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Lecture Before the Lyceum

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Lecture before the Lyceum--Temperature in the North--Rum and taxes--A mild winter adverse to Indians--Death of a friend--Christian atonement--Threats of a Caliban, or an Indianized white man--Indian emporium--Bringing up children--Youth gone astray--Mount Hope Institution--Expedition into the Indian country--Natural History of the United States--A reminiscence--Voyage inland.

1831. LECTURE BEFORE THE LYCEUM.--The executive committee of this popular institution asks me by a note (Jan. 14th), to lecture before them a short time ahead. Public duty is an excuse, which on such occasions is very generally made by men in office, who in nine cases out of ten seek to conceal the onerousness of literary labor under that ample cloak. To me there is no duty more important than that which diverts a town from idle gratifications, and fixes its attention on moral or intellectual themes. Although the notice was short, I determined to sit up a few nights and comply with it. I selected the natural history of Michigan, as a subject very tangible, and one about which a good deal of interest could be thrown. I had devoted much interest to it for years--understood it, perhaps, better than any one in the territory, and could lecture upon it con amore.

When the appointed evening arrived, I found a highly respectable and very crowded audience, in the upper chamber of the old Indian council house. It was certainly a better use of the building than paying the price of blood for white men's and women's scalps, during the fierce seven years' struggle of the American Revolution, and the succeeding Indian wars. My lights were badly placed for reading, and I got on indifferently in that respect, for I could not see well, but my facts and matter altogether were well and approvingly received; and the address was immediately published.

TEMPERATURE AT THE FOOT OF LAKE SUPERIOR.--Mr. F. Andrain writes to me from St. Mary's (Jan. 26th): "The weather has been very mild indeed, here, until within a few days: there has not been sufficient snow, as yet, to cover the stubble in the fields. The severe weather commenced on the 23d instant. The thermometer stood as follows:--"

On the 23d,

   at 9 o'clock A.M., 11 degrees below zero.



















RUM AND TAXES.--A trader at St. Mary's writes (26th Jan.) as follows: "It is the wish of several individuals, who keep stores in the village, to be informed whether the sutler in Fort Brady is not obliged to pay taxes as well as we. For he has almost the exclusive trade of the Canadians. It is tempting to purchase liquor at 2s. 6d. per gallon, when they have to pay 4s. in the village. The temperance society is of no use, when any of its members can dispose of liquor at so low a rate." I put the last words in italics.

A MILD WINTER ADVERSE TO THE INDIANS.--Mr. George Johnston observes (8th March): "The weather on Lake Superior has been uncommonly mild the whole winter. The southern shore of the lake from White Fish Point to Ance Kewywenon presents a scene of open lake, not any ice forming to enable the poor Indians to spear fish."

DEATH OF A FRIEND.--Mrs. Schoolcraft says (Feb. 3d): "Mrs. Bingham passed the day with me a short time since, and brought me some Vermont religious papers, which I read yesterday, and found an account of the death of our poor friend Mr. Conant, which took place in November last in Brandon, Vermont, leaving his disconsolate widow and five children. He suffered greatly for five years, but I am happy to find he was resigned in suffering to the will of the Almighty with patience; and I trust he is now a happy member of the souls made perfect in the precious blood of the Lamb." Thus ended the career of a man of high moral worth, mental vigor, and exalted benevolence of feeling and purpose. This is the man, and the family, who showed us such marked kindness and attentions in the city of New York, in the winter of 1825--kindness and attentions never to be forgotten. Feb. 7th. This day is very memorable in my private history, for my having assumed, after long delay, the moral intrepidity to acknowledge, publicly, a truth which has never been lost sight of since my intercourse with the Rev. Mr. Laird, in the, to me, memorable winter of 1824--when it first flashed, as it were, on my mind. That truth was the divine atonement for human sin made by the long foretold, the rejected, the persecuted, the crucified Messiah.

Threat of an Indianized White Man.--A friend at St. Mary's writes: "Tanner has again made bold threats, agreeably to Jack Hotley's statement, and in Doctor James' presence, saying, that had you still been here, he would have killed you; and as the Johnstons were acting in concert with you, he kept himself constantly armed." This being, in his strange manners and opinions, at least, appears to offer a realization of Shakspeare's idea of Caliban.

Indian Emporium.--Col. T. McKenney, who has been superseded in the Indian Bureau at Washington, announces, by a circular, that he is about to establish a commercial house, or agency, on a general plan, for supplying articles designed for the Indian trade and the sale of furs and peltries. This appears to me a striking mistake of judgment. The colonel, of all things, is not suited for a merchant.

Bringing up of Children.--Mrs. Schoolcraft writes: "I find the time passes more swiftly than I thought it would; indeed, my friends have been unwearied in striving to make my solitary situation as pleasant as possible, and they have favored me with their company often. I strive to be as friendly as I possibly can to every one, and I find I am no loser by so doing. I wish it was in your power to bring along with you a good little girl who can speak English, for I do not see how I can manage during the summer (if my life is spared) without some assistance in the care of the children. I feel anxious, more particularly on Jane's account, for she is now at that age when children are apt to be biased by the habits of those they associate with, and as I cannot be with her all the time, the greater will be the necessity of the person to whom she is entrusted (let it be ever so short a time) to be one who has been brought up by pious, and, of course, conscientious parents, where no bad example can be apprehended. I feel daily the importance of bringing up children, not merely to pass with advantage through the world, but with advantage to their souls to all eternity."

I find great pleasure in sister Anna Maria's company. She is to stay with me till you return. Little Janee improves rapidly under her tuition. Janee (she was now three and a half years of age) has commenced saying by heart two pieces out of the little book you sent her. One is 'My Mother,' and the other is 'How doth the little busy Bee.' It is pleasant to see her smooth down her apron and hear her say, "So I shall stand by my father, and say my lessons, and he will call me his dear little Tee-gee, and say I am a good girl." She will do this with so much gravity, and then skip about in an instant after and repeat, half singing, "My father will come home again in the spring, when the birds sing and the grass and flowers come out of the ground; he will call me his wild Irish girl."

"Janee has just come into the room, and insists on my telling you that she can spell her name very prettily, 'Schoolcraft and all.' She seems anxious to gain your approbation for her acquirements, and I encourage the feeling in order to excite attention to her lessons, as she is so full of life and spirits that it is hard to get her to keep still long enough to recite them properly. Johnston has improved more than you can imagine, and has such endearing ways that one cannot help loving the dear child. Oh, that they would both grow up wise unto salvation, and I should be happy."

Youthful Blood.--James --- was a young man of promise--bright mentally and physically, lively and witty, and of a figure and manners pleasing to all. In a moment of passion he dirked a man at a French ball. The victim of this scene of revelry lingered a few months and recovered. This recovery is announced in a letter of Mrs. Schoolcraft's (Feb. 16th), in which she says:--

"Dr. James sent a certificate of the young man's returning health by the last express, and an Indian was also sent to accompany James back to this place; but how great was our astonishment at the arrival of the Indian alone, on the 3d ultimo, and bringing news of James' escape from Mackinack. We felt a good deal alarmed for his safety on the way, and an Indian was sent down the river in quest of him; but we were relieved of our fears by the arrival of James himself on the following day, very much exhausted. I immediately sent to Dechaume to ask how he did, and learnt that his fatigue, &c., had not in the least abated his natural vivacity and gayety.

"Three days after his arrival (being Sunday) I was at dinner at my mother's, when he came in, and could not refrain from tears. He seemed much affected at what I said, and I felt encouraged to hope some little change in his conduct. The next day, on mature reflection, I thought no time was to be lost in striving by all human means to reclaim him, and my promise to co-operate with you all I could for that desirable object, induced me to write a note inviting him to come and spend a quiet social evening with sister Anna Maria and myself, and I sent the sleigh to bring him down, so that he could have no excuse to decline coming, and I was pleased that he came without hesitation.

"I conversed a long time with him, pointing out, in the most gentle and affectionate manner I could, where he had erred, and in what way he might have become not only respected and esteemed, but independent, whereas his excesses had brought him to embarrassment and disgrace; and conjured him, as he valued his temporal and spiritual welfare, to abandon some, at least (to begin with) of his evil courses, and to strive with all his might to avert the wrath of that Holy Being whom he had hitherto so despised, and whose just laws he had, in more than one instance, violated, and a great deal more that I cannot now mention. I got him at last to promise to strive to become better.

"We passed the rest of the evening in a rational and pleasant manner by reading chiefly in the Literary Voyager, thinking it might help to call forth former occupations, which were comparatively innocent, and reading some of his own pieces, renew a taste of what was virtuous and praiseworthy. I inwardly prayed that by such means, feeble as they were, they might tend to draw him off insensibly from his former haunts and habits. I have been enabled to pursue this course of conduct towards him ever since that evening, and I am pleased to find that he comes oftener to Elmwood than I at first expected; but I perceive that there is some other attraction besides my sage discourses that draws him so often to the now leafless shades of Elmwood. And he may fancy that either a rose or a lily has taken shelter within its walls. Be that as it may, I shall not say a word; most of my thoughts are more occupied with the best method I can take to do him good to all eternity, and I do not forget to ask aid of ONE that never errs.

"Some evenings since, Mr. Agnew and some of the officers gave a ball at one of the French houses, and not doubting but that James was invited to join in the amusement, I instantly addressed a long letter to him, encouraging him in his recent resolution of amendment, and told him now was the time to put those wise resolves to the test by practice, and that he ought to know, by sad experience, that attending such low scenes of dissipation was the source of almost all the iniquity in the place. I had afterwards the satisfaction to find that he did not attend; but my fears for him are still very great, and will be justly so as long as he is so taken up by that disgraceful connection where he spends a great deal of his precious time. My ambition is not only to civilize him (if I may be allowed that expression, which is not out of the way, after all, as he has despised the forms and restraints of refined society), but my ardent wish is to Christianize him in every sense of the word--he is, at present, skeptical. But let us only do our duty as Christians, and leave the rest in the hands of the Almighty."

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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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