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Embark for New York

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Embark for New York--A glimpse of Texan affairs--Toltecan monuments--Indian population of Texas--Horrible effects of drinking ardent spirits among the Indians--Mr. Gallatin--His opinions on various subjects of philosophy and history--Visit to the South--Philadelphia--Washington--Indian affairs--Debt claim--Leave to visit Europe--Question of neutrality--Mr. Van Buren--American imaginative literature--Knickerbocker--Resume of the Indian question of sovereignty.

1838. Nov. 14th. I Embarked in a steamer, with my family, for New York, having the double object of placing my children at eligible boarding-schools, and seeking the renovation of Mrs. S.'s health. The season being boisterous, we ran along shore from river to river, putting in and putting out, in nautical phrase, as we could. On the way, scarlatina developed itself in my daughter. Fortunately a Dr. Hume was among the passengers, by whose timely remedies the case was successfully treated, and a temporary stop at Buffalo enabled us to pursue our way down the canal. Ice and frost were now the cause of apprehension, and our canal packet was at length frozen in, when reaching the vicinity of Utica, which we entered in sleighs. In conversation on board the packet boat on the canal, Mr. Thomas Borden, of Buffalo Bayou, Texas, stated that there is a mistake in the current report of the Camanche Indians being about to join the Mexicans. They are, perhaps, in league with the Spaniards of Nacogdoches, who now cry out for the federal constitution of 1824; but there is no coalition between them and the Mexicans. Lamar is elected president, the population has greatly increased within the last year, customs are collected, taxes paid, and a revenue raised to support the government. Mr. Borden said, he was one of the original three hundred families who went to Texas, with my early friend Stephen F. Austin, Esq., the founder of Texas, of whom he spoke highly.

"Hurry" was the word on all parts of our route; but, after reaching the Hudson, we felt more at ease, and we reached New York and got into lodgings, on the evening of the 24th (Nov.). The next day was celebrated, to the joy of the children, as "Evacuation Day," by a brilliant display of the military, our windows overlooking the Park, which was the focus of this turnout.

28th. In conversation with the Rev. Henry Dwight, of. Geneva, he made some pertinent remarks on the Toltecan monuments, and the skill of this ancient people in architecture, in connection with some specimens of antiquities just deposited in the New York Historical Society. This nation had not only preceded the Aztecs in time, as is very clearly shown by the traditions of the latter, but also, there is every reason to believe, in knowledge.

29th. Texas papers contain the following statistics of the Indian population of that Republic, of whom it is estimated that there may be 20,000. "The different tribes known as wild Indians, comprise about 24,000, west and south-west. There are on the north ten tribes, known as the 'Ten United Bands,' between the Trinity and Red River, numbering between 3 and 4000. Of these latter tribes, three are said to have wandered off beyond the Rio Grande and the Rocky Mountains. Of the Comances, nearly one-half of the Indians known by that name are, and have always been, without the limits, and press upon the tribes of New Mexico. In all it appears that we have within the limits of Texas, an Indian population of 20,000--of whom one-fifth may be accounted Warriors. There are one or two remnants of tribes (perhaps not more than fifty in number) living within the settlements of the whites, whom they supply with venison, and in that way support themselves.

"Some of these tribes are the hereditary enemies of Mexico, who has nevertheless furnished them with arms and ammunition, in the hope of inciting them against our people, at a risk to her own. If, looking beyond our borders, we turn our eyes to the north, we behold within striking distance of the United States frontier on the north-west, an indigenous Indian population of 150,000, and on their western frontier 46,000; in all between 2 and 300,000 Indians within the jurisdiction of the United States--against whom, were they to combine, they could at any moment direct a war force of 60,000 men."

These popular estimates, may serve the purpose of general comparison, but require some considerable abatements. There is a tendency to estimate the numbers of Indian tribes like those of flocks of birds and schools of fish. We soon get into thousands, and where the theme is guessing, thousands are soon added to thousands.

Dec. 4th. James L. Schoolcraft of Michilimackinack, in a letter of Nov. 10th, describes a most revolting scene of murder, which, owing to the effects of drinking, recently occurred at the Menomonie pay-ground at Grande Chute, Wisconsin.

"Since closing my letter of this morning, Lieut. Root, just from Fort Winnebago, informs me that he attended the payment of the Menomonies, at the Grande Chute; that liquor, as usual, had found its way to the place of payment, and that, in consequence, an Indian had killed two Indian women. That the individual (murderer) was taken to the tent of the agent, Colonel Boyd, but that, in consequence of the repeated and threatening demands of the Indians for the man, the agent was obliged to deliver him up to them, and that they then, in front of the tent, inflicted wounds of death, from six different blades, upon the body of the murderer, beat his brain out with clubs, and then threw his body upon a burning fire, after which he was dragged some distance, to which place he might be traced by attached embers strewed along the path.

"A child was crushed to death by a drunken Indian accidentally. Lieut. Root informs me that he left the ground, soon after the scene above alluded to, and that many of the Indians were armed with knives, and in much excitement."

6th. I visited Mr. Gallatin at his house in Bleecker Street, and spent the entire morning in listening to his instructive conversation, in the course of which he spoke of early education, geometric arithmetic, the principles of languages and history, American and European. He said, speaking of the

EARLY EDUCATION OF CHILDREN.--Few children are taught to read well early, and, in consequence, they never can become good readers. A page should, as it were, dissolve before the eye, and be absorbed by the mind. Reading and spelling correctly cannot be too early taught, and should be thoroughly taught.

Arithmetic.--G. There is no good arithmetic in which the reasons are given, so as to be intelligible to children. Condorcet wrote the best tract on the subject, while in confinement at a widow's house near Paris, before his execution. The language of arithmetic is universal, the eight digits serving all combinations. They were not introduced till 1200. The Russians count by sticks and beads. The Romans must have had some such method. M stood for 1000, D for 500, C for 100, L for 50, X for ten, V for five, and I for one. But how could they multiply complex sums by placing one under another.

LANGUAGES.--S. How desirable it would be if so simple a system could be applied to language.

G. Ah! it was not designed by the Creator. He evidently designed diversity. I have recently received some of the native vocabularies from Mackenzie--the Blackfeet and Fall Indians, &c. Parker had furnished in his travels vocabularies of the Nez Perces, Chinooks, &c.

LEADING FAMILIES.--S. The term Algonquin, as commonly understood, is not sufficiently comprehensive for the people indicated.

G. I intended to extend it by adding the term "Lenape." The Choctaw and the Muscogee is radically the same. The Chickasaw and Choctaw has been previously deemed one. Du Pratz wrote about the Mobilian language without even suspecting that it was the Choctaw.

G. The National Institute at Paris has printed Mr. Duponceau's Prize Essay on the Algonquin. Dr. James wrote unsuccessfully for the prize. Duponceau first mentioned you to me. He has freely translated from your lectures on the substantive, which gives you a European reputation.

PUBLISHERS ON PHILOLOGY.--G. There is no patronage for such works here. Germany and France are the only countries where treatises on philology can be published. It is Berlin or Paris, and of these Berlin holds the first place. In Great Britain, as in this country, there is not sufficient interest on the subject for booksellers to take hold of mere works of fact of this sort. They are given to reading tales and light literature, as here.

ORAL TALES OF THE INDIANS--G. Your "Indian Tales" and your "Hieroglyphics" would sell here; but grammatical materials on the languages will not do, unless they can be arranged as appendices.

S. I urged Governor Cass to write on this subject, and he declined.

G. Does he understand the languages?

S. Pronouns, in our Indian languages, are of a more permanent character than philologists have admitted. They endure in some form, in kindred dialects, the most diverse.

G. This is true, the sign is always left, and enables one, clearly enough, to trace stocks. Dialects are easily made. There are many in France, and they fill other parts of Europe. Every department in France has one.

DISCRIMINATING VIEWS OF PHILOLOGY AND PHILOLOGISTS.--G. It is not clear what Heckewelder meant by "whistling sound," in the prefix pronouns. I told Mr. Duponceau that it had been better that the gentleman's MSS. were left as he originally wrote them, with mere corrections as to grammar--that we should then, in fact, have had Indian information. For Heckewelder thought and felt like a Delaware, and believed all their stories1.

MONOSYLLABIC LANGUAGE.--G. You have asserted that all the Indian roots are monosyllables.

S. Most of them, not all. This is a branch to which I have paid particular attention; and if there is anything in Indian philology in which I deem myself at home, it is in the analysis of Indian words, the digging out of roots, and showing their derivatives and compounds.

G. The societies would print your observations on these topics. They are of much interest.

ORIGIN OF THE INDIAN LANGUAGE.--S. The Hebrew is based on roots like the Indian, which appear to have strong analogies to the Semitic family. It is not clearly Hindostanee, or Chinese, or Norse. I have perused Rafn's Grammar by Marsh. The Icelandic (language) clearly lies at the foundation of the Teutonic.

G. I have not seen this. The grammatical principles of the Hebrew2 are widely different (from the Indian). There is, in this respect, no resemblance. I think the Indian language has principles akin to the Greek. The middle moods, or voices, in the Greek and Indian dialects are alike; they make the imperfect past, or aorist, in a similar manner.

1: This admission of the re-composition of Mr. Heckewelder's letters, and the excellent missionary's general deficiency, furnishes a striking confirmation of the views and sagacity of a critic of the North American Review, writing on that topic, in 1825. And the more so, as those views were conjectural, but they were the conjectures of one who had personally known Mr. Heckewelder.

2: Mr. G. did not understand the Hebrew, and was not aware that the person he addressed had made a study of it in particular reference to the Indian.

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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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