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Difficulties Resulting From a False Impression of the Indian Character

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians
 

10th. By the treaty of 9th May, 1836, with the Swan Creek and Black River Chippewas, the United States agree to furnish them thirteen sections of land West, in lieu of the cessions relinquished in Michigan, besides accounting to them for the nett proceeds of the land ceded. Measures were now taken to induce them to send delegates to the Indian territory west of the Missouri, to locate this tract, and an agent was appointed to accompany them.

16th. Received a copy of my article on Indian languages.

17th. The Saginaws, by the cession of the 14th of January, agreed to leave Michigan, and accept a location elsewhere; and they were now urged to send delegates to the head waters of the Osage River, where they can be provided with fine lands, and placed in juxtaposition to cognate tribes.

29th. Received a letter from the editor of the "Knickerbocker1."

May 18th. Received notice of my election as one of the vice presidents of the American Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge, at New York.

23d. William Ward, Esq., of the War Office, Washington, D.C., writes: "I have received two communications from Dr. Warren, of Boston, on the subject of a collection of crania and bones of the aborigines. He is desirous of procuring specimens from the different tribes, and from the mounds in the different sections of the country.

"Trusting, in a great measure, to your readiness to co-operate in every effort to advance the cause of science, I have promised him to use the means my connection with the office might give me to forward his views. His high reputation must be known to you, and I am sure you will aid him to complete a collection which, I understand, he has been occupied many years in making.

"I gather from his letters, that he wishes to procure a few complete skeletons, and a number of crania, and that it will be desirable to have as much as possible of the history of each head."

June 4th. Michilimackinack. Received a copy of Bush's Grammar of the Hebrew Language, and commenced comparing the Indian tongues with it. This language has twenty-two letters. In order to impress the elements upon my own mind, as well as improve theirs, I commenced teaching my children the language, just keeping ahead of them, and hearing their recitations every morning.

26th. Receive a letter of introduction from Governor Mason, by Mr. Massingberd, of England, an intelligent and estimable traveler in America.

27th. Dr. Edward Spring, son of the Rev. Gardiner Spring, of New York, visits the island with the view of a temporary practice.

July 1st. A copy of Stuart's Hebrew Grammar reached me this morning. I have a special motive in making myself acquainted with this ancient, and, as I find, simple tongue. The course of my investigation of the Algonquin language, has shown me the want of the means of enlarged comparison, which I could not institute without it.

6th. Major Whiting writes: "I have lately begun Buckland's Treatise, and a noble work it is; the subject he treats just in that way which will communicate the greatest amount of information to the reading public. That part which explains the bearing of the Scriptures on geology, will have a most salutary effect on the public mind. It was all important that such explanations should be given. Many good minds have been startled, and approached geology with averted eyes, apprehending that it ran counter to the great truths of the Bible. Viewed as the Bible generally has been, geological facts are likely to disturb the moral world. Either they must be disbelieved, or that literal interpretation of Genesis, so long received, must be abandoned. To make this abandonment, without having satisfactory reasons for it, would have risked much, that never should be put in jeopardy. It had come to this, geology must be sealed up and anathematized, or it must be reconciled with the Sacred Writ. Buckland has undoubtedly done the latter; and he has thus conferred an inestimable blessing on mankind."

12th. A remarkable land claim, upon the Indians, who are parties to the late treaty of 1836, came before me. This consisted of a grant given by the Chippewas in 1760, to Major Robert Rodgers, of anti-revolutionary fame, to a valuable part of the upper region on Lake Superior. The present heir is James Chaloner Alabaster, who says the deed, of which a copy is furnished, has been in the possession of his family in England about sixty years. It appears to have been executed in due form for a consideration. It is prior to the proclamation of George III. interdicting grants.

19th. A band of Chippewas, originally hailing from Grand Island, in Lake Superior, but now living on the extreme northern head of Green Bay, visited the office. It embraced the eldest son of the late Oshawn Epenaysee (South Bird), who died, in the first class of chiefs, at Grand Island last fall. His name is Ado-wa-wa-e-go (something of an inanimate kind beating about in the water on shore). They requested that he might be recognized as their chief. On examination this request was acceded to, and I invested him with a flag.

24th. The department submitted a proposition to the Indians, to take half their annuities under the treaty of 1836, at the approaching payments, in goods, and half in silver. If the goods were declined, they were requested to receive the half annuity in silver, with the other annuities provided by the treaty, in kind, and to wait for the other moiety till the next year.

I submitted the offer to a full council of the chiefs and warriors this day. They debated it fully. A delegation visited the goods, which were shown by an agent. They decline receiving them, but agree to receive the half annuity in coin, and wait, as requested, for the other half till the next payment. This proposition was called the "goods offer," and was much distorted by the public-press. I was blamed for having carried the offer into effect, whereas it was declined, and the half annuity in silver accepted, and the credit asked for, given for the rest.

25th. Two bands who had not united in this decision, namely, the bands of Point St. Ignace and Chenos, came in, by their chiefs, and yielded their assent to the arrangement of yesterday. Thus the consent became unanimous on the part of the Indians.

A notification, by a special messenger, to the Grand River Ottawas, is dispatched to attend the payments at this place on the 1st of September, and to signify their assent or dissent to the proposed arrangement. Rix Robinson and Louis Campeau, Esqrs., of that valley, and the Rev. Leonard Slater, of Barry, are requested to give this notice publicity.

26th. Mrs. Jameson embarks in an open boat for Sault Ste. Marie, accompanied by Mrs. Schoolcraft, after having spent a short time as a most intelligent and agreeable inmate under our roof. This lady, respecting whom I had received letters from my brother-in-law Mr. McMurray, a clergyman of Canada West, evinced a most familiar knowledge of artistic life and society in England and Germany. Her acquaintance with Goethe, and other distinguished writers, gave a life and piquancy to her conversation and anecdotes, which made us cherish her society the more. She is, herself, an eminent landscape painter, or rather sketcher in crayon, and had her portfolio ever in hand. She did not hesitate freely to walk out to prominent points, of which the island has many, to complete her sketches. This freedom from restraint in her motions, was an agreeable trait in a person of her literary tastes and abilities. She took a very lively interest in the Indian race, and their manners and customs, doubtless with views of benevolence for them as a peculiar race of man, but also as a fine subject of artistic observation. Notwithstanding her strong author-like traits and peculiarities, we thought her a woman of hearty and warm affections and attachments; the want of which, in her friends, we think she would exquisitely feel.

Mrs. Jameson several times came into the office and heard the Indians speaking. She also stepped out on the piazza and saw the wild Indians dancing; she evidently looked on with the eye of a Claude Lorraine or Michael Angelo.

27th. The term ego, added to an active Indian verb, renders it passive. I have given an example of this before in the case of a man's name. Here is another: The verb to carry is Be-moan in the Algonquin. By the pronominal prefix Nim, we have the sense I carry. By adding to the latter the suffix ego, the action is reflected and this sense is rendered passive.

29th. A treaty is concluded this day at Fort Snelling, St. Peter's, between Governor H. Dodge and the Chippewa Indians, by which they cede a large and important tract to the United States.

Aug. 1st. A discovery of a tooth of the Mastodon has lately been made in the bed of the Papaw River, in Berrian County, Michigan. It is about six inches long and three broad. The enamel is nearly perfect, and that part of the tooth which was covered by it nearly whole, while the portion which must have been inserted in the socket is mostly broken off. The diluvian soil of the Michigan Peninsula is thus added to the wide area of the mastodonic period.

2d. Capt. Marryatt came up in the steamer of last night. A friend writes: "He is one of Smollett's sea captains---much more of the Trunnion than one would have expected to find in a literary man. Stick Mackinack into him, with all its rock-osities. He is not much disposed to the admirari without the nil--affects little enthusiasm about anything, and perhaps feels as little." He turned out here a perfect sea urchin, ugly, rough, ill-mannered, and conceited beyond all bounds. Solomon says, "answer not a fool according to his folly," so I paid him all attention, drove him over the island in my carriage, and rigged him out with my canoe-elege to go to St. Mary's.

3d. George Tucker, Professor in the University of Virginia, came up in the last steamer. I hasted, while it stayed, to drive him out and show off the curiosities of the island to the best advantage.

5th. Mrs. Schoolcraft writes from the Sault, that Mrs. Jameson and the children suffered much on the trip to that place from mosquitoes, but by dint of a douceur of five dollars extra to the men, which Mrs. Jameson made to the crew, they rowed all night, from Sailor's encampment, and reached the Sault at 6 o'clock in the morning. "I feel delighted," she says, "at my having come with Mrs. Jameson, as I found that she did not know how to get along at all at all. Mr. McMurray and family and Mrs. Jameson started off on Tuesday morning for Manitouline with a fair wind and fair day, and I think they have had a fine voyage down. Poor Mrs. Jameson cried heartily when she parted with me and my children; she is indeed a woman in a thousand. While here, George came down the rapids with her in fine style and spirits. She insisted on being baptized and named in Indian, after her sail down the falls. We named her Was-sa-je-wun-e-qua (Woman of the Bright Stream), with which she was mightily pleased."

9th. Delegates from the Saginaws, from the Swan Creek and Black Chippewas of Lower Michigan, stop, on their way, to explore a new location west, in charge of a special exploring agent.

Mr. Ord, recently appointed a sub-agent in this superintendency, reaches the island. He is the second person I have known who has made the names of his children an object of singularity. Mr. Stickney, who figured prominently in the Toledo War, called his male children One, Two, &c. Mr. Ord has not evidently differed in this respect from general custom, for the same reason, namely, an objection to Christian prejudice for John and James, or Aaron and Moses. He has simply given them Latin nominatives, from the mere love he has apparently for that tongue. I believe he was formerly a Georgetown professor.

Capt. Marryatt embarked on board the steamer Michigan, on his return from the island, after having spent several days in a social visit, including a trip to the Sault, in company with Mr. Lay, of Batavia. While here, I saw a good deal of the novelist. His manners and style of conversation appeared to be those of a sailor, and such as we should look for in his own Peter Simple. Temperance and religion, if not morality, were to him mere cant words, and whether he was observed, either before dinner or after dinner--in the parlor or out of it--his words and manners were anything but those of a quiet, modest, English gentleman.

I drove Mr. Lay and himself out one day after dinner to see the curiosities of the island. He would insist walking over the arched rock. "It is a fearful and dizzy height." When on the top he stumbled. My heart was in my throat; I thought he would have been hurled to the rocks below and dashed to a thousand pieces; but, like a true sailor, he crouched down, as if on a yardarm, and again arose and completed his perilous walk.

We spoke of railroads. He said they were not built permanently in this country, and attributed the fault to our excessive go-aheadiveness. Mr. Lay: "True; but if we expended the sums you do on such works, they could not be built at all. They answer a present purpose, and we can afford to renew them in a few years from their own profits."

The captain's knowledge of natural history was not precise. He aimed to be knowing when it was difficult to conceal ignorance. He called some well-characterized species of septaria in my cabinet pudding-stone, beautiful specimens of limpid hexagonal crystals of quartz, common quartz, &c.

Mr. George P. Marsh, of Vermont, brings me a letter of introduction. This gentleman has the quiet easy air of a man who has seen the world. His fine taste and acquirements have procured him a wide reputation. His translation of Rusk's Icelandic Grammar is a scholar-like performance, and every way indicative of the propensities of his mind for philological studies.

It is curious to observe, in this language, the roots of many English words, and it denotes through what lengths of mutations of history the stock words of a generic language may be traced. Lond, skip, flaska, sumar, hamar, ketill, dal, are clearly the radices respectively of land, ship, flask, summer, hammer, kettle, dale. This property of the endurance of orthographical forms gives one a definite illustration of the importance of language on history.

12th. A large party of Munsees and Delawares from the River Thames, in Upper Canada, reach the harbor in a vessel bound for Green Bay, Wisconsin. The Rev. Mr. Vogel, in whose charge they are, lands and visits the office with some of the principal men. He says that most of them have been known as "Christian Indians." That the number recognized by this title on the Thames is 282, of whom 50 have been excommunicated. Of these Christian Indians, 84 have been left on the Thames, in charge of the Rev. Abraham Lukenbach.

Mr. Vogel has in his company 202 persons, but says that others, rendering their number 260 souls inclusive, are on their way by land. Thirteen of this party, with White Eyes, son of White Eyes of frontier war celebrity, came on the 9th instant, and have been lodged in the public dormitory. They are on their way, in the first place, to the Stockbridges, at Green Bay, and, finally, to their kindred, the Delawares, on the Kanzas.

13th. Early one morning I was agreeably surprised by the arrival of Mrs. Jameson, whom I had previously expected to spend some time with me, and found her a most agreeable, refined and intelligent guest, with none of the supercilious and conceited airs, which I had noticed in some of her traveling countrywomen of the class of authors.

15th. Mukonsiwyan, a Chippewa chief of the first class, calls, on his way back from a visit to the British annual meeting of the Indians, to get their subsidies at the Manitouline Islands. He was evidently piqued in not having received as much as he expected. He attempted to throw dust in the agent's eyes by the following speech:--

"My father, I wish to warm myself by your fire. I have tried to warm myself by the British fire, but I could not, although I sat close by. They put on green poplar, which would throw out no heat. This is the place where hard wood grows2, and I expect to be warmed by its heat."

It was said that an inferior quality of blankets had been issued at Manitouline. This was the green poplar. No guns and no kettles were given. This is the coldness and want of heat, although sitting close by the fire. On the contrary, large and extraordinary presents, and of the best quality, were issued here last season at the execution of the treaty of 1836. This is the hard wood and good heat thrown out to all. The figure derived appositeness from the prevalence of such species on the island.


1: Birchen Canoe: Song of the Ship.

2: The island of Mackinack was formerly covered with a forest of rock-maple, ironwood, &c., and much of it is still characterized by these species.


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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

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