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Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

Query. What is the name of this tribe? what language do they speak? and what evidence is there that they are not Souriquois or Miemacks, who have been known to us since the first settlement of Acadia and Nova Scotia?

Indian compound words are very composite. Aco, in the names of places once occupied by Algonquin bands, means, a limit, or as far as, and is intended to designate the boundary or reach of woods and waters. Ac-ow means length of area. Accomac appears to mean, at the place of the trees, or, as far as the open lands extend to the woods: mac, in this word, may be either a derivative from acke, earth, or, more probably, auk, a generic participle for tree or trunk.

21st. The editor of the North American Review directs my attention to Delafield's Antiquities as the subject of a notice for his pages. Delafield appears to have undertaken a course of reading on Mexican antiquities. The result is given in this work, with his conjectures and speculations on the origin of the race. The cause of antiquarian knowledge is indebted to him for the first publication of the pictorial Aztec map of Butturini.

24th. Called on Mr. Ramsey Crooks, president of the American Fur Company, at his counting-house, in Ann street. He gave me an interesting sketch of his late tour from La Pointe, Lake Superior, to the Mississippi. The Chippewas were not paid at La Pointe till October. This made him late at the country. The St. Croix River froze before he reached the Mississippi, and he went down the latter, from St. Peter's, in a sleigh. Bonga had been sent to notify the Milles Lacs, Sandy Lake, and Leoch Lake Indians to come to the payments. When he reached Leech Lake, Guelle Plat had gone, with twenty-four canoes, to open a trade with the Hudson's Bay Factor, at Rainy Lake. Mr. Crooks thinks that the dissatisfaction among these bands can be readily allayed by judicious measures. Thinks the Governor of Wisconsin ought to call the chiefs together at some central point within the country, and make explanations. That the payments, in future, should be made at one place, and not divided. That the Leech Lake, and other bands living without the ceded district, ought not to participate in the annuities.

Mr. Crook's manner is always prompt and cordial. He concentrates, in his reminiscences, the history of the fur trade in America for the last forty years. I have always thought it a subject of regret, that such a man should not have kept a journal. There was much, it is true, that could not be put down, and he was always so exclusively an active business man that mere literary memoranda never attracted his attention; they were not adverse to his tastes. He has nearly, I should judge, recovered from the severe hardships and privations which attended his perilous journey across the Rocky Mountains, on the abandonment of Astoria, on the Pacific, in 1812.

29th. Texas and Florida continue to be the rallying points of Indian warfare. The frontier of Texas is harassed by wandering parties of Indians. A Mr. Morgan, who resided near the falls of Brazos, had been killed, and three women carried off by a band of fifteen savages. A company of rangers was sent in pursuit.

The Florida War still lingers, without decisive results. The New Orleans Bee says that General Taylor has been very active, the past season, in trying to bring it to a close. A writer from Tampa Bay, of the 25th instant, who appears to have good knowledge of matters, states three causes, particularly as opposing a successful prosecution and consummation of it, namely:--

"1st. An ignorance of the topography of Florida--the position of the numerous swamps and hummocks, the usual hiding-places of the Indians.

"2d. A want of proper interpreters.

"3d. A countervailing influence from some unknown quarter."

He supports his view as follows: "It is a well known fact that, previous to the year 1836, the portion of Florida south of the Military Road from Tampa to Garey's Ferry was unexplored and unknown, and since that time the only information has been derived from the hasty reconnoissances of officers, made in the progress of the several divisions of the army through the country. Since the organization of the Corps of Topographical Engineers, several have been sent to this country, and are now actively engaged in making surveys and plotting maps. Could the information they are expected to give have been known even before the commencement of the last campaign, it would have aided materially in the subjugation of the enemy. A correct knowledge of this country is needed more especially because such another theatre of war probably has not a place on the earth; a theatre so peculiarly favorable to the Indians and disadvantageous to the white man. Swamps may be delineated as well perhaps as any other natural object; but such swamps as are found in Florida, are not to be imitated in painting or described by words. As an instance, I may mention the Halpataokee or Alligator Water, which is made up of small islands, surrounded by water of various depths, through which for two miles the road of the army passed during the winter of 1838."

"2d. The only Interpreters are Seminole negroes, who, for the most part, find it difficult to understand English. As an instance of the numerous mistakes occurring daily, may be mentioned the following: The General told the interpreter to say to Nettetok Emathla, that 'patience and perseverance would accomplish everything.' While he was speaking to the Indian, the remark was made that he did not know the meaning of the sentence. When questioned the following day, he said 'patience and 'suverance mean a little book,' Our laughter convinced him he was mistaken, and he said 'patience mean you must be patien; I don't zackly know what 'suverance do mean, sar!' Numerous errors of this nature are doubtless occurring daily, and among a people who are so scrupulously nice and formal in their 'talks,' such trifling mistakes may be injurious.

"3d. We are now to speak of the most important difficulty in the way of termination of hostilities, and the removal of the Seminoles to their new homes beyond the 'Muddy Water.' That the Indians are and have been supplied by whites, Americans or Spaniards, is a point so decisively settled that 'no hinge is left whereon to hang a doubt.' However shameless it may appear, proofs are not wanting to establish the fact, so much to the discredit of our patriotism. When Coacoochee escaped from St. Augustine he carried with him bolts of calico and factory cloths, which he afterwards sold to the Indians in the woods for three chalks (six shillings) per yard. It was reported to Colonel Taylor, then at Fort Bassinger, by an Indian woman, who ran away from Coacoochee's camp, that he had one poney packed solely with powder; that he had plenty of lead, provisions, etc., and was determined never to come in or go to Arkansas. On several occasions when Indians have been killed or taken, or their camps surprised, new calico, fresh tobacco, bank bills, and other articles of a civilized character, have been found in their possession. Besides, this, the Indians are constantly reporting in their talks that some persons on the other side of the territory prevent the hostiles from complying with the treaty. Ethlo Emathla, Governor of the Tallahassees, promised the general to be in with his people on a specified day. It is reduced almost to a certainty that he has been prevented from doing so by the representations of some person or persons in a quarter, the name of which charity alone forbids to mention. The only object is, and for a long time has been, to keep entirely out of the way, to hide themselves from the whites, and every effort to bring them to battle, either by sending small or large parties among them, has proved useless. They will not fight, and thirty thousand men cannot find them, broken up as they are into small parties. What then is to be done? Protect the inhabitants of the frontiers, gradually push the Indians south, and at no distant day, the necessary, unavoidable and melancholy consummation must arrive, viz., the expulsion of the last tribe of red men from the soil over which they once roamed the sole lords and possessors."

30th. The oldest man in the Ottawa nation, a chief called Nish-caud-jin-in-a, or the Man of Wrath, died this day at L'Arbre Croche, Michigan. He was between ninety and one hundred years of age, withered and dry, and slightly bent, but still preserving the outlines of a man of strength, good figure, and intellect. What a mass of reminiscences and elements of history dies with every old person of observation, white or red.

Feb. 4th. Mr. James H. Lanman writes respecting the prospects of his publishing a history of Michigan--a subject which I gave him every encouragement to go forward in, while he lived in that State. The theme is an ambitious one, involving as it does the French era of settlements, and the day for handling it effectively has not yet arrived. But the sketches that may be made from easily-got, existing materials, may subserve a useful purpose, with the hope always that some new fact may be elicited, which will add to the mass of materials. "I have been delayed here," he says, "in preparing the book, and the delay has been occasioned by my publishers having failed. It is now, however, stereotyped, and will be out in about a fortnight2."

21st. Mr. Bancroft writes to me, giving every encouragement to bring forward before the public my collections and researches on Indian history and language, and expressing his opinion of success, unless I should be "cursed with a bad publisher."

"Father Duponceau," he says, "won his prize out of your books, and Gallatin owes much to you. Go on; persevere; build a monument to yourself and the unhappy Algonquin race."

Making every allowance for Mr. Bancroft's enthusiastic way of speaking, it yet appears to me that I should endeavor to publish the results of investigations of Indian subjects. My connection with the Johnston family has thrown open to me the whole arcanum of the Indian's thoughts.

I wrote an article for Dr. Absalom Peter's Magazine, expressing my dissent from the very fanciful explanations of the Dighton Rock characters, as given by Mr. Magrusen in the first volume of the Royal Society of Northern Antiquarians, published at Copenhagen. It appears to me that those characters (throwing out two or three) are the Indian Kekewin--a species of hieroglyphics or symbolic devices, still in vogue among them. To this view of the matter Mr. Bancroft assents. "If you have a proof-sheet of your article on the Daneschrift, send it me. All they say about the Dighton Rock is, I think, the sublime of humbuggery."

What is said in the interpreted Sagas, of the Skroellings or Esquimaux being in New England at the date of Eric's voyage (A. D. 1001) is, I think, problematical. Those tribes are not known to have extended further south than the Straits of Belleisle, about 60 deg., or to parts of Newfoundland. The term deduced from the old journals appear to belong to the Esquimaux proper, rather than to the New England class of the Algonquins. The Esquimaux had the free use of the sound of the letter l, which was not used at all by the N.E. Indians.

Mr. Gallatin, in a letter of Feb. 22, in response to me on this subject, says: "The letter L occurs in every Esquimaux dialect of which I have any knowledge. Thus heaven or sky, is in Greenland, Killak; Hudson's Bay, Keiluk; Kadick Islands, Kelisk; Kotzebue's Sound, Keilyak; Asiatic Tshuktchi, Kuelok.

"I am not so certain about the v, which I find used only by Egede, or Crantz (not distinguished from each other in my collection) for the Greenland dialect. In their conjurations I find 'we (sing. and dual) wash them' Ernikp-auvut, and Ernikp-auvuk. In the Mithradites, the same letter v is repeatedly used in dual examples of the Greenland and Labrador dialects, principally (as it appears to me) but not exclusively in the pronominal terminations, picksaukonik, akeetvor, tivut, Profetiv-vit! that is, good ours, debtors ours, a prophet art thou.

"By comparing this with the pronouns of the other Esquimaux dialects, I suspect that oo and w in these, are used instead of v. But the difference may arise from that in the mother tongue, or in the delicacy of the ear, of those who have supplied us with other verbal and pronominal forms or vocabularies."

22d, The Indian names may be studied analytically.

Ches (pronounced by the Algonquin Indians Chees), signifies a plant of the turnip family. Beeg is the plural, and denotes water existing in large bodies, such as accumulations in the form of lakes and seas. If these two roots be connected by the usual sound in Algonquin words, thus Ches-a-beeg, a sound much resembling Chesapeake would be produced. The Nanticokes, who inhabited this bay on its discovery, were of the Algonquin stock.

Potomac appears to be a clipped expression, derived, I believe, from Po-to-wau-me-ac. Po-to-wau, as we have it, in Potawattomie, means to make a fire in a place where fires, such as council fires, are usually made. The ac in the word is apparently from ak or wak, a standing tree. The whole appears descriptive of a burning tree, or a burning forest.

Megiddo in the Algonquin means he barks, or a barker. Hence me-giz-ze, an eagle or the bird that barks.

2: He afterwards re-cast the work, and it was published by the Harpers as one of the volumes of their library.

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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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