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Notions of Foreigners About America

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Notions of foreigners about America--Mrs. Jameson--Appraisements of Indian property--Le Jeune's early publication on the Iroquois--Troops for Florida--A question of Indian genealogy--Annuity payments--Indians present a claim of salvage--Death of the Prophet Chusco--Indian sufferings--Gen. Dodge's treaty--Additional debt claims--Gazetteer of Michigan--Stone's Life of Brant--University of Michigan--Christian Keepsake--Indian etymology--Small-pox breaks out on the Missouri--Missionary operation in the north-west--Treaty of Flint River with the Saginaws.

1837. Aug. 16th. A Mr. Nathan, an English traveler, of quiet and pleasing manners, was introduced. He had been to St. Mary's Falls, and to the magnificent entrance into Lake Superior, of whose fine scenery he spoke in terms of admiration. It seems to me that Englishmen and Englishwomen, for I have had a good many of both sexes to visit me recently, look on America very much as one does when he peeps through a magnifying glass on pictures of foreign scenes, and the picturesque ruins of old cities, and the like. They are really very fine, but it is difficult to realize that such things are. It is all an optical deception.

It was clearly so with Marryatt, a very superficial observer; Miss Martineau, who was in search of something ultra and elementary, and even Mrs. Jameson, who had the most accurate and artistic eye of all, but who, with the exception of some bits of womanly heart, appeared to regard our vast woods, and wilds, and lakes, as a magnificent panorama, a painting in oil. It does not appear to occur to them, that here are the very descendants of that old Saxa-Gothic race who sacked Rome, who banished the Stuarts from the English throne, and who have ever, in all positions, used all their might to battle tyranny and oppression, who hate taxations as they hate snakes, and whose day and night dreams have ever been of liberty, that dear cry of Freiheit, whichever war made "Germania" ring. It has appeared to me to be very much the same with the Austrian and Italian functionaries who have wandered as far as Michilimackinack within a few years, but who are yet more slow to appreciate our institutions than the English. The whole problem of our system, one would judge, seems to them like "apples of ashes," instead of the golden fruits of Hesperides. They alike mistake realities for fancies; real states of flesh and blood, bone and muscle, for cosmoramic pictures on a wall. They do not appear to dream how fast our millions reduplicate, what triumphs the plough, and the engine, and loom, are making, how the principles of a well guarded representative system are spreading over the world, and what indomitable moral, and sound inductive principles lie at the bottom of the whole fabric.

Troops arrived from St. Mary's this day, to garrison the Fort, to keep order during the annuity payments. The chiefs from St. Mary's send over a boat for their share of the treaty, tobacco, salt, rice, &c.

18th. Mr. Conner, the sub-agent, writes that the Saginaws are afflicted by want and threatened by starvation; and, to render their condition extreme, the small-pox has broken out amongst them. Ordered relief to be given in the cases specified.

20th. Mrs. Jameson writes to Mrs. Schoolcraft, from Toronto: "If I were to begin by expressing all the pain it gave me to part from you, I should not know when or where to end. I do sometimes thank God, that in many different countries I possess friends worthy that name; kind hearts that feel with and for me; hearts upon which my own could be satisfied to rest; but then that parting, that forced, and often hopeless separation which too often follows such a meeting, makes me repine. I will not say, pettishly, that I could wish never to have known or seen a treasure I cannot possess: no! how can I think of you and feel regret that I have known you? As long as I live, the impression of your kindness, and of your character altogether, remains with me; your image will often come back to me, and I dare to hope that you will not forget me quite. I am not so unreasonable as to ask you to write to me; I know too well how entirely your time is occupied to presume to claim even a few moments of it, and it is a pity, for 'we do not live by bread alone,' and every faculty and affection implanted in us by the good God of nature, craves the food which he has prepared for it, even in this world; so that I do wish you had a little leisure from eating and drinking, cares and household matters, to bestow on less important things, on me for instance! poor little me, at the other side of the world.

"Mrs. McMurray has told you the incidents of our voyage to the Manitouline Island, from thence to Toronto; it was all delightful; the most extraordinary scenery I ever beheld, the wildest! I recall it as a dream. I arrived at my own house at three o'clock on the morning of the 13th, tired and much eaten by those abominable mosquitoes, but otherwise better in health than I have been for many months. Still I have but imperfectly achieved the object of my journey; and I feel that, though I seized on my return every opportunity of seeing and visiting the Indian lodges, I know but too little of them, of the women particularly. If only I had been able to talk a little more to my dear Neengay! how often I think of her with regret, and of you all! But it is in vain to repine. I must be thankful for what I have gained, what I have seen and done! I have written to Mrs. McMurray, and troubled her with several questions relative to the women. I remark generally, that the propinquity of the white man is destruction to the red man; and the farther the Indians are removed from us, the better for them. In their own woods, they are a noble race; brought near to us, a degraded and stupid race. We are destroying them off the face of the earth. May God forgive us our tyranny, our avarice, our ignorance, for it is very terrible to think of!"

21st. Judge McDonnel, of Detroit, reached the island with Captain Clark of St. Clair, these gentlemen having been engaged since spring, in a careful and elaborate appraisement of the Indian improvements, under the 8th article of the treaty of 28th March, 1836. They commenced their labor in the Grand River Valley, and continued it along the entire eastern coast of Lake Michigan, to Michilimackinack, not omitting anything which could, by the most liberal construction, be considered "as giving value to the lands ceded." Not an apple tree, not a house, or log wigwam, and not an acre, once in cultivation, though now waste, was omitted.

They report the whole number of villages in this district at twenty-two, the whole number of improvements at 485, and the gross population at 3,257 souls. This population live in log and bark dwellings of every grade, cultivate 2477 acres of land, on which there are 3,212 apple trees; besides old fields, the aggregate value of which is put at $74,998. They add that these appraisements have been deemed everywhere fully satisfactory to the Indians.

23d. A poor decrepit Indian woman, who was abandoned on the beach by her relatives some ten days ago, applied for relief. It is found that she has been indebted for food in the interim to the benevolence of Mrs. Lafromboise.

23d. "I take the liberty," says A. W. Buel, Esq., of Detroit, "of addressing you concerning the little book in my possession, touching the early history of New France and the Iroquois. You may recollect, perhaps, that on one occasion last winter or spring, when you were in this city, I had some conversation with you concerning it. It is written in French, of old orthography, and was published at Paris, A. D. 1658. It purports to have been written by a Jesuit, Paul Le Jeune; I am however, inclined to think that it was not all written by him, inasmuch as the orthography of the same Indian words varies in different parts of the book. It is rather a small duodecimo volume and contains about 210 pages, of rather coarse print. To give you a better idea of the contents, I will mention the titles of the several chapters." These are omitted.

"A few others are appended. The early history of the Iroquois, and of our own country, even after its settlement by Europeans, you are well aware, is buried in great obscurity. Even Charlevoix's Histoire de Nouvelle France, I believe, has never been translated into English. I have never seen it, if it has been. That work I suppose to be at present the starting point in the history of the Iroquois and New France, as regards minuteness of detail.

"This little book (Le Jeune) was published a considerable time previous. It appears by it that the Jesuits had, for several years previously, sent some letters; but I am confident that this is the first book ever published touching directly and minutely the history of the Iroquois. Caleb Atwater, in his book on western antiquities, speaks of a little work published in Latin at Paris, I think, in 1664, as the first touching the history of New France and the Iroquois. I could not at first decide whether it be of much value, I thought it to be such a book as would immediately find its way to the missionaries, and so small as to be easily overlooked. I became at once so far interested in it, as to translate it into English, not certain that I should ever make any further use of it. I have, however, been solicited by some, either to publish a translation of it, or a compendium of the principal matter contained in it, and beg to trouble you so much as to ask your views of the probability of the utility of doing so. Will the task be equal to the reward?"

25th. Troops from Green Bay pass Mackinack on their way to Florida, to act in the campaign against the Seminoles--a weary long way to send reinforcements; but our army is so small, and has so large a frontier to guard, that it must face to the right and left as often as raw recruits under drill.

26th. Received a copy of the Miner's Free Press of Wisconsin of the 11th of August, containing an abstract of a treaty concluded by Gov. Dodge with the Chippewas of the Upper Mississippi, ceding an important tract of country, lying below the Crow-wing River.

Sept. 3d. The old chief Saganosh died.

4th. The Chippewas of Sault Ste. Marie got into a difficulty, among each other, respecting the true succession of the principal chieftainship, and the chiefs came in a body to leave the matter to me. The point of genealogy to be settled runs through three generations, and was stated thus:--

Gitcheojeedebun, of the Crane totem, had four sons, namely, Maidosagee, Bwoinais, Nawgitchigomee, and Kezhawokumijishkum. Maidosagee, being the eldest, had nine sons, called, Shingabowossin, Sizzah, Kaugayosh, Nattaowa, Ussaba, Wabidjejauk, Muckadaywuckwut, Wabidjejaukons, and Odjeeg. On the principles of Indian descent, these were all Cranes of the proper mark, but the chieftainship would descend in the line of the eldest son's children. This would leave Shingabowossin's eldest son without a competitor. I determined, therefore, to award the first chiefs medal to Kabay Noden, the deceased chief Shingabowossin's eldest son.

10th. The annuity payments commence.

Major Jno. Garland, U.S.A., having succeeded Major Whiting as the general disbursing officer on this frontier, arrived early in the month. This officer has been engaged, with his assistants and the aid of the Indian department, about a week, in preparing the pay rolls of the Indian families, and correcting the lists for deaths, births, and new families. All the payments which were made in silver, at the agency, in my presence, were divided per capita. This business of counting and division took three days, during which time the proportionate share of $21,000, in half dollars, was paid. The annuities in provisions, tobacco, &c., were delivered in bulk to the chiefs of villages, to be divided by them.

Mr. John J. Blois, of Detroit, proposes to publish a gazetteer of Michigan, and writes requesting statistical information, &c., of the upper country, an Indian nomenclature, &c.

Mr. Palfrey writes proposing to me to review Stone's Life of Brant, and Mr. Dearborn, the publisher at New York, sends me the proofs.

15th. The payments are finished, and the Indians begin to disperse. I invested Kabay Noden with his father's medal, and his uncle, Muckadaywuckwut, with a flag; recommending at the same time the division of the St. Mary's Chippewas into three bands, agreeably to fixed geographical boundaries.

Having finished the business of the payments, the disbursing agent embarks on board of the steamer Michigan, and the island, which has been thronged for three weeks with Indians, Indian traders, and visitors, began immediately to empty itself of population. During this assemblage, to pay the Ottawas and Chippewas their annuity, great care and exactitude have been observed by the concurrently acting officers of the army and the Indian department, to carry out strictly the agreements made with them in the spring, by which the payment of half their annuity in silver, due for 1837, was postponed till 1838. Yet it was reported in a few days, and reiterated by the press, that the Indians had been defrauded out of half their annuities, and that goods, and those of a bad quality, had been given them for silver. And my name was coupled with the transaction, although the Indians of all nations who were under my charge, in the State of Michigan, had, from first to last, been treated with the kindness and justice of a father. The Government at Washington came in for no little abuse. Mrs. Jameson wrote from Toronto, asking "whether it was true that a Miami chief had offered $70,000 to enable the Indian Department to pay their debt to the Indians in specie."

23d. The Indians Akukojeesh and Akawkoway brought a case of salvage for my action. They had found a new carriage body, and harness; a box of 7 by 9 glass, and 18 chairs, floating on the lake (Huron), N.E. of the island. They supposed the articles had been thrown overboard, in a recent storm, or by a vessel aground on the point of Goose Island, called Nekuhmenis. The Nekuh is a brant.

30th. Chusco dies.

Completed and transmitted the returns and abstracts of the year's proceedings and expenditures.

Oct 1st. I sent the interpreter and farmers of the Department to perform the funeral rites for Chusco, the Ottawa jossakeed, who died yesterday at the house erected for him on Round Island. He was about 70 years of age; a small man, of light frame and walked a little bent. He had an expression of cunning and knowingness, which induced his people, when young, to think he resembled the muskrat, just rising from the water, after a dive. This trait was implied by his name. For many years he had acted as a jossakeed, or seer, for his tribe. In this business he told me that the powers he relied on, were the spirits1 of the tortoise, crow, swan, and woodpecker. These he considered his familiar spirits, who received their miraculous power to aid him directly from Mudjee Moneto, or the Great Evil Spirit. After the establishment of the Mission at Mackinack, his wife embraced Christianity. This made him mad. At length his mind ran so much on the theme, that he fell into doubts and glooms when thinking it over, and finally embraced Christianity himself; and he was admitted, after a probation of a year or two, to church membership. I asked him, after this period, how he had deceived his people by the art of powwowing, or jugglery. He said that he had accomplished it by the direct influence of Satan. He had addressed him, on these occasions, and sung his songs to him, beating the drum or shaking the rattle. He adhered firmly to this opinion. He appeared to have great faith in the atonement of Christ, and relied with extraordinary simplicity upon it. He gave a striking proof of this, the autumn after his conversion, when he went with his wife, according to custom, to dig his potatoes on a neighboring island. The wife immediately began to dig. "Stop," said he, "let us first kneel and return thanks for their growth." He was aware of his former weakness on the subject of strong drink, and would not indulge in it after he became a church member.

1: Indians believe animals have souls.

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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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