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Michilimackinack, A Summer Resort

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Oct. 2d. Mr. J.H. Kinzie, of Chicago, mentioned to me, in a former interview, a striking trait of the barbarity of the Potawattomies in the treatment of their women. Two female slaves, or wives of Wabunsee, had a quarrel. One of them went, in her excited state of feeling, to the chief, and told him that the other had ill-treated his children. He ordered the accused to come before him. He told her to lie down on her back on the ground. He then directed the other (her accuser) to take a tomahawk and dispatch her. She split open her skull, and killed her immediately. He left her unburied, but was afterwards persuaded to direct the murderess to bury her. She dug a grave so shallow, that the Wolves dug out the body that night and partly devoured it.

3d. James L. Schoolcraft brought me some mineralogical and geological specimens from Isle Cariboo--the land of golden dreams and fogs in Lake Superior. The island has a basis of chocolate-colored sandstone.

5th. The Oneida Whig mentions the death, on the 20th ultimo, near Oneida Castle, New York, of Ondayaka, head chief of the Onondagas, aged about ninety-six. At the time of his death, Ondayaka, and the subordinate chiefs and principal men of his nation, were on their way to join in the ceremonies of electing a head chief of the Oneidas. Within a few miles of the council house of the latter tribe, Ondayaka placed himself at the head of the deputation of the Onondagas, and commenced the performance of the ceremonies observed on such occasions, when he was suddenly seized with the bilious colic. Calling the next chief in authority to fill his station, he withdrew to the road side, when he soon after expressed a consciousness that "it was the will of the Great Spirit that he should live no longer upon the earth." He then sent for his people, and took leave of them, after counseling them to cultivate and practice temperance and brotherly love in their councils and among the people of the nation, and friendship and integrity with all. He soon after became unable to speak, and in a few hours his spirit was gathered to the Great Spirit who gave it.

7th. The following is an Odjibwa tradition. Adjejauk and Oshugee were brothers, living at St. Mary's Falls. Oshugee was the elder. One day he took his brother's fishing-pole into the rapids, and accidentally broke it. This caused a quarrel. Oshugee went off south, and was referred to as Shawnee. This was the origin of that tribe who call the Chippewas Younger Brother, to this day. This is said by Nabunwa. The Shawnee (southman) here named is not the Shawnee tribe. With this explanation, the tradition may be admitted. It was probably the origin of the Potawattomies.

10th. Two plum trees, standing in front of the agency, which had attained their full growth, and borne fruit plentifully, for some few years, began to droop, and finally died during the autumn. I found, by examination, that their roots had extended into cold underground springs of water, which have their issue under the high cliff immediately behind the agency. They had originally been set out as wall fruit, within a few feet of the front wall of the house, on its southern side. The one was the common blue plum, the other an egg plum.

A mountain ash, standing some twenty feet west of them, had protruded its roots into a similar cold moisture, but, so far from injuring it, the tree grew more luxuriantly, putting forth leaves and berries in the greatest profusion. Seeing this disposition to flourish by its proximity to underground currents, I cut the bark of the tree, which is of a close binding character, to allow it to expand, and found this to have an excellent effect. This tree bears a white bell-shaped cluster of blossoms, which originate the most beautiful scarlet berries in the autumn. The one species is a native, the other an exotic.

12th. Pemid-jee, signifies in Chippewa across, sideways. Go-daus is a garment, or cloth designed for it. Hence mad-jee-co-ta a skirt or side-cloth.

17th. Col. Wm.L. Stone writes that he is making progress in his Life and Times of Sir William Johnson, and begs a copy of the old Military Orderly Book, in my possession, detailing the siege and taking of Fort Niagara, &c. He says of Algie Researches: "By the way, what a delightful book you furnished us. Don't you remember that I told you not to go to ---- for revision? He would have spoiled your simple and beautiful tales. President Wayland, my brother-in-law, was delighted with them."

Dec.5th. Abraham Schoolcraft, Special Emigrating Agent, reports the safe arrival of the Swan Creeks at their destination on the river Osage. The lands are fertile, the waters good, forest trees in abundance for fire-wood and fences. Everything promises well for their future prosperity.

13th. Wrote to Col. Stone, transmitting him a copy of the old journal, before alluded to, of the siege of Niagara, in 1759, the march of Gen. Bradstreet for the relief of Detroit, in 1763, &c.

26th. Mackinack has again assumed its winter phase. We are shut in from the tumult of the world, and must rely for our sources of intellectual sustenance and diversion on books, or researches, such as may present themselves.

The following words, I am assured, are different, in the Ottawa and Chippewa dialects:--

1. Axe, Wag-a-kwut, Nah-bah-gun.
2. Point, Na-au-shi, Sin-gang.
3. Spring (season), Se-gwun, Me-no-ka-mi.
4. Scissors, Mozh-wa-gun, Sip-po-ne-gun.
5. Spear, Ah-nit, Nah-bah-e-gun.
6. Stop; cease; be still, Ah-no-wa-tan, Mah-ga-nick.
7. It's flown away, Ke-pah-ze-qwah-o, Ke-ke-ze-kay.
8. Maple tree, In-ne-nah-tig, As-sin-ah-mish.
9. Milk, To-dosh-a-bo, Mo-nah-gan-a-bo.
10. Small lake, or pond, Sah-gi-e-gan, Ne-bis.
11. He smokes, Sug-gus-wau, Pin-dah-qua.
12. It is calm, Ah-no-wa-tin, To-kis-sin.
13. It will be a severe, or bad day, Tah-mat-chi-geezh-ik-ud. Tah-goot-au-gan.
14. I will visit, Ningah-mah-wa-tish-e-way, Ningah-Ne-bwatch-e-way.
15. He will quarrel (with) you, Kegah-Ke-kau-mig, Kegau-ne-tehi-we-ig.
16. He will strike you, Kegah-Puk-e-tay-og, Kegah-wa-po-taig.
17. Hammer, Puk-ke-tai-e-gun, Wap-o-ge-gin.
18. Dog, An-ne-moosh, An-ne-mo-kau-gi.
19. My mother, Nin-guh, Nin-gush,
20. Yes, Aih, Au-nin-da.

It is evident that these dialectic differences arise, not from the use of a different language, but a different mode of applying the same language--a language in which every syllable has a well-known primitive meaning. Thus, in the name for maple tree(8), the Chippewa means, spouted, or man tree (alluding to its being tapped for its sap), and the Ottawa, stoned, or cut tree, alluding to the same feature. The same terms are equally well known, and proper in both dialects. So in 10, the one says a collection of running water, the other, a little mass of water. So in 13, the one says, literally, it will be a bad day; the other, it will storm. So in 17, the one says strike-instrument; the other swing-instrument. So in 20, one uses an affirmative particle, the other says, certainly.

31st. Rev. Thomas Hulbert, of the Pic, on the north shores of Lake Superior, writes about the orthography and principles of the Indian languages. When this gentleman was on his way inland, he stopped at my house, and evinced much interest in the oral traditions of the Indians, as shown in Algic Researches, and presented me the conjugation of the Indian verb "to see," filling many pages of an old folio account book--all written in the wretched system of notation of Mr. Evans2. I stated to him the analytical mode which I had pursued in my lectures on the structure of the languages, with the very best helps at St. Mary's; and that I had found it to yield to this process--that the Algonquin was, in fact, an aggregation of monasyllabic roots: that words and expressions were formed entirely of a limited number of original roots and particles, which had generic meanings. That new words, however compounded, carried these meanings to the Indian ear, and were understood by it in all possible forms of accretion and syllabication. That the derivatives founded on these roots of one or two syllables, could all be taken apart and put together like a piece of machinery. That the principles were fixed, philosophical, and regular, and that, although the language had some glaring defects, as the want of a feminine pronoun, and many redundancies, they were admirably adapted to describe geographical and meteorological scenes. That it was a language of woods and wilds. That it failed to convey knowledge, only because it had apparently never been applied to it. And that those philologists who had represented it as an agglutinated mass, and capable of the most recondite, pronominal, and tensal meanings, exceeding those of Greece and Rome, had no clear conceptions of what they were speaking of. That its principles are not, in fact, polysynthetic, but on the contrary unasynthetic: its rules were all of one piece. That, in fine, we should never get at the truth till we pulled down the, erroneous fabric of the extreme polysynthesists, which was erected on materials furnished by an excellent, but entirely unlearned missionary. But that this could not be done now, such was the prestige of names; and that he and I, and all humble laborers in the field, must wait to submit our views till time had opened a favorable door for us. It was our present duty to accumulate facts, not to set up new theories, nor aim, by any means, to fight these intellectual giants while we were armed but with small weapons.

Mr. Hurlbut entered into these views. He had now reflected upon them, and he made some suggestions of philological value. He was an apt learner of the language, as spoken north of the basin of Lake Superior.

"Orthography," he writes, "though of much importance, did not engage so much of my attention as the construction of the language. I am not so sanguine as to that performance (the conjugation of the verb to see) as to be anxious to bring forward another. I am aware that an Indian speaker, who had never studied his own language, would pronounce much of that incorrect (in following a particular system imposed on him), particularly in the characterizing (definitive) form, for in this conjugation the root always undergoes a change. If the first syllable be short, it is lengthened, as be-moo-za, ba-moo-zad. If it be long, another is added, as ouu-bet, ou-euu-bed.3 But when a particle is used, as is more generally the case, the root resumes its original form, as guu-ouu-bed. I thought it best to preserve uniformity. I inserted a note explaining this. Upon this, principle of euphony, Mr. Evans' orthography will answer better than may at first appear. When the towel is short, the final consonant is sharp, as mek, muk, met; but when the vowel is long, it sounds like meeg, seeg, neeg, nuug, meed."

I had thought of making a collection of words, as a commencement for a lexicon, but there are impediments in jay way for the present: 1st, I want a plan; I want the opinion of those versed in the language, as two roots frequently coalesce and form compound terms, and sometimes two verbs and a noun amalgamate by clipping all; and it requires a skillful hand to dissect them and show the originals. Should all these compound terms be introduced (in the contemplated lexicon), it would swell the work to a good size. If this be not done, we must find some rule for compounding the terms, that the learner may be able to do it for himself. This (the rule) I have not yet ascertained.

"I am favorably situated for making philological observations. I observe that the Cree, although essentially the same language as the Chippewa, yet drops, or never had, many of the suffix expletive particles of the latter, though the prefix particles are pretty much the same in both. The Cree has not, I believe, the double negative nor the adverbial and plaintive forms of verbs, as I have termed them. This renders the language less complex, and much more easy of acquisition than the Chippewa.

"One thought was forcibly impressed on my mind while perusing the publications of the American Antiquarian Society. In these publications they introduce the names of things in order to show the affinity of different tribes. From my knowledge of Indian, I am inclined to think that the names of things change the soonest in any language, and that, in order to ascertain the original stock of any tribe or nation by comparing languages, we must descend to the groundwork of the languages and search, not so much for similarity of sound as for the arrangement and essential and peculiar principles of the languages.

"A principle that prevails in the American languages, as far as my information extends, is, that the verb, with its nominative and objective cases, be inseparably connected. The Delaware, the Chippewa (under whatever name), and the Cree, &c., make the change in person, number, &c., by a change in the prefix or suffix. But the Mohawk and Chippewyan4 make the change, in some cases, in the middle of the word, when the Chippewa and others always remain unchanged."

2: A Wesleyan missionary, some time at Port Sarnia, opposite Fort Gratiot, Canada.

3: This is in Mr. Evans' System of Orthography.

4: It must be remembered that the Chippewas and Chippewyans, are diverse tribes. The two words are both Chippewa; but the tribes are of different groups. The one is ALGONQUIN; the other ATHAPASCA. The Mohawk belongs to a third group of languages, namely, the IROQUOIS.

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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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