Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs, and Conditions of North American Indians
by George Catlin
(First published in London in 1844)
NORTH WESTERN FRONTIER.
Having finished my travels in the "Far West" for awhile, and being detained a little time, sans occupation, in my nineteenth or twentieth transit of what, in common parlance is denominated the Frontier; I have seated myself down to give some further account of it, and of the doings and habits of people, both red and white, who live upon it.
The Frontier may properly be denominated the fleeting and unsettled line extending from the Gulf of Mexico to the Lake of the Woods, a distance of three thousand miles; which indefinitely separates civilized from Indian populationa moving barrier, where the unrestrained and natural propensities of two people are concentrated, in an atmosphere of lawless iniquity, that offends Heaven, and holds in mutual ignorance of each other, the honourable and virtuous portions of two people, which seem destined never to meet.
From what has been said in the foregoing epistles, the reader will agree that I have pretty closely adhered to my promise made in the commencement of them; that I should confine my remarks chiefly to people I have visited, and customs that I have seen, rather than by taking up his time with matter that might be gleaned from books. He will also agree, that I have principally devoted my pages, as I promised, to an account of the condition and customs of those Indians whom I have found entirely beyond the Frontier, acting and living as Nature taught them to live and act, without the examples, and consequently without the taints of civilized encroachments.
He will, I flatter myself, also yield me some credit for devoting the time and space I have occupied in my first appeal to the world, entirely to the condition and actions of the living, rather than fatiguing him with theories of the living or the dead. I have theories enough of my own, and have as closely examined the condition and customs of these people on the Frontier, as of those living beyond itand also their past and present, and prospective history; but the reader will have learned, that my chief object in these Letters, has been not only to describe what I have seen, but of those things, such as I deemed the most novel and least understood; which has of course confined my remarks heretofore, mostly to the character and condition of those tribes living entirely in a state of nature.
And as I have now a little leisure, and no particular tribes before me to speak of, the reader will allow me to glance my eye over the whole Indian country for awhile, both along the Frontier and beyond it; taking a hasty and brief survey of them, and their prospects in the aggregate; and by not seeing quite as distinctly as I have been in the habit of doing heretofore, taking pains to tell a little more emphatically what I think, and what I have thought of those things that I have seen, and yet have told but in part.
I have seen a vast many of these wild people in my travels, it will be admitted by all. And I have had toils and difficulties, and dangers to encounter in paying them my visits; yet I have bad my pleasures as I went along, in shaking their friendly hands, that never had felt the contaminating touch of money, or the withering embrace of pockets; I have shared the comforts of their hospitable wigwams, and always have been preserved unharmed in their country. And if I have spoken, or am to speak of them, with a seeming bias, the reader will know what allowance to make for me, who am standing as the champion of a people, who have treated me kindly, of whom I feel bound to speak well; and who have no means of speaking for themselves.
Of the dead, to speak kindly, and to their character to render justice, is always a praiseworthy act; but it is yet far more charitable to extend the hand of liberality, or to hold the scale of justice, to the living who are able to feel the benefit of it. Justice to the dead is generally a charity, inasmuch as it is a kindness to living friends; but to the poor Indian dead, if it is meted out at all, which is seldom the case, it is thrown to the grave with him, where he has generally gone without friends left behind him to inherit the little fame that is reluctantly allowed him while living, and much less likely to be awarded to him when dead. Of the thousands and millions, therefore, of these poor fellows who are dead, and whom we have thrown into their graves, there is nothing that I could now say, that would do them any good, or that would not answer the world as well at a future time as at the present; while there is a debt that we are owing to those of them who are yet living, which I think justly demands our attention, and all our sympathies at this moment.
The peculiar condition in which we are obliged to contemplate these most unfortunate people at this timehastening to destruction and extinction, as they evidently are, lays an uncompromising claim upon the sympathies of the civilized world, and gives a deep interest and value to such records as are truly madesetting up, and perpetuating from the life, their true native character and customs.
If the great family of North American Indians were all dying by a scourge or epidemic of the country, it would be natural, and a virtue, to weep for them; but merely to sympathize with them (and but partially to do that) when they are dying at our hands, and rendering their glebe to our possession, would be to subvert the simplest law of Nature, and turn civilized man, with all his boasted virtues, back to worse than savage barbarism.
Justice to a nation who are dying, need never be expected from the hands of their destroyers; and where injustice and injury are visited upon the weak and defenseless, from ten thousand handsfrom Governmentsmonopolies and individualsthe offence is lost in the inseverable iniquity in which all join, and for which nobody is answerable, unless it be for their respective amounts, at a final day of retribution.
Long and cruel experience has well proved that it is impossible for enlightened Governments or money-making individuals to deal with these credulous and unsophisticated people, without the sin of injustice; but the humble biographer or historian, who goes amongst them from a different motive, may come out of their country with his hands and his conscience clean, and himself an anomaly, a white man dealing with Indians, and meting out justice to them; which I hope it may be my good province to do with my pen and my brush, with which, at least, I will have the singular and valuable satisfaction of having done them no harm.
With this view, and a desire to render justice to my readers also, I have much yet to say of the general appearance and character of the Indiansof their condition and treatment; and far more, I fear, than I can allot to the little space I have designed for the completion of these epistles.
Of the general appearance of the North American Indians, much might be yet said, that would be new and instructive. In stature, as I have already said, there are some of the tribes that are considerably above the ordinary height of man, and others that are evidently below it; allowing their average to be about equal to that of their fellow-men in the civilized world. In girth they are less, and lighter in their limbs, and almost entirely free from corpulency or useless flesh. Their bones are lighter, their skulls are thinner, and their muscles less hard than those of their civilized neighbours, excepting in the legs and feet, where they are brought into more continual action by their violent exercise on foot and on horseback, which swells the muscles and gives them great strength in those limbs, which is often quite as conspicuous as the extraordinary development of muscles in the shoulders and arms of our labouring men.
Although the Indians are generally narrow in the shoulders, and less powerful with the arms, yet it does not always happen by any means, that they are so effeminate as they look, and so widely inferior in brachial strength, as the spectator is apt to believe, from the smooth and rounded appearance of their limbs. The contrast between one of our labouring men when he denudes his limbs, and the figure of a naked Indian is to be sure very striking, and entirely too much so, for the actual difference in the power of the two persons. There are several reasons for this which account for so disproportionate a contrast, and should be named.
The labouring man, who is using his limbs the greater part of his life in lifting heavy weights, &c. sweats them with the weight of clothes which he has on him, which softens the integuments and the flesh, leaving the muscles to stand out in more conspicuous relief when they are exposed; whilst the Indian, who exercises his limbs for the most of his life, denuded and exposed to the air, gets over his muscles a thicker and more compact layer of integuments which hide them from the view, leaving the casual spectator, who sees them only at rest, to suppose them too decidedly inferior to those which are found amongst people of his own colour. Of muscular strength in the legs, I have met many of the most extraordinary instances in the Indian country, that ever I have seen in my life; and I have watched and studied such for hours together, with utter surprise and admiration, in the violent exertions of their dances, where they leap and jump with every nerve strung, and every muscle swelled, till their legs will often look like a bundle of ropes, rather than a mass of human flesh. And from all that I have seen, I am inclined to say that whatever differences there may be between the North American Indians and their civilized neighbours in the above respects, they are decidedly the results of different habits of life and modes of education rather than of any difference in constitution. And I would also venture the assertion, that he who would see the Indian in a condition to judge of his muscles, must see him in motion; and he who would get a perfect study for an Hercules or an Atlas, should take a stone-mason for the upper part of his figure,and a Camanchee or a Blackfoot Indian from the waist downwards to the feet.
There is a general and striking character in the facial outline of the North American Indians, which is bold and free, and would seem at once to stamp them as distinct from natives of other parts of the world. Their nosey, are generally prominent and aquilineand the whole face, if divested of paint and of copper-colour, would seem to approach to the bold and European character. Many travellers have thought that their eyes were smaller than those of Europeans; and there is good cause for one to believe so, if he judges from first impressions, without taking pains to inquire into the truth and causes of things. I have been struck, as most travellers, no doubt have, with the want of expansion and apparent smallness of the Indians' eyes, which I have found upon examination, to be principally the effect of continual exposure to the rays of the sun and the wind, without the shields that are used by the civilized world; and also when in-doors, and free from those causes, subjected generally to one more distressing, and calculated to produce similar results, the smoke that almost continually hangs about their wigwams, which necessarily contracts the lids of the eyes, forbidding that full flame and expansion of the eve, that the cool and clear shades of our civilized domicils are calculated to promote.
The teeth of the Indians are generally regular and sound, and wonderfully preserved to old age owing, no doubt, to the fact that they live without the spices of lifewithout saccharine and without salt, which are equally destructive to teeth, in civilized communities. Their teeth, though sound, are not white, having a yellowish cast; but for the same reason that a negro's teeth are "like ivory," they look whiteset as they are in bronze, as any one with a tolerable set of teeth can easily test, by painting his face the colour of an Indian, and grinning for a moment in his looking-glass.
Beards they generally have notesteeming them great vulgarities, and using every possible means to eradicate them whenever they are so unfortunate as to be annoyed with them. Different writers have been very much at variance on this subject ever since the first accounts given of these people; and there seems still an unsatisfied curiosity on the subject, which I would be glad to say that I could put entirely at rest.
From the best information that I could obtain amongst forty-eight tribes that I have visited, I feel authorized to say, that, amongst the wild tribes, where they have made no efforts to imitate white men, at least, the proportion of eighteen out of twenty, by nature are entirely without the appearance of a beard; and of the very few who have them by nature, nineteen out of twenty eradicate it by plucking it out several times in succession, precisely at the age of puberty, when its growth is successfully arrested; and occasionally one may be seen, who has omitted to destroy it at that time, and subjects his chin to the repeated pains of its extractions, which he is performing with a pair of clamshells or other tweezers, nearly every day of his lifeand occasionally again, but still more rarely, one is found, who from carelessness or inclination has omitted both of these, and is allowing it to grow to the length of an inch or two on his chin, in which case it is generally very soft, and exceedingly sparse. Wherever there is a cross of the blood with the European or African, which is frequently the case along the Frontier, a proportionate beard is the result; and it is allowed to grow, or is plucked out with much toil, and with great pain.
There has been much speculation, and great variety of opinions, as to the results of the intercourse between the European and African population with the Indians on the borders; and I would not undertake to decide so difficult a question, though I cannot help but express my opinion, which is made up from the vast many instances that I have seen, that generally speaking, these half-breed specimens are in both instances a decided deterioration from the two stocks, from which they have sprung; which I grant may be the consequence that generally flows from illicit intercourse, and from the inferior rank in which they are held by both, (which is mostly confined to the lowest and most degraded portions of society), rather than from any constitutional objection, necessarily growing out of the amalgamation.
The finest built and most powerful men that I have ever yet seen, have been some of the last-mentioned, the negro and the North American Indian mixed, of equal blood. These instances are rare to be sure, yet are occasionally to be found amongst the Seminolees and Cherokees, and also amongst the Camanchees, even, and the Caddoes; and I account for it in this way: From the slave-holding States to the heart of the country of a wild tribe of Indians, through almost boundless and impassable wilds and swamps, for hundreds of miles, it requires a negro of extraordinary leg and courage and perseverance, to travel; absconding from his master's fields, to throw himself into a tribe of wild and hostile Indians, for the enjoyment of his liberty; of which there are occasional instances, and when they succeed, they are admired by the savage; and as they come with a good share of the tricks and arts of civilization, they are at once looked upon by the tribe, as extraordinary and important personages; and generally marry the daughters of chiefs, thus uniting theirs with the best blood in the nation, which produce these remarkably fine and powerful men that I have spoken of above.
Although the Indians of North America, where dissipation and disease have not got amongst them, undoubtedly are a longer lived and healthier race, and capable of enduring far more bodily privation and pain, than civilized people can; yet I do not believe that the differences are constitutional, or anything more than the results of different circumstances, and a different education. As an evidence in support of this assertion, I will allude to the hundreds of men whom I have seen, and travelled with, who have been for several years together in the Rocky Mountains, in the employment of the Fur Companies; where they have lived exactly upon the Indian system, continually exposed to the open air, and the weather, and, to all the disappointments and privations peculiar to that mode of life; and I am bound to say, that I never saw a more hardy and healthy race of men in my life, whilst they remain in the country; nor any who fall to pieces quicker when they get back to confined and dissipated life, which they easily fall into, when they return to their own country.
The Indian women who are obliged to lead lives of severe toil and drudgery, become exceedingly healthy and robust, giving easy birth and strong constitutions to their children; which, in a measure, may account for the simplicity and fewness of their diseases, which in infancy and childhood are very seldom known to destroy life.
If there were anything like an equal proportion of deaths amongst the Indian children, that is found in the civilized portions of the world, the Indian country would long since have been depopulated, on account of the decided disproportion of children they produce. It is a very rare occurrence for an Indian woman to be "blessed" with more than four or five children during her life; and generally speaking, they seem contented with two or three; when in civilized communities it is no uncommon thing for a woman to be the mother of ten or twelve, and sometimes to bear two or even three at a time; of which I never recollect to have met an instance during all my extensive travels in the Indian country, though it is possible that I might occasionally have passed them.
For so striking a dissimilarity as there evidently is between these people, and those living according to the more artificial modes of life, in a subject, seemingly alike natural to both, the reader will perhaps expect me to furnish some rational and decisive causes. Several very plausible reasons have been advanced for such a deficiency on the part of the Indians, by authors who have written on the subject, but whose opinions I should be very slow to adopt; inasmuch as they have been based upon the Indian's inferiority, (as the game authors have taken great pains to prove in most other respects,) to their pale-faced neighbours.
I know of but one decided cause for this difference, which I would venture to advance, and which I confidently believe to be the principal obstacle to a more rapid increase of their families; which is the very great length of time that the women submit to lactation, generally carrying their children at the breast to the age of two, and sometimes three, and even four years!
The astonishing ease and success with which the Indian women pass through the most painful and most trying of all human difficulties, which fall exclusively to the lot of the gentler sex; is quite equal, I have found from continued enquiry, to the representations that have often been made to the world by other travellers, who have gone before me. Many people have thought this a wise provision of Nature, in framing the constitutions of these people, to suit the exigencies of their exposed lives, where they are beyond the pale of skilful surgeons, and the nice little comforts that visit the sickbeds in the enlightened world; but I never have been willing to give to Nature, quite so much credit, for stepping aside of her own rule, which I believe to be about half way betweenfrom which I am inclined to think that the refinements of art, and its spices, have led the civilized world into the pains and perils of one unnatural extreme; whilst the extraordinary fatigue and exposure, and habits of Indian life, have greatly released them from natural pains, on the other. With this view of the case, I fully believe that Nature has dealt everywhere impartially; and that, if from their childhood, our mothers had, like the Indian women, carried loads like beasts of burthenand those over the longest journeys, and highest mountainshad swam the broadest riversand galloped about for months and even years of their lives, astride of their horse's backs; we should have taxed them as lightly in stepping into the world, as an Indian pappoose does its mother, who ties her horse under the shade of a tree for half an hour, and before night, overtakes her travelling companions with her infant in her arms, which has often been the case.
As to the probable origin of the North American Indians, which is one of the first questions that suggests itself to the enquiring mind, and will be perhaps, the last to be settled; I shall have little to say in this place, for the reason that so abstruse a subject, and one so barren of positive proof, would require in its discussion too much circumstantial evidence for my allowed limits; which I am sure the world will agree will be filled up much more consistently with the avowed spirit of this work, by treating of that which admits of an abundance of prooftheir actual existence, their customsand misfortunes; and the suggestions of modes for the amelioration of their condition.
For a professed philanthropist, I should deem it cruel and hypocritical to waste time and space in the discussion of a subject, ever so interesting, (though unimportant), when the present condition and prospects of these people are calling so loudly upon the world for justice, and for mercy; and when their evanescent existence and customs are turning, as it were, on a wheel before us, but soon to be lost; whilst the mystery of their origin can as well be fathomed at a future day as now, and recorded with their exit.
Very many people look upon the savages of this vast country, as an "Anomaly in Nature;" and their existence and origin, and locality, things that needs must be at once accounted for.
Now, if the world will allow me, (and perhaps they may think me singular for saying it), I would say, that these things are, in my opinion, natural and simple; and, like all other works of Nature destined to remain a mystery to mortal man; and if man be anywhere entitled to the name of an anomaly, it is he who has departed the farthest from the simple walks and actions of his nature.
It seems natural to enquire at once who these people are, and from whence they came; but this question is natural, one because we are out of nature. To an Indian, such a question would seem absurdlie would stand aghast and astounded at the anomaly before himhimself upon his own ground, "where the Great Spirit made him"hunting in his own forests; if an exotic, with a "pale face," and from across the ocean, should stand before him, to ask him where he came from, and how he got there!
I would invite this querist, this votary of science, to sit upon a log with his red acquaintance, and answer the following questions:
"You white man, where you come from?"
"From England, across the water."
"How white man come to see England? how you face come to get white, ha ?"
I never yet have been made to see the necessity of showing how these people came here, or that they came here at all; which might easily have been done, by the way of Behring's Straits from the North of Asia. I should much rather dispense with such a necessity, than undertake the other necessities that must follow the establishment of this; those of showing how the savages paddled or drifted in their canoes from this Continent after they had got here, or from the Asiatic Coast, and landed on all the South Sea Islands, which we had to be inhabited nearly to the South Pole. For myself I am quite satisfied with the fact, which is a thing certain, and to be relied on, that this Continent was found peopled in every part, by savages; and so, nearly every Island in the South Seas, at the distance of several thousand miles from either Continent; and I am quite willing to surrender the mystery to abler pens than my ownto theorists who may have the time, and the means to prove to the world, how those rude people wandered there in their bark canoes, without water for their subsistence, or compasses to guide them on their way.
The North American Indians, and all the inhabitants of the South Sea Islands, speaking some two or three hundred different languages, entirely dissimilar, may have all sprung from one stock; and the Almighty, after creating man, for some reason that is unfathomable to human wisdom, might have left the whole vast universe, with its severed continents, and its thousand distant isles everywhere teeming with necessaries and luxuries, spread out for man's use; and there to vegetate and rot, for hundreds and even thousands of centuries, until ultimate, abstract accident should throw him amongst these infinite mysteries of creation; the least and most insignificant of which have been created and placed by design. Human reason is weak, and human ignorance is palpable, when man attempts to approach then unsearchable mysteries; and I consider human discretion well applied, when it beckons him back to things that be can comprehend; where his reason, and all his mental energies can be employed for the advancement and benefit of his species. With this conviction, I feel disposed to retreat to the ground that I have before occupiedto the Indians, as they are, and where they are; recording amongst them living evidences whilst they live, for the use of abler theorists than myselfwho may labour to establish their origin, which may be as well (and perhaps better) done, a century hence, than at the present day.
The reader is apprised, that I have nearly filled the limits allotted to these epistles; and I assure him that a vast deal which I have seen must remain untoldwhilst from the same necessity, I must tell him much less than I think, and beg to be pardoned if I withholds till some future occasion, many of my reasons for, thinking.
I believe, with many others, that the North American Indians are a mixed peoplethat they have Jewish blood in their veins, though I would not assert, as some have undertaken to prove, "that they are Jews," or that they are "the ten lost tribes of Israel." From the character and conformation of their heads, I am compelled to look upon them as an amalgam race, but still savages; and from many of their customs, which seem to me, to be peculiarly Jewish, as well as from the character of their heads, I am forced to believe that some part of those ancient tribes, who have been dispersed by Christians in so many ways, and in so many different eras, have found their way to this country, where they have entered amongst the native stock, and have lived and intermarried with the Indians, until their identity has been swallowed up and lost in the greater numbers of their new acquaintance, save the bold and decided character which they have bequeathed to lie Indian races; and such of their customs as the Indians were pleased to adopt, and which they have preserved to the present day.
I am induced to believe thus from the very many customs which I have witnessed amongst them, that appear to be decidedly Jewish; and many of them so peculiarly so, that it would seem almost impossible or at all events, exceedingly improbable, that two people in a state of nature should have hit upon them, and practiced them exactly alike.
The world need not expect me to decide so interesting and difficult a question; but I am sure they will be disposed to hear simply my opinion, which I give in this place, quite briefly, and with the utmost respectful deference to those who think differently. I claim no merit whatever, for advancing such an opinion, which is not new, having been in several works advanced to the world by far abler pens than my own, with volumes of evidence, to the catalogue of which, I feel quite sure I shall be able to add some new proofs in the proper place. If I could establish the fact by positive proof, I should claim a great deal of applause from the world, and should, no doubt, obtain it; but, like everything relating to the origin and early history of these unchronicled people, I believe this question is one that will never be settled, but will remain open for the opinions of the world, which will be variously given, and that upon circumstantial evidence alone.
I am compelled to believe that the Continent of America, and each of the other Continents, have had their aboriginal stocks, peculiar in colour and in characterand that each of these native stocks has undergone repeated mutations (at periods, of which history has kept no records), by erratic colonies from abroad, that have been engrafted upon themmingling with them, and materially affecting their original character. By this process, I believe that the North American Indians, even where we find them in their wildest condition, are several degrees removed from their original character; and that one of their principal alloys has been a part of those dispersed people, who have mingled their blood and their customs with them, and even in their new disguise, seem destined to be followed up with oppression and endless persecution.
The first and most striking fact amongst the North American Indians that refers us to the Jews, is that of their worshipping in all parts, the Great Spirit, or Jehovah, as the Hebrews were ordered to do by Divine precept, instead of a plurality of gods, as ancient pagans and heathens didand their idols of their own formation. The North American Indians, are nowhere idolatersthey appeal at once to the Great Spirit, and know of no mediator, either personal or symbolical.
The Indian tribes are everywhere divided into bands, with chiefs, symbols, badges, &c., and many of their modes of worship I have found exceedingly like those of the Mosaic institution. The Jews had their sanctum sanctorums, and so may it be said the Indians have, in their council or medicine-houses, which are always held as sacred places. As the Jews had, they have their high-priests and their prophets. Amongst the Indians as amongst the ancient Hebrews, the women are not allowed to worship with the menand in all cases also, they eat separately. The Indians everywhere, like the Jews, believe that they are the favourite people of the Great Spirit, and they are certainly, like those ancient people, persecuted, as every man's hand seems raised against themand they, like the Jews, destined to be dispersed over the world, and seemingly scourged by the Almighty, and despised of man.
In their marriages, the Indians, as did the ancient Jews, uniformly buy their wives by giving presentsand in many tribes, very closely resemble them in other forms and ceremonies of their marriages.
In their preparations for war, and in peace-making, they are strikingly similar. In their treatment of the sick, burial of the dead and mourning, they are also similar.
In their bathing and ablutions, at all seasons of the year, as a part of their religious observanceshaving separate places for men and women to perform these immersionsthey resemble again. And the custom amongst the women, of absenting themselves during the lunar influences, is exactly consonant to the Mosaic law. This custom of separation is an uniform one amongst the different tribes, as far as I have seen them in their primitive state, and be it Jewish, natural or conventional, it is an indispensable form with these wild people, who are setting to the civilized world, this and many other examples of decency and propriety, only to be laughed at by their wiser neighbours, who, rather than award to the red man any merit for them, have taken exceeding pains to call them but the results of ignorance and superstition.
So, in nearly every family of a tribe, will be found a small lodge, large enough to contain one person, which is erected at a little distance from the family lodge, and occupied by the wife or the daughter, to whose possession circumstances allot it; where she dwells alone until she is prepared to move back, and in the meantime the touch of her hand or her finger to the chief's lodge, or his gun, or other article of his household, consigns it to destruction at once; and in case of non-conformity to this indispensable form, a woman's life may, in some tribes, be answerable for misfortunes that happen to individuals or the tribe, in the interim.
After this season of separation, purification in running water, and annointing, precisely in accordance with the Jewish command, is requisite before she can enter the family lodge. Such is one of the extraordinary observances amongst these people in their wild state; but along the Frontier, where white people have laughed at them for their forms, they have departed from this, as from nearly everything else that is native and original about them.
In their feasts, fastings and sacrificing, they are exceedingly like those ancient people. Many of them have a feast closely resembling the annual feast of the Jewish passover; and amongst others, an occasion much like the Israelitish feast of the tabernacles, which lasted eight days, (when history tells us they carried bundles of willow boughs, and fasted several days and nights) making sacrifices of the first fruits and best of everything, closely resembling the sin-offering and peace-offering of the Hebrews. (1)
These, and many others of their customs would seem to be decidedly Jewish; yet it is for the world to decide how many of them, or whether all of them, might be natural to all people, and, therefore, as well practiced by these people in a state of nature, as to have been borrowed from a foreign nation.
Amongst the list of their customs however, we meet a number which had their origin it would seem, in the Jewish Ceremonial code, and which are so very peculiar in their forms, that it would seem quite improbable, and almost impossible, that two different people should ever have hit upon them alike, without some knowledge of each other. These I consider, go farther than anything else as evidence, and carry, in my mind, conclusive proof that these people are tinctured with Jewish blood; even though the Jewish sabbath has been lost, and circumcision probably rejected; and dog's flesh, which was an abomination to the Jews, continued to be eaten at their feasts by all the tribes of Indians; not because the Jews have been prevailed upon to use it, but, because they have survived only, as their blood was mixed with that of the Indians, and the Indians have imposed on that mixed blood the same rules and regulations that governed the members of the tribes in general.
Many writers are of opinion, that the natives of America are all from one stock, and their languages from one rootthat that stock is exotic, and that that language was introduced with it. And the reason assigned for this theory is, that amongst the various tribes, there is a reigning similarity in looksand in their languages a striking resemblance to each other.
Now, if all the world were to argue in this way, I should reason just in the other; and pronounce this, though evidence to a certain degree, to be very far from conclusive, inasmuch as it is far easier and more natural for distinct tribes, or languages, grouped and used together, to assimilate than to dissimilate; as the pebbles on a sea-shore, that are washed about and jostled together, lose their angles, and incline at last to one rounded and uniform shape. So that if there had been, ab origine, a variety of different stocks in America, with different complexions, with different characters and customs, and of different statures, and speaking entirely different tongues; where they have been for a series of centuries living neighbours to each other, moving about and intermarrying; I think we might reasonably look for quite as great a similarity in their personal appearance and languages, as we now find; when, on the other hand, if we are to suppose that they were all from one foreign stock, with but one language, it is a difficult thing to conceive how or in what space of time, or for what purpose, they could have formed so many tongues, and so widely different, as those that are now spoken on the Continent.
It is evident I think, that if an island or continent had been peopled with black, white and red; a succession of revolving centuries of intercourse amongst these different colours would have had a tendency to bring them to one standard complexion, when no computable space of time, nor any conceivable circumstances could restore them again; re-producing all, of either of the distinct colours, from the compound.
That customs should be found similar, or many of them exactly the same, on the most opposite parts of the Continent, is still less surprising; for these will travel more rapidly, being more easily taught at Treaties and festivals between hostile bands, or disseminated by individuals travelling, through neighbouring tribes, whilst languages and blood require more time for their admixture.
That the languages of the North American Indians, should be found to be so numerous at this day, and so very many of them radically different, is a subject of great surprise, and unaccountable, whether these people are derived from one individual stock, or from one hundred, or one thousand.
Though languages like colour and like customs, are calculated to assimilate, under the circumstances above named; yet it is evident that, (if derived from a variety of sources), they have been unaccountably kept more distinct than the others; and if from one root, have still more unaccountably dissimilated and divided into at least one hundred and fifty, two-thirds of which, I venture to say, are entirely and radically distinct; whilst amongst the people who speak them, there is a reigning similarity in looks, in features and in customs, which would go very far to pronounce them one family, by nature or by convention.
I do not believe, with some very learned and distinguished writers, that the languages of the North American Indians can be traced to one root or to three or four, or any number of distinct idioms; nor do I believe all, or any one of them, will ever be fairly traced to a foreign origin.
If the looks and customs of the Jews, are decidedly found and identified with these peopleand also those of the Japanese, and Calmuc Tartars, I think we have but little, if any need of looking for the Hebrew language, or either of the others, for the reasons that I have already given; for the feeble colonies of these, or any other foreign people that might have fallen by accident upon the shores of this great Continent, or who might have approached it by Behring's Straits, have been too feeble to give a language to fifteen or twenty millions of people, or in fact to any portion of them; being in all probability, in great part cut to pieces and destroyed by a natural foe; leaving enough perhaps, who had intermarried, to reinoculate their blood and their customs; which have run, like a drop in a bucket, and slightly tinctured the character of tribes who have sternly resisted their languages, which would naturally, under such circumstances, have made but very little impression.
Such I consider the condition of the Jews in North America; and perhaps the Scandanavians, and the followers of Madoc, who by some means, and upon the shores of some period that I cannot name, have thrown themselves this country, and amongst the ranks of the savages; where, from destructive wars with their new neighbours, they have been overpowered, and perhaps, with the exception of those who had intermarried, they have been destroyed, yet leaving amongst the savages decided marks of their character; and many of their peculiar customs, which had pleased, and been adopted by the savages, while they bad sternly resisted others: and decidedly shut out and discarded their language, and of course obliterated everything of their history.
That there should often be found contiguous to each other, several tribes speaking dialects of the same language, is a matter of no surprise at all; and wherever such is the case, there is resemblance enough also, in looks and customs, to show that they are parts of the same tribes, which have comparatively recently severed and wandered apart, as their traditions will generally show; and such resemblances are often found and traced, nearly across the Continent, and have been accounted for in some of my former Letters. Several very learned gentlemen, whose opinions I would treat with the greatest respect, have supposed that all the native languages of America were traceable to three or four roots; a position which I will venture to say will be an exceedingly difficult one for them to maintain, whilst remaining at home and consulting books, in the way that too many theories are supported; and one infinitely more difficult to prove if they travel amongst the different tribes, and collect their own information as they travel. (2) I am quite certain that I have found in a number of instances, tribes who have long lived neighbours to each other, and who, from continued intercourse, had learned mutually, many words of each others language, and adopted them for common use or mottoes, as often, or oftener than we introduce the French or Latin phrases in our conversation; from which the casual visitor to one of these tribes, might naturally suppose there was a similarity in their languages; when a closer examiner would find that the idioms and structure of the several languages were entirely distinct.
I believe that in this way, the world who take but a superficial glance at them, are, and will be, led into continual error on this interesting subject; one that invites, and well deserves from those learned gentlemen, a fair investigation by them, on the spot; rather than so limited and feeble an examination as I have been able to make of it, or that they, can make, in their parlours, at so great a distance from them, and through such channels as they are obliged to look to for their information.
Amongst the tribes that I have visited, I consider that thirty, out of the forty-eight, are distinct and radically different in their languages, and eighteen are dialects of some three or four. It is a very simple thing for the offhand theorists of the scientific world, who do not go near these people, to arrange and classify them; and a very clever thing to simplify the subject, and bring it, like everything else, under three or four heads, and to solve, and resolve it, by as many simple rules.
I do not pretend to be able to give to this subject, or to that of the probable origin of these people, the close investigation that these interesting subjects require and deserve; yet I have travelled and observed enough amongst them, and collected enough, to enable me to form decided opinions of my own; and in my conviction, have acquired confidence enough to tell them, and at the same time to recommend to the Government or institutions of my own country, to employ men of science, such as I have mentioned, and protect them in their visits to these tribes, where "the truth, and the whole truth" may be got; and the languages of all the tribes that are yet in existence,(many of which are just now gasping them out in their last breath,) maybe snatched and preserved from oblivion; as well as their looks and their customs, to the preservation of which my labours have been principally devoted.
I undertake to say to such gentlemen, who are enthusiastic and qualified, that here is one of the most interesting subjects that they could spend the energies of their valuable lives upon, and one the most sure to secure for them that immortality for which it is natural and fair for all men to look.
From what has been said in the foregoing Letters, it will have been seen that there are three divisions under which the North American Indians maybe justly considered; those who are deadthose who are dying, and those who are yet livings, and flourishing in their primitive condition. Of the dead, I have little to say at present, and I can render them no serviceof the living, there is much to be said, and I shall regret that the prescribed limits of these epistles, will forbid me saying all that I desire to say of them and their condition.
The present condition of these once numerous people, contrasted with what it was, and what it is soon to be, is a subject of curious interest, as well as some importance, to the civilized worlda subject well entitled to the attention, and very justly commanding the sympathies of, enlightened communities. There are abundant proofs recorded in the history of this country, and to which I need not at this time more particularly refer, to shew that this very numerous and respectable part of the human family, which occupied the different parts of North America, at the time of its first settlement by the Anglo-Americans, contained more than fourteen millions, who have been reduced since that time, and undoubtedly in consequence of that settlement, to something less than two millions!
This is a startling fact, and one which carries with it, if it be the truth, other facts and their results, which are equally startling, and such as every inquiring mind should look into. The first deduction that the mind draws from such premises, is the rapid declension of these people, which must at that rate be going on at this day; and sooner or later, lead to the most melancholy result of their final extinction.
Of this sad termination of their existence, there need not be a doubt in the minds of any man who will read the history of their former destruction; contemplating them swept already from two-thirds of the Continent; and who will then travel as I have done, over the vast extent of Frontier, and witness the modes by which the poor fellows are falling, whilst contending for their rights, with acquisitive white men. Such a reader, and such a traveller, I venture to say, if be has not the heart of a brute, will shed tears for them; and be ready to admit that their character and customs, are at this time, a subject of interest and importance, and rendered peculiarly so from the facts that they are dying at the hands of their Christian neighbours and, from all past experience, that there will probably be no effectual plan instituted, that will save the remainder of them from a similar fate. As they stand at this day, there may be four or five hundred thousand in their primitive state; and a million and a half, that may be said to be semi-civilized, contending with the sophistry of white men, amongst whom they are timidly and unsuccessfully endeavouring to hold up their heads, and aping their modes; whilst they are swallowing their poisons, and yielding their lands and their lives, to the superior tact and cunning of their merciless cajolers.
In such parts of their community, their customs are uninteresting; being but poor and ridiculous imitations of those that are bad enough, those practiced by their first teachersbut in their primitive state, their modes of life and character, before they are changed, are subjects of curious interest, and all that I have aimed to preserve. Their personal appearance, their dress, and many of their modes of life, I have already described.
For their Government, which is purely such as has been dictated to them by Nature and necessity alone, they are indebted to no foreign, native or civilized nation. For their religion, which is simply Theism, they are indebted to the Great Spirit, and not to the Christian world. For their modes of war, they owe nothing to enlightened nationsusing only those weapons, and those modes which are prompted by nature, and within the means of their rude manufactures.
If, therefore, we do not find in their systems of polity and jurisprudence, the efficacy and justice that are dispensed in civilized institutionsif we do not find in their religion the light and the grace that flow from Christian faithif in wars they are less honourable, and wage them upon a system of "murderous stratagem" it is the duty of the enlightened world, who administer justice in a better waywho worship in a more acceptable formand who war on a more honourable scale, to make great allowance for their ignorance, and yield to their credit, the fact, that if their systems are less wise, they are often more free from injusticefrom hypocrisy from carnage.
Their Governments, if they have any (for I am almost disposed to question the propriety of applying the term), are generally alike; each tribe having at its head, a chief (and most generally a war and civil chief), whom it would seem, alternately hold ascendancy, as the circumstances of peace or way may demand their respective services. These chiefs, whose titles are generally hereditary, hold their offices only as long as their ages will enable them to perform the duties of them by taking the lead in war-parties, &c., after which they devolve upon the next incumbent, who is the eldest son of the chief, provided he is decided by the other chiefs to be as worthy of it as any other young man in the tribein default of which, a chief is elected from amongst the sub-chiefs; so that the office is hereditary on condition, and elective in emergency.
The chief has no controul over the life or limbs, or liberty of his subjects, nor other power whatever, excepting that of influence which he gains by his virtues, and his exploits in war, and which induces his warriors and braves to follow him, as he leads them to battleor to listen to him when he speaks and advises in council. In fact, he is no more than a leader, whom every young warrior may follow, or turn about and go back from, as he pleases, if he is willing to meet the disgrace that awaits him, who deserts his chief in the hour of danger.
It may be a difficult question to decide, whether their Government savours most of a democracy or an aristocracy; it is in some respects purely democraticand in others aristocratic. The influence of names and families is strictly kept up, and their qualities and relative distinctions preserved in heraldric family Arms; yet entirely severed, and free from influences of wealth, which is seldom amassed by any persons in Indian communities; and most sure to slip from the hands of chiefs, or others high in office, who are looked upon to be liberal and charitable; and oftentimes, for the sake of popularity, render themselves the poorest, and most meanly dressed and equipped of any in the tribe.
These certain people have no written laws, nor others, save the penalties affixed to certain crimes, by long-standing custom, or by the decisions of the chiefs in council, who form a sort of Court and Congress too, for the investigation of crimes, and transaction of the public business. For the sessions of these dignitaries, each tribe has, in the middle of their village, a Government or council-house, where the chiefs often try and convict, for capital offencesleaving the punishment to be inflicted by the nearest of kin, to whom all eyes of the nation are turned, and who has no means of evading it without suffering disgrace in his tribe. For this purpose, the custom, which is the common law of the land, allows him to use any means whatever, that he may deem necessary to bring the thing effectually about; and he is allowed to waylay and shoot down the criminalso that punishment is certain and cruel, and as effective from the hands of a feeble, as from those of a stout man, and entirely beyond the hope that often arises from the "glorious uncertainty of the law."
As I have in a former place said, cruelty is one of the leading traits of the Indian's character; and a little familiarity with their modes of life and government will soon convince the reader, that certainty and cruelty in punishments are requisite (where individuals undertake to inflict the penalties of the laws), in order to secure the lives and property of individuals in society.
In the treatment of their prisoners also, in many tribes, they are in the habit of inflicting the most appalling tortures, for which the enlightened world are apt to condemn them as cruel and unfeeling in the extreme; without stopping to learn that in every one of these instances, these cruelties are practiced by way of retaliation, by individuals or families of the tribe, whose relatives have been previously dealt with in a similar way by their enemies, and whose manes they deem it their duty to appease by this horrid and cruel mode of retaliation.
And in justice to the savage, the reader should yet know, that amongst these tribes that torture their prisoners, these cruelties are practiced but upon the few whose lives are required to atone for those who have been similarly dealt with by their enemies, and that the remainder are adopted into the tribe, by marrying the widows whose husbands have fallen in battle, in which capacity they are received and respected like others of the tribe, and enjoy equal rights and immunities. And before we condemn them too far, we should yet pause and enquire whether in the enlightened world we are not guilty of equal crueltieswhether in the ravages and carnage of war, and treatment of prisoners, we practice any virtue superior to this; and whether the annals of history which are familiar to all, do not furnish abundant proof of equal cruelty to prisoners of war, as well as in many instances, to the members of our own respective communities. It is a remarkable fact and one well recorded in history, as it deserves to be, to the honour of the savage, that no instance has been known of violence to their captive females, a virtue yet to be learned in civilized warfare.
If their punishments are certain and cruel, they have the merit of being few, and those confined chiefly to their enemies. It is natural to be cruel to enemies; and in this, I do not see that the improvements of the enlightened and Christian world have yet elevated them so very much above the savage. To their friends, there are no people on earth that are more kind; and cruelties and punishments (except for capital offences) are amongst themselves, entirely dispensed with. No man in their communities is subject to any restraints upon his liberty, or to any corporal or degrading punishment; each one valuing his limbs, and his liberty to use them as his inviolable right, which no power in the tribe can deprive him of; whilst each one holds the chief as amenable to him as the most humble individual in the tribe.
On an occasion when I had interrogated a Sioux chief, on the Upper Missouri, about their Governmenttheir punishments and tortures of prisoners, for which I had freely condemned them for the cruelty of the practice, he took occasion when I had got through, to ask me some questions relative to modes in the civilized world, which, with his comments upon them, were nearly as follow; and struck me, as I think they must every one, with great force.
"Among white people, nobody ever take your wifetake your childrentake your mother, cut off nosecut eyes outburn to death?" No! "Then you no cut of noseyou no cut out eyesyou no burn to deathvery good."
He also told me he had often heard that white people hung their criminals by the neck and choked them to death like dogs, and those their own people; to which I answered, "yes." He then told me he had learned that they shut each other up in prisons, where they keep them a great part of their lives because they can't pay money! I replied in the affirmative to this, which occasioned great surprise and excessive laughter, even amongst the women. He told me that he had been to our Fort, at Council Bluffs, where we had a great many warriors and braves, and he saw three of them taken out on the prairies and tied to a post and whipped almost to death, and he had been told that they submit to all this to get a little money, "yes." He said he had been told, that when all the white people were born, their white medicine-men had to stand by and look onthat in the Indian country the women would not allow thatthey would be ashamedthat he had been along the Frontier, and a good deal amongst the white people, and he had seen them whip their little childrena thing that is very cruelhe had heard also, from several white medicine-men, that the Great Spirit of the white people was the child of a white woman, and that he was at last put to death by the white people! This seemed to be a thing that he had not been able to comprehend, and he concluded by saying, "the Indians' Great Spirit got no motherthe Indians no kill him, he never die." He put me a chapter of other questions, as to the trespasses of the white people on their landstheir continual corruption of the morals of their womenand digging open the Indians' graves to get their bones, &c. To all of which I was compelled to reply in the affirmative, and quite glad to close my note-book, and quietly to escape from the throng that had collected around me, and saying (though to myself and silently), that these and an hundred other vices belong to the civilized world, and are practiced upon (but certainly, in no instance, reciprocated by) the "cruel and relentless savage."
Of their modes of war, of which, a great deal has been written by other travellersI could say much, but in the present place, must be brief. All wars, offensive or defensive, are decided on by the chiefs and doctors in council, where majority decides all questions. After their resolve, the chief conducts and leadshis pipe with the reddened stem is sent through the tribe by his runners, and every man who consents to go to war, draws the smoke once through its stem; he is then a volunteer, like all of their soldiers in war, and bound by no compulsive power, except that of pride, and dread of the disgrace of turning back. After the soldiers are enlisted, the war-dance is performed in presence of the whole tribe; when each warrior in warrior's dress, with weapons in hand, dances up separately, and striking the reddened post, thereby takes the solemn oath not to desert his party.
The chief leads in full dress to make himself as conspicuous a mark as possible for his enemy; whilst his men are chiefly denuded, and their limbs and faces covered with red earth or vermilion, and oftentimes with charcoal and grease, so as completely to disguise them, even from the knowledge of many of their intimate friends.
At the close of hostilities, the two parties are often brought together by a flag of truce, where they sit in Treaty, and solemnize by smoking through the calumet or pipe of peace, as I have before described; and after that, their warriors and braves step forward, with the pipe of peace in the left hand, and the war-club in the right, and dance around in a circlegoing through many curious and exceedingly picturesque evolutions in the "pipe of peace dance."
To each other I have found these people kind and honourable, and endowed with every feeling of parental, of filial, and conjugal affection, that is met in more enlightened communities. I have found them moral and religious: and I am bound to give them great credit for their zeal, which is often exhibited in their modes of worship, however insufficient they may seem to us, or may be in the estimation of the Great Spirit.
I have heard it said by some very good men, and some who have even been preaching the Christian religion amongst them, that they have no religionthat all their zeal in their worship of the Great Spirit was but the foolish excess of ignorant superstitionthat their humble devotions and supplications to the Sun and the Moon, where many of them suppose that the Great Spirit resides, were but the absurd rantings of idolatry. To such opinions as these I never yet gave answer, nor drew other instant inferences from them, than, that from the bottom of my heart, I pitied the persons who gave them.
I fearlessly assert to the world, (and I defy contradiction,) that the North American Indian is everywhere, in his native state, a highly moral and religious being, endowed by his Maker, with an intuitive knowledge of some great Author of his being, and the Universe; in dread of whose displeasure he constantly lives, with the apprehension before him, of a future state, where he expects to be rewarded or punished according to the merits he has gained or forfeited in this world.
I have made this a subject of unceasing enquiry during all my travels, and from every individual Indian with whom I have conversed on the subject, from the highest to the lowest and most pitiably ignorant, I have received evidence enough, as well as from their numerous and humble modes of worship, to convince the mind, and elicit the confessions of, any man whose gods are not beaver and muskrats' skinsor whose ambition is not to be deemed an apostle, or himself, their only redeemer.
Morality and virtue, I venture to say, the civilized world need not undertake to teach them; and to support me in this, I refer the reader to the interesting narrative of the Rev. Mr. Parker, amongst the tribes through and beyond the Rocky Mountains; to the narratives of Captain Bonneville, through the same regions; and also to the reports of the Reverend Messrs. Spalding and Lee, who have crossed the Mountains, and planted their little colony amongst them. And I am also allowed to refer to the account given by the Rev. Mr. Beaver, of the tribes in the vicinity of the Columbia and the Pacific Coast.
Of their extraordinary modes and sincerity of worship, I speak with equal confidence; and although I am compelled to pity them for their ignorance. I am bound to say that I never saw any other people of any colour, who spend so much of their lives in humbling themselves before, and worshipping the Great Spirit, as some of these tribes do, nor any whom I would not as soon suspect of insincerity and hypocrisy.
Self-denial, which is comparatively a word of no meaning in the enlightened world; and self-torture and almost self-immolation, are continual modes of appealing to the Great Spirit for his countenance and forgiveness; and these, not in studied figures of rhetoric, resounding in halls and synagogues, to fill and astonish the ears of the multitude; but humbly cried forth from starved stomachs and parched throats, from some lone and favourite haunts, where the poor penitents crawl and lay with their faces in the dirt from day to day, and day to day; sobbing forth their humble confessions of their sins, and their earnest implorations for divine forgiveness and mercy.
I have seen man thus prostrating himself before his Maker, and worshipping as Nature taught him; and I have seen mercenary white man with his bottle and its associate vices, unteaching them; and after that, good and benevolent and pious men, devotedly wearing out their valuable lives, all but in vain, endeavouring to break down confirmed habits of cultivated vices and dissipation, and to engraft upon them the blessings of Christianity and civilization. I have visited most of the stations, and am acquainted with many of the excellent missionaries, who, with their families falling by the diseases of the country about them, are zealously labouring to benefit these benighted people; but I have, with thousands and millions of others, to deplore the ill success with which their painful and faithful labours have generally been attended.
This failure I attribute not to the want of capacity on the part of the savage, nor for lack of zeal and Christian endeavours of those who have been sent, and to whom the eyes of the sympathizing part of the world have been anxiously turned, in hopes of a more encouraging account. The misfortune has been, in my opinion, that these efforts have mostly been made in the wrong placealong the Frontier, where (though they have stood most in need of Christian advice and example) they have been the least ready to hear it or to benefit from its introduction; where whiskey has been sold for twenty, or thirty, or fifty years, and every sort of fraud and abuse that could be engendered and visited upon them, and amongst their families, by ingenious, money-making white man; rearing up under a burning sense of injustice, the most deadly and thwarting prejudices, which, and which alone, in my opinion, have stood in the way of the introduction of Christianityof agriculture, and everything which virtuous society has attempted to teach them; which they meet and suspect, and reject as some new trick or enterprize of white man, which is to redound to his advantage rather than for their own benefit.
The pious missionary finds himself here, I would venture to say, in an indescribable vicinity Of mixed vices and stupid ignorance, that disgust and discourage him; and just at the moment when his new theory, which has been at first received as a mystery to them, is about to be successfully revealed and explained, the whiskey bottle is handed again from the bushes; and the poor Indian (whose perplexed mind is just ready to catch the brilliant illumination of Christianity), grasps it, and, like too many people in the enlightened world, quiets his excited feelings with its soothing draught, embracing most affectionately the friend that brings him the most sudden relief; and is contented to fall back, and lingerand die in the moral darkness that is about him.
And notwithstanding the great waste of missionary labours, on many portions of our vast Frontier, there have been some instances in which their efforts have been crowned with signal success, (even with the counter acting obstacles that have stood in their way), of which instances I have made some mention in former epistles.
I have always been, and still am, an advocate for missionary efforts amongst these people, but I never have had much faith in the success of any unless they could be made amongst the tribes in their primitive state; where, if the strong arm of the Government could be extended out to protect them, I believe that with the example of good and pious men, teaching them at the same time, agriculture and the useful arts, much could be done with these interesting and talented people, for the successful improvement of their moral and physical condition.
I have ever thought, and still think, that the Indian's mind is a beautiful blank, on which anything might be written, if the right mode were taken to do it.
Could the enlightened and virtuous society of the East, have been brought in contact with him as his first neighbours, and his eyes been first opened to improvements and habits worthy of his imitation; and could religion have been taught him without the interference of the counteracting vices by which he is surrounded, the best efforts of the world would not have been thrown away upon him, nor posterity been left to say, in future ages, when he and his race shall have been swept from the face of the earth, that he was destined by Heaven to be unconverted and uncivilized.
The Indian's calamity is surely far this side of his originhis misfortune has been in his education. Ever since our first acquaintance with these people on the Atlantic shores, have we regularly advanced upon them; and far a-head of good and moral society have their first teachers travelled (and are yet travelling), with vices and iniquities so horrible as to blind their eyes for ever to the light and loveliness of virtue, when she is presented to them.
It is in the bewildering maze of this moving atmosphere that be, in his native simplicity, finds himself lost amidst the ingenuity and sophistry of his new acquaintance. He stands amazed at the arts and improvements of civilized lifehis proud spirit which before was founded on his ignorance, droops, and be sinks down discouraged, into melancholy and despair; and at that moment grasps the bottle (which is ever ready), to soothe his anguished feelings to the grave. It is in this deplorable condition that the civilized world, in their approach, have ever found him; and here in his inevitable misery, that the charity of the world has been lavished upon him, and religion has exhausted its best efforts almost in vain.
Notwithstanding this destructive ordeal, through which all the border tribes have had to pass, and of whom I have spoken but in general terms, there are striking and noble exceptions on the Frontiers, of individuals, and in some instances, of the remaining remnants of tribes, who have followed the advice and example of their Christian teachers; who have entirely discarded their habits of dissipation, and successfully outlived the dismal wreck of their tribehaving embraced, and are now preaching, the Christian religion; and proving by the brightest example, that they are well worthy of the sincere and well-applied friendship of the enlightened world, rather than their enmity and persecution.
By nature they are decent and modest, unassuming and inoffensiveand all history (which I could quote to the end of a volume), proves them to have been found friendly and hospitable, on the first approach of white people to their villages on all parts of the American Continentand from what I have seen, (which I offer as proof, rather than what I have read), I am willing and proud to add, for the ages who are only to read of these people, my testimony to that which was given by the immortal Columbus, who wrote back to his Royal Master and Mistress, from his first position on the new Continent, "I swear to your Majesties, that there is not a better people in the world than these; more affectionate, affable, or mild. They love their neighbours as themselves, and they always speak smilingly."
They are ingenious and talented, as many of their curious manufactures will prove, which are seen by thousands in my Collection.
In the mechanic arts they have advanced but little, probably because they have had but little use for them, and have had no teachers to bring them out. In the fine arts, they are perhaps still more rude, and their productions are very few. Their materials and implements that they work with, are exceedingly rare and simple; and their principal efforts at pictorial effects, are found on their buffalo robes; of which I have given some account in former Letters, and of which I shall herein furnish some additional information.
I have been unable to find anything like a system of hieroglyphic writing amongst them; yet, their picture writings on the rocks, and on their robes, approach somewhat towards it. Of the former, I have seen a vast many in the course of my travels; and I have satisfied myself that they are generally the totems (symbolic names) merely, of Indians who have visited those places, and from a similar feeling of vanity that everywhere belongs to man much alike, have been in the habit of recording their names or symbols, such as birds, beasts, or reptiles; by which each family, and each individual, is generally known, as white men are in the habit of recording their names at watering places, &c.
Many of these have recently been ascribed to the North-men, who probably discovered this country at an early period, and have been extinguished by the savage tribes. I might have subscribed to such a theory, had I not at the Red Pipe Stone Quarry, where there are a vast number of these inscriptions cut in the solid rock, and at other places also, seen the Indian at work, recording his totem amongst those of more ancient dates; which convinced me that they had been progressively made, at different ages, and without any system that could be called hieroglyphic writing.
The paintings on their robes are in many cases exceedingly curious, and generally represent the exploits of their military lives, which they are proud of recording in this way and exhibiting on their backs as they walk.
I have shown facsimiles of the paintings on a Crow robe, which hangs in my Collection, amongst many others from various tribes; exhibiting the different tastes, and state of the fine arts, in the different tribes. All the groups here are taken from one robe; and on the original, are quite picturesque, from the great variety of vivid colours which they have there given them. The reader will recollect the robe of Mah-to-toh-pa, which described in the First Volume of this work. And he will find here, something very similar, the battles of a distinguished war-chief's life; all portrayed by his own hand, and displayed on his back as he walks, where all can read, and all of course are challenged to deny. (3)
Also shown are fac-simile outlines from about one-half of a group on a Pawnee robe, also hanging in the exhibition; representing a procession of doctors or medicine-men, when one of them, the foremost one, is giving freedom to his favourite horse. This is a very curious custom, which I found amongst many of the tribes, and is done by his announcing to all of his fraternity, that on a certain day, be is going to give liberty to his faithful horse that has longest served him, and he expects them all to be present; at the time and place appointed, they all appear on horseback, most fantastically painted, and dressed, as well as armed and equipped; when the owner of the horse leads the procession, and drives before him his emancipated horse, which is curiously painted and branded; which he holds in check with a long laso. When they have arrived at the proper spot on the prairie, the ceremony takes place, of turning it loose, and giving it, it would seem, as a sort of sacrifice to the Great Spirit. This animal after this, takes his range amongst the bands of wild horses; and if caught by the laso, as is often the case, is discharged, under the superstitious belief that it belongs to the Great Spirit, and not with impunity to be appropriated by them.
Besides this curious custom, there are very many instances where these magicians, (the avails of whose practice enable them to do it, in order to enthral the ignorant and superstitious minds of their people, as well as, perhaps, to quiet their own apprehensions,) sacrifice to the Great or Evil Spirit, their horses and dogs, by killing them instead of turning them loose. These sacrifices are generally made immediately to their medicine-bags, or to their family-medicine, which every family seems to have attached to their house-hold, in addition to that which appropriately belongs to individuals. And in making these sacrifices, and all gifts to the Great Spirit, there is one thing yet to be toldthat whatever gift is made, whether a horse, a dog, or other article, it is sure to be the best of its kind, that the giver possesses, otherwise he subjects himself to disgrace in his tribe, and to the ill-will of the power he is endeavouring to conciliate. (4)
There is a fac-simile copy of the paintings on another Pawnee robe, the property and the designs of a distinguished doctor or medicine-man. In the centre he has represented himself in full dress on his favourite horse; and, at the top and bottom, it would seem, he has endeavoured to set up his claims to the reputation of a warrior, with the heads of seven victims which he professes to have slain in battle. On the sides there are numerous figures, very curiously denoting his profession, where he is vomiting and purging his patients, with herbs; where also he has represented his medicine or totem, the Bear. And also the rising of the sun, and the different phases of the moon, which these magicians look to with great dependence for the operation of their charms and mysteries in effecting the cure of their patients.
The reader will see a further exemplification of symbolic representations, as well as of the state of the arts of drawing and design amongst these rude people. This curious chart is a fac-simile copy of an Indian song, which was drawn on a piece of birch bark, about twice the size of the picture, and used by the Chippeways preparatory to a medicine-hunt, as they term it. For the bear, the moose, the beaver, and nearly every animal they hunt for, they have certain seasons to commence, and previous to which, they "make medicine" for several days, to conciliate the bear (or other) Spirit, to ensure a successful season. For this purpose, these doctors, who are the only persons, generally, who are initiated into these profound secrets, sing forth, with the beat of the drum, the songs which are written in characters on these charts, in which all dance and join in the chorus; although they are generally as ignorant of the translation and meaning of the song, as a mere passing traveller; and which they have no means of learning, except by extraordinary claims upon the tribe, for their services as warriors and hunters; and then by an extraordinary fee to be given to the mystery-men, who alone can reveal them, and that under the most profound injunctions of secrecy. I was not initiated far enough in this tribe, to explain the mysteries that are hidden on this little chart, though I heard it sung over, and listened, (I am sure) at least one hour, before they had sung it all.
Of these kinds of symbolic writings, and totems, such as are given here, recorded on rocks and trees in the country, a volume might be filled; and from the knowledge which I have been able to obtain of them, I doubt whether I should be able to give with them all, much additional information, to that which I have briefly given in these few simple instances. Their picture writing, which is found on their robes, their wigwams, and different parts of their dress, is also voluminous and various; and can be best studied by the curious, on the numerous articles in the Museum, where they have the additional interest of having been traced by the Indian's own hand.
I have also shown a fac-simile of a Mandan robe, with a representation of the sun, most wonderfully painted upon it. This curious robe, which was a present from an esteemed friend of mine amongst those unfortunate people, is now in my Collection; where it may speak for itself, after this brief introduction.
From these brief hints, which I have too hastily thrown together, it will be seen that these people are ingenious, and have much in their modes as well as in their manners, to enlist the attention of the merely curious, even if they should not be drawn nearer to them by feelings of sympathy and pity for their existing and approaching misfortunes.
But he who can travel amongst them, or even sit down in his parlour, with his map of North America before him, with Halkett's Notes on the History of the North American Indians (and several other very able works that have been written on their character and history), and fairly and truly contemplate the system of universal abuse, that is hurrying such a people to utter destruction, will find enough to enlist all his sympathies, and lead him to cultivate a more general and intimate acquaintance with their true character.
He who will sit and contemplate that vast Frontier, where, by the past policy of the Government, one hundred and twenty thousand of these poor people, (who had just got initiated into the mysteries and modes of civilized life, surrounded by examples of industry and agriculture which they were beginning to adopt), have been removed several hundred miles to the West, to meet a second siege of the whiskey-sellers and traders in the wilderness, to whose enormous exactions their semi-civilized habits and appetites have subjected them, will assuredly pity them. Where they have to quit their acquired luxuries, or pay ten times their accustomed prices for themand to scuffle for a few years upon the plains, with the wild tribes, and with white men also, for the flesh and the skins of the last of the buffaloes; where their carnage, but not their appetites, must stop in a few years, and with the ghastliness of hunger and despair, they will find themselves gazing at each other upon the vacant waste, which will afford them nothing but the empty air, and the desperate resolve to flee to the woods and fastnesses of the Rocky Mountains; whilst more lucky white man will return to his comfortable home, with no misfortune, save that of deep remorse and a guilty conscience. Such a reader will find enough to claim his pity and engage his whole soul's indignation, at the wholesale and retail system of injustice, which has been, from the very first landing of our forefathers, (and is equally at the present day, being) visited upon these poor, and naturally unoffending, untrespassing people.
In alluding to the cruel policy of removing the different tribes to their new country, West of the Mississippi, I would not do it without the highest respect to the motives of the Governmentand to the feelings and opinions of those worthy Divines, whose advice and whose services were instrumental in bringing it about; and who, no doubt were of opinion that they were effecting a plan that would redound to the Indian's benefit. Such was once my own opinionbut when I go, as I have done, through every one of those tribes removed, who had learned at home to use the ploughshare, and also contracted a passion, and a taste for civilized manufactures; and after that, removed twelve and fourteen hundred miles West, to a wild and lawless region, where their wants are to be supplied by the traders, at eight or ten times the prices they have been in the habit of paying; where whiskey can easily be sold to them in a boundless and lawless forest, without the restraints that can be successfully put upon the sellers of it in their civilized neighbourhoods, and where also they are allured from the use of their ploughs, by the herds of buffaloes and other wild animals on the plains; I am compelled to state, as my irresistible conviction, that I believe the system one well calculated to benefit the interests of the voracious land-speculators and Indian Traders, the first of whom are ready to grasp at their lands, as soon as they are vacatedand the others, at the annuities of one hundred and twenty thousand extravagant customers. I believe the system is calculated to aid these, and perhaps to facilitate the growth and the wealth of the civilized border; but I believe, like everything else that tends to white man's aggrandizement, and the increase of his wealth, it will have as rapid a tendency to the poverty and destruction of the poor red men; who, unfortunately, almost seem doomed, never in any way to be associated in interest with their pale-faced neighbours.
The system of trade, and the small-pox, have been the great and wholesale destroyers of these poor people, from the Atlantic Coast to where they are now found. And no one but God, knows where the voracity of the one is to stop, short of the acquisition of everything that is desirable to money-making man in the Indian's country; or when the mortal destruction of the other is to be arrested, whilst there is untried flesh for it to act upon, either within or beyond the Rocky Mountains.
From the first settlements on the Atlantic Coast, to where it is now carried on at the base of the Rocky Mountains, there has been but one system of trade and money-making, by hundreds and thousands of white men, who are desperately bent upon making their fortunes in this trade, with the unsophisticated children of the forest; and generally they have succeeded in the achievement of their object.
The Governments of the United States, and Great Britain, have always held out every encouragement to the Fur Traders, whose traffic has uniformly been looked upon as beneficial, and a source of wealth to nations; though surely, they never could have considered such intercourse as advantageous to the savage.
Besides the many thousands who are daily and hourly selling whiskey and rum, and useless gewgaws, to the Indians on the United States, the Canada, the Texan and Mexican borders, there are, of hardy adventurers, in the Rocky Mountains and beyond, or near them, and out of all limits of laws, one thousand armed men in the annual employ of the United States' Fur Companiesan equal number in the employment of the British Factories, and twice that number in the Russian and Mexican possessions; all of whom pervade the countries of the wildest tribes they can reach, with guns and gunpowder in their hands, and other instruments of death, unthought of by the simple savage, calculated to terrify and coerce him to favourable terms in his trade: and in all instances they assume the right, (and prove it, if necessary, by the superiority of their weapons,) of hunting and trapping the streams and lakes of their countries.
These traders, in addition to the terror, and sometimes death, that they carry into these remote realms, at the muzzles of their guns, as well as by whiskey and the small-pox, are continually arming tribe after tribe with fire-arms; who are able thereby, to bring their unsuspecting enemies into un-equal combats, where they are slain by thousands, and who have no way to heal the awful wound but by arming themselves in turn; and in a similar manner reeking their vengeance upon their defenseless enemies on the West. In this wholesale way, and by whiskey and disease, tribe after tribe sink their beads and lose their better, proudest half, before the next and succeeding waves of civilization flow on, to see or learn anything definite of them.
Without entering at this time, into any detailed history of this immense system, or denunciation of any of the men or their motives, who are engaged in it, I would barely observe, that, from the very nature of their traffic, where their goods are to be carried several thousands of miles, on the most rapid and dangerous streams, over mountains and other almost discouraging obstacles; and that at the continual hazard to their lives, from accidents and diseases of the countries, the poor Indians are obliged to pay such enormous prices for their goods, that the balance of trade is so decidedly against them, as soon to lead them to poverty; and, unfortunately for them, they mostly contract a taste for whiskey and rum, which are not only ruinous in their prices, but in their effects destructive to lifedestroying the Indians, much more rapidly than an equal indulgence will destroy the civilized constitution.
In the Indian communities, where there is no law of the land or custom denominating it a vice to drink whiskey, and to get drunk; and where the poor Indian meets whiskey tendered to him by white men, whom he considers wiser than himself, and to whom he naturally looks for example; he thinks it no harm to drink to excess, and will lie drunk as long as he can raise the means to pay for it. And after his first means, in his wild state, are exhausted, he becomes a beggar for whiskey, and begs until he disgusts, when the honest pioneer becomes his neighbour; and then, and not before, gets the name of the "poor, degraded, naked, and drunken Indian," to whom the epithets are well and truly applied.
On this great system of carrying the Fur Trade into the Rocky Mountains and other parts of the wilderness country, where whiskey is sold at the rate of twenty and thirty dollars per gallon, and most other articles of trade at a similar rate; I know of no better comment, nor any more excusable, than the quotation of a few passages from a very popular work, which is being read with great avidity, from the pen of a gentleman whose name gives currency to any book, and whose fine taste, pleasure to all who read. The work I refer to "The Rocky Mountains, or Adventures in the Far West; by W. Irving," is a very interesting one; and its incidents, no doubt, are given with great candour, by the excellent officer, Captain Bonneville, who five years in the region of the Rocky Mountains, on a furlough; endeavouring, in competition with others, to add to his fortune, by pushing the Fur Trade to some of the wildest tribes in those remote regions.
"The worthy Captain (says the Author) started into the Country with 110 men; whose very appearance and equipment exhibited a piebald mixturehalf-civilized and half-savage, &c." And he also preludes his work by saving, that it was revised by himself from Captain Bonneville's own notes, which can, no doubt, be relied on.
This medley group, it seems, traversed the country to the Rocky Mountains, where, amongst the Nez Percés and Flatheads, he says, "They were friendly in their dispositions, and honest to the most scrupulous degree in their intercourse with the white men. And of the same people, the Captain continuesSimply to call these people religious, would convey but a faint idea of the deep hue of piety and devotion which pervades the whole of their conduct. Their honesty is immaculate; and their purity of purpose, and their observance of the rites of their religion, are most uniform and remarkable. They are, certainly, more like a nation of saints than a horde of savages."
Afterwards, of the "Root-Diggers," in the vicinity of the Great Salt Lake, who are a band of the Snake tribe, (and of whom he speaks thus:"In fact, they are a simple, timid, inoffensive race, and scarce provided with any weapons, except for the chase"); he says that, "one morning, one of his trappers, of a violent and savage character, discovering that his traps had been carried off in the night, took a horrid oath that he would kill the first Indian he should meet, innocent or guilty. As he was returning with his comrades to camp, he beheld two unfortunate Root-Diggers seated on the river bank fishingadvancing upon them, he levelled his rifle, shot one upon the spot, and flung his bleeding body into the stream."
A short time afterwards, when his party of trappers "were about to cross Ogden's river, a great number of Shoshokies or Root-Diggers were posted on the opposite bank, when they imagined they were there with hostile intent; they advanced upon them, levelled their rifles, and killed twenty-five of them on the spot. The rest fled to a short distance then halted and turned about, howling and whining like wolves, and uttering most piteous wailings. The trappers chased them in every direction; the poor wretches made no defence, but fled with terror; neither does it appear from the accounts of the boasted victors, that a weapon had been wielded, or a weapon launched by the Indians throughout the affair."
After this affair, this "piebald" band of trappers wandered off to Monterey, on the coast of California, and on their return on horseback through an immense tract of the Root-Diggers' country, he gives the further following accounts of their transactions:
"In the course of their Journey through the country of the poor Root-Diggers, there seems to have been an emulation between them, which could inflict the greatest outrages upon the natives. The trappers still considered them in the light of dangerous foes; and the Mexicans, very probably, charged them with the sin of horse-stealing; we have no other mode of accounting for the infamous barbarities, of which, according to their own story, they were guiltyhunting the poor Indians like wild beasts, and killing them without mercychasing their unfortunate victims at full speed; noosing them around the neck with their lasos, and then dragging them to death."
It is due to Captain Bonneville, that the world should know that these cruel (not "savage") atrocities were committed by his men, when they were on a Tour to explore the shores of the Great Salt Lake, and many hundreds of miles from him, and beyond his controul; and that in his work, both the Captain and the writer of the book have expressed in a proper way, their abhorrence of such fiendish transactions.
A part of the same "piebald mixture" of trappers, who were encamped in the Riccaree country, and trapping the beavers out of their streams, when, finding that the Riccarees had stolen a number of their horses one night, in the morning made prisoners of two of the Riccarees, who loitered into their camp, and probably without knowledge of the offence committed, when they were bound hand and foot as hostages, until every one of the horses should be returned.
"The mountaineers declared, that unless the horses were relinquished, the prisoners should be burned to death. To give force to their threat, a pyre of logs and faggots was heaped up and kindled into a blaze. The Riccarees released one horse, and then another; but finding that nothing but the relinquishment of all their spoils would purchase the lives of their captives, they abandoned them to their fate, moving off with many parting words and howlings, when the prisoners were dragged to the blazing pyre, and burnt to death in sight of their retreating comrades.
"Such are the savage cruelties that white men learn to practice, who mingle in savage life; and such are the acts that lead to terrible recrimination on the part of the Indians. Should we hear of any atrocities committed by the Riccarees upon captive white men; let this signal and recent provocation be born in mind. Individual cases of the kind dwell in the recollections of whole tribesand it is a point of honour and conscience to revenge them." (5)
To quote the author further"The facts disclosed in the present work, clearly manifest the policy of establishing military posts, and a mounted force to protect our Traders in their journeys across the great Western wilds; and of pushing the outposts into the heart of the singular wilderness we have laid open, so as to maintain some degree of sway over the country, and to put an end to the kind of 'black mail,' levied on all occasions, by the savage 'chivalry of the mountains'"!
The appalling cruelties in the above quotations require no comment; and I hope the author, as well as the Captain, who have my warmest approbation for having so frankly revealed them, will pardon me for having quoted them in this place, as one striking proof of the justice that may be reasonably expected, in prospect; and that may fairly be laid to the past proceedings of these great systems of trading with, and civilizing the savages; which have been carried on from the beginning of our settlements on the Atlantic Coast, to the present daymaking first acquaintance with them, and first impressions of the glorious effects of civilizationand of the sum total of which, this instance is but a mere point; but with the singular merit which redounds to the honour of Captain Bonneville, that he has frankly told the whole truth; which, if as fully revealed of all other transactions in these regions, I am enabled to say, would shake every breast with ague-chills abhorrence of civilized barbarities. From the above facts, as well as from others enumerated in the foregoing epistles, the discerning reader will easily see how prejudices are raised in the minds of the savage, and why so many murders of white people are heard of on the Frontier, which are uniformly attributed to the wanton cruelty and rapacity of the savagewhich we denominate "Indian murders," and "ruthless barbarities," before we can condescend to go to the poor savage, and ask him for a reason, which there is no doubt he could generally furnish us.
From these, and hundreds of others that might be named, and equally barbarous, it can easily be seen, that white men may well feel a dread at every step they take in Indian realms, after atrocities like these, that call so loudly and so justly for revenge, in a country where there are no laws to punish; but where the cruel savage takes vengeance in his own wayand white men fall, in the Indian's estimation, not as murdered, but executed, under the common law of their land.
Of the hundreds and thousands of such murders, as they are denominated by white men, who are the only ones to tell of them in the civilized world; it should also be kept in mind by the reader, who passes his sentence on them, that they are all committed on Indian groundthat the Indian hunts not, nor traps anywhere on white man's soil, nor asks him for his landsor molests the sacred graves where they have deposited the bones of their fathers, their wives and their little children.
I have said that the principal means of the destruction of these people, were the system of trade, and the introduction of small-pox, the infallible plague that is consequent, sooner or later, upon the introduction of trade and whiskey-selling to every tribe. I would venture the assertion, from books that I have searched, and from other evidence, that of the numerous tribes which have already disappeared, and of those that have been traded with, quite to the Rocky Mountains, each one has had this exotic disease in their turnand in a few months have lost one half or more of their numbers; and that from living evidences, and distinct traditions, this appalling disease has several times, before our days, run like a wave through the Western tribes, over the Rocky Mountains, and to the Pacific Oceanthinning the ranks of the poor Indians to an extent which no knowledge, save that of the overlooking eye of the Almighty, can justly comprehend. (6)
I have travelled faithfully and far, and have closely scanned, with a hope of fairly pourtraying the condition and customs of these unfortunate people; and if in taking leave of my readers, which I must soon do, they should censure me for any oversight, or any indiscretion or error, I will take to myself these consoling reflections, that they will acquit me of intention to render more or less than justice to any one; and also, that if in my zeal to render a service and benefit to the Indian, I should have fallen short of it, I will, at least, be acquitted of having done him an injury. And in endeavouring to render them that justice, it belongs to me yet to say that the introduction of the fatal causes of their destruction above-named, has been a subject of close investigation with me during my travels; and I have watched on every part of the Frontier their destructive influences, which result in the overthrow of the savage tribes, which, one succeeding another, are continually becoming extinct under their baneful influences. And before I would expatiate upon any system for their successful improvement and preservation, I would protrude my opinion to the world, which I regret to do, that so long as the past and present system of trade and whiskey-selling is tolerated amongst them, there is little hope for their improvement, nor any chance for more than a temporary existence. I have closely studied the Indian character in its native state, and also in its secondary form along our Frontiers; civilized, as it is often (but incorrectly) called. I have seen it in every phase, and although there are many noble instances to the contrary, and with many of whom I am personally acquainted; yet the greater part of those who have lingered along the Frontiers, and been kicked about like dogs, by white men, and beaten into a sort of a civilization, are very far from being what I would be glad to see them, and proud to call them, civilized by the aids and examples of good and moral people. Of the Indians in their general capacity of civilized, along our extensive Frontier, and those tribes that I found in their primitive and disabused state, I have drawn a Table, which I offer as an estimate of their comparative character, which I trust will be found to be near the truth, generally, though like all general rules or estimates, with its exceptions.
Such are the results to which the present system of civilization brings that small part of these poor unfortunate people, who outlive the first calamities of their country; and in this degraded and pitiable condition, the most of them end their days in poverty and wretchedness, without the power of rising above it. Standing on the soil which they have occupied from their childhood, and inherited from their fathers; with the dread of "pale faces," and the deadly prejudices that have been reared in their breasts against them, for the destructive influences which they have introduced into their country, which have thrown the greater part of their friends and connexions into the grave, and are now promising the remainder of them no better prospect than the dreary one of living a few years longer, and then to sink into the ground themselves; surrendering their lands and their fair hunting grounds to the enjoyment of their enemies, and their bones to be dug up and strewed about the fields, or to be labelled in our Museums.
For the Christian and philanthropist, in any part of the world, there is enough, I am sure, in the character, condition, and history of these unfortunate people, to engage his sympathiesfor the Nation, there is an unrequited account of sin and injustice that sooner or later will call for national retributionand for the American citizens, who live, every where proud of their growing wealth and their luxuries, over the bones of these poor fellows, who have surrendered their hunting-grounds and their lives, to the enjoyment of their cruel dispossessors, there is a lingering terror yet, I fear, for the reflecting minds, whose mortal bodies must soon take their humble places with their red, but injured brethren, under the same grebe; to appear and stand, at last, with guilt's shivering conviction, amidst the myriad ranks of accusing spirits, that are to rise in their own fields, at the final day of resurrection!
(1) See the four days' religious ceremonies of the Mandans, and use of the willow boughs, and sacrifices of fingers, &c. in Vol. I. pp. 159. 170; and also the custom of war-chiefs wearing horns on their head-dresses, like the Israelitish chiefs of great renown, Vol. I. p. 104.
(2) For the satisfaction of the reader, I have introduced in the Appendix to this Volume, Letter B, a brief vocabulary of the languages of several adjoining tribes in the North West, from which, by turning to it, they can easily draw their own inferences. These words have all been written down by myself, from the Indian's mouths, as they have been correctly translated to me; and I think it will at once be decided, that there is very little affinity or resemblance, if any, between them. I have there in given a sample of the Blackfoot language, yet, of that immense tribe who all class under the name of Blackfoot, there are the Cotonnés and the Grosventres des Prairieswhose languages are entirely distinct from thisand also from each otherand in the same region, and neighbours to them, are also the Chayennesthe Knisteneaux, the Crows, the Shoshonees, and Pawnees; all of whose languages are as distinct, and as widely different, as those that I have given. These facts, I think, without my going further, will fully show the entire dissimilarity between these languages, and support me to a certain extent, at all events, in the opinion I have advanced above.
(3) The reader will bear it in mind, that these drawings, as well as all those of the kind that have heretofore been given, and those that are to follow, have been correctly traced with a Camera, from the robes and other works of the Indians belonging to my Indian Museum.
(4) Lewis and Clarke, in their Tour across the Rocky Mountains, have given an account of a Mandan chief, who had sacrificed seventeen horses to his medicine-bagto conciliate the good will of the Great Spirit. And I have met many instances, where, while boasting to me of their exploits and their liberality, they have claimed to have given several of their horses to the Great Spirit, and as many to white men!
(5) During the summer of this transaction I was on the Upper Missouri river, and had to pass the Riccaree village in my bark canoe, with only two men, which the reader will say justly accounts for the advice of Mr. M'Kenzie, to pass the Riccaree village in the night, which I did, as I have before described, by which means it is possible I preserved my life, as they had just killed the last Fur Trader in their village, and as I have learned since, were "dancing his scalp" when I came by them.
(6) The Reverend Mr. Parker in his Tour across the Rocky Mountains says, that amongst the Indians below the Falls of the Columbia at least seven-eighths, if not nine-tenths, as Dr. M'Laughlin believes, have been swept away by disèase between the years 1829, and the time that he visited that place in 1836. "So many and so sudden were the deaths which occurred, that the shores were strewed with the unburied dead, whole and large villages were depopulated, and some entire tribes have disappeared." This mortality he says "extended not only from the Cascades to the Pacific, but from very far North to the coast of California." These facts, with hundreds of others, show how rapidly the Indian population is destroyed, long before we become acquainted with them.