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Rhode Island Historical Society

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians
 

Sentiments of loyalty--Northern Antiquarian Society--Indian statistics--Rhode Island Historical Society--Gen. Macomb--Lines in the Odjibwa language by a mother on placing her children at school--Mehemet Ali--Mrs. Jameson's opinion on publishers and publishing--Her opinion of my Indian legends--False report of a new Indian language--Indian compound words--Delafield's Antiquities--American Fur Company--State of Indian disturbances in Texas and Florida--Causes of the failure of the war in Florida, by an officer--Death of an Indian chief--Mr. Bancroft's opinion on the Dighton Rock inscription--Skroellings not in New England--Mr. Gallatin's opinion on points of Esquimaux language, connected with our knowledge of our archaeology.


1839. Jan. 1st. I called, amid the throng, on the President. His manners were bland and conciliatory. These visits, on set days, are not without the sentiment of strong personality in many of the visitors, but what gives them their most significant character is the general loyalty they evince to the constitution, and government, and supreme law of the land. The President is regarded, for the time, as the embodiment of this sentiment, and the tacit fealty paid to him, as the supreme law officer, is far more elevating to the self-balanced and independent mind than if he were a monarch ad libitum, and not for four years merely.

2d. I received a notice of my election as a member of the Royal Northern Antiquarian Society of Copenhagen, of which fact I had been previously notified by that Society. This Society shows us how the art of engraving may be brought in as an auxiliary to antiquarian letters; but it certainly undervalues American sagacity if it conjectures that such researches and speculations as those of Mr. Magnusen, on the Dighton Rock, and what it is fashionable now-a-days to call the NEWPORT RUIN, can satisfy the purposes of a sound investigation of the Anti-Columbian period of American history.

There was a perfect jam this evening at Blair's. What sort of a compliment is it to be one of five or six hundred people, not half of whom can be squeezed into a small house, and not one of whom can pretend to taste a morsel without the danger of having server and all jammed down his throat.

3d. The mail hunts up everybody. Go where you will, and particularly to the seat of government, and letters will follow you. Whoever is in the service of government bears a part of the functions of it, though it be but an infinitesimal part. Mr. H. Conner, the Saginaw sub-agent, in a letter of this date, reports the Saginaws at one thousand four hundred and forty-three souls, and the Swan Creek and Black River Chippewas at one hundred and ninety-eight. One of the most singular facts in the statistics of the most of the frontier Indian tribes of the Lakes, is, in the long run, that they neither increase nor decline, but just keep up a sort of dying existence.

4th. Dr. Thomas H. Webb, Secretary of the Rhode Island Historical Society, announces the plan of that Society in publishing a series of works illustrating, in the first place, the history and language of the Indians, and soliciting me to become a contributor of original observations. The difficulty in all true efforts of our literary history is the want of means. A man must devote all his leisure in researches, and then finds that there is no way in which these labors can be made to aid in supplying him the means of subsistence. He must throw away his time, and yet buy his bread. There is no real taste for letters in a people who will not pay for them. It is too early in our history, perhaps, to patronize them as a general thing. Making and inventing new ploughs will pay, but not books.

9th. The Secretary of War confirms my leave of absence, to visit Europe, and extends it beyond the contingencies of a re-appointment, on the 4th of March next.

10th. Attended a general and crowded party at Gen. Macomb's, in the evening, with Mrs. Schoolcraft. The General has always appeared to me a perfect amateur in military science, although he has distinguished himself in the field. He is a most polished and easy man in all positions in society, and there is an air and manner by which he constantly reveals his French blood. He has a keen perception of the ridiculous, and a nice appreciation of the mock gravity of the heroic in character, and related to me a very effective scene of this latter kind, which occurred at Mr. John Johnston's, at St. Mary's Falls, on the close of the late war. He had visited that place in perhaps 1815 or 1816, as military commander of the District of Michigan, in the suite of Major-Gen. Brown. They were guests of Mr. Johnston. In going up the river to see Gros Cape, at the foot of Lake Superior, the American party had been fired upon by the Chippewas, who were yet hostile in feeling. When the party returned to the house of Mr. Johnston, their host, the latter drew himself up in the spirit of the border times of Waverley, and, with the air and accent of a chief of those days--which, by the way, was not altogether unnatural to him--manifested the high gentlemanly indignation of a host whose hospitality had been violated. He exclaimed to his eldest son, "Let our followers be ready to repel this gross affront." The General's eye danced in telling it. The thing of the firing had been done--nobody was hurt--nobody was in fact in hostile array; and far less was the party itself alarmed. It had been some crack-brained Indian, I believe Sassaba, who yet smarted at the remembrance of the death of his brother, who was killed with Tecumseh in the Battle of the Thames.

11th. Left Washington, with my family, in the cars for Baltimore, where we lodged; reached Philadelphia the next day, at four P.M.; remained the 13th and 14th, and reached New York on the 16th, at 4 o'clock P.M.

14th. Mrs. Schoolcraft, having left her children at school, at Philadelphia and Princeton, remained pensive, and wrote the following lines in the Indian tongue, on parting from them, which. I thought so just that I made a translation of them.

            Nyau nin de nain dum
            May kow e yaun in
            Ain dah nuk ki yaun
            Waus sa wa kom eg
            Ain dah nuk ki yaun

            Ne dau nig ainse e
            Ne gwis is ainse e
            Ishe nau gun ug wau
            Waus sa wa kom eg

            She gwau go sha ween
            Ba sho waud e we
            Nin zhe ka we yea
            Ishe ez hau jau yaun
            Ain dah nuk ke yaun

            Ain dah nuk ke yaun
            Nin zhe ke we yea
            Ishe ke way aun e
            Nyau ne gush kain dum

            [FREE TRANSLATION.]

            Ah! when thought reverts to my country so dear,
            My heart fills with pleasure, and throbs with a fear:
            My country, my country, my own native land,
            So lovely in aspect, in features so grand,
            Far, far in the West. What are cities to me,
            Oh! land of my mother, compared unto thee?

            Fair land of the lakes! thou are blest to my sight,
            With thy beaming bright waters, and landscapes of light;
            The breeze and the murmur, the dash and the roar,
            That summer and autumn cast over the shore,
            They spring to my thoughts, like the lullaby tongue,
            That soothed me to slumber when youthful and young.

            One feeling more strongly still binds me to thee,
            There roved my forefathers, in liberty free--
            There shook they the war lance, and sported the plume,
            Ere Europe had cast o'er this country a gloom;
            Nor thought they that kingdoms more happy could be,
            White lords of a land so resplendent and free.

            Yet it is not alone that my country is fair,
            And my home and my friends are inviting me there;
            While they beckon me onward, my heart is still here,
            With my sweet lovely daughter, and bonny boy dear:
            And oh! what's the joy that a home can impart,
            Removed from the dear ones who cling to my heart.

            It is learning that calls them; but tell me, can schools
            Repay for my love, or give nature new rules?
            They may teach them the lore of the wit and the sage,
            To be grave in their youth, and be gay in their age;
            But ah! my poor heart, what are schools to thy view,
            While severed from children thou lovest so true!

            I return to my country, I haste on my way,
            For duty commands me, and duty must sway;
            Yet I leave the bright land where my little ones dwell,
            With a sober regret, and a bitter farewell;
            For there I must leave the dear jewels I love,
            The dearest of gifts from my Master above.

            NEW YORK, March 18th, 1839.

17th. Went, in the evening, to hear Mr. Stephens, the celebrated traveler, lecture before the Historical Society, at the Stuyvesant Institute, on Mehemet Ali. Public opinion places lecturers sometimes in a false position. An attempt was here made to make out Mehemet Ali a great personage, exercising much influence in his times. An old despotic rajah in a tea-pot! Who looks to him for exaltation of sentiment, liberality and enlargement of views, or as an exemplar of political truth? Mr. Stephens, however, knew the feeling and expectation of his audience, and drew a picture, which was eloquently done, and well received. This popular mode of lecturing is certainly better than the run-a-muck amusements of the day. But it panders to an excited intellectual appetite, and is anything but philosophical, historical, or strictly just.

18th. I received instructions from Washington, to form a treaty with the Saginaws, for the cession of a tract of ground on which to build a light-house on Saginaw Bay.

The next letter I opened was from Mrs. Jameson, of London, who writes that her plan of publication is, to divide the profits with her publishers, and, as these are honest men and gentlemen, she has found that the best way. She advises me to adopt the same course with respect to my Indian legends1.

"I published," she says, "in my little journal, one or two legends which Mrs. Schoolcraft gave me, and they have excited very general interest. The more exactly you can (in translation) adhere to the style of the language of the Indian nations, instead of emulating a fine or correct English style--the more characteristic in all respects--the more original--the more interesting your work will be."

21st. I read the following article in the New York Herald:--

NEW INDIAN TRIBE.--Dr. Jackson, in his report of the geology of the public lands, states that at the mouth of the Tobique there is an Indian settlement, where a large tribe of Indians reside, and gain a livelihood by trapping the otter and beaver. These Indians are quite distinct from the Penobscot tribe, and speak a peculiar language.


1: I followed this advice, but fell into the hands of the Philistines.


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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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