Anniversary of the Algic Society--Traditions of Chusco and
Mukudapenais respecting Gen. Wayne's treaty--Saliferous column in
American geology--Fact in lake commerce--Traditions of Mrs. Dousman
and Mr. Abbott respecting the first occupation of the Island of
Michilimackinack--Question of the substantive verb in the Chippewa
language--Meteoric phenomena during the month of
December--Historical fact--Minor incidents.
1833. Oct. 12th. Business called me to Detroit, where I
had a work in the press, early in October. The Algic Society held
its first anniversary this day, in the Session Room of the
Presbyterian Church. The Secretary read a report of its proceedings,
and submitted a body of the vital statistics of the tribes of the
Upper Lakes, which elicited an animated discussion. Mr. Lathrop
called attention to the singular fact, that of the mothers reported
in the tables, the rate of reproduction in the hunter tribes did not
exceed an average of over two children per female. Mr. Sheldon
thought the causes of their depopulation, since we have been their
neighbors, were rather seated in their extraordinary attachment to
the use of ardent spirits, than in the effects of wars, internal or
external. Mr. Clark believed the Indian youth were capable of being
brought under the power of moral and religious instruction. Mr.
Schoolcraft depicted the adverse circumstances under which the
masses had heretofore labored, in coming under plans of instruction
and Christianity, owing to their poverty; their dispersion over
large areas of country for large parts of the year; the
impracticability of their finding subsistence in large bodies at one
place; and the deleterious influence of the commerce in furs and
peltries, on their moral and mental character. He submitted a report
of the proceedings of the St. Mary's committee, showing, in detail,
operations within the year. With the limited sum of $151 10, they
had been able to furnish elder John Sunday an outfit for Keweena Bay
in Lake Superior, and given two other native converts, namely, John
Otanchey and John Cabeach, the means of pursuing their labors
amongst the Chippewas during the winter of 1833. They had sent an
express, during the month of February, to the mission of the
American Board at La Pointe, in Lake Superior. Their minutes of
monthly meetings denoted that a valuable body of information had
been collected, respecting the population and statistics of the
Chippewa nation, and the grammatical structure of their language,
The occasion being coincident with the meeting of the Synod of the
Western Reserve, at Detroit, many gentlemen of learning,
benevolence, and piety, were brought together, and a high degree of
interest excited respecting the condition and prospects of the
In accordance with a resolution passed the year previous, I recited
a poetic address on the character of the race, which was received
with approbation, and directed to be printed. This had been, in
fact, sketched in a time of leisure in the wilderness some years
I returned to Mackinack near the close of October, when I resumed my
traditionary inquiries. It was sought, as a mere matter of
tradition, to obtain from the Indians a recognition of the cession
of this island, &c. made by them to the United States through the
instrumentality of Gen. Wayne, at Greenville, in Ohio, in 1793.
Chusco1 (muskrat), the old prophet or jossakeed of the Ottawa
nation, had told me of his presence at Greenville, at the treaty,
while a young man, al1with others of his tribe. He was a man who
would attract attention, naturally, from the peculiarities of his
person and character. He had been a man of small stature, not over
five feet four inches, when young, and of very light make. But he
was now bent by age, and walked with a staff. His hazel eyes still
sparkled in a head of no striking development, and with a
peculiarity of expression of his lips, gave him a striking
expression of placidity in cunning. Hence his name, which was given
by the Indians from some fancied resemblance to this animal, when
jutting its head above water. He had, for forty years, made
jeesuckawin (prophecying) for his people, when he was converted
to Christianity at the Mackinack Mission. He gave up at once his
Indian rites, but retained, to a great degree, his characteristic
expression. Some one had given him an old blue broadcloth coat with
yellow metal buttons, which he matched with dark-colored trousers, a
vest, hat, and moccasins. I always received him with marked
attention, and often sent him to the kitchen for a meal, where,
indeed, the Indians had their claims ever allowed by Mrs. S.
27th. Muekudapenais, or Blackbird, an Ottawa, chief of
L'Arbre Croche, visited the office. I directed his attention to the
tradition mentioned by Chusco, respecting Wayne's treaty, and the
inclusion of Michilimackinack in the cessions. He confirmed this
tradition. He said that his uncle, Ish-ke-bug-ish-kum, gave the
island, and that when he returned he denied that he had given it,
but the British took away his medal in consequence. He said that
three men of the party, who attended this treaty, were still living.
They were Op-wagun, Che-mo-ke-maun, and Chusco. He thinks the land
taken by the late surveys of Mr. Ellis, at Point St. Ignace, was not
given, but admits that the cession embraced the area around old
Mackinack, and the island of Boisblanc. The Indians called Gen.
Wayne Che Noden, the Strong Wind.
30th. The series of deposits, which embrace fossil salt, or
produce strong brine water, in the geological column of the rocks of
the United States, constitute a deeply important subject in science,
and public economy. Mr. James R. Rees, of Clyde, Ontario County,
N.Y., sends me the result of borings, made at that place, to the
depth of 376 feet, with samples of the rock, which appear to denote,
if I have rightly judged the geological data, a roof and floor,
to the saliferous formation. And the result gives a stimulant to
9th. Commerce is rapidly invading the wilderness. Wheat in
bulk, and flour in bags and barrels, were brought down from St.
Joseph's, through the straits of Michigan, this fall; which is the
first instance of the kind, but one, in the commercial history of
the country. Beef and wheat were brought from the same post last
Nov. 13th. A remarkable display of the aurora borealis was
observed last night. The Indians, who call this phenomenon Jebiug
nemeiddewaud, or dancing spirits, describe it as radiating
balls, streams of fire or falling stars from the zenith into the
Mr. Wm. Johnston, who was at Leech Lake, on the sources of the
Mississippi, describes the changing phenomena as wonderful. "The
weather," he says (13th Nov.), "is still very pleasant, with very
little frost at night. About two or three o'clock in the morning one
of the men came and awoke me. 'Come and see a strange sight,' he
said. We went to the door, where we saw, every now and then, stars
shooting or falling. The centre from whence they first appeared to
the eye was, to us, nearly in a direct line above our heads--from
whence they went in all directions, to all points of the compass.
Most all our village people were looking at them with fearful
astonishment, and they were making their remarks as their feelings
caused them. We went in the house, and each smoked his pipe, and we
could not say much about the cause of what we had seen, but only
expressed our astonishment to each other.
"Before going to bed, we thought we would take another look at the
heavens. What a sight it was! The whole heaven appeared to be lit
with the falling stars, and we could now more plainly see, as it
were, the centre from whence they would shoot. The night was calm,
the air clear; nothing to disturb the stillness, but the hushed
breathings of the men. The stars were accompanied with a rustling
noise, and, though they appeared to fall as fast and as thick as
hail, above them, now and then, we could see some of the fixed
stars, shining as bright as ever. But these (falling stars) appeared
to be far below them. I can compare it to nothing more comprehensive
than a hail storm. The sight was grand beyond description. Yet I
must confess that my feelings were awed into a perfect silence. We
stood and gazed, till we saw the bright streaks of day appearing,
and the stars began gradually to be less in number, till the light
of the sun caused them to disappear."
28th. I resumed the old traditions. Mrs. Michael Dousman
observes that her father (McDonnel) came to the island, with the
troops, in 1782. That the government house, so called, was then
built, and a few other buildings, but nothing as yet had been done
towards the present fort on the cliff. Gov. Sinclair, so called, was
then in command. He was relieved that year by Captain Robinson.
She thinks the removal from old Mackinack must have taken place
about 1778 or 1779, under Sinclair. The inhabitants transferred
their residences gradually, bringing over the sashes and doors of
their old houses and setting them up here.
After the massacre, the troops remained some time. The Indians had
not burned the fort.
Says that Wawetum, the Indian chief, became blind, and was burned,
accidentally, in his lodge at the point (Ottawa Point). I had been
inquiring about Henry's account of him.
The Indians at Mackinack, she says, opposed its occupancy. Things
came to such a height in 1782 that Gov. Sinclair sent to Detroit for
cannon. It was a remarkable fact that the brig Dunmore, sent down on
this occasion, was absent from the island but eight day,
during which she went to and returned from Detroit, bringing the
expected supply. She entered Mackinack harbor on the eighth day, on
the same hour she had left it, and fired a salute.
Mrs. Dousman says that charges had been preferred against Gov.
Sinclair (the term constantly used by the old inhabitants) for
extravagance. He had, as an example, paid at the rate of a dollar
per stump for clearing a cedar swamp, which is now part of the
Respecting the massacre in 1763, she says that Mr. Solomons and a
Mr. Clark, the latter long resident with Mr. Abbot, were present.
30th. Mr. Abbot (Sam.) says he arrived at Mackinack in 1803.
The government-house was then occupied by Col. Hunt. A man named
Clark, who had formerly lived with him, was a boy in the employ of
Solomons at the massacre of old Mackinack. He crept up a chimney,
where he remained a day or two, and was thus saved. Solomons hid
himself under a heap of corn, and was thus saved.
Mr. Abbot does not know, with certainty, the date of the transfer of
the post, but says the papers of all the notaries, including all
grants of commanding officers, are in a trunk at Mr. Dousman's.
Thinks these, by showing the date of the earliest grants, will
decide the question.
Dec. 1st. Finished an article for the Literary and
Theological Review, on the influence of the native priests, or
metais, and the adaptation of the general principles of Christianity
to the North American Indians. Some of the phenomena of the Chippewa
language are of deep interest. The substantive verb to be,
deemed by many philologists to be wanting in the Indian language of
this continent, is perceived to be freely used by Mr. Peter Jones in
the translation of John, as in c. i. 1, 6, 15, &c. The existence of
this verb in the northern dialects may be adverted to as affording
the probable root of many active verbs. It is a subject eliciting
discussion, as bearing on a point early stated by theologians, viz.,
the origin of the tribes. The verb iau, spelled "ahyah" in
the verses referred to, with the particle, for past tense, "ke,"
prefixed, and "bun" suffixed, appears to be restricted in its use to
objects possessed of vitality, but cannot, it seems, be
applied to mere passion or feeling. These, by a
peculiarity of the grammar, are referred to as subordinate parts, or
increments inanimate of the organization, i. e., as things
without flesh and blood, and not as units or whole bodies. The
native speaker does not, therefore, say I am glad, I am
sorry, &c., but merely I glad, I sorry, &c. This has, probably, led
philologists to observe that the verb declarative of existence, was
wanting, and discouraged them in the search of it. But is it so?
When it becomes necessary for the Indian to describe the abstract
truth of existence--as that God is--the appropriate
pronominal form of the verb iau or I-e-au is used, and
apparently with great force and propriety. It is a rule of this
grammar, not to apply it to emotions. When nouns inanimate proper
are used, or objects of a non-vital character, the corresponding
verb is atta. The present tense, indicative of these two
parallel verbs, for material and for god-like existence, are as
Iau (animate) To be. Atta (inanimate)--To be.
Nin, Diau--I am, or my spirit is. Atta--It is.
Ki, Diau--Thou art, &c. Atta-aun--They are.
Iau--He (or she) is. Atta-bun--it was.
Nin, Diau-min (ex.)--We (excluding you) are.
Atta-aubun--They have been.
Ki, Diau-min (in.)--We (including you) are. Iah atta--It
Ki, Diau-ni--Ye are. Iah atta-win--They shall be.
1: From Wauzhusko.
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Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the
Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851
Years with the Indians |