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LEGENDS, TRADITIONS, AND LAWS OF THE
IROQUOIS, OR SIX NATIONS
HISTORY OF THE TUSCARORA INDIANS
A NATIVE TUSCARORA CHIEF.
"A book about Indians!"—who cares anything about them?
This will probably be the exclamation of many who glance on my little page. To those who know nothing concerning them, a whole book about Indians will seem a very prosy affair, to whom I can answer nothing, for they will not proceed as far as my Preface to see what reasons I can render for the seeming folly.
But to those who are willing to listen, I can say that the Indians are a very interesting people, whether I have made an interesting book about them or not.
The Antiquarian, the Historian, and the Scholar, have been a long time studying Indian character, and have given plenty of information concerning the Indian, but it is all in ponderous volumes for State and College libraries, and quite inaccessible to the multitude—those who only take up such book as may be held in the hand, sitting by the fire,—still remain very ignorant of the Children of Nature who inhabited the forests before the Saxon set his foot upon our shores.
There is also a great deal of prejudice, the consequence of this ignorance, and the consequence of the representations of your forefathers who were brought into contact with the Indians, under circumstances that made it impossible to judge impartially and correctly.
The Histories which are in the schools, and from which the first impressions are obtained, are still very deficient in what they relate of Indian History, and most of them are still filling the minds of children and youth, with imperfect ideas. I have read many of the Histories, and have longed to see refuted the slanders, and blot out the dark pictures which the historians have wont to spread abroad concerning us. May I live to see the day when it may be done, for most deeply have I learned to blush for my people.
I thought, at first, of only giving a series of Indian Biographies, but without some knowledge of the government and religion of the Iroquois, the character of the Indians could not be understood or appreciated.
I enter upon the task with much distrust. It is a difficult task at all times to speak and to write in foreign language, and I fear I shall not succeed to the satisfaction of myself, or to my readers.
My title will not be so attractive to the American ears, as if it related to any other unknown people. A tour in Arabia, or Spain, or in India, or some other foreign country, with far less important and interesting material, would secure a greater number of readers, as we are always more curious about things afar off.
I might have covered many pages with "Indian Atrocities," but these have been detailed in other histories, till they are familiar to every ear, and I had neither room nor inclination for even a glance at war and its dark records.
To animate a kinder feeling between the white people and the Indians, established by a truer knowledge of our civil and domestic life, and of our capabilities for future elevation, is the motive for which this work is founded.
The present Tuscarora Indians, the once powerful and gifted nation, after their expulsion from the South, came North, and were initiated in the confederacy of the Iroquois, and who formerly held under their jurisdiction the largest portion of the Eastern States, now dwell within your bounds, as dependent nations, subject to the guardianship and supervision of a people who displaced their forefathers. Our numbers, the circumstances of our past history and present condition, and more especially the relation in which we stand to the people of the State, suggest many important questions concerning our future destiny.
Being born to an inauspicious fate, which makes us the inheritors of many wrongs, we have been unable, of ourselves, to escape from the complicated difficulties which accelerate our decline. To make worse these adverse influences, the public estimation of the Indian, resting, as it does, upon the imperfect knowledge of their character, and infused, as it ever has been, with the prejudice, is universally unjust.
The time has come in which it is no more than right to cast away all ancient antipathies, all inherited opinions, and to take a nearer view of our social life, condition and wants, and to learn anew your duty concerning the Indians. Nevertheless, the embarrassments that have obstructed our progress, in the obscurity which we have lived, and the prevailing indifference to our welfare, we have gradually overcame many of the evils inherent in our social system, and raised ourselves to a degree of prosperity. Our present condition, if considered in connection with the ordeal through which we have passed, shows that there is the presence of an element in our character which must eventually lead to important results.
As I do not profess that this work is based upon authorities, a question might arise in the breast of some reader, where these materials were derived, or what reliance is to be placed upon its contents. The credibility of a witness is known to depend chiefly upon his means of knowledge. For this reason, I deem it important to state, that I was born and brought up by Tuscarora Indian parents on their Reservation in the Town of Lewiston, N.Y. From my childhood up was naturally inquisitive and delighted in thrilling stories, which led me to frequent the old people of my childhood's days, and solicited them to relate the old Legends and their Traditions, which they always delighted to do. I have sat by their fireside and heard them, and thus they were instilled upon my young mind. I also owe much of my information to our Chief, JOHN MT. PLEASANT. I have also read much of Indian history, and compared them with our LEGENDS and TRADITIONS.
NATIONAL TRAITS OF CHARACTER.
In all the early histories of the American Colonies, in the stories of Indian life and the delineations of Indian character, these children of nature are represented as savages and barbarians, and in the mind of a large portion of the community the sentiment still prevails that they were blood-thirsty, revengeful, and merciless, justly a terror to both friends and foes. Children are impressed with the idea that an Indian is scarcely human, and as much to be feared as the most ferocious animal of the forest.
Novelists have now and then clothed a few with a garb which excites your imagination, but seldom has one been invested with qualities which you would love, unless it were also said that through some captive taken in distant war, he inherited a whiter skin and a paler blood.
But I am inclined to think that Indians are not alone in being savage—not alone barbarous, heartless, and merciless.
It is said they were exterminating each other by aggressive and devastating wars, before the white people came among them. But wars, aggressive and exterminating wars, certainly, are not proofs of barbarity. The bravest warrior was the most honored, and this has been ever true of Christian nations, and those who call themselves christians have not yet ceased to look upon him who could plan most successfully the wholesale slaughter of human beings, as the most deserving his king's or his country's laurels. How long since the pean died away in praise of the Duke of Wellington? What have been the wars in which all Europe, or of America, has been engaged, That there has been no records of her history? For what are civilized and christian nations drenching their fields with blood?
It is said the Indian was cruel to the captives, and inflicted unspeakable torture upon his enemy taken in battle. But from what we know of them, it is not to be inferred that Indian Chiefs were ever guilty of filling dungeons with innocent victims, or slaughtering hundreds and thousands of their own people, whose only sin was a quiet dissent from some religious dogma. Towards their enemies they were often relentless, and they had good reason to look upon the white man as their enemy. They slew them in battle, plotted against them secretly, and in a few instances comparatively, subjected individuals to torture, burned them at the stake, and, perhaps, flayed them alive. But who knows anything of the precepts and practices of the Roman Catholic Christendom, and quote these things as proofs of unmitigated barbarity.
At the very time that the Indians were using the tomahawk and scalping- knife to avenge their wrongs, peaceful citizens in every country of Europe, where the Pope was the man of authority, were incarcerated for no crime whatever, and such refinement of torture invented and practiced, as never entered in the heart of the fiercest Indian warrior that roamed the wilderness to inflict upon man or beast.
We know very little of the secrets of the inquisition, and this little chills our blood with horror. Yet these things were done in the name of Christ, the Savior of the World, the Prince of Peace, and not savage, but civilized. Christian men looked on, not coldly, but rejoicingly, while women and children writhed in flames and weltered in blood. Were the atrocities committed in the vale of Wyoming and Cherry Valley unprecedented among the Waldensian fastnesses and the mountains of Aurvergne? Who has read Fox's book of Martyrs, and found anything to parallel it in all the records of Indian warfare? The slaughter of St. Bartholomew's days, the destruction of the Jews in Spain, and the Scotch Covenanters, were in obedience to the mandates of Christian princes,— aye, and some of them devised by Christian women who professed to be serving God, and to make the Bible the man of their counsel.
It is said also that the Indians were treacherous, and more, no compliance with the conditions of any treaty, was ever to be trusted. But the Puritan fathers cannot be wholly exonerated from the charge of faithlessness; and who does not blush to talk of Indian traitors when he remembers the Spanish invasion and the fall of the princely and magnanimous Montezuma?
Indians believed in witches, and burned them, too. And did not the sainted Baxter, with the Bible in his hand, pronounce it right, and was not the Indian permitted to be present, when the quiet unoffending woman was cast into the fire, by the decree of a Puritan council?
To come down to the more decidedly Christian times, it is not so very long since, in Protestant England, hanging was the punishment of a petty thief, long and hopeless imprisonment of a slight misdemeanor, when men were set up to be stoned and spit upon by those who claimed the exclusive right to be called humane and merciful.
Again, it is said, the Indian mode of warfare is, without exception, the most inhuman and revolting. But I do not know that those who die by the barbed and poisoned arrow linger in any more unendurable torment than those who are mangled with powder and lead balls, and the custom of scalping among Christian murderers would save thousands from groaning days, and perhaps weeks, among heaps that cover victorious fields and fill hospitals with the wounded and dying. But scalping is not an invention exclusively Indian. "It claims," says Prescott, "high authority, or, at least, antiquity." And, further history, Herodotus, gives an account of it among the Scythians, showing that they performed the operation, and wore the scalp of their enemies taken in battle, as trophies, in the same manner as the North American Indian. Traces of the custom are also found in the laws of the Visigaths, among the Franks, and even the Anglo Saxons. The Northern Indians did not scalp, but they had a system of slavery, of which there are no traces to be found among the customs, laws, or legends of the Iroquois.
Again, it is said, "They carried away women and children captive, and in their long journey through the wilderness, they were subjected to heartrending trials."
The wars of Christian men throw hundreds and thousands of women and children helpless upon the cold world, to toil, to beg, and to starve.
This is not so bright a picture as is usually given of people who have written laws and have stores of learning, but people cannot see in any place that the coloring is too dark! There is no danger of painting Indians so they will become attractive to the civilized people.
There is a bright and pleasing side to the Indian character, and thinking that there has been enough written of their wars and cruelties, of the hunter's and fisherman's life, I have sat down at their fireside, listened to their legends, and am acquainted with their domestic habits, understand their finer feelings and the truly noble traits of their character.
It is so long now since they were the lords of this country, and formidable as your enemies, and they are so utterly wasted away and melted like snow under the meridian sun, and helpless, that you can sit down and afford to listen to the truth, and to believe that even your enemies had their virtues. Man was created in the image of God, and it cannot be that anything human is utterly vile and contemptible.
Those who have thought of Indians as roaming about in the forests hunting and fishing, or at war, will laugh, perhaps, at the idea of Indian homes, and domestic happiness. Yet there are no people of which we have any knowledge, among whom, in their primitive state, family ties and relationship were more distinctly defined, or more religiously respected than the Iroquois.
The treatment which they received from the white people, whom they always considered as intruders, aroused, and kept in exercise all their ferocious passions, so that none except those who associated with them as missionaries, or as captives, saw them in their true character, as they were to each other.
Almost any portrait that we see of an Indian, he is represented with tomahawk and scalping knife in hand, as if they possessed no other but a barbarous nature. Christian nations might with equal justice be always represented with cannon and balls, swords and pistols, as the emblems of their employment and their prevailing tastes.
The details of war are from far to great a portion of every History of civilized and barbarous nations, to conquer and to slay has been to long the glory of the christian people; he who has been most successful in subjugating and oppressing, in mowing down human beings, has too long wore the laural crown, been too long an object for the admiration of men and the love of women.
It seems you might be weary of the pomp and circumstance of war, of princely banquets, and gay cavalcades. The time and space you bestow upon King and courts, and the homage you pay to empty titles, are unworthy your professed republican spirit and preferences, let us turn aside from the war path, and sit down by the hearth-stone of peace.
In the picture which I have given, I have confined myself principally to the Iroquois, or Six Nations, a people who no more deserve the term savage, than the whites do that of heathen, because they have still lingering among them heathen superstitions, and many opinions and practices which deserves no better name.
The cannibals of some of the west Indies Islands, and the Islands of the Pacific, may with justice be termed savage, but a people like the Iroquois who had a goverment, established offices, a system of religion eminently pure and Spiritual, a code of honor and laws of hospitality, excelling those of all other nations, should be considered something better than savage, or utterly barbarous.
The terrible torture they inflicted upon their enemies, have made their name a terror, and yet there were not so many burnt, hung, and starved by them, as perished among Christian nations by these means. The miseries they inflicted were light, in comparison, with those they suffered. If individuals should have come among you to expose the barbarities of savage white men, the deeds they relate would quite equal anything known of Indian cruelty. The picture an Indian gives of civilized barbarism leaves the revolting custom of the wilderness quite in the back-ground. You experienced their revenge when you had put their souls and bodies at a stake, with your fire-water that maddened their brains. There was a pure and beautiful spirituality in their faith, and their conduct was much more influenced by it, as are any people, Christian or Pagan.
Is there anything more barbaric in the annals of Indian warfare, than the narrative of the Pequod Indians? In one place we read of the surprise of an Indian fort by night, when the inmates were slumbering, unconscious of any danger. When they awoke they were wrapped in flames, and when they Attempted to flee, were shot down like beasts. From village to village, from wigwam to wigwam, the murderers proceeded, "being resolved," as your historian piously remarks, "by God's assistance, to make a final destruction of them," until finally a small but gallant band took refuge in a swamp. Burning with indignation, and made sullen by dispair, with hearts bursting with grief at the destruction of their nation, and spirits galled and sore at the fancied ignominy of their defeat, they refused to ask life at the hands of an insulting foe, and preferred death to submission. As the night drew on, they were surrounded in their dismal retreat, volleys of musketry poured into their midst, until nearly all were killed or buried in the mire. In the darkness of a thick fog which preceded the dawn of day, a few broke through the ranks of the beseigers and escaped to the woods.
Again, the same historian tells us that the few that remained, "stood like sullen dogs to be killed rather than to implore mercy, and the soldiers on entering the swamp, found many sitting together in groups, when they approached, and resting their guns on the boughs of trees, within a few yards of them, literally filled their bodies with bullets." But they were Indians, and it was pronounnced a pious work. But when the Gauls invaded Italy, and the Roman Senators, in their purple robes and chairs of State, sat unmoved in the presence of barbarian conquerors, disdaining to flee, and equally disdaining to supplicate for mercy, it is applauded as noble, as dying like statesmen and philosophers. But the Indians with far more to lose and infinitely greater provocation, sits upon his mother earth upon the green mound, beneath the canopy of Heaven, and refuses to ask mercy of civilized fiends, he is stigmatized as dogs, spiritless, and sullen. What a different name has greatness, clothed in the garb of christian princes and sitting beneath spacious domes, gorgeous with men's device, and the greatness, in the simple garb of nature, destitute and alone in the wilderness.
There is nothing in the character of Alexander of Macedon who "conquered the world, and wept that he had no more to conquer," to compare with the noble qualities of king Philip of Mt. Hope, and among his warriors are a long list of brave men unrivalled in deeds of heroism, by any of ancient or modern story. But in what country, and by whom were they hunted, tortured, and slain, and who was it that met together to rejoice and give thanks at every species of cruelty inflicted upon those who were fighting for their wives, their children, their homes, their altars and their God. When it is recorded that "men, women and children, indiscriminately, were hewn down and lay in heaps upon the snow," it is spoken of as doing God's service, because they were nominally heathen. "Before the fight was finished, the wigwams were set on fire, and into those, hundreds of innocent women and children had crowded themselves, and perished in the general conflagration." And for those thanksgivings were sent up to heaven, the head of Philip is strung upon a pole, and exposed to the public. But this was not done by savage warriors, and the crowd that huzzaed at the revolting spectacle, assembled on the Sabbath day, in a Puritan church, to listen to the Gospel that proclaims peace and love to all men. His body was literally cut in slices to be distributed among the conquerors, and a christian city rings with acclamation.
In speaking of this bloody contest, one who is most eminent among the fathers, says: "Nor could they cease praying unto the Lord against Philip, until they had prayed the bullet through his heart." "Two and twenty Indian captives were slain, and brought down to hell in one day." "A bullet took him in the head, and sent his cursed soul in a moment amongst the devils and blasphemers in hell forever."
Masasoit, the father of Philip, was the true friend to the English, and when he was about to die, took his two sons, Alexander and Philip, and fondly commended them to the kindness of the new settlers, praying them the same peace and good will might be between them, that had existed between him and his white friends. Upon mere suspicion only a short time afterwards, the elder, who succeeded his father as ruler, among his people, was hunted in his forest home, and dragged before the court, the nature and object of which he could not understand. But the indignity which was offered him, and the treachery of those who insulted him, so chafed his proud spirit that a fever was the consequence, of which he died. And that is not all. The son and wife of Philip were sold into slavery, (as were also about eight hundred persons of the Tuscaroras, and also many others of the Indians that were taken captive during the Colonial wars.) "Yes," says a distinguished orator, (Everett,) "they were sold into slavery, West Indian slavery. An Indian princess and her child, sold from the cold breezes of Mount Hope, from a wild freedom of New England forest, to drop under the lash, beneath the blazing sun of the tropics."
Bitter as death, aye, bitter as hell! Is there anything—I do not think in the range of humanity—is there any animal that would not struggle against this? Nor is this indeed all. A kinswoman of theirs, a Princess in her own right, Wetamore Pocasset, was pursued and harrassed till she fell exhausted in the wilderness, and died of cold and starvation. There she was found by men professing to be shocked at Indian barbarity, her head severed from her body, and carried bleeding upon a pole to be exposed in the public highways of the country, ruled by men who have been honored as saints and martyrs.
"Let me die among my kindred," "Bury me with my fathers," is the prayer of every Indian's heart; and the most delicate and reverential kindness in the treatment of the bodies of the dead, was considered a religious duty. There was nothing in all their customs that indicated a barbarism so gross and revolting as these acts, which are recorded by New England historians without a censure, while the Indian's protests in his grief at seeing his kindred dishonored and his religion reviled, are stigmatized as savage and fiendish.
If all, or even a few who ministered among them in holy things, had been like Eliot, who is called "the Apostle to the Indians," and deserved to be ranked with the Apostle of old, or Kirkland, who is endeared to the memory of every Iroquois who heard his name, it could not have become a proverb or a truth that civilization and christianity wasted them away.
They were, not by one, but many, unscrupulously called "dogs, wolves, bloodhounds, demons, devils incarnate, hellhounds, fiends, monsters, beasts," always considering them inferior beings, and scarcely allowing them to be human, yet one, who was at that time a captive among them, represents them as "kind and loving and generous;" and concerning this same monster—Philip—records nothing that should have condemned him in the eyes of those who believed in wars aggressive and defensive, and awarded honors to heroes and martyrs and conquerors.
By the Governor of Jamestown a hand was severed from the arm of a peaceful, unoffending Indian, that he might be sent back a terror to his people; and through the magnanimity of a daughter and king of that same people, that colony was saved from destruction. It was through their love and trust alone that Powhatan and Pocahontas lost their forest dominions.
Hospitality was one of the Indians' distinguishing virtues, and there was no such thing among them as individual starvation or want. As long as there was a cup of soup, it was divided. If a friend or a stranger made a call he was welcome to all their wigwams would furnish, and to offer him food was not merely a custom, for it was a breach of politeness for him to refuse to eat however full he might be.
Because their system not being like the white people's, it does not follow that it was not a system. You might have looked into the wigwam or lodge and thought everything in confusion, while to the occupants, there was a place for everything, and everything in its place: each had a couch which answered for bed by night and seat by day. The ceremonies at their festivals were as regular as in the churches, their rules of war as well defined as those of christian nations, and in their games and athletic sports there was a code of honor which it was disgraceful to violate: their marriage vows were as well understood, and courtesy as formally practiced at their dances.
The nature of the Indian is in all respects like the nature of any other nation; placed in the same circumstances, he exhibits the same passions and vices. But in his forest home there was not the same temptation to great crimes, or what is termed the lesser ones, that of slander, scandal, and gossip, as exists among civilized nations.
They knew nothing of the desire of gain, and therefore were not made selfish by the love of hoarding; and there was no temptation to steal, where they had everything in common, and their reverence for truth and fidelity to promises, may well put all the nations of christendom to shame.
I have written in somewhat of the spirit which will characterize a History, by an Indian, yet it does not deserve to be called Indian partiality, but only justice and the spirit of humanity; or, if I may be allowed to say it, the spirit with which any christian should be able to consider the character and deeds of his foe. I would not detract from the virtues of your forefathers. They were at that time unrivalled, but bigotry and superstition of the dark ages still lingered among them, and their own perils blinded them to the wickedness and cruelty of the means they took for defence.
Four, and perhaps two centuries hence, I doubt not, some of your dogmas will seem unchristian, as the Indians seem to you, and I truly hope, ere then, all wars will seem as barbarous, and the fantastic dress of the soldiers as ridiculous, as you have been in the habit of representing the wars and the wild drapery of the Indians of the forest.
How long were the Saxon and Celt in becoming a civilized and Christian people? How long since the helmet, the coat of mail, and the battle axe, were laid aside?
To make himself more terrific, the Briton of the days of Henry II drew the skin of a wild beast over his armor with the head and ears standing upright, and mounted his war-horse to go forth crying, "To arms! Death to the invader!" The paint and the Eagle plume of the Indian warrior were scarcely a more barbarous invention, nor his war-cry more terrible.
It is not just to compare the Indian of the fifteenth, with the christian of the fifteenth century. But compare them with the barbarian of Britain, of Russia, of Lapland, and Tartary, and represent them as truly as these nations have been represented, and they will not suffer by the comparison.
* * * * *
CAPTIVE'S LIFE AMONG INDIANS.
ILLUSTRATED BY THE LIFE OF THE "WHITE WOMAN."
* * * * *
To be taken captive by the Indians, was, among the early colonists, considered the most terrible of all calamities, and it was indeed a fearful thing to become the victim of their revenge. But those who were enduring the actual sufferings of captivity, or suffering still more from terror of uncertain evils, thought little of the provocation given by the white people. The innocent suffered for the guilty, and however persevering—I suppose the efforts of the government to be just—in its infancy, in a wild unknown country it was impossible to control unprincipled marauders. Some atrocious act was first committed by white men, which drove the Indian to retaliation, and thinking pale faces were all alike, he did not wait till the real offender fell into his hands.
When the white men first came, the Indian looked upon them as superior beings. They were ready to worship Columbus and his little party, and all others along the coast, until their simple trust was outraged beyond endurance, they welcomed the strangers, gave them food when they were hungry, and sheltered them when they were cold. It was not till their encroachments became alarming, that the Indians asserted their rights, and if in all cases they had been as justly and kindly dealt with as by the Quakers of Pennsylvania, there would not have been so dark a record of sins, wrongs and tortures. If none but men of principle had made treaties with them, and all whose duty it was to observe them, had kept their faith, revenge had not come out so prominently in Indian character.
But it was not in obedience to national policy that those who were taken in battle, were put to the torture, burned, and flayed. The Six Nations had never found it necessary to build prisons, and dig dungeons for their own people. If any man committed murder, they sometimes decided that he should die, and sometimes bade him flee far away where none who knew him could look upon his face. But crimes were so rare that they had no criminal code, and when they overcame their enemies, they either adopted them and treated them as brethren, or put them immediately to death.
White people have often put Indians to death, and oftener put them in dungeons to waste and starve, but it was not part of their practice to adopt them and call them brethren. Had they sometimes done this, or sent them freely back to their friends unharmed, they might have conciliated where they were only made more desperate.
When families are bereaved, they sought to be revenged on those who had bereaved them, and when warriors returned from battle, the prisoners were given up to the friends of the afflicted. With them alone it remained to decide the fate of those who fell into their hands. If they chose, they adopt them in place of the husbands, or brothers, who were slain; and if they so decided they were put to death, and in any way they decreed. If the manner in which their friend had been killed was aggravating and greatly enraged them, they were very likely to decide upon torture, and inflicted it in a manner to produce the greatest suffering. But in such cases, they sometimes showed great magnanimity, and "returned good for evil."
Children were often adopted, and by a solemn ceremony received into a particular tribe, and evermore treated as one of their own people. You have been in the habit of listening to heart-rending stories of cruelties to captives, but captives who were adopted were never cruelly treated. Those who were immediately put to death experienced great suffering for a few hours, and those who were preserved were subjected to hardships which seemed to them unspeakable, but they were such as are necessarily incident to Indian life. They left no written chronicles to tell to all future generations the wrongs and tortures to which they were subjected, but one who sits with them by their firesides, may have his blood frozen with horror at the recitals of civilized barbarity.
And there was one species of wrong of which no captive woman of any nation had to complain when she was thrown upon the tender mercies of Indian warriors. Not among all the dark and terrible records which their enemies have delighted to magnify, is there a single instance of the outrage of that delicacy which a pure minded woman cherishes at the expense of life, and sacrifices not to any species of mere animal suffering. Of what other nation can it thus be written, that their soldiers were not more terrible at the firesides of their enemies than on the battle-field, with all the fierce engines of war at their command. To whatever motive it is to be ascribed, let this at least stand out on the pages of Indian history as an ever enduring monument to their honor.
A little book which professes to have been written for the sole purpose of recording and perpetuating Indian atrocities, and dwells upon them with infinite delight, alludes to this redeeming trait in Indian character, but attempts to ascribe it to the influence of superstition, as it were necessary to find some evil or deteriorating motive for everything noble, or pleasing in Indian character. Their treatment of captives from among Indian nations were the same. And I know not that there has been any satisfactory solution of a characteristic which has been found among only one other civilized christian or barbarous nation. A wanderer among the Indian tribes once asked an Indian why they thus honored their women, and he said "The Great Spirit taught, and would punish us if we did not." Among the Germans I believed there existed the same respect for woman, till they became civilized. They may have been some superstitious fears mingled with a strong governing and controlling principle, but it is not on this account the less marvelous that whole nations, consisting of millions, should have been so trained, religiously or domestically, that degree of beauty or fascination placed under their care, though hundreds of miles in the solitudes of the wilderness, should have tempted them from the strictest honor and the most delicate kindness. MARY JANISON was eighty years a resident among the Senecas, and in the early part of the time the forests had few clearings, and the comforts and the vices of white men prevailed but little among them. She was born on the ocean, with the billowy sea for her cradle, and the tempest for her lullaby. Her parents emigrated from England to this country in 1742, and settled in the unfortunate vale of Wyoming, where date her first remembrances, which were all the woes that fell upon her family, the wail of the sorrow-stricken and breaking of heart-strings. The last meal they took together was a breakfast, after which the father and eldest three sons went into the field, and Mary with the other little children was playing not far from the house. They were suddenly startled by a shriek, and knew it must be from their mother. On running in they saw her in the hands of two Indians, who were holding her fast. A little boy ran to call his father, and found him also bound by another of the party, and his eldest brother lying dead upon the earth; the other two fled to Virginia, where they had an uncle, as Mary afterward learned, and those who remained were made captives and hurried into the woods. All day they were obliged to march in single file over the rough, cold soil. Night found them in the heart of the wilderness, surrounded by their strange captors, and all the horrors of Indian life or Indian death staring them in the face. They had no hope of mercy, whether permitted to live or condemned to die. The mother said to Mary, "My daughter, you, I think will be permitted to live, but they will deprive you of your father and mother, and perhaps of your brothers and sisters, so that you will be alone. But endeavor in all things to please the Indians, and they will be more kind to you. Do not forget your own language, and never fail to repeat your catechism and the Lord's prayer every morning and evening while you live." This she promised to do, and having kissed her child, the mother was removed from her sight.
Mary must at this time have been ten years of age. She was afterwards told, when she could understand the Indian language, that they would not have killed her parents if the captors had not been pursued, and that a little boy, who was the son of a neighbor, and was also taken, was given to the French, two of whom were of the party.
In the marches of the Indians it was the custom for one to linger behind, and poke up the grass with a stick after a party had passed along, to conceal all traces of their footsteps, so a pursuit was seldom successful. In deviating from a direct course in order not to get lost, they noticed the moss upon the trees, which always grows thickest upon the north side, as the south side being most exposed to the sun, became soonest dry. They also had some knowledge of the stars, and knew from the position of certain clusters that were to be seen at certain seasons, which was east and which west.
Mary was adopted in place of two brothers who had fallen in battle, and for whom the lamentations had not died away. The ceremony of adoption is very solemn, requiring the deliberations of a council and the formal bestowing of a name, as a sort of baptism, from which time the captive is not allowed to speak any other language but the Indian, and must in all things conform to Indian habits and tastes.
It is customary among them to give children a name which corresponds with the sports and dependence of childhood, and when they arrive at maturity to change it for one that corresponds with the duties and employments of manhood and womanhood. The first name is given by the relatives and afterwards publicly announced in council. The second is bestowed in the same way; and by this they are ever afterward called, except on becoming a Sachem, and, sometimes, on becoming a Chief or warrior another name is taken, and each denotes definitely the new position. Each clan, too, had its peculiar names, so that when a person's name was mentioned it was immediately known to what clan he belonged.
A curious feature in the Indian code of etiquette is that it is exceedingly impolite to ask a person's name, or to speak it in his presence. In the social circle and all private conversation the person spoken of is described if it is necessary to allude to him, as the person who sits there, or who lives in that house, or wears such a dress. If I ask a woman, whose husband is present if that is Mr. B— she blushes, and stammers, and replies, "He is my child's father," in order to avoid speaking his name in his presence, which would offend him. On asking a man his name he remained silent, not understanding the reason the question was repeated, when he indignantly replied, "Do you think that I am an owl to go about hooting my name everywhere?" The name of the owl in Indian corresponding exactly to the note he utters.
When Mary Jemmison had been formally named De-he-wa-mis, they called her daughter and sister, and treated her in all respects as if she had been born among them and the same blood flowed in her veins, or rather, they were accustomed to be more kind to captives than to their own children, because they had not been inured to the same hardships. There was no difference in the cares bestowed, no allusion was ever made to the child as if it belonged to a hated race, and it never felt the want of affection.
Mary said her tasks were always light, and everything was done to win her love and make her happy. She now and then longed for the comforts of her cottage home, and wept at the thought of her mother's cruel death, but gradually learned to love the freedom of the forest, and to gambol freely and gaily with her Indian play-mates. When she was named they threw her dress away, and clothed her in deer skins and moccasins, and painted her face in true Indian style. She never spoke English in their presence, as they did not allow it, but when alone, did not forget her mother's injunction, and repeated her prayers and all the words she could remember, thus retaining enough of the language to enable her easily to recall it when she should again return to civilized society, as she constantly indulged the hope of doing, by an exchange of captives.
But when she was fourteen years of age, her mother selected for her a husband, to whom she was married according to Indian custom. His name was Sheningee, and though she was not acquainted with him previously, and of course had no affection for him, but proved not only an amiable and excellent man but a congenial companion, whom she loved devotedly. He had all the noble qualities of an Indian, being handsome and brave, and generous, and kind, and to her very gentle and affectionate.
Now she became thoroughly reconciled to Indian life, her greatest sorrow being the necessary absence of her husband on the war-path and hunting excursions. She followed the occupation of a woman, tilled the fields, dressed the meats and skins, and gathered the fuel for the winter's fire, and although this seems to the whites as unfeminine labor, it was performed at their leisure, and occupied very little of their time.
When the hunters returned they were weary and passive, and seldom were guilty of fault-finding, and so well did an Indian woman know her duty, that her husband was not obliged to make his wants known. Obedience was required in all respects, and where there was harmony and affection, cheerfully yielded, and knowing as they did that separation would be the consequence of neglect of duty and unkindness, there was really more self-control, and about little things, than those who are bound for life. They did not agree to live together through good and through evil reports, but only while they loved and confided in each other, and they were therefore careful not to throw lightly away this love and affection.
The labor of the field was performed in so systematic a manner, and by so thorough and wisely divisioned labor, that there were none of the jealousies and enjoyings which exist among those who wish to hoard, and ambitious to excel in style and equipage. And before the fire-water came among them, dissentions of any kind were almost unknown. This has been the fruitful source of all their woes. It was not till Mary became a mother that she gave up all longing for civilized society, and relinquished all hope of again returning to the abodes of the white man. Now she had a tie to bind her which could not be broken. If she should find her white friends they would not recognize her Indian husband, or consider her lawfully married: they would not care to be connected by ties of blood to a people whom they despised: her child would not be happy among those who looked upon her as inferior, and she herself had no education to fit her for the companionship of the white people. She looked upon her little daughter and thought, it is Sheningee's—it is dearer to me than all things else—I could not endure to see her treated with aversion or neglect.
But only a little while was she permitted this happiness, her daughter died while yet an infant, and when Sheningee was away. Again the feeling of desolation came over her young spirit, but all around her ministered in every way to her comfort, and became more than ever endeared to her heart. After a long absence. Sheningee returned. She afterwards had a son, and named him after her father, to which no objection was made by her Indian friends, and her love for her husband became idolatry. In her eyes he seemed everything noble and good: she mourned his departure and longed for his return, for his affection prompted him to treat her with gentle and winning kindness which is the spirit of true love alone.
But again the separation, and she must pass another winter alone. For hunting was the Indian's toil, and though they delighted in it, the pangs of parting from his wife and little one, made it a sacrifice, and spread a dark cloud over a long period of his life. And now it became dark indeed to Mary, for she waited long and Sheningee came not. She put everything in order in his little dwelling. She dressed new skins for his couch, and smoked venison to please his taste. She made the fire bright to welcome him, hoping every evening when she lay down with her baby upon her bosom, that ere the morning sun the husband and father would gladden them by his smiles, but in vain; winter had passed away, and the spring, and then came the sad tidings that he was dead, she became a widow and her child fatherless.
Very long did she mourn Sheningee, for it seemed to her there was none like him. But again the sympathies of his people created a new link to bind her to them, and she said she could not have loved a mother or sisters more dearly than she did those who stood in this relationship to her, and soothed her with their loving words.
Not for four years was she again urged to marry, and during this time there was an exchange of prisoners and she had an opportunity to return to her kindred; she was left to do as she chose. They told her she might go, but if she preferred to remain she should still be their daughter and sister, and they would give her land for her own where she might always dwell. Again she thought of the prejudice she would everywhere meet, and that she could never patiently listen to reproaches concerning her husband's people. It would not be believed that he was noble, because he was an Indian; and she would have no near relatives and those she had might reject her if she should seek them, so she came to the final conclusion and never more sighed for the advantages or pleasures of civilized life. She came with the brothers of Sheningee to the banks of the Genesee, where she resided the remaining seventy-two years of her life.
Her second husband—Hiokatoo—she never learned to love. He was a Chief and a warrior brave and fearless; but though he was always kind to her, he was a man of blood. He delighted in deeds of cruelty and delighted to relate them. And now the fire water had become common, and the good were bad and the bad worse, so that dissensions arose in families and in neighborhoods, and the happiness which had been almost without alloy was no longer known among these simple people.
She adds her testimony to that of all travelers and historians concerning the purity of their lives, having never herself received the slightest insult from an Indian and scarcely knowing an instance of infidelity or immorality. But when once they had tasted of the maddening draught the thirst was insatiable, and all they had would be given for a glass of something to destroy their reason. Now they were indeed converted into fiends and furies and sold themselves to swift destruction.
Hiokatoo hesitated at no crime and took pleasure in everything dark and terrible, but this was a small trial compared to those which Mrs. Jemmison was called upon to endure from the intoxication and recklessness of her son. Her eldest, the son of Sheningee, was murdered by John, the son of Hiokatoo, who afterward murdered his own brother Jesse, and came to the same violent death himself at the hands of others. When they came to be in the midst of temptation there was no restraining principle, and, even after they grew up her house was the scene of quarrels and confusion in consequence of their intemperance, and she knew no rest from fear of some calamity from the indulgence of their unbridled passions. The Chief of the Seneca nation, to which her second husband belonged, gave her a large tract of land, and when it became necessary that it should be secured to her by treaty, she plead her own case. The commissioners without inquiring particularly concerning the dimensions of her lots, allowed her to make her own boundaries, and when the document was signed and she was in firm possession it was found that she was the owner of nearly four thousand acres, of which only a deed in her own hand-writing could deprive her. But though she was rich she toiled not the less dilligently and forsook not the sphere of woman in attending to the ways of her household, and also, true to her Indian education, she planted and hoed and harvested, retaining her Indian dress and habits till the day of her death. During the revolutionary war her house was made the rendevous and headquarters of British officers and Indian Chiefs, as her sympathies were entirely with her red brethren, and the cause they espoused was the one she preferred to aid. It was in her power to sympathize with many a lone captive, she always remembered her own anguish at the prospect of spending her life in the wilderness. The companion of Indians, and though she had learned to love instead of fearing them, and knew they were, as a people, deserving of respect and the highest honor, she understood the feelings of those who knew them not.
Her supplication procured the release of many from torture, and her generous kindness clothed the naked and fed the starving.
Lot after lot, acre after acre the Indians sold their lands, and at length the beautiful valley of the Genesee fell into the hands of the white people, except the dominion of "the white woman," as she was always called, which couldn't be given up without her consent. She refused, at the time of the sale, to part with her portion, but after the Indians removed to Buffalo reservation and she was left alone, though a lady in the manor and surrounded by white people, she preferred to take her abode with those whom she now called her own people. Most emphatically did she adopt the language of Ruth in the days of old, "Entreat me not to leave thee, or return from following after thee, for whither thou goest I will go, and where thou lodgest I will lodge, thy people will be my people, and thy God my God, where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried."
She as as thoroughly pagan as the veriest Indian who had never heard of God, and she exclaimed with him that their religion was good enough and she desired no change.
She was ninety years of age—eighty years she had been an exile from the land of her birth. She had forgotten the prayer her mother taught her, and knew nothing of the worship of her father, when one morning she sent a messenger to tell the missionaries she wished to see them. She had ever before refused to listen to them if they came to her dwelling, but they hastened to obey the summons, glad to feel that they should be welcomed, though quite uncertain concerning the nature of the interview she proposed. She was literally withered away, her face was scarcely larger than an infant's and completely checkered with fine wrinkles, her teeth were entirely gone and her mouth so sunken that her nose and chin almost met, her hair not silvery, but snowy white, except a little lock by each ear which still retained the sandy hue of childhood, her form which was always slender, was bent, and her limbs could not longer support her. She had revived the knowledge of her language since she had dwelled among the white people but, "Oh," said she, as the ladies entered, "I have forgotten how to pray; my mother taught me and told me never to forget this, though I remembered nothing else," and then she exclaimed, "Oh, God! have mercy upon me." This expression she had heard in her old age, and now uttered it in the fullness of her heart. There had come a gleam of light through all the darkness and superstitions of Paganism, and this spark was kindled at the fireside of that little cottage home, and fell upon her heart from a mother's lips, and now revived at the remembrance of a mother's love and her dying blessing. It was eighty years since she had seen that mother's face, as she breathed out her soul in anguish, bending over her in the silent depths of the wilderness, eighty years since she listened to "Our Father who art in Heaven," from Christian lips, and now the still small voice which had so long been silent, spoke aloud, and startled her as if an angel called. She tried to stifle it, and for many days after it awoke in her bosom, she heeded it not, but it gave her no rest. No earthly voice had since reminded her that her heart was sinful, and needed to be "washed in the blood of the lamb, that taketh away the sins of the world," in order to be clean. The seed which had been sown in it when she was a little child, had just sprung up; the snows of eighty winters had not chilled it, the mildew of nearly a century had not blighted it, and the heavy hand of hundreds of calamities had left it unharmed. She had not been in the midst of corruptions, therefore it had not been destroyed. The little germ was still alive, and proving that it had not been in vain.
The aged woman sat pillowed up in bed with her children, and children's children of three generations around her, and lifting her withered hands and sunken eyes to Heaven, once more repeated, "Our Father, who art in Heaven," while a new light, like a halo, overspread her face, the tears flowed in floods down her cheeks, and in the dark eyes of every listener there glistened tears of sympathy in her new found happiness.
When she was asked if she regretted that she had not consented to be exchanged, she still said, "No. I love the Indians; I love them better than the white people. Because they had been kind to me, and provided generously for my youth and old age, and my children would inherit an abundance from the avails of the lands, and herds, and flocks."
A few days after the new light dawned upon her spirit, in the year 1833, Mary was numbered with the dead. She had embraced the faith which makes no difference between those who come at the first or the eleventh hour, and those who were present at the dissolution of her soul and body, doubted not that Jesus had whispered to her the same consolation that fell upon the heart of the thief upon the Cross, "This day shall thou be with me in Paradise"
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CUSTOMS AND INDIVIDUAL TRAITS OF CHARACTER.
The more you read, and the better you understand Indian history, the more you will be impressed with the injustice which has been done the Iroquois, not only in dispossessing them of their inheritance, but in the estimation which has been made of their character. They have been represented, as seen in the transition state, the most unfavorable possible for judging correctly. In the chapter of National Traits of Character, I have in two or three instances quoted Washington Irving and might again allow his opinions to relieve my own from the charge of partiality. He says, in speaking of this same subject, that "the current opinion of Indian character is too apt to be formed from the miserable hordes which infest the frontiers, and hang on the shirts of settlements. These are too commonly composed of degenerate beings, corrupted and enfeebled by the voice of society, without being benefited by its civilization."
"The proud independence which formed the main pillar of motive virtue has been spoken down, and the whole moral fabric lies in ruins. The spirits are humiliated and debased by a sense of inferiority, and their native courage cowed and daunted by the superior knowledge and power of their enlightened neighbors. Society has advanced upon them like one of a those withering airs that will sometimes breed desolation over a whole region of fertility. It has enervated their strength, multiplied their diseases, and superinduced upon their original barbarity the law-vices of artificial life. It has given them a thousand superfluous wants, while it has diminished their means of mere existence. It has driven before it the animals of the chase, who fly from the sound of the axe and the smoke of the settlement and seek refuge in the depths of remote forests, and yet untrodden wilds. Thus do we often find the Indians in the frontiers to be mere wrecks and remnants of once powerful tribes, who have lingered in the vicinity of settlements, and sunk into precarious and vagabond existence. Poverty, repining and hopeless poverty—a canker on the mind before unknown to them—corrodes their spirits and blights every free and noble qualities of their nature. They loiter like vagrants about the settlements among spacious dwellings, replete with elaborate comforts, which only renders them more sensible of the comparative wretchedness of their own condition. Luxury spreads its ample board before their eyes, but they are excluded from the banquet; plenty revels over the fields, but they are starving in the midst of abundance. The whole wilderness blossomed into a garden, but they feel as reptiles that infest them. How different was their state while undisputed lords of the soil? Their wants were few, and the means of gratification within their reach, they saw every one among them sharing the same lot, enduring the same hardships, feeding on the same aliments, arrayed in the same rude garment. No roof then rose under whose sheltering wings, that was not ever open to the homeless stranger, no smoke curled among the trees, but he was welcome to sit down by its fire and join the hunter in his repast."
In discussing Indian character, writers have been too prone to indulge in vulgar prejudice and passionate exaggeration, instead of the candid temper of the true philosopher. They have not sufficiently considered the peculiar circumstance in which the Indians have been placed, and the peculiar principles under which they having been educated. No being acts more rigidly from rule than the Indians, his whole conduct is regulated according to some general maxims early implanted in his mind. The moral laws which govern him are few, but he conforms to them all. The white man abounds in laws and religion, morals, and manners, but how many of them does he violate. In their intercourse with the Indians the white people were continually trampling upon their religion and their sacred rights. They were expected to look merely on while the graves of their fathers were robbed of their treasures, and the bones of their fathers were left to bleach upon the fields. And when exasperated by the brutality of their conquerors, and driven to deeds of vengence, there was very little appreciation of the motives which influenced them, and no attempt was made to palliate their cruelties.
It was their custom to bury the dead with their best clothing, and the various implements they had been in the habit of using whilst living. If it was a warrior that they were preparing for burial, they placed his tomahawk by his side and his knife in his shield; with the hunter, his bow and arrows and implements for cooking his food; with the woman, their kettles and cooking apparatus and also food for all. Tobacco was deposited in every grave; for to smoke was an Indian's idea of felicity in the body and out of it, and in this there was not so much difference as one might wish, between them and gentlemen of a paler hue.
Among the Iroquois, and many other Indian nations, it was the custom to place the dead upon scaffolds, built for the purpose, from tree to tree, or within a temporary inclosure, and underneath a fire was kept burning for several days.
They had known instances of persons reviving after they were supposed to be dead, and this led to the conclusion that the spirit sometimes returned to animate the body after it had once fled. If there was no signs of life for ten days, the fire was extinguished and the body left unmolested until decomposition had begun to take place, when the remains were buried, or, as was often the case, kept in the lodge for many years. If they were obliged to desert the settlement where they had long resided, these skeletons were collected from all the families and buried in one common grave, with the same ceremonies as when a single individual was interred.
They did not suppose the spirit was instantaneously transferred from earth to Heaven, but that it wandered in aerial region for many moons. In later days they only allowed ten days for its flight. Their period for mourning continued only whilst the spirit is wandering, as soon as they believe it has entered Heaven they commenced rejoicing, saying, there is no longer cause for sorrow, because it is now where happiness dwells forever. Sometimes a piteous wailing was kept up every night for a long time, but it was only their bereavement that they bewailed, as they did not fear about the fate of those who died. Not until they had heard of Purgatory from the Jesuits, or endless woe from Protestants, did they look upon death with terror, or life as anything but a blessing.
They were sometimes in the habit of addressing the dead, as if they could hear. The following are the words of a mother as she bends over her only son to look for the last time upon his beloved face: "My son, listen once more to the words of thy mother. Thou wast brought into life with her pains, thou wast nourished with her life. She has attempted to be faithful in raising you up. When you were young she loved you as her life. Thy presence has been a source of great joy to her. Upon thee she depended for support and comfort in her declining days. But thou hast outstripped her and gone before. Our wise and great Creator has ordered it thus. By his will, I am left yet, to taste more of the miseries of this world. Thy relations and friends have gathered about thy body to look upon thee for the last time. They mourn, as with one mind, thy departure from among us. We, too, have but a few days more and our journey will be ended. We part now, and you are conveyed out of our sight. But we shall soon meet again, and shall look upon each other, then we shall part no more. Our Maker has called thee home, and thither will we follow."
After the adoption of the league of the Iroquois, and they dwelled in villages, this was one of the duties enjoined by their religious teacher at their festivals: "It is the will of the Great Spirit that you reverence the aged, even though they be helpless as infants." And also, "Kindness to the orphan, and hospitality to all." "If you tie up the clothes of an orphan child, the Great Spirit will notice it, and reward you for it." "To adopt an orphan, and bring them up in virtuous ways, is pleasing to the Great Spirit." "If strangers wander about your abode, welcome him to your home, be hospitable towards him, speak to him with kind words, and forget not, always to make mention of the Great Spirit."
The Indians lamentations, on being driven far away from the graves of their fathers, have been the theme of all historians and travelers. It can be easily imagined how those who so loved their homes and revered their fathers' graves, would become fierce with indignation and rage, on seeing themselves treated as without human feeling, and the sacred relics of the dead ploughed up and scattered as indifferently as the stones, or the bones of the moose and the deer of the forest. It was this feeling that often prompted them to acts of hostility, which those who experienced them, ascribed to wanton cruelty and barbarity.
In many of the villages there was a strangers home, a house, for strangers where they were placed, while the old men went about collecting skins for them to sleep upon, and food for them to eat, expecting no reward.
They called it very rude for them to stare at them as they passed in the streets, and said that they had as much curiosity as the white people, but they did not gratify it by intruding upon them, by examining them. They would sometimes hide behind trees in order to look at strangers, but never stood openly and gaze at them.
Their respective attention to missionaries was often the result of their rules of politeness, as it is a part of the Indian's code. Their councils are eminent for decorum, and no person is interrupted during a speech. Some Indians, after respectfully listening to a missionary, thought they would relate to him some of their legends, but the good man could not restrain his indignation, but pronounced them foolish fables, while what he told them was sacred truth. The Indian was, in his turn, offended, and said, we listened to your stories, why do you not listen to ours? you are not instructed in the common rules of civility.
A hunter, in his wandering for game, fell among the back settlements of Virginia, and on account of the inclemency of the weather, sought refuge at the house of a planter, whom he met at the door. He was refused admission. Being both hungry and thirsty, he asked for a bit of bread and a cup of cold water. But the answer to every appeal was, "You, shall have nothing here, get you gone you Indian dog!"
Some months afterwards this same planter lost himself in the woods, and after a weary day of wandering, came to an Indian cabin, into which he was welcomed. On inquiring the way and distance to the settlement, and finding it was too far to think of going that night, he asked if he could remain. Very cordially the inmates replied, that he was at liberty to stay, and all they had was at his service. They gave him food, they made a bright fire to cheer and warm him, and supplied him with clean deer- skin for his couch, and promised to conduct him the next day on his journey. In the morning the Indian hunter and the planter set out together through the forest, when they came in sight of the white man's dwelling, the hunter, about to leave, turned to his companion, and said, "Do you not know me?" The white man was struck with horror, that he had been so long in the power of one whom he had so inhumanly treated, and expected now to experience his revenge. But on beginning to make excuses, the Indian interrupted him saying, "when you see a poor Indian fainting for a cup of cold water, don't say again, 'get you gone, you Indian dog.'" and turned back to his hunting grounds. Which best deserved the appellation of a christian, and to which will it most likely be said, "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto the least of these, ye have done it unto me."
ORIGIN OF THE CONTINENT, THE ANIMAL, AND OF THE INDIAN.
INTRODUCTION OF THE TWO PRINCIPLES OF GOOD AND EVIL INTO THE GOVERNMENT OF THE WORLD.
The Tuscarora tradition opens with the notion that there were originally two worlds, or regions of space, that is an upper and lower world. The upper world was inhabited by beings resembling the human race. And the lower world by monsters, moving on the surface and in the waters, which is in darkness. When the human species were transferred below, and the lower sphere was about to be rendered fit for their residence; the act of their transferrance is by these ideas, that a female who began to descend into the lower world, which is a region of darkness, waters, and monsters, she was received on the back of a tortoise, where she gave birth to male twins, and there she expired. The shell of this tortoise expanded into a continent, which, in the English language, is called "island," and is named by the Tuscaroras, Yowahnook. One of the children was called Got-ti-gah-rah-quast, or good mind, the other, Got-ti-gah- rak-senh, or bad mind. These two antagonistical principles were at perpetual variance, it being the law of one to counteract whatever the other did. They were not, however, men, but gods, or existences, through whom the Great Spirit, or "Holder of the Heavens," carried out his purposes.
The first work of Got-ti-gah-rah-quast was to create the sun out of the head of his dead mother, and the moon and stars out of the other parts of her body. The light these gave drove the monsters into the deep waters to hide themselves. He then prepared the surface of the continent and fitted it for human habitation, by making it into creeks, rivers, lakes and plains, and by filling them with the various kinds of animals and vegetable kingdom. He then formed a man and a woman out of the earth, gave them life, and called them Ongwahonwd, that is to say, a real people. Meanwhile the bad mind created mountains, water-falls, and steeps, caves, reptiles, serpents, apes, and other objects supposed to be injurious to, or in mockery to mankind. He made an attempt also to conceal the land animals in the ground, so as to deprive men of the means of subsistance. This continued opposition, to the wishes of the Good Mind, who was perpetually at work, in restoring the effects and displacements, of the wicked devices of the other, at length led to a personal combat, of which the time and instrument of battle were agreed on. They fought two days; the Good Mind using the deer's horn, and the other, using wild flag leafs, as arms. Got-ti-gah-rah-quast, or Good Mind, who had chosen the horn, finally prevailed. His antagonist sunk down into a region of darkness, and became the Evil Spirit of the world of despair. Got-ti-gah-rah-quast, having obtained his triumph, retired from the earth.
The earliest tradition that we have of the Iroquois is as follows: That a company of Ongwahonwa being encamped on the banks of the St. Lawrence River, where they were invaded by a nation—few in number, but were great giants, called "Ronongwaca." War after war was brought on by personal encounters and incidents, and carried on with perfidity and cruelty. They were delivered at length by the skill and courage of Yatontea, who, after retreating before them, raised a large body of men and defeated them, after which they were supposed to be extinct. And the next they suffered was from the malice, perfidity and lust of an extraordinary appearing person, who they called That-tea-ro-skeh, who was finally driven across the St. Lawrence, and come to a town south of the shores of Lake Ontario, where, however, he only disguised his intentions, to repeat his cruel and perfidious deeds. He assassinated many persons, and violated six virgins. They pointed to him as a fiend in human shape.
In this age of monsters, the country was again invaded by another monster, which they called Oyahguaharh, supposed to be some great mammoth, who was furious against men, and destroyed the lives of many Indian hunters, but he was at length killed, after a long and severe contest.
A great horned serpent also next appeared on Lake Ontario who, by means of his poisonous breath, caused disease, and caused the death of many. At length the old women congregated, with one accord, and prayed to the Great Spirit that he would send their grand-father, the Thunder, who would get to their relief in this, their sore time of trouble, and at the same time burning tobacco as burned offerings. So finally the monster was compelled to retire in the deeps of the lake by thunder bolts. Before this calamity was forgotten another happened. A blazing star fell into their fort, situated on the banks of the St. Lawrence, and destroyed the people. Such a phenomenon caused a great panic and consternation and dread, which they regarded as ominious of their entire destruction. Not long after this prediction of the blazing star it was verified. These tribes, who were held together by feeble ties, fell into dispute and wars among themselves, which were pursued through a long period, until they had utterly destroyed each other, and so reduced their numbers that the lands were again over-run with wild beasts.
At this period there were six families took refuge in a large cave in a mountain, where they dwelled for a long time. The men would come out occasionally to hunt for food. This mammoth cave was situated at or near the falls of the Oswego River. Taryenya-wa-gon (Holder of the Heavens) extricated these six families from this subterraneous bowels and confines of the mountain. They always looked to this divine messenger, who had power to assume various shapes, as emergency dictated, as the friend and patron of their nation.
As soon as they were released he gave them instructions respecting the mode of hunting, matrimony, worship and many other things. He warned them against the evil spirit, and gave them corn, beans, squash, potatoes, tobacco, and dogs to hunt their game. He bid them go toward the rising of the sun, and he personally guided them, until they came to a river, which they named Yehnonanatche (that is going around a mountain,) now Mohawk, they went down the bank of the river and came to where it discharges into a great river, running towards the midway sun, they named it Skaw-nay- taw-ty (that is beyond the pineries) now Hudson, and went down the banks of the river and touched the bank of the great water. The company made an encampment at this place and remained for a while. The people was then of one language. Some of them went on the banks of the great waters, towards the midway sun, and never returned. But the company that remained at the camp returned as they came—along the bank of the river, under the direction of Taryenyawagon (Holder of the Heavens).
This company were a particular body, which called themselves of one household. Of these there were six families, and they entered into an agreement to preserve the chain of alliance which should not be extinguished under any circumstance.
The company advanced some distance up the river of Skawnatawty (Hudson). The Holder of the Heavens directed the first family to make their residence near the bank of the river, and the family was named Tehawrogeh (that is, a speech divided) now Mohawk. Their language soon changed. The company then turned and went towards the sun-setting, and traveled about two days and a half, then came to a creek, which was named Kawnatawteruh (that is pineries). The second family was directed to make their residence near the creek; and the family was named Nehawretahgo (that is big tree) now Oneida. Their language was changed likewise. The company continued to proceed toward the sun-setting under the direction of the Holder of the Heavens. The third family was directed to make their residence on a mountain, named Onondaga (now Onondaga), and the family was named Seuhnowhahtah (that is, carrying the name.) Their language also changed. The rest of the company continued their journey towards the sun- setting. The fourth family was directed to make their residence near a large lake, named Goyogoh (that is a mountain rising from water) now Cayuga, and the family was named Sho-nea-na-we-to-wah (that is a great pipe). Their language was altered. The rest of the company kept their course towards the sun-setting. The fifth family was directed to make their residence near a high mountain, situated south of Canandaigua Lake, which was named Tehow-nea-nyo-hent (that is possessing a door) now Seneca. Their language was also changed. The sixth, and last family, went on their journey toward the sun-setting, until they touched the bank of the great lake, which was named Kan-ha-gwa-rah-ka (that is a Cape) now Erie, and then went toward, between the midway and sun-setting, and traveled a great distance, when they came to a large river, which was named O-nah-we-yo-ka (that is a principal stream) now Mississippi. The people discovered a grapevine lying across the river, by which a part of the people went over, but while they were crossing the vine broke. They were divided, and became enemies, to those that were over the river in consequence of which, they were obliged to abandon the journey. Those that went over the river were finally lost and forgotten from the memory of those that remained on the eastern banks.
Ta-ren-ya-wa-go (the Holder of the Heavens), who was the patron of the five home bands, did not fail, in this crisis, to direct them their way also. He instructed those on the eastern bank the art of the bow and arrows, to use for game and in time of danger. After giving them suitable instructions, he guided their footsteps in their journeys, south and east, until they had crossed the Alleghany Mountains, and with some wanderings they finally reached the shores of the sea, on the coast which is now called the Carolinas. By this time their language was changed. They were directed to fix their residence on the banks of the Gow-ta-no (that is, pine in the water) now Neuse River, in North Carolina. Here Ta- ren-ya-wa-gon left them to hunt, increase and prosper, whilst he returned to direct the other five nations to form their confederacy.
Tarenyawagon united in one person the power of a God and a man, and gave him the expressive name of the Holder of the Heavens, and was capable of assuming any form or shape that he chosed, but appeared to them only in the form of a man, and taught them hunting, gardening, and the knowledge of the arts of war. He imparted to them the knowledge of the laws and government of the Great Spirit, and gave them directions and encouragement how to fulfill their duties and obligations. He gave them corn, beans, and fruits of various kinds, with the knowledge of planting those fruits. He taught them how to kill and to cook the game. He made the forest free to all the tribes to hunt, and removed obstructions from the streams. He took his position, sometimes, on the top of high cliffs, springing, if needs be, over frightful chasms; and he flew, as it were, over great lakes in a wonderful canoe of immaculate whiteness and of magic power.
Having finished his commission with the Tuscaroras at Cautanoh, in North Carolina, and the other five families, which were left at the north, he came down to closer terms and intimacy with the Onondagas. He resolved to lay aside his divine character and live among them, that he might exemplify the maxims which he had taught. And for this purpose he selected a handsome spot of ground on the southern banks of Cross Lake, New York. Here he built his cabin, and from the shores of this lake he went into the forest, like the rest of his companions, in quest of game and fish. He took a wife of the Onondagas, by whom he had an only daughter, whom he tenderly loved, and most kindly and carefully treated and instructed, so that she was known far and near as his favorite child, and was regarded almost as a goddess. The excellence of his character, and his great sagacity and good counsels, led the people to regard him with veneration, and they gave him, in his sublunary character, the name of Hi-a-wat-ha (a wise man). People came to him from all quarters, and his abode was thronged by all ages and conditions who came for advice.
He became the first chief of all the land, and whomsoever he made his companions and friends were likewise clothed with the authority of chiefs in the tribe. In this manner all power came naturally into his hands, and the tribe rejoiced that they had so wise and good a man as their ruler. For in those days each tribe was independent of all others; they had not yet formed a league, but fought and made war with each other.
Nothing that belonged to Hiawatha, in his character of Tarenyawagon, was more remarkable than his light and magic canoe, which shone with a supernatural lustre, and in which he had performed so many of his extraordinary feats. This canoe was laid aside when he came to fix his residenee at Cross Lake, and never used it but for great and extraordinary purposes. When great councils were called, and he assembled the wise men to deliberate together, the sacred canoe was carefully lifted from the grand lodge; and after these occasions were ended, it was carefully returned to the same receptacle, on the shoulders of men, who felt honored in being the bearers of such a precious burden.
Thus passed away many years, and every year saw the people increasing in numbers, skill, arts and bravery. It was among the Onondagas that Tarenyawagon had located himself, although he regarded the other tribes as friends and brothers; he had become indentified as an adopted member of this particular tribe. Under his teaching and influence they became the first among all the original tribes, and rose to the highest distinction in every art which was known to or prized by the Akonoshuni (Iroquois). They were the wisest counsellors, the best orators, the most expert hunters, and the bravest warriors. They also afforded the highest examples of obedience to the laws of the Great Spirit. If offences took place, Hiawatha redressed them, and his wisdom and moderation preserved the tribe from feuds. Hence, the Onondagas were early noted among all the tribes for their pre-eminence. He appeared to devote his chief attention to them, that he might afterwards make them examples to the others, in arts and wisdom. They were foremost in the overthrow of the Stonish Giants and the killing of the great Serpent. To be an Onondaga was the highest honor.
While Hiawatha was thus living in domestic life quietly among the people of the hills, and administering their simple government with wisdom, they became alarmed by the sudden news of the approach of a furious and powerful enemy from north of the great lakes. As the enemy advanced, they made an indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children. The people fled from their villages a short time before them, and there was no heart in the people to make a stand against such powerful and ruthless invaders. In this emergency, they fled to Hiawatha for his advice. He counseled them to call a general council of all the tribes from the east and west. "For," said he, "our strength is not in the war club and arrows alone, but in wise counsels." He appointed a place on the banks of Onondaga Lake for the meeting. It was a clear eminence from which there was a wide prospect. Runners were dispatched in every direction, and the chiefs, warriors and headmen forthwith assembled in great numbers, bringing with them, in the general alarm, their women and children. Fleets of canoes were seen on the bosom of the lake, and every inteterior warpath was kept open by the foot-prints of the different tribes, hurrying to obey the summons of Hiawatha. All but the wise man himself had been there for three days, anxiously awaiting the arrival of Hiawatha, when a messenger was dispatched after him. They found him gloomy and depressed. Some great burden appeared to hang on his mind. He told them that evil lay on his path, and that he had fearful forebodings of ill-fortune. He felt that he was called to make some great sacrifice, but he did not know what it was, it seemed to be hid from him. Least of all did he think it was to be his daughter: ever careful of her, he bade her kindly to accompany him. Nothing happened to hinder, or at all interrupt their voyage. The Talismanic canoe, which held them, gllded silently down the waters of the Seneca; not a paddle was necessary to give it impetus, while it pursued the downward course of the stream till they reached the point of the lake outlet. At this point Hiawatha took his paddle and gave it impetus against the current, until they entered on the bright and calm surface of the Onondaga, cradled, as this blue sheet of water is, among the lofty and far-swelling hills. When the white canoe of the venerable chief appeared, a shout of welcome rang among those hills. The day was calm and serene. No wind ruffled the lake, and scarcely a cloud floated in the sky above. But while the wise man was measuring his steps towards the place designated for the council, and while ascending from the water's edge, a rumbling and low sound was heard, as if it were caused by the approach of a violent, rushing wind. Instantly all the eyes were turned upwards, where a small and compact mass of cloudy darkness appeared. It gathered in size and velocity as it approached, and appeared to be directed inevitably to fall in the midst of the assembly. Every one fled in consternation but Hiawatha and his daughter. He stood erect, with ornaments waving in his frontlet, and besought his daughter calmly to await the issue, "for it is impossible," said he, "to escape the power of the Great Spirit. If he has determined our destruction we cannot, by running, fly from him." She modestly assented and they stood together, while horror was depicted in the faces of the others. But the force of the descending body was that of a sudden storm. They had hardly taken the resolution to halt when an immense bird, with long, extended wings, came down with swoop. This gigantic agent of the sky came with such force that the assembly felt the shock. The girl being in a nature, and embodied in the combination of the Terrestial and Celestial nature, was beautiful and fascinating in her looks and form, was borne away by this Celestial Bird to be seen no more upon the earth. But Hiawatha was inconsolable for his loss. He grieved sorely, day and night, and wore a desponding and dejected countenance. But these were only faint indications of the feelings of his heart. He threw himself upon the ground, and refused to be comforted. He seemed dumb with melancholy, and the people were concerned of his life. He spoke nothing; he made no answers to questions put to him, and laid still as if dead. After several days the council appointed a certain merry-hearted Chief to make him a visit, and to whisper a word of consolation in his ears to arouse him from his stupor. The result was successful. He approached with ceremonies and induced him to arise, and named the time when the council would convene. Yet haggard with grief, he called for refreshments and ate. He then adjusted his wardrobe and head-dress and went to the council. He drew his robe of wolf-skin gracefully around him, and walked to his seat at the head of the assembled chiefs with a majestic step. Stiliness and the most profound attention reigned in the council while he presided, and the discussion opened and proceeded. The subject of the invasion was handled by several of the ablest counselors and the bravest warriors. Various plans were proposed to defeat the enemy. Hiawatha listened with silence until all had finished speaking. His opinion was then asked. After a brief allusion of the calamity which had befallen him through the descent of the great bird by the Great Spirit, he spoke to the following effect: