, that one belief is common to all the tribes scattered over the western continent—that of the existence in man of the spiritual essence which we call soul; of its flight after death to another and better world, variously located however; and of its being there actuated by the same wants and wishes, engaged in the same occupation and pursuits, and requiring the same means for the attainment of the same ends, as in this.
F. SHOBERL, JUN., LAZENBY COURT, LONG ACRE.
 Great Salt Lake, the ocean.
 A boiling stream, near the mouth of the river Walkulla, in Florida.
 Great wigwam, an Indian expression, signifying the council-house.
 Muskets, which were termed "spears" by the Indians in the earlier part of their intercourse with the Europeans.
 Great Medicine, Supreme Being; medicine simply means a spirit.
 Backbone of the Great Spirit, the Alleghany Mountains.
 The North Star, in their beautiful, poetical language, "the star which never moves," and "The Hunter's Star."
 "Daughter of the Sun."—See the Tradition infra.
 Thunder, also called the "hissing of the Great Serpent."
 The Indians think that echoes are the voice of a spirit.
 The Magnolia, whose flowers are said to be poisonous.
 Place of souls after death—the Indian elysium.
 Region of Warm Winds—the South and South-west.
 River of Rivers. Mississippi.
 Great Lake, the ocean.
 See the Tradition in the third volume.
 Medicine means Spirit—Great Medicine, Great Spirit.
 Burning Water, the river Walkulla, in Florida, near the source of which there is, or was, a burning spring. See the Tradition.
 River of Fish, another name for Mississippi, from the Indian words naemes a fish, sipu, a river.
 Wahconda, Great Spirit, the Supreme Being.
 Lenape wihittnck, the "river of Delawares," the Delaware.
 Manitou, a subordinate spirit, or tutelar genius.
 Miquon, William Penn, the Founder of Pennsylvania.
 See the Tradition of the Fall of the Leni Lenape.
 The cranberry.
 It is a prevalent opinion with the savages, that the wolf cooks his meat before he eats it.
 The different tribes are known by their manner of painting their war-clubs.
 Lenape wihittuck, river of the Lenape.
 La Hontan explains the meaning of the word thus: "Calumet, in general, signifies a pipe, being a Norman word, derived from Chalumeau." The definition displays, in a remarkable degree, the silliness of that writer. The savages do not understand this word. "The Pipe of Peace is called, in the Iroquois language, Ganondaoe, and by the other savages, Poayem." So says the accurate Carver.
 The Indians always speak of the earth as a "great island."
 The chesnut.
 The Milky Way, the Galaxy.
 Quebec—Heights of Abraham.
 Wekolis—the whip-poor-will.
 Thunder, sometimes called by the Indians, par excellence, "the Voice."
 "Okkis"—protecting spirit. See note 1, page 195.
 Quebec—Heights of Abraham.
 The Spaniards, from whom the Indians first procured the horse. This great acquisition is referred to in many of their traditions. See "The Wahconda's Son," &c.
 Song Sparrow—Fringilla melodica.
 Serpent's hiss, the thunder. See note 5, p. 167.
 The North Star.
 Clear sky, domestic peace, absence of family brawls.
 The Indian warriors shave off all their hair, except a single lock on the top, of the head, which is left for the enemy to take the scalp, in case he overcomes.
 Maize, Indian corn—"Cobbett's corn."
 The tree-toad is an object that impresses the Indians with great fear.
 Rocky Mountains.
 The Indians suppose the shooting of stars to be occasioned by spirits who are at war with the moon, and assail her in this way.
 See the description of this dance in a note to The Expedition of the Lenni Lenape in vol. ii.
 Many of the Indians suppose that the God of the Waters (Michabou) resides in the Cataract of St. Anthony.
 They (the Chepewyans) have some faint notion of transmigration of the soul; so that if a child be born with teeth, they instantly imagine, from its premature appearance, that it bears a resemblance to some person who had lived to an advanced age, and that he has assumed a renovated life, with these extraordinary symptoms.—Mackenzie, cxix.
 See note 4, p. 306 of this vol.
 This month (November) is sometimes called by them the "Beaver-Moon," being the month in which they commence their hunt of that animal.
 The war-clubs.
 Black paint, as I have before observed, the symbol among the Indians of belligerent intentions.
 A fat dog is the chief and sometimes the only dish at the feast, preparatory to a war expedition. This animal is sacred to Areskoui, or the God of War.
 The aurora borealis, or "northern light," as my readers know, is usually attended by a whizzing sound, somewhat resembling laughter.