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Traditions of Chusco and Mukudapenais Respecting General Wayne's Treaty

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

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, &c.

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 tribes.

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 before.

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 further investigations.

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 season.

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 lake.

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 public fields.

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 follows:--

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 shall be.

Ki, Diau-ni--Ye are. Iah atta-win--They shall be.

Iau-wug--They are.

1: From Wauzhusko.

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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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