25th. It is stated in the newspapers that hacks of an axe were
lately found in the central and solid parts of a large tree near
Buffalo, which were supposed to have been made by La Salle's party.
Other evidences of the early footsteps of Europeans on this
continent have been mentioned. A trammel was found in the solid
substance of a tree in Onondaga. A gun barrel in a similar position
in the Wabash Valley3. Growing wood soon
closes over articles left upon it, in the wilderness, where they are
27th. Monedo is strictly a term belonging to the Indian mythology
and necromancy, and is constantly used to indicate a spirit. It has
not the regular termination of the noun in win, and seems
rather verbal in its aspect, and so far as we can decipher its
meaning, mon is a syllable having a bad meaning generally, as
in monaudud, &c.
Edo may possibly be a derivation from ekedo, he speaks.
28th. It is a year ago to-day since I visited the tomb of
Washington, at Mount Vernon. There were three representatives in
Congress, in company. We left the city of Washington in the morning,
in a private carriage, and drove down in good season. I looked about
the tomb narrowly for some memento to bring away, and found some
mineralogical fragments on the small mound over the tomb, which
would bear the application of their book names. On coming back
through Alexandria, we dined at a public hotel, where, among other
productions of the season, we had cucumbers. What a contrast in
climate to my present position! Here, as the eyes search the fields,
heaps of snow are still seen in shaded situations, and the ice still
disfigures the bays and indentations of the shore in some places, as
if it were animated with a determination to hold out against the
power of the sun to the utmost. Nature, however, indicates its great
vernal throe. White fish were first taken during the season, this
day, which is rare.
29th. A friend at Detroit writes under this date: "I had expected
that before now, instructions would have reached here requiring you
to repair to the St. Peter's. But as the season advances, and they
do not arrive, I begin to fear that one of those mutations, to which
of all governments upon this mundane sphere ours is the most
exposed, has changed the intended disposition."
May 1st. Winter still holds its grasp upon the ice in the lower
part of the river and straits.
The Claytonia Virginica observed in flower in favorable spots.
The bay opposite the fort on the north-west shore cleared of ice on
the 2d, being the first day that the river has exhibited the
appearance of being completely clear, a strong north-west wind
blowing. It is just four months and ten days from the period of its
final closing on the 22d of December.
The yellow sparrow, or boblinkin, appeared this day in the woods.
4th. The surface of the earth is undergoing a rapid
transformation, although we are, at the same time, led to observe,
that "winter lingering chills the lap of May." Sudden changes of
temperature are experienced, which are governed very much by the
course and changes of the wind. Nature appears suddenly to have been
awakened from her torpid state.
All eyes are now directed to the east, not because the sun rises
there, but it is the course from which, in our position, we expect
intelligence by vessels. We expect a deliverance from our winter's
6th. Lake Superior appears to be entirely open. A gentleman
attached to the Boundary Survey at Fort William writes to me, under
this date, that the bay at that place is free from ice, so as to
permit them to resume their operations. They had been waiting for
this occurrence for two weeks previously.
8th. It is a year since I received from the President (Mr. Monroe)
a commission as agent for these tribes; and it is now more probable
than it then was that my residence here may assume a character of
permanency. I do not, however, cease to hope that Providence has a
more eligible situation in reserve for me.
9th. "Little things," says Dr. Johnson, "are not valued, when they
are done by those who cannot do greater." Thomas Jefferson uniformly
spelled knowledge without a w, which might not be mentioned, had
he not written the Notes on Virginia, and the Declaration of
10th. A trader proceeded with a boat into Lake Superior, which
gives assurance that this great inland sea is open for navigation.
White fish appeared in the rapids, which it is said they never do
while there is running ice.
11th. Stearn sums up the points requisite for remembrance by
posterity, in these four things--"Plant a tree, write a book, build
a house, and get a child." Watts has a deeper tone of morality when
"We should leave our names, our heirs.
Old time and waning moons
sweep all the rest away."
12th. When last at Washington, Dr. Thornton, of the Patent Office,
detained me some time talking of the powers of the letters of the
English alphabet. He drew a strong line of distinction between the
names and the sounds of the consonants. L, for instance,
called el, was sounded le, &c.
Philology is one of the keys of knowledge which, I think, admits of
its being said that, although it is rather rusty, the rust is,
however, a proof of its antiquity. I am inclined to think that more
true light is destined to be thrown on the history of the Indians by
a study of their languages than of their traditions, or any other
The tendency of modern inquiries into languages seems rather to have
been to multiply than to simplify. I do not believe we have more
than three mother stocks of languages in all the United States east
of the Mississippi, embracing also large portions of territory west
of it, namely, the Algonquin, Iroquois, and what may be called
Apallachian. Perhaps a little Dakota.
15th. Our first vessel for the season arrived this day. If by a
patient series of inquiries, during the winter, we had calculated
the appearance of a comet, and found our data verified by its actual
appearance, it could not be a subject of deeper interest than the
bringing ashore of the ship's mail. Had we not gone to so remote a
position, we could not possibly ever have become aware how deeply we
are indebted to the genius and discoveries of Cadmus and Faust,
whose true worshippers are the corps editorial. Now for a carnival
Reading, reading, reading, "Big and small, scraps and all."
If editors of newspapers knew the avidity with which their articles
are read by persons isolated as we are, I have the charity to
believe they would devote a little more time, and exert a little
more candor, in penning them. For, after all, how large a portion of
all that a newspaper contains is, at least to remote readers, "flat,
stale, and unprofitable." The mind soon reacts, and asks if this be
I observed the Erythronium dens canis, and Panax trifolium
appeared in flower on the 25th.
28th. The schooner "Recovery" arrived from Fort William on the
north shore of Lake Superior, bringing letters and despatches,
political and commercial. Mr. Siveright, the agent of the H. B. C.,
kindly sent over to me, for my perusal, a letter of intelligence
from an American gentleman in the North.
29th. I have, for some time, relinquished the expectation of being
selected to conduct the exploring party, intended to be ordered by
government, into the region of the St. Peter's, at least the present
season. A letter of this date terminates the uncertainty. "Major
Delafield," says a correspondent, "informs me that an exploring
party has been ordered under Major Long, to make the tour which was
intended for you. Why this arrangement has been made, and the
original plan abandoned, I cannot conjecture, unless it resulted
from the necessity of placing a military officer at the head of the
party. I presume this was the fact, for I am certain that the change
in the project did not arise from any feeling in Mr. C.'s mind
unfriendly, or even indifferent to you. Upon that subject I can
speak definitely, and say to you, that you have a hold upon his
esteem, not to be shaken." Thus falls another cherished hope,
namely, that of leading an expedition to the North.
30th. Minute particulars are often indicative of general changes.
This is the first day that the mosquito has appeared. The weather
for a few days has been warm. Vegetation suddenly put forth; the
wild cherry, &c., is now in bloom, and gardening has commenced with
31st. Odjibwa language.--There are two generic words in the
concrete forms of the Chippewa for water or a liquid, in addition to
the common term neebi. They are aubo and gomee. Both are
manifestly compounds, but, in our present state of knowledge, they
may be temporarily considered as elements of other compounds. Thus,
if the letter n be prefixed to the former, and the sound of
suffixed, the result is the term for soup, nabob. If to the
same element of aubo, the word for fire, iscoda, be
prefixed, the result is their name for ardent spirits, iscodawabo, literally
fire-water. In the latter case, the letter w is thrown in as a
coalescent between the sound of a, as a in hate; and the a, as
in fall. This is out of a mere regard to euphony.
"If they (the Chippewas) say 'A man loves me,' or 'I love a man,' is
there any variation in the word man?" They do not use the word
man in either of these instances. The adjective white
takes the animate pronoun form in iz zi, by which the object
beloved is indicated, waub-ishk-iz-ze Saugiau.
"Does the object precede or follow the verb?" Generally, it precedes
the verb. Fish, have you any? not, Have you any fish?
The substantive preceded the verb in the organization of the
language. Things were before the motion of things, or the acts or
passions of men which led to motion and emotion. Hence, all
substances are changed into and used as verbs.
I this day completed and transmitted the results of my philological
inquiries, hoping they might prove acceptable to the distinguished
individual to whom they were addressed, and help to advance the
subject. This subject is only laid aside by the call of business,
and to be effectual must be again resumed with the recurrence of our
long winter evenings.
3: Hon. R.W. Thompson.
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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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Years with the Indians