Native American Nations
                   Your Source for Indian Research
                   Rolls ~ History ~ Treaties ~ Census ~ Books

Workings of Unshackled Mind

Native American Nations | Thirty Years with the Indians

20th. Went to dine with Charles Fenno Hoffman, at his lodgings in Houston Street. Found his room garnished with curiosities of various sorts, indicative, among other things, of his interest in the Indian race. A poet in his garret I had long heard of, but a liberal gentlemanly fellow, surrounded by all the elegances of life, I had not thought of as the domicil of the Muses. Mr. Hoffman impressed me as being very English in his appearance and manners. His forehead is quite Byronic in its craniological developments. His eye and countenance are of the most commanding character. Pity that such a handsome man, so active in everything that calls for the gun, the rod, the boat, the horse, the dog, should have been shorn of so essential a prerequisite as a leg. His conversational powers are quite extraordinary. I felt constantly as if I were in the presence of a lover of nature and natural things; a bon vivant perhaps, or an epicure, a Tom Moore, in some sense, whose day-dreams of heaven are mixed up with glowing images of women and wine.

27th. I was directed from Washington to relieve the principal disbursing officer at Detroit. Here then my hopes of visiting Europe are blown sky high for the present. I must return to the north, and, so far as labor is concerned, "heap Pelion on Ossa."

April 6th. There is hardly a word in the Indian languages which does not readily yield to the power of analysis. They call tobacco, Ussama. Ussa, means to put (anything inanimate). Ma, is a particle denoting smell. The us, in the first syllable, is sounded very slight, and often, perhaps, nearly dropt, and the word then seems as if spelt Sa ma. The last vowel is broad.

8th. Left the city for Detroit. In ascending the Hudson, with so good an interpreter at my side as Mrs. Schoolcraft, whom I have carried through a perfect course of philological training in the English, Latin, and Hebrew principles of formation, I analyzed many of the old Indian names, which, until we reached Albany, are all in a peculiar dialect of the Algonquin.

SING SING.--This name is the local form of the name for rocks, and conveys the idea of the plural in the terminal letter. Os-sin in modern Algonquin (the Chippewa dialect), is stone, or rock. Ing, is the local form of all nouns proper. The term may be rendered simply place of rocks.

NYAC.--This appears to be the name of a band of Indians who lived there. The termination in ac, is generally from acke, land.

CROTON.--Historically, this is known to have been the name of a noted Indian chief, who resided near the mouth of the river. The word appears to be derived from noetin, a wind. If we admit the interchange of sounds of n for r, as being made, and the ordinary change of t for d, between the Holland and Indian races, this derivation is probable. The letter c seems to be the sign of a pronoun.

TAPPAN SEA.--It is perceived from Vanderdonk, and from old maps and records, that a band of Indians lived here, who were called the "Tappansees."

POUGHKEEPSIE is a derivative of Au-po-keep-sing, i.e., Place of shelter. The entrance of the Fall Kill into the Hudson is the feature meant.

COXACKIE, is evidently made up in the original from kuk, to cut, and aukie, earth, which was, probably, in old days, as it is in fact yet, a graphic description of a ridge cut and tumbled in by the waters of the Hudson pressing hard on that shore.

CLAVERACK is not Indian. Clove, in the Hollandais, is an opening or side-gorge in the valley. Rack, is a reach or bend in the river, the whole length of which was known, as we see, to the old skippers as separate racks. The reach of cloves began at what is now the city of Hudson, the old Claverack landing.

TAWASENTHA.--Normanskill is the first Iroquois name noticed. It means the hill of the dead. Albany itself has taken the name of a Scottish dukedom for its ancient Iroquois cognomen, Ske-nek-ta-dea: of this compound term, Ske is a propositional particle, and means beyond; nek is the Mohawk name for a pine; and the term ta-dea is descriptive of a valley.

18th. Reached Detroit in the steamer "Gen. Wayne," and assumed the duties of my new appointment. One of the earliest Washington papers I opened, gave an account of the death of Mr. William Ward, a most valuable clerk in the Indian Bureau; a man of a fine literary taste, who formerly edited and established the North-west Journal, at the City of Detroit.

19th. A singular denouement is made this morning, which appeals strongly to my feelings. On getting in the stage at Vernon, in Western New York, a gentleman of easy manners, good figure, and polite address, whom we will call Theodoric, kindly made way for me and my family, which led us to notice him, and we traveled together quite to Detroit, and put up at the same hotel. This morning a note from him reveals him to be a young Virginian, seeking his fortune west, and out of funds, and makes precisely such an appeal as it is hard, and wrong in fact, to resist. I told Theodoric to take his trunk and go, by the next steamer, to my house at Mackinack, and I should be up in a short time, and furnish him employment in the Indian department.

25th. Rev. Mr. Lukenbach, of the Moravian towns, Canada, writes, that the proportional annuity of the Christian Indians, for 1838, is unpaid. He says they were paid 33/100ths, in 1837, being one-third of the original annuity. He states that Mr. Vogler and Mr. Mickeh arrived on the Kanzas with upwards of seventy souls, having left nearly one hundred at Green Bay, who are to follow them; and that these two men have commenced a new mission among the Delawares. Mr. L. says that there are but about one hundred and twenty souls left, who propose to remain in Canada with him.

30th. Ke-bic! An exclamation of the Algonquins in passing dangerous rocky shores in their canoes, when the current is strong. Query. Is not this the origin of the name Quebec?

May 2d. Major Garland, my predecessor in the disbursements, writes from Washington: "You have a heavy task on your hands for this season; and, in addition to the hands of Briareus, you will need the eyes of Argus."

3d. I made the payments to the Saginaw chiefs in specie, under the treaty of the 14th of January, 1837.

10th. Mr. F.W. Shearman, the able and ingenious editor of the Journal of Education, writes from Marshall, that it receives an increased circulation and excites a deeper interest in the people, with his plans for further improvements.

16th. Letters from Mackinack informs me that the Ottawas design leaving their location in the United States for the Manitouline Islands, in Canada, where inducements are held out to them by agents of the British government. They fear going west: they cling to the north.

20th. The Harpers, publishers at New York, send me copies of the first issue of my Algic Researches, in two vols., 12mo. They intend to publish the work on the 1st proximo.

23d. Letters from Washington speak of the treasury as being low in specie funds.

24th. Sales of the lands of the Swan Creek and Black River Chippewas, are made at the Land Office in Detroit, in conformity with the treaty of May 9th, 1836. The three years that have elapsed in this operation, have brought the prices of lands from the summer heat to the zero of prices.

27th. Na, in the Algonquin language, means excellent or transcendent, and wa, motion. Thus the names of two chiefs who visited me to day on business, are Na-geezhig, excellent or transcendent day, and Ke-wa-geezhig, or returning cloud. Whether the word geezhig shall be rendered day, or cloud, or sky, depends on the nature of its prefix. To move back is ke-wa, and hence the prefixed term to the latter name.

June 4th. Received from Col. De Garme Jones, Mayor of Detroit, sundry manuscript documents relative to the administration of Indian affairs of Gov. Hull, of the dates of 1807, '8 and '9.

Mr. Johnstone, of Aloor, near Edinburgh, Scotland, brings me a note of introduction from Gen. James Talmadge, of New York. Mr. J. is a highly respected man at home, and is traveling in America to gratify a laudable curiosity.

7th. Reached Mackinack, on board the steamer Great Western, Capt. Walker.

10th. The Albany Evening Journal has a short editorial under the head of Algic Researches: "Such is the title of a work from our countryman Schoolcraft, which the Harpers have just published, in two volumes. It consists of Tales and Legends, which the Author has gleaned in the course of his long and familiar intercourse with the children of the Forest, illustrating the mental powers and characteristics of the North American Indians.

"Mr. Schoolcraft has traveled far into the western wilds. He has lived much with the Indians, and has studied their character thoroughly. He is withal a scholar and a gentleman, whose name is a sufficient guarantee for the excellence of all he writes."

11th. I set out to complete the appraisement of the Indian improvements on the north shore of Lake Huron, under the 8th article of the treaty of March 28th, 1836.

12th. Paid the Indians of L'Arbre Croche villages at Little Traverse Bay, the amount of the appraisement of their public improvements, made under the treaty of 1836.

13th. Proceed to Grand Traverse Bay, to view the location of a mission by Messrs. Dougherty and Fleming. Found it located on the sands, near the bottom of the bay, where a vessel could not unload, at a point so utterly destitute of advantages that it would not have been possible to select a worse site in the compass of the whole bay, which is large, and abounds in ship harbors. Condemned the site forthwith, and the same day removed the site of operations to Kosa's village, on a bay near the end of the peninsula. I afterwards encamped on the open lake shore, behind a sand drift, to avoid the force of the wind, and, as soon as the waters of the lake lulled, made the traverse to the Beaver Islands, to appraise the value of the Indian improvements at that place, and, having done this, put across to the main shore north, for the same purpose. In this trip Mr. Turner accompanied me to keep the lists, and Dr. Douglass to vaccine the Indians, the latter of whom reported 214 persons as having submitted to receive the virus.

The Albany papers continue to publish notices of Algic Researches. The Argus of the 13th June, says: "Mr. H.R. Schoolcraft has added another to his claims upon the consideration of the reading public, by a recent work (from the press of the Messrs. Harper), entitled 'Algic Researches, comprising inquiries respecting the mental characteristics of the North American Indians.' It is the first of a series, which the author promises to continue at a future day, illustrative of the mythology, distinctive opinions, and intellectual character of the aborigines. These volumes comprise their oral tales, with preliminary observations and a general introduction. The term Algic, is introduced by the author, in a generic sense, for all the tribes, with few exceptions, that were found in 1600 spread out between the Atlantic and the Mississippi.

"To those who care to look into the philosophy of the Indian character, these oral fictions will be read with interest. They are curious in themselves, and not less so as a material step in the researches that may serve, in the sequel, to unveil the origin, as well as the intellectual traits, of these tribes. They will at least establish the fact of 'an oral imaginative lore' among the aborigines of this continent, of which they give us faithful specimens.

"Probably no man in this country is better qualified to pursue these researches than Mr. Schoolcraft. A long residence in the Indian country, and official intercourse with the tribes, have given him an access to the Indian mind which few have enjoyed, and which none have improved to a greater extent by habits of observation and philosophical investigation. A residence at Mackinaw is of itself calculated to beget, as it is to gratify, a taste for the prosecution of these inquiries. It is described by Miss Martineau as 'the wildest and tenderest piece of beauty that she had yet seen on God's earth.' It is indeed a spot of rare attractiveness. Standing upon the promontory, in the rear of the fort and town, the view embraces to the north the head waters of the Huron and the far-off isles of St. Martin, to the west Green Isle and the straits of Mackinaw, and to the east and south Bois Blanc and the Great Lake. It is a delightful summer retreat, and many are the legends and reminiscences of the scenes of enjoyment passed here in absolute, and we are assured happy, exclusion from the outward world, during the winter months. It has been regarded, at no distant day, as important not only as the rendezvous of the Fur Companies' agents and employers and the Indian traders, but as a government military post. It is still a great resort of the northern Indians. Often their lodges and their bark canoes, of beautiful construction, line the pebbly shore; and the aboriginal habits and mental characteristics may be studied on the spot.

This site includes some historical materials that may imply negative stereotypes reflecting the culture or language of a particular period or place. These items are presented as part of the historical record and should not be interpreted to mean that the WebMasters in any way endorse the stereotypes implied.

Personal Memoirs of a Residence of Thirty Years with the Indian Tribes on the American Frontiers, 1851

Previous | Thirty Years with the Indians | Next


Copyright 2000- by and/or their author(s). The webpages may be linked to but shall not be reproduced on another site without written permission from NaNations or their author. Images may not be linked to in any manner or method. Anyone may use the information provided here freely for personal use only. If you plan on publishing your personal information to the web please give proper credit to our site for providing this information. Thanks!!!