TRADITIONS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS:
A SECOND AND REVISED EDITION OF
"TALES OF AN INDIAN CAMP."
JAMES ATHEARN JONES.
IN THREE VOLUMES.
LONDON: HENRY COLBURN AND RICHARD BENTLEY, NEW BULINGTON STREET. 1830 F. SHOBERL, JUN., LONG ACRE.
WASHINGTON IRVING, ESQ.
THESE VOLUMES ARE RESPECTFULLY INSCRIBED BY HIS FRIEND AND COUNTRYMAN, THE AUTHOR.
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
The sole memorial of whose lot Remains—they were, and they are not.
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 FIRST VOLUME.
* * * * *
Introduction v The Man of Ashes 1 Pomatare, the Flying Beaver 47 The Alarm of the Great Sentinel. A Tradition of the Delawares 61 The Mother of the World. A Tradition of the Dog-Ribs 73 The Fall of the Lenape 87 The Marriage of the Snail and the Beaver 103 The Choice of a God 117 The Resurrection of the Bison 143 The Wahconda's Son 147 The Idols. A Tradition of the Ricaras 173 Discovery of the Upper World. A Tradition of the Minnatarees 201 Love and War 213 Legends of the Happy Hunting-Grounds. I. Akkeewaisee, the Aged 225 II. The Delaware Heaven 233 III. The Hunting-Grounds of the Blackfoots 245 IV. The Stone Canoe 255 V. The Little White Dove 269 VI. The Teton's Paradise 279
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 Conde, 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 Abbe 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 Celtae, 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 Cannae. 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:—
Down I took my spear, my tough spear— Down I took my bow, my good bow, Fill'd my quiver with sharp arrows, Slung my hatchet to my shoulder. Forth I wander'd to the wild wood. Who comes yonder? Red his forehead with the war-paint— Ha! I know him by his feather— Leader of the Ottawas, Eagle of his warlike nation, And he comes to dip that feather In a vanquish'd Maqua's blood.
Then I pois'd my tough ash spear, Then I bent my pride of bows, From my quiver drew an arrow, Rais'd my war-cry—ha! he falls! From his crest I took the feather, From his crown I tore the scalp-lock. Shout his friends their cry of vengeance— What avails it? are they eagles? Nought else may o'ertake the Maqua.
Came the Hurons to our border— Hurons from the Lake of Thunder— Hurons far renown'd for valour— Forth I went with six to meet them: In my cabin hang ten scalp-locks. Should I fear a mortal warrior? No—a Maqua never trembles.
Why should I fear? I never told a lie, Kind have I been to father and to mother, I never turn'd my back upon a foe. I slew my people's enemies— Why should I fear to die? Let the flame be kindled round me, Let them tear my flesh with pincers, Probe me with a burning arrow, I can teach a coward Mingo How a valiant man should die.
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:—
INDIAN HYMN, OR INVOCATION.
From the wilderness we bring The fat buck we have slain, We have laid him on the coals: Lord of Life! Lord of Life! We have opened the door, That the smoke may ascend To thy nostrils, and please thee, Great Master of Breath, Of our breath!
We will call the wise priest— He will come! He will come! He will utter thy name with his lips; He will ask that thy hand may be light On our race, in thy wrath, In thy wrath!
When the priest had performed certain ceremonies over the holocaust, he retired, and the hymn was resumed as follows:—
We have call'd the wise priest— He has come! He has come! He has utter'd thy name with his lips, He has open'd his breast to thine eye, He has ask'd that thy hand may be light On our race, in thy wrath, In thy wrath.
Hear us, Master of Breath! Nor destroy, Nor destroy: If thou wieldest the bolt of thy rage, If thou callest thy thunder to shake, If thou biddest thy lightning to smite, We must pass to the feast of the worm, Of the worm.
Oh! grant us our prayers, Lord of life! Lord of life! Make us victors o'er every foe, Make us strong in the den of the bear, Make us swift in the haunts of the buck, Great Master of Breath, Of our breath!
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."
TALES OF AN INDIAN CAMP.
* * * * *
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[A], and near the Burning Water[B]. 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.
[Footnote A: Great Salt Lake, the ocean.]
[Footnote B: A boiling stream, near the mouth of the river Walkulla, in Florida.]
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[A], 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."
[Footnote A: Great wigwam, an Indian expression, signifying the council-house.]
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[A], 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.
[Footnote A: Muskets, which were termed "spears" by the Indians in the earlier part of their intercourse with the Europeans.]
"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[A] 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.
[Footnote A: Great Medicine, Supreme Being; medicine simply means a spirit.]
"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[A], 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.
[Footnote A: Backbone of the Great Spirit, the Alleghany Mountains.]
"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[A], 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.
[Footnote A: The North Star, in their beautiful, poetical language, "the star which never moves," and "The Hunter's Star."]
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[A]; 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.
[Footnote A: "Daughter of the Sun."—See the Tradition infra.]
Where are our sons, Who went to drink the blood of their foes? Who went forth to war and slaughter, Armed with tough bows and sharp arrows? Who carried long spears, and were nimble of foot As the swift buck, and feared nothing but shame? Who crossed deep rivers, and swam lakes, And went to war against the Walkullas?
Ask the eagle—he can tell you: He says, "My beak is red as the red leaf, And the blood of the slain of your land has dyed it." Ask the panther if he is hungry? "No," he shall say; "I have been at a feast." What has he in his mouth? Look! it is the arm of a Shawanos warrior!
Why do our old men weep, And our women, and our daughters, and our little ones? Is it for the warriors who went forth to battle? Is it for them who went forth in glory, And fell like the leaves of the tree in autumn? Is it for them?
What doth the Indian love?—Revenge. What doth he fight for?—Revenge. What doth he pray for?—Revenge. It is sweet as the flesh of a young bear; For this he goes hungry, roaming the desert, Living on berries, or chewing the rough bark Of the oak, and drinking the slimy pool.
Revenged we must be. Behold the victim! Beautiful she is as the stars, Or the trees with great white flowers. Let us give her to the Great Spirit; Let us make a fire, and offer her for our sons, That we may have success against the Walkullas, And revenge us for our sons.
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.
We have built the fire; The deer we have kill'd; The skin and the horns we have parted from the flesh; The flesh is laid on the burning coals; The sweetness thereof goes up in the smoke:— Master of Life, wilt thou come and claim thine own?
Wilt thou come, Great Spirit of our fathers, And say if we may harbour revenge, and not anger thee? Shall we plant the stake, and bind the fair-one? The beautiful maid, with her hair like bunches of grapes, And her eyes like the blue sky, And her skin white as the blossoms of the forest-tree, And her voice as the music of a little stream, And her step as the bound of the young fawn? Shall her soft flesh be torn with sharp thorns, And burn'd with fiery flames?
"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:—
Shall the flame we have kindled expire? Shall the sacrifice-embers go out? Shall the maiden be free from the fire? Shall the voice of revenge wake no shout? We ask that our feet may be strong In the way thou wouldst have us to go; Let thy voice, then, be heard in the song, That thy will, and our task, we may know.
"Hush," said Chenos, listening; "I hear the crowing of the Great Turkey-Cock[A]; 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.
[Footnote A: Thunder, also called the "hissing of the Great Serpent."]
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.[A]
[Footnote A: The Indians think that echoes are the voice of a spirit.]
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.