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Indian Courting in the Valleys

 Native American Nations | Traditions of the Seneca                   

An aged Indian, who for many years had spent much of his time among the whites, speaking of marriage to Heckewelder, said : "Indian, when he see industrious squaw which he like, he go to him," (they had no feminine gender in their vocabulary,) "place his two forefingers close aside each other-make him look like one-look squaw in the face, see him smile ,'which is all, and he say, ' Yes;' so he take him home. No danger he be cross; no, no. Squaw know too well what Indian do if he (she) cross. Throw him (her) away, and take another; squaw have to eat meat no husband, no meat. Squaw do everything to please husband; he do same to please squaw; live, happy."

Indian Marriages

An Indian takes a wife on trial. He builds a house, and provides provisions. She agrees to cook and raise corn and vegetables, while he hunts or fishes. If both perform these duties, they are man and wife. If not, they separate. The woman's labor is light in the house. She has but one pot to clean, and no scrubbing to do, and but little to wash, and that not often. They cut wood, till the ground, sow and reap, pound the corn, bake bread in the ashes, and cook the meat or fish in the pot. If on a journey, the wife carries the baggage, and Heckewelder says he never heard of a wife complaining, for she says the husband must avoid hard labor and stiffening of muscles if he expects to be an expert hunter, so as to provide her meat to eat and furs to wear. The Indian loves to see his wife well clothed, and hence he gives her all the skins he takes. The more he does for her, the more he is esteemed by the community. In selling her furs, if she finds anything at the trader's store which she thinks would please the husband, she buys it for him, even should it take all she has to pay there for.

Kindness To Wives

Heckewelder says : "I have known a man to go forty or fifty miles for a mess of cranberries, to satisfy his wife's longing. In the year 1762, I was witness to a remarkable instance of the disposition of Indians to indulge their wives.. There was a famine in the land, and a sick Indian woman expressed a great desire for a mess of Indian corn. Her husband, having heard that a trader at Lower Sandusky had a little, set off on horseback for that place, one hundred miles distant, and returned with as much cord as filled the crown of his hat, for which he gave his horse in exchange, and came home oil foot, bringing his saddle back with him."

Quarrels With Wives

It very seldom happens that a man condescends to quarrel with his wife, or abuse her, though. she has given Mill just cause. In such a case the plan, without replying, or saying a single word, will take his gun and go into the woods, and remain there a week, or perhaps a fortnight, living on the meat he has killed, before he returns home again; well knowing that he can not inflict a greater punishment on his wife, for her conduct to him, than by absenting himself for awhile-for she is not only kept in suspense, uncertain whether he will return again, but is soon reported as a bad and quarrelsome woman. When he at length does return, she endeavors to let him see by her attentions that she has repented, though neither speaks to each other a, single word on the subject of what has passed.

The Indian's Heaven

Heckewelder says that in the year 1792 there was an Indian preacher; front the Cuyahoga, traveling about the valley selling a map, which he said the Great Spirit had directed him to make. It was about fifteen inches long, and the same in breadth, and was drawn on a dressed deerskin. He held it up while preaching, pointing out the spots, lines, and spaces on it. An inside line was the boundary of a square of eight inches, and at two corners the lines were open about- half an inch. Across the lines were others an inch in length, intended to represent a, barrier, shutting ingress to the square, except at the place appointed in the south-east corner, which be called the " avenue," leading, as he said, to the Indian heaven, and which had been taken possession of by the white people, wherefore the Great Spirit had ordered another avenue at the north-east corner, to enter which a large ditch, leading to a gulf below, had to be crossed, and it was guarded by the Evil. Spirit, on the lookout for Indians, and when one was caught he was taken to the regions of the Evil. Spirit, where the ground was parched, trees bore no fruit, and the game was almost starved. Here he transformed men into horses, to be ridden by him, and dogs to follow him in his hunts.

On the outside of the interior square was the country given to the Indians to hunt, fish, and dwell on, while in the world. Its eastern side was bounded by the ocean, or great " Salt-water Lake," across which a' people of different color had come and taken possession, in the name of friendship, of the Indians' country, and of the south-east avenue leading to the beautiful regions destined for Indians when they leave this world.

To regain their hunting grounds, and the avenue to the beautiful regions beyond, they must make sacrifices, and above all abstain from drinking the deadly besam (whisky), which the white strangers had invented and brought with them across the lake. Then the Great Spirit would assist the Indians to drive out their enemies, and recover their heavenly regions.

On the heavenly region part of the map, fat deer and plump turkeys were represented to be waiting for the hunters, while in the dreary region they were all skin and bone, scarcely- able to move.

The preacher concluded by telling his hearers that the Great Spirit had directed him to prepare a map for every family, provided the price was paid, namely, a buck-skill, or two doe-skins, of the value of one dollar, for each. map.


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.

Ohio Annals; Dayton, Ohio, 1876

Traditions of the Seneca

 

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