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History of Louisisana by Le Page Du Pratz

Part 6 out of 8

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deer is brought, they cut off the head, and then take off the skin
whole, beginning at the neck, and rolling it down, as they cut it,
like a stocking. The legs they cut off at the knee-joints, and having
cleaned and washed the skin, they stop all the holes except the neck,
with a kind of paste made of the fat of the deer mixed with ashes,
over which they tie several bindings with the bark of the lime-tree.
Having thus provided a kind of cask, they fill it with the oil of the
bear, which they prepare by boiling the flesh and fat together. This
Deer of Oil, as it is called, they sell to the French for a gun, a
yard of cloth, or any other thing of that value. The French, before
they use it, purify it, by putting it into a large kettle, with a
handful of laurel leaves; and sprinkling it when it begins to be hot
with some water, in which they have dissolved a large quantity of
salt. The smoke that rises upon this sprinkling carries off with it
any bad smell the fat may have; they next pour it off into a vessel,
and eight days after there is found on the top of it a clear oil which
serves all the purposes of olive oil; what remains below is a fine
kind of lard, proper for the kitchen, and a sovereign remedy for all
kinds of pains. I myself was cured of the rheumatism in my shoulder by

The Tiger is not above a foot and a half high, and long in proportion:
his hair is somewhat of a bright bay colour, and he is brisk as all
tigers naturally are. His flesh when boiled tastes like veal, only it
is not so insipid. There are very few of them to be seen; I never saw
but two near my settlement; and I have great reason to think that it
was the same beast I saw both times. The first time he laid hold of my
dog, who barked and howled; but upon my running towards him the {250}
tiger left him. The next time he seized a pig; but this I likewise
rescued, and his claws had gone no deeper than the fat. This animal is
not more carnivorous than fearful; he flies at the sight of a man, and
makes off with greater speed, if you shout and halloo as he runs.

[Illustration: TOP: _Wild Cat_--MIDDLE: _Opossum_--BOTTOM: _Skunk_]

The Cat-a-mount is a kind of wild cat, as high as the tiger, but not
so thick, and his skin is extremely beautiful. He is a great destroyer
of poultry, but fortunately his species is rare.

{251} Foxes are so numerous, that upon the woody heights you
frequently see nothing but their holes. As the woods afford them
plenty of game, they do not molest the poultry, which are always
allowed to run at large. The foxes are exactly shaped like ours, but
their skin is much more beautiful. Their hair is fine and thick, of a
deep brown colour, and over this rise several long silver-coloured
hairs, which have a fine effect.

The Wild Cat has been improperly so called by the first French
settlers in Louisiana; for it has nothing of the cat but its nimble
activity, and rather resembles a monkey. It is not above eight or ten
inches high, and about fifteen long. Its head is like that of a fox;
it has long toes, but very short claws, not made for seizing game;
accordingly it lives upon fruit, bread, and other such things. This
animal may be tamed, and then becomes very frolicksome and full of
tricks. The hair of those that are tame is grey; but of the wild is
reddish; neither of them is so beautiful as that of the fox; it grows
very fat, and its flesh is good to eat. I shall not describe the real
wild cat, as it is entirely like ours.

The Rabbit is extremely common over all Louisiana; it is particular in
this, that its pile is like that of the hare, and it never burrows.
Its flesh is white and delicate, and has the usual taste, without any
rankness. There is no other kind of rabbit or hare, if you please to
call it, in all the colony, than that above described.

The Wood-Rat has the head and tail of a common rat, but has the bulk
and length of a cat. Its legs are short, its paws long, and its toes
are armed with claws: its tail is almost without hair, which serves
for hooking itself to any thing; for when you take hold of it by that
part, it immediately twists itself round your finger. Its pile is
grey, and though very fine, yet is never smooth. The women among the
natives spin it and dye it red. It hunts by night, and makes war upon
the poultry, only sucking their blood and leaving their flesh. It is
very rare to see any creature walk so slow; and I have often catched
them when walking my ordinary pace. When he sees himself upon the
point of being caught, instinct prompts him to counterfeit being dead;
and in this he perseveres with such {252} constancy, that though laid
on a hot gridiron, he will not make the least sign of life. He never
moves, unless the person go to a distance or hide himself, in which
case he endeavors as fast as possible to escape into some hole or

When the she-one is about to litter, she chooses a place in the thick
bushes at the foot of a tree, after which she and the male crop a
great deal of fine dry grass, which is loaded upon her belly, and then
the male drags her and her burden by the tail to the littering-place.
She never quits her young a moment; but when she is obliged to change
her lodging, carries them with her in a pouch or double skin that
wraps round her belly, and there they may sleep or suck at their ease.
The two sides of this pouch lap so close that the joining can hardly
be observed; nor can they be separated without tearing the skin. If
the she-one be caught carrying her young thus with her, she will
suffer herself to be roasted alive, without the least sign of life,
rather than open the pouch and expose her young ones. The flesh of
this animal is very good, and tastes somewhat like that of a sucking
pig, when it is first broiled, and afterwards roasted on the spit.

The Pole-cat or Skunk is about the size of a kitten eight months old.
The male is of a beautiful black, but the female has rings of white
intermixed with the black. Its ear and its paw are like that of a
mouse, and it has a very lively eye. I suppose it lives upon fruits
and seeds. It is most justly called the Stinking Beast, for its odour
is so strong, that it may be pursued upon the track twenty-four hours
after it has passed. It goes very slow, and when the hunter approaches
it, it squirts out, far and wide such a stinking urine, that neither
man nor beast can hardly approach it. A drop of this creature's blood,
and probably some of its urine, having one day fallen upon my coat
when I was hunting, I was obliged as fast as possible to go home and
change my cloaths; and before I, could use my coat, it was scoured and
exposed for several days to the dew.

The Squirrels of Louisiana are like those of France, excepting one
kind, which are called Flying-Squirrels, because they leap from one
tree to another, though the distance between them be twenty-five or
thirty feet. It is about the size of a {253} rat, and of a deep
ash-colour. Its two fore-legs are joined to its two hind-legs by two
membranes, so that when it leaps it seems to fly, though it always
leaps somewhat downwards. This animal may be very easily tamed; but
even then it is best to chain it. There is another sort, not much
bigger than a mouse, and of a bright bay-colour. These are so familiar
that they will come out of the woods, will enter the houses, and sit
within two yards of the people of the house, if they do not make any
motion; and there they will feed on any maiz within their reach. I
never was so well diverted in my life with the frolics of any animal,
as I have been with the vivacity and attitudes of this little

The Porcupine is large and fine of this kind; but as he lives only
upon fruit, and loves cold, is most common about the river Illinois,
where the climate is somewhat cold, and there is plenty of wild
fruits. The skin, when stripped of the quills, is white and brown. The
natives dye part of the white, yellow and red, and the brown they dye
black. They have likewise the art of splitting the skin, and applying
it to many curious works, particularly to trim the edges of their
deer-skin, and to line small bark-boxes, which are very neat.

The Hedge-hog of Louisiana is in every respect the same with that of

I shall not enlarge upon the Beavers, which are universally known,
from the many descriptions we have of them.

The Otters are the same with those of France, and there are but few of
them to be seen.

Some Turtle are seen in this country; but very rarely. In the many
hundred leagues of country that I have passed over, I have hardly seen
above a hundred.

Frogs are very common, especially in Lower Louisiana, notwithstanding
the great number of snakes that destroy them. There are some that grow
very large, sometimes above a foot and a half long, and astonish
strangers at first by their croaking especially if they are in a
hollow tree.

The Crocodile is very common in the river Missisippi. Although this
amphibious animal be almost as well known as {254} those I have just
mentioned, I cannot however omit taking some notice of it. Without
troubling the reader with a description of it, which he will meet with
every where, I shall observe that it shuns the banks of the river
frequented by men. It lays its eggs in the months of May, when the sun
is already hot in that country, and it deposits them in the most
concealed place it can find among grass exposed to the heats of the
south. The eggs are about the size of those of a goose, but longer in
proportion. Upon breaking them you will find hardly any thing but
white, the yolk being about the size of that of a young hen. I never
saw any that were new hatched. The smallest I ever met with, which I
concluded to be about three months old, was as long as a middle-sized
eel, and an inch and a half thick. I have killed one nineteen feet
long, and three feet and a half in its greatest breadth. A friend of
mine killed one twenty-two feet long, and the legs of both these,
which on land seemed to move with great difficulty, were not above a
foot in length. But however sluggish they be on land, in the water
they move with great agility.

This animal has his body always covered with slime, which is the case
with all fishes that live in muddy waters. When he comes on shore his
track is covered with that slime, as his belly trails on the ground,
and this renders the earth very slippery in that part, especially as
he returns by the same path to the water. He never hunts the fish upon
which he subsists; but places himself in ambuscade, and catches them
as they pass. For that purpose he digs a hole in the bank of the
river, below the surface of the water, where the current is strong,
having a small entrance, but large enough within to turn himself round
in. The fish, which are fatigued with the strong current, are glad to
get into the smooth water in that corner, and there they are
immediately seized by the crocodile.

I shall not contradict the accounts of venerable antiquity about the
crocodiles of the Nile, who fall upon men and devour them; who cross
the roads, and make a slippery path upon them to trip passengers, and
make them slide into the river; who counterfeit the voice of an
infant, to draw children into their snares; neither shall I contradict
the travellers who have {255} confirmed those stories from mere
hearsays. But as I profess to speak the truth, and to advance nothing
but what I am certain of from my own knowledge, I may safely affirm
that the crocodiles of Louisiana are doubtless of another species than
those of other countries. In fact, I never heard them imitate the
cries of an infant, nor is it at all probable that they can
counterfeit them. Their voice is as strong as that of a bull. It is
true they attack men in the water, but never on land, where they are
not at all formidable. Besides, there are nations that in great part
subsist upon this animal, which is hunted out by the fathers and
mothers, and killed by the children. What can we then believe of those
stories that have been told us of the crocodile? I myself killed all
that ever I met of them; and they are so much the less to be dreaded,
in that they can neither run nor rise up against a man. In the water
indeed, which is their favourite element, they are dangerous; but in
that case it is easy to guard against them.

The largest of all the reptiles of Louisiana, is the Rattle-Snake:
some of them have been seen fifteen inches thick, and long in
proportion; but this species is naturally shorter in proportion to
their thickness than the other kinds of serpents. This serpent gets
its name from several hollow knots at its tail, very thin and dry,
which make a rattling noise. These knots, though inserted into each
other, are yet quite detached, and only the first of them is fastened
to the skin. The number of the knots, it is said, marks the age of the
serpent, and I am much inclined to believe it; for as I have killed a
great number of them, I always observed, that the longer and thicker
the serpent was, it had the more knots. Its skin is almost black; but
the lower part of its belly is striped black and white.

As soon as it hears or sees a man, it rouses itself by shaking its
tail, which makes a rattling noise that may be heard at several paces
distance, and gives warning to the traveller to be upon his guard. It
is much to be dreaded when it coils itself up in a spiral line, for
then it may easily dart upon a man. It shuns the habitations of men,
and by a singular providence, wherever it retires to, there the herb
which cures its bite, is likewise to be found.

{256} [Illustration: TOP: _Alligator_--MIDDLE: _Rattle Snake_--BOTTOM:
_Green Snake_]

There are several other kinds of serpents to be seen here, some of
which resemble those of France, and attempt to slip into the
hen-houses to devour the eggs and new-hatched chickens. Others are
green, about two feet long, and not thicker than a goose-quill; they
frequent the meadows, and may be seen running over the spires of
grass, such is their lightness and nimbleness.

{257} Vipers are very rare in Lower Louisiana, as that reptile loves
stoney grounds. In the highlands they are now-and-then to met with,
and there they quite resemble ours.

Lizards are very common: there is a small kind of these that are
called Cameleons, because they change their colour according to that
of the place they pass over. [Footnote: When the Cameleon is angry, a
nerve rises arch-wise from his mouth to the middle of his throat; and
the skin which covers it is so stretched as to remain red, whatever
colour the rest of the body be. He never does any hurt, and always
runs away when observed.]

Among the spiders of Louisiana there is one kind that will appear very
extraordinary. It is as large, but rather longer than a pigeon's egg,
black with gold-coloured specks. Its claws are pierced through above
the joints. It does not carry its eggs like the rest, but encloses
them in a kind of cup covered with its silk. It lodges itself in a
kind of nut made of the same silk, and hung to the branches of the
trees. The web which this insect weaves is so strong, that it not only
stops birds, but cannot even be broken by men without a considerable

I never saw any Moles in Louisiana, nor heard of any being seen by


_Of Birds, and Flying Insects_.

Birds are so very numerous in Louisiana, that if all the different
kinds of them were known, which is far from being the case at present,
the description of them alone would require an entire volume. I only
undertake the description of all those which have come within my
knowledge, the number of which, I am persuaded, will be sufficient to
satisfy the curious reader.

The Eagle, the king of the birds, is smaller than the eagle of the
Alps; but he is much more beautiful, being entirely white, excepting
only the tips of his wings, which are black. As he is also very rare,
this is another reason for heightening his value to the native, who
purchase at a great price the large {258} feathers of his wings, with
which they ornament the Calumet, or Symbol of Peace, as I have
elsewhere described.

When speaking of the king of birds, I shall take notice of the Wren,
called by the French Roitelet (Petty King) which is the same in
Louisiana as in France. The reason of its name in French will plainly
enough appear from the following history. A magistrate, no less
remarkable for his probity than for the rank he holds in the law,
assured me that, when he was at Sables d'Olonne in Poitou, on account
of an estate which he had in the neighbourhood of that city, he had
the curiosity to go and see a white eagle which was then brought from
America. After he had entered the house a wren was brought, and let
fly in the hall where the eagle was feeding. The wren perched upon a
beam, and was no sooner perceived by the eagle, than he left off
feeding, flew into a corner, and hung down his head. The little bird,
on the other hand, began to chirp and appear angry, and a moment after
flew upon the neck of the eagle, and pecked him with the greatest
fury, the eagle all the while hanging his head in a cowardly manner,
between his feet. The wren, after satisfying its animosity, returned
to the beam.

The Falcon, the Hawk, and the Tassel are the same as in France; but
the falcons are much more beautiful than ours.

The Carrion-Crow, or Turky Bustard, is of the size and shape of a
Turky-cock; his head is covered with red flesh, and his plumage is
black: he has a hooked beak, but his toes are armed with very small
talons, and are therefore very improper for seizing live game, which
indeed he does not chuse to attack, as his want of agility prevents
him from darting upon it with the rapidity of a bird of prey.
Accordingly he lives only upon the dead beasts that he happens to meet
with, and yet notwithstanding this kind of food he smells of musk.
Several people maintain, that the Carrion-Crow, or Carancro, is the
same with our Vulture. The Spaniards forbid the killing of it under
pain of corporal punishment; for as they do not use the whole carcase
of the buffaloes which they kill, those birds eat what they leave,
which otherwise, by rotting on the ground, would, according to them,
infect the air.


The Cormorant is shaped very much like a duck, but its plumage is
different and much more beautiful. This bird frequents the shores of
the sea and of lakes, but rarely appears in rivers. Its usual food is
fish; but as it is very voracious, it likewise eats dead flesh; and
this it can tear to pieces by means of a notch in its bill, which is
about the size of that of a duck.

The Swan of Louisiana are like those of France, only they are larger.
However, notwithstanding their bulk and their weight, they often rise
so high in the air, that they cannot be distinguished but by their
shrill cry. Their flesh is very good to eat, and their fat is a
specific against cold humours. The natives set a great value upon the
feathers of the Swan. Of the large ones they make the diadems of their
sovereigns, hats, and other ornaments; and they weave the small ones
as the peruke-makers weave hair, and make coverings of them for their
noble women. The young people of both sexes make tippets of the skin,
without stripping it of its down.

The Canada-Goose is a water-fowl, of the shape of a goose; but twice
as large and heavy. Its plumage is ash-coloured; its eyes are covered
with a black spot; its cries are different from those of a goose, and
shriller; its flesh is excellent.

The Pelican is so called from its large head, its large bill, and
above all for its large pouch, which hangs from its neck, and has
neither feather nor down. It fills this pouch with fish, which it
afterwards disgorges for the nourishment of its young. It never
removes from the shores of the sea, and is often killed by sailors for
the sake of the pouch, which when dried serves them as a purse for
their tobacco.

The Geese are the same with the wild geese of France. They abound upon
the shores of the sea and of lakes, but are rarely seen in rivers.

In this country there are three kinds of Ducks; first, the Indian
Ducks, so called because they came originally from that country. These
are almost entirely white, having but a very few grey feathers. On
each side of their head they have flesh of a more lively red than that
of the Turky-cock, and they are larger than our tame ducks. They are
as tame as those of {260} Europe, and their flesh when young is
delicate, and of a fine flavour. The Wild Ducks are fatter, more
delicate, and of better taste than those of France; but in other
respects they are entirely the same. For one you see in France you may
here count a thousand. The Perching-Ducks, or Carolina Summer-Ducks,
are somewhat larger than our teals. Their plumage is quite beautiful,
and so changeable that no painting can imitate it. Upon their head
they have a beautiful tuft of the most {261} lively colours, and their
red eyes appear like flames. The natives ornament their calumets or
pipes with the skin of their neck. Their flesh is very good, but when
it is too fat it tastes oily. These ducks are to be met with the whole
year round; they perch upon the branches of trees, which the others do
not, and it is from this they have their name.

[Illustration: TOP: _Pelican_--BOTTOM: _Wood Stock_ (on p. 260)]

The Teal are found in every season; and they differ nothing from those
of France but in having a finer relish.

The Divers of Louisiana are the same with those of France: they no
sooner see the fire in the pan, than they dive so suddenly that the
shot cannot touch them, and they are therefore called Lead-Eaters.

The Saw-bill has the inside of its beak indented like the edge of a
saw: it is said to live wholly upon shrimps, the shells of which it
can easily break.

The Crane is a very common water-fowl; it is larger than a turkey,
very lean, and of an excellent taste. It eats somewhat like beef, and
makes very good soup.

The Flamingo has only a little down upon its head; its plumage is
grey, and its flesh good.

The Spatula has its name from the form of its bill, which is about
seven or eight inches long, an inch broad towards the head, and two
inches and a half towards the extremity; it is not quite so large as a
wild goose; its thighs and legs are about the height of those of a
turkey. Its plumage is rose-coloured, the wings being brighter than
any other part. This is a water-fowl, and its flesh is very good.

The Heron of Louisiana is not in the least different from that of

The Egret, or White Heron, is so called from tufts of feathers upon
the wings near the body, which hinder it from flying high; it is a
water-fowl with white plumage; but its flesh tastes very oily.

The Bec-croche, or Crook-bill, has indeed a crooked bill, with which
it seizes the cray-fish upon which it subsists. Its {262} flesh has
that taste, and is red. Its plumage is a whitish grey; and it is about
the size of a capon.

[Illustration: TOP: _Flying Squirrel_--MIDDLE: _Roseate
Spoon-bill_--BOTTOM: _Snowy Heron_]

The Indian Water-Hen, and the Green-Foot, are the same as in France.

The Hatchet-Bill is so called on account of its bill, which is red,
and formed like the edge of an ax. Its feet are also Of a beautiful
red, and it is therefore often called Red-Foot. As {263} it lives upon
shell-fish, it never removes from the sea-coast, but upon the approach
of a storm, which is always sure to follow its retiring into the
inland parts.

The King-Fisher excels ours in nothing but in the beauty of its
plumage, which is as various as the rainbow. This bird, it is well
known, goes always against the wind; but perhaps few people know that
it preserves the same property when it is dead. I myself hung a dead
one by a silk thread directly over a sea-compass, and I can declare it
as a fact, that the bill was always turned towards the wind.

The Sea-Lark and Sea-Snipe never quit the sea; their flesh may be eat,
as it has very little of the oily taste.

The Frigate-Bird is a large bird, which in the day-time keeps itself
in the air above the shore of the sea. It often rises very high,
probably for exercise; for it feeds upon fish, and every night retires
to the coast. It appears larger than it really is, as it is covered
with a great many feathers of a grey colour. Its wings are very long,
its tail forked, and it cuts the air with great swiftness.

The Draught-Bird is a large bird, not much unlike the Frigate-Bird, as
light, but not so swift. The under-part of its plumage is chequered
brown and white, but the upper-part is of greyish brown.

The Fool is of a yellowish colour, and about the size of a hen; it is
so called, because it will suffer a man to approach it so near as to
seize it with his hand: but even then it is too soon to cry victory;
for if the person who seizes it does not take the greatest precaution,
it will snap off his finger at one bite.

When those three last birds are observed to hover very low over the
shore, we may most certainly expect an approaching storm. On the other
hand, when the sailors see the Halcyons behind their vessel, they
expect and generally meet with fine weather for some days.

Since I have mentioned the Halcyon, I shall here describe it. It is a
small bird, about the size of a swallow, but its beak {264} is longer,
and its plumage is violet-coloured. It has two streaks of a yellowish
brown at the end of the feathers of its wings, which when it sits
appear upon its back. When we left Louisiana, near an hundred halcyons
followed our vessel for near three days: they kept at the distance of
about a stone-cast, and seemed to swim, yet I could never discover
that their feet were webbed, and was therefore greatly surprised. They
probably live upon the small insects that drop from the outside of the
vessel when sailing; for they now-and-then dived, and came up in the
same place. I have some suspicion that, by keeping in the wake of the
ship, they float after it without swimming; for when they happened to
be out of the wake of the ship, they were obliged to fly, in order to
come up with the ship again. This bird is said to build its nest of
the glutinous froth of the sea close upon the shore, and to launch it
when a land breeze arises, raising one of its wings in the form of a
sail, which receiving the wind, helps to carry it out to sea.

I shall now proceed to speak of the fowls which frequent the woods,
and shall begin with the Wild-Turky, which is very common all over the
colony. It is finer, larger, and better than that in France. The
feathers of the turky are of a duskish grey, edged with a streak of
gold colour, near half an inch broad. In the small feathers the
gold-coloured streak is not above one tenth of an inch broad. The
natives make fans of the tail, and of four tails joined together, the
French make an umbrella. The women among the natives weave the
feathers as our peruke-makers weave their hair, and fasten them to an
old covering of bark, which they likewise line with them, so that it
has down on both sides. Its flesh is more delicate, fatter, and more
juicy than that of ours. They go in flocks, and with a dog one may
kill a great many of them. I never could procure any of the turky's
eggs, to try to hatch them, and discover whether they were as
difficult to bring up in this country as in France, since the climate
of both countries is almost the same. My slave told me, that in his
nation they brought up the young turkies as easily as we do chickens.

The Pheasant is the most beautiful bird that can be painted, and in
every respect entirely like that of Europe. {265} Their rarity, in my
opinion, makes them more esteemed than they deserve. I would at any
time prefer a slice off the fillet of a buffalo to any pheasant.

[Illustration: TOP: _White Ibis_--MIDDLE: _Tobacco Worm_--BOTTOM: _Cock

The Partridges of Louisiana are not larger than a wood-pigeon. Their
plumage is exactly the same with that of our grey partridges; they
have also the horse-shoe upon the breast; they perch upon trees, and
are seldom seen in flocks. Their {266} cry consists only of two strong
notes, somewhat resembling the name given them by the natives, who
call them Ho-ouy. Their flesh is white and delicate, but, like all the
other game in this country, it has no _fumet_, and only excels in the
fine taste.

The Woodcock is very rare, because it is only to be met with in
inhabited countries. It is like that of France; its flesh is white,
but rather plumper and more delicate than that of ours, which is owing
to the plenty and goodness of its fruit.

The Snipe is much more common than the woodcock, and in this country
is far from being shy. Its flesh is white, and of a much better relish
than that of ours.

I am of opinion that the Quail is very rare in Louisiana; I have
sometimes heard it, but never saw it, nor know any Frenchman that ever

Some of our colonists have thought proper to give the name of Ortolan
to a small bird which has the same plumage, but in every other respect
does not in the least resemble it.

The Corbijeau is as large as the woodcock, and very common. Its
plumage is varied with several shady colours, and is different from
that of the woodcock; its feet and beak are also longer, which last is
crooked and of a reddish yellow colour; its flesh is likewise firmer
and better tasted.

The Parroquet of Louisiana is not quite so large as those that are
usually brought to France. Its plumage is usually of a fine sea-green,
with a pale rose-coloured spot upon the crown, which brightens into
red towards the beak, and fades off into green towards the body. It is
with difficulty that it learns to speak, and even then it rarely
practices it, resembling in this the natives themselves, who speak
little. As a silent parrot would never make its fortune among our
French ladies, it is doubtless on this account that we see so few of
these in France.

The Turtle-Dove is the same with that of Europe, but few of them are
seen here.

The Wood-Pigeons are seen in such prodigious numbers, that I do not
fear to exaggerate, when I affirm that they sometimes {267} cloud the
sun. One day on the banks of the Missisippi I met with a flock of them
which was so large, that before they all passed, I had leisure to fire
with the same piece four times at them. But the rapidity of their
flight was so great, that though I do not fire ill, with my four shots
I brought down but two.

These birds come to Louisiana only in the winter, and remain in Canada
during the summer, where they devour the corn, as they eat the acorns
in Louisiana. The Canadians have used every art to hinder them from
doing so much mischief, but without success. But if the inhabitants of
those colonies were to go a fowling for those birds in the manner that
I have done, they would insensibly destroy them. When they walk among
the high forest trees, they ought to remark under the trees the
largest quantity of dung is to be seen. Those trees being once
discovered, the hunters ought to go out when it begins to grow dark,
and carry with them a quantity of brimstone which they must set fire
to in so many earthen plates placed at regular distances under the
trees. In a very short time they will hear a shower of wood-pigeons
falling to the ground, which, by the light of some dried canes, they
may gather into sacks, as soon as the brimstone is extinguished.

I shall here give an instance that proves not only the prodigious number
of those birds, but also their singular instinct. In one of my journeys
at land, when I happened to be upon the bank of the river, I heard a
confused noise which seemed to come along the river from a considerable
distance below us. As the sound continued uniformly I embarked, as fast
as I could, on board the pettyaugre, with four other men, and steered
down the river, keeping in the middle, that I might go to any side that
best suited me. But how great was my surprise when I approached the
place from whence the noise came, and observed it to proceed from a
thick short pillar on the bank of the river. When I drew still nearer to
it, I perceived that it was formed by a legion of wood-pigeons, who kept
continually flying up and down successively among the branches of an
ever-green oak, in order to beat down the acorns with their wings. Every
now and then some alighted to eat the {268} acorns which they themselves
or the others had beat down; for they all acted in common, and eat in
common; no avarice nor private interest appearing among them, but each
labouring as much for the rest as for himself.

Crows are common in Louisiana, and as they eat no carrion their flesh
is better tasted than that of the crows of France. Whatever their
appetite may be, they dare not for the carrion crow approach any

I never saw any Ravens in this country, and if there be any they must
be very rare.

The Owls are larger and whiter than in France, and their cry is much
more frightful. The Little Owl is the same with ours, but much more
rare. These two birds are more common in Lower Louisiana than in the

The Magpye resembles those of Europe in nothing but its cry; it is
more delicate, is quite black, has a different manner of flying, and
chiefly frequents the coasts.

The Blackbirds are black all over, not excepting their bills nor their
feet, and are almost as large again as ours. Their notes are
different, and their flesh is hard.

There are two sorts of Starlings in this country; one grey and
spotted, and the other black. In both the tip of the shoulder is of a
bright red. They are only to be seen in winter; and then they are so
numerous, that upwards of three hundred of them have been taken at
once in a net. A beaten path is made near a wood, and after it is
cleaned and smoothed, it is strewed with rice. On each side of this
path is stretched a long narrow silken net, with very small meshes,
and made to turn over at once by strings fastened to the stick that
stretches the end of it. The starlings no sooner alight to pick up the
grain, than the fowler, who lies concealed with the strings in his
hand, pulls the net over them.

The Wood-pecker is much the same as in France; but here there are two
kinds of them; one has grey feathers spotted with black; the other has
the head and the neck of a bright red, and the rest of the body as the
former. This bird lives upon the {269} worms which it finds in rotten
wood, and not upon ants, as a modern author would have us believe, for
want of having considered the nature of the things which he relates.
The bird, when looking for its food, examines the trunks of trees that
have lost their bark; it clasps by its feet with its belly close to
the tree, and hearkens if it can hear a worm eating the wood; in this
manner it leaps from place to place upon the trunk till it hears a
worm, then it pierces the wood in that part, pricks the worm with its
hard and pointed tongue, and draws it out. The arms which nature has
furnished it with are very proper for this kind of hunting; its claws
are hard and very sharp; its beak is formed like a little ax, and is
very hard; its neck is long and flexible, to give proper play to its
beak; and its hard tongue, which it can extend three or four inches,
has a most sharp point with several beards that help to hold the prey.

The Swallows of this country have that part yellow which ours have
white, and they, as well as the martins, live in the woods.

The Nightingale differs in nothing from ours in respect to its shape
or plumage, unless that it has the bill a little longer. But in this
it is particular that it is not shy, and sings through the whole year,
though rarely. It is very easy to entice them to your roof, where it
is impossible for the cats to reach them, by laying something for them
to eat upon a lath, with a piece of the shell of a gourd which serves
to hold their nest. You may in that case depend upon their not
changing their habitation.

The Pope is a bird that has a red and black plumage. It has got that
name perhaps because its colour makes it look somewhat old, and none
but old men are promoted to that dignity; or because its notes are
soft, feeble, and rare; or lastly, because they wanted a bird of that
name in the colony, having two other kinds named cardinals and

The Cardinal owes its name to the bright red of the feathers, and to a
little cowl on the hind part of the head, which resembles that of the
bishop's ornament, called a camail. It is as large as a black-bird,
but not so long. Its bill and toes are {270} large, strong, and black.
Its notes are so strong and piercing that they are only agreeable in
the woods. It is remarkable for laying up its winter provision in the
summer, and near a Paris bushel of maiz has been found in its retreat,
artfully covered, first with leaves and then with small branches, with
only a little opening for the bird itself to enter.

The Bishop is a bird smaller than the linnet; its plumage is a
violet-coloured blue, and its wings, which serve it for a cope, are
entirely violet-colour. Its notes are so sweet, so variable, and
tender, that those who have once heard it, are apt to abate in their
praises of the nightingale. I had such great pleasure in hearing this
charming bird, that I left an oak standing very near my apartment,
upon which he used to come and perch, though I very well knew, that
the tree, which stood single, might be overturned by a blast of wind,
and fall upon my house to my great loss.

The Humming-Bird is not larger even with its feathers than a large
beetle. The colour of its feathers is variable, according to the light
they are exposed in; in the sun they appear like enamel upon a gold
ground, which delights the eyes. The longest feathers of the wings of
this bird are not much more than half an inch long; its bill is about
the same length, and pointed like an awl; and its tongue resembles a
sowing-needle; its feet are like those of a large fly. Notwithstanding
its little size, its flight is so rapid, that it is always heard
before it be seen. Although like the bee it sucks the flowers, it
never rests upon them, but supports itself upon its wings, and passes
from one flower to another with the rapidity of lightening. It is a
rare thing to catch a humming-bird alive; one of my friends however
had the happiness to catch one. He had observed it enter the flower of
a convolvulus, and as it had quite buried itself to get at the bottom,
he ran forwards, shut the flower, cut it from the stalk, and carried
off the bird a prisoner. He could not however prevail upon it to eat,
and it died four days after.

The Troniou is a small bird about the size of a sparrow; its plumage
is likewise the same; but its beak is slenderer. Its notes seem to
express its name.

{271} The French settlers raise in this province turkies of the same
kind with those of France, fowls, capons, &c. of an excellent taste.
The pigeons for their fine flavour and delicacy are preferred by
Europeans to those of any other country. The Guinea fowl is here

In Louisiana we have two kinds of Silk-worms; one was brought from
France, the other is natural to the country. I shall enlarge upon them
under the article of agriculture.

The Tobacco-worm is a caterpillar of the size and figure of a
silk-worm. It is of a fine sea-green colour, with rings of a silver
colour; on its rump it has a sting near a quarter of an inch long.
These insects quickly do a great deal of mischief, therefore care is
taken every day, while the tobacco is rising, to pick them off and
kill them.

In summer Caterpillars are sometimes found upon the plants, but these
insects are very rare in the colony. Glow-worms are here the same as
in France.

Butterflies are not near so common as in France; the consequence of
there being fewer caterpillars; but they are of incomparable beauty,
and have the most brilliant colours. In the meadows are to be seen
black grasshoppers, which almost always walk, rarely leap, and still
seldomer fly. They are about the size of a finger or thum, and their
head is shaped somewhat like that of a horse. Their four small wings
are of a most beautiful purple. Cats are very fond of grasshoppers.

The Bees of Louisiana lodge in the earth, to secure their honey from
the ravages of the bears. Some few indeed build their combs in the
trunks of trees, as in Europe; but by far the greatest number in the
earth in the lofty forests, where the bears seldom go.

The Flies are of two kinds, one a yellowish brown, as in France, and
the other black.

The Wasps in this country take up their abode near the houses where
they smell victuals. Several French settlers endeavored to root them
out of their neighbourhood; but I acted otherwise; for reflecting,
that no flies are to be seen where the {272} wasps frequent, I invited
them by hanging up a piece of flesh in the air.

The quick-stinger is a long and yellowish fly, and it receives its
name from its stinging the moment it lights. The common flies of
France are very common also in Louisiana.

The Cantharides, or Spanish flies, are very numerous, and larger than
in Europe; they are of such an acid nature, that if they but slightly
touch the skin as they pass, a pretty large blister instantly rises.
These flies live upon the leaves of the oak.

The Green-flies appear only every other year, and the natives
superstitiously look upon their appearance as a presage of a good
crop. It is a pity that the cattle are so greatly molested by them,
that they cannot remain in the fields; for they are extremely
beautiful and twice as large as bees.

Fire flies are very common; when the night is serene they are so very
numerous, that if the light they dart out were constant, one might see
as clearly as in fine moonshine.

The Fly-ants, which we see attach themselves to the flower of the
acacia, and which disappear when that flower is gone, do not proceed
from the common ants. The fly ants, though shaped like the other kind,
are however longer and larger. They have a square head; their colour
is a brownish red bordered with black; they have four red and grey
wings, and fly like common flies, which the other ants do not even
when they have wings.

The Dragon-flies are pretty numerous; they do not want to destroy them
because they feed upon moskitos, which is one of the most troublesome
kind of insects.

The Moskitos are famous all over America, for their multitude, the
troublesomeness of their buzzing and the venom of their stings, which
occasion an insupportable itching, and often form so many ulcers, if
the person stung does not immediately put some spittle on the wound.
In open places they are less tormenting; but still they are
troublesome; and the best way of driving them out of the houses is to
burn a little brimstone in {273} the mornings and evenings. The smoke
of this infallibly kills them, and the smell keeps others away for
several days. An hour after the brimstone has been burnt, the
apartments may be safely entered into by men.

By the same means we may rid ourselves of the flies and moskitos,
whose sting is so painful and so frequent during the short time they
fly about; for they do not rise till about sun-set, and they retire at
night. This is not the case with the Burning-fly. These, though not
much larger than the point of a pin, are insupportable to the people
who labour in the fields. They fly from sun-rising to sun-setting, and
the wounds they give burn like fire.

The Lavert is an insect about an inch and a quarter long, a little
more than a quarter broad, and a tenth part of an inch thick. It
enters the houses by the smallest crevices and in the night-time it
falls upon dishes that are covered even with a plate, which renders it
very troublesome to those whose houses are only built of wood. Bue
they are so relishing to the cats, that these last quit everything to
fall upon them wherever they perceive them. When a new settler has
once cleared the ground about his house, and is at some distance from
the woods, he is quickly freed from them.

In Louisiana there are white ants, which seem to love dead wood.
Persons who have been in the East-Indies have assured me, that they
are quite like those which in that country are called _cancarla_, and
that they would eat through glass, which I never had the experience
of. There are in Louisiana, as in France, red, black, and flying ants.



_Of Fishes and Shell-Fish_.

Though there is an incredible quantity of fishes in this country, I
shall however be very concise in my account of them; because during my
abode in the country they were not sufficiently known; and the people
were not experienced enough in the art of catching them. The most of
the rivers being very deep, and the Missisippi, as I have mentioned,
being between thirty-eight and forty fathoms, from its mouth to the
fall of St. Anthony, it may be easily conceived that the instruments
used for fishing in France, cannot be of any use in Louisiana, because
they cannot go to the bottom of the rivers, or at least so deep as to
prevent the fish from escaping. The line therefore can be only used
and it is with it they catch all the fish that are eaten by the
settlers upon the river. I proceed to an account of those fish.

The Barbel is of two sorts, the large and the small. The first is
about four feet long, and the smallest of this sort that is ever seen
is two feet long, the young ones doubtless keeping at the bottom of
the water. This kind has a very large head, and a round body, which
gradually lessens toward the tail. The fish has no scales, nor any
bones, excepting that of the middle: its flesh is very good and
delicate, but in a small degree vary insipid, which is easily
remedied; in other respects it eats very like the fresh cod of the

The small is from a foot to two in length. Its head is shaped like
that of the other kind; but its body is not so round, nor so pointed
at the tail.

The Carp of the river Missisippi is monstrous. None are seen under two
feet long; and many are met with three and four feet in length. The
carps are not so very good in the lower part of the river; but the
higher one goes the finer they are, on account of the plenty of sand
in those parts. A great number of carps are carried into the lakes
that are filled by the overflowing of the river, and in those lakes
they are found {275} of all sizes, in great abundance, and of a better
relish than those of the river.

[Illustration: Top: _Cat Fish_--Middle: _Gar Fish_--Bottom: _Spoonbill

The Burgo-Breaker is an excellent fish; it is usually a foot and a
foot and a half long: it is round, with gold-coloured scales. In its
throat it has two bones with a surface like that of a file to break
the shell-fish named Burgo. Though delicate, it is nevertheless very
firm. It is best when not much boiled.

{276} The Ring-Skate is found in the river up as far as New Orleans,
but no higher. It is very good, and no way tough. In other respects it
is exactly like that of France.

The Spatula is so called, because from its snout a substance extends
about a foot in length, in the form of an apothecary's Spatula. This
fish, which is about two feet in length, is neither round or flat, but
square, having at its sides and in the under part bones that forman
angle like those of the back.

No Pikes are caught above a foot and a half long. As this is a
voracious fish, perhaps the Armed-fish pursues it, both from jealousy
and appetite. The pike, besides being small, is very rare.

The Choupic is a very beautiful fish; many people mistake it for the
trout, as it takes a fly in the same manner. But it is very different
from the trout, as it prefers muddy and dead water to a clear stream,
and its flesh is so soft that it is only good when fried.

The Sardine or small Pilchard of the river Missisippi, is about three
or four fingers in breadth, and between six and seven inches long; it
is good and delicate. One year I salted about the quantity of forty
pints of them, and all the French who eat of them acknowledged them to
be Sardines from their flesh, their bones, and their taste. They
appear only for a short season, and are caught by the natives, when
swimming against the strongest current, with nets made for that
purpose only.

The Patassa, so called by the natives for its flatness, is the roach
or fresh-water mullet of this country.

The Armed-Fish has its name from its arms, and its scaly mail. Its
arms are its very sharp teeth, about the tenth of an inch in diameter,
and as much distant from each other, and near half an inch long. The
interval of the larger teeth is filled with shorter teeth. These arms
are a proof of its voracity. Its mail is nothing but its scales, which
are white, as hard as ivory, and about the tenth of an inch in
thickness. They are near an inch long, about half as much in breadth,
end in a {277} point, and have two cutting sides. There are two ranges
of them down the back, shaped exactly like the head of a spontoon, and
opposite to the point of the scale has a little shank, about three
tenths of an inch long, which the natives insert into the end of their
arrows, making the scale serve for a head. The flesh of this fish is
hard and not relishing.

There are a great number of Eels in the river Missisippi, and very
large ones are found in all the rivers and creeks.

The whole lower part of the river abounds in Crayfish. Upon my first
arrival in the colony the ground was covered with little hillocks,
about six or seven inches high, which the crayfish had made for taking
the air out of the water; but since dikes have been raised for keeping
off the river from the low grounds, they no longer shew themselves.
Whenever they are wanted, they fish for them with the leg of a frog,
and in a few moments they will catch a large dish of them.

The Shrimps are diminutive crayfish; they are usually about three
inches long, and of the size of the little finger. Although in other
countries they are generally found in the sea only, yet in Louisiana
you will meet with great numbers of them more than an hundred leagues
up the river. In the lake St. Louis, about two leagues from New
Orleans, the waters of which, having a communication with the sea, are
somewhat brackish, are found several sorts both of sea fish, and fresh
water fish. As the bottom of the lake is very level, they fish in it
with large nets lately brought from France.

Near the lake, when we pass by the outlets to the sea, and continue
along the coasts, we meet with small oysters in great abundance, that
are very well tasted. On the other hand, when we quit the lake by
another lake that communicates with one of the mouths of the river, we
meet with oysters four or five inches broad, and six or seven long.
These large oysters eat best fried, having hardly any saltness, but in
other respects are large and delicate.

Having spoken of the oysters of Louisiana, I shall take some notice of
the oysters that are found on the trees at St. Domingo. When I arrived
at the harbour of Cape Francois in {278} my way to Louisiana, I was
much surprised to see oysters hanging to the branches of some shrubs;
but M. Chaineau, who was our second captain, explained the phaenomenon
to me. According to him, the twigs of the shrubs are bent down at high
water, to the very bottom of the shore, whenever the sea is any ways
agitated. The oysters in that place no sooner feel the twigs than they
lay hold of them, and when the sea retires they appear suspended upon

Towards the mouths of the river we meet with mussels no salter than
the large oysters above mentioned; and this is owing to the water
being only brackish in those parts, as the river there empties itself
by three large mouths, and five other small ones, besides several
short creeks, which all together throw at once an immense quantity of
water into the sea; the whole marshy ground occupies an extent of ten
or twelve leagues.

There are likewise excellent mussels upon the northern shore of the
lake St. Louis, especially in the river of Pearls; they may be about
six or seven inches long, and sometimes contain pretty large pearls,
but of no great value.

The largest of the shell-fish on the coast is the Burgo, well known in
France. There is another fish much smaller and of a different shape.
Its hollow shell is strong and beautiful, and the flat one is
generally black; some blue ones are found, and are much esteemed.
These shells have long been in request for tobacco-boxes.





_The Origin of the Americans._

The remarkable difference I observed between the Natchez, including in
that name the nations whom they treat as brethren, and the other
people of Louisiana, made me extremely desirous to know whence both of
them might originally come. We had not then that full information
which we have since received from the voyages and discoveries of M. De
Lisle in the eastern parts of the Russian empire. I therefore applied
myself one day to put the keeper of the temple in good humour, and
having succeeded in that without much difficulty, I then told him,
that from the little resemblance I observed between the Natchez and
the neighbouring nations, I was inclined to believe that they were not
originally of the country which they then inhabited; and that if the
ancient speech taught him any thing on that subject, he would do me a
great pleasure to inform me of it. At these words he leaned his head
on his two hands, with which he covered his eyes, and having remained
in that posture about a quarter of an hour, as if to recollect
himself, he answered to the following effect:

"Before we came into this land we lived yonder under the sun,
(pointing with his finger nearly south-west, by which I understood
that he meant Mexico;) we lived in a fine country where the earth is
always pleasant; there our Suns had their abode, and our nation
maintained itself for a long time against the ancients of the country,
who conquered some of our villages {280} in the plains, but never
could force us from the mountains. Our nation extended itself along
the great water where this large river loses itself; but as our
enemies were become very numerous, and very wicked, our Suns sent some
of their subjects who lived near this river, to examine whether we
could retire into the country through which it flowed. The country on
the east side of the river being found extremely pleasant, the Great
Sun, upon the return of those who had examined it, ordered all his
subjects who lived in the plains, and who still defended themselves
against the antients of this country, to remove into this land, here
to build a temple, and to preserve the eternal fire.

"A great part of our nation accordingly settled here, where they lived
in peace and abundance for several generations. The Great Sun, and
those who had remained with him, never thought of joining us, being
tempted to continue where they were by the pleasantness of the
country, which was very warm, and by the weakness of their enemies,
who had fallen into civil dissentions, in consequence of the ambition
of one of their chiefs, who wanted to raise himself from a state of
equality with the other chiefs of the villages, and to treat all the
people of his nation as slaves. During those discords among our
enemies, some of them even entered into an alliance with the Great
Sun, who still remained in our old country, that he might conveniently
assist our other brethren who had settled on the banks of the Great
Water to the east of the large river, and extended themselves so far
on the coast and among the isles, that the Great Sun did not hear of
them sometimes for five or six years together.

"It was not till after many generations that the Great Suns came and
joined us in this country, where, from the fine climate, and the peace
we had enjoyed, we had multiplied like the leaves of the trees.
Warriors of fire, who made the earth to tremble, had arrived in our
old country, and having entered into an alliance with our brethren,
conquered our ancient enemies; but attempting afterwards to make
slaves of our Suns, they, rather than submit to them, left our
brethren who refused to follow them, and came hither attended only
with their slaves."

{281} Upon my asking him who those warriors of fire were, he replied,
that they were bearded white men, somewhat of a brownish colour, who
carried arms that darted out fire with a great noise, and killed at a
great distance; that they had likewise heavy arms which killed a great
many men at once, and like thunder made the earth tremble; and that
they came from the sun-rising in floating villages.

The ancients of the country he said were very numerous, and inhabited
from the western coast of the great water to the northern countries on
his side the sun, and very far upon the same coast beyond the sun.
They had a great number of large and small villages, which were all
built of stone, and in which there were houses large enough to lodge a
whole village. Their temples were built with great labour and art, and
they made beautiful works of all kinds of materials.

But ye yourselves, said I, whence are ye come? The ancient speech, he
replied, does not say from what land we came; all that we know is,
that our fathers, to come hither, followed the sun, and came with him
from the place where he rises; that they were a long time on their
journey, were all on the point of perishing, and were brought into
this country without seeking it.

To this account of the keeper of the temple, which was afterwards
confirmed to me by the Great Sun, I shall add the following passage of
Diodorus Siculus, which seems to confirm the opinion of those who
think the eastern Americans are descended from the Europeans, who may
have been driven by the winds upon the coasts of Guiana or Brazil.

"To the west of Africa, he says, lies a very large island, distant
many days sail from that part of our continent. Its fertile soil is
partly plain, and partly mountainous. The plain country is most sweet
and pleasant, being watered every where with rivulets, and navigable
rivers; it is beautified with many gardens, which are planted with all
kinds of trees, and the orchards particularly are watered with
pleasant streams. The villages are adorned with houses built in a
magnificent taste, having parterres ornamented with arbours covered
with flowers. Hither the inhabitants retire during the summer to enjoy
the fruits which the country furnishes them with in the greatest {282}
abundance. The mountainous part is covered with large woods, and all
manner of fruit trees, and in the vallies, which are watered with
rivulets, the inhabitants meet with every thing that can render life
agreeable. In a word, the whole island, by its fertility and the
abundance of its springs, furnishes the inhabitants not only with
every thing that may flatter their wishes, but with what may also
contribute to their health and strength of body. Hunting furnishes
them with such an infinite number of animals, that in their feasts
they have nothing to wish for in regard either to plenty or delicacy.
Besides, the sea, which surrounds the island, supplies them
plentifully with all kinds of fish, and indeed the sea in general is
very abundant. The air of this island is so temperate that the trees
bear leaves and fruit almost the whole year round. In a word, this
island is so delicious, that it seems rather the abode of the gods
than of men.

"Anciently, on account of its remote situation, it was altogether
unknown; but afterwards it was discovered by accident. It is well
known, that from the earliest ages the Phenicians undertook long
voyages in order to extend their commerce, and in consequence of those
voyages established several colonies in Africa and the western parts
of Europe. Every thing succeeding to their wish, and being become very
powerful, they attempted to pass the pillars of Hercules and enter the
ocean. They accordingly passed those pillars, and in their
neighbourhood built a city upon a peninsula of Spain, which they named
Gades. There, amongst the other buildings proper for the place, they
built a temple to Hercules, to whom they instituted splendid
sacrifices after the manner of their country. This temple is in great
veneration at this day, and several Romans who have rendered
themselves illustrious by their exploits, have performed their vows to
Hercules for the success of their enterprizes.

"The Phenicians accordingly having passed the Streights of Spain,
sailed along Africa, when by the violence of the winds they were
driven far out to sea, and the storm continuing several days, they
were at length thrown on this island. Being the first who were
acquainted with its beauty and fertility, they {283} published them to
other nations. The Tuscans, when they were masters at sea, designed to
send a colony thither, but the Carthaginians found means to prevent
them on the two following accounts; first, they were afraid lest their
citizens, tempted by the charms of that island, should pass over
hither in too great numbers, and desert their own country; next they
looked upon it as a secure asylum for themselves, if ever any terrible
disaster should befal their republic."

This description of Diodorus is very applicable in many circumstances
to America, particularly in the agreeable temperature of the climate
to Africans, the prodigious fertility of the earth, the vast forests,
the large rivers, and the multitude of rivulets and springs. The
Natchez may then justly be supposed to be descended from some
Phenicians or Carthaginians, who had been wrecked on the shores of
South America, in which case they might well be imagined to have but
little acquaintance with the arts, as those who first landed would be
obliged to apply all their thoughts to their immediate subsistence,
and consequently would soon become rude and barbarous. Their worship
of the eternal fire likewise implies their descent from the
Phenicians; for every body knows that this superstition, which first
took its rise in Egypt, was introduced by the Phenicians into all the
countries that they visited. The figurative stile, and the bold and
Syriac expressions in the language of the Natchez, is likewise another
proof of their being descended from the Phenicians. [Footnote: The
author might have mentioned a singular custom, in which both nations
agree; for it appears from _Polybius_, 1 I. c. 6. that Carthaginians
practised scalping.]

As to those whom the Natchez, long after their first establishment,
found inhabiting the western coasts of America, and whom we name
Mexicans, the arts which they possessed and cultivated with success,
obliged me to give them a different origin. Their temples, their
sacrifices, their buildings, their form of government, and their
manner of making war, all denote a people who have transmigrated in a
body, and brought with them the arts, the sciences, and the customs of
their country. Those people had the art of writing, and also of {284}
painting. Their archives consisted of cloths of cotton, whereon they
had painted or drawn all those transactions which they thought worthy
of being transmitted to posterity. It were greatly to be wished that
the first conquerors of this new world had preserved to us the figures
of those drawings; for by comparing them with the characters used by
other nations, we might perhaps have discovered the origin of the
inhabitants. The knowledge which we have of the Chinese characters,
which are rather irregular drawings than characters, would probably
have facilitated such a discovery; and perhaps those of Japan would
have been found greatly to have resembled the Mexican; for I am
strongly of opinion that the Mexicans are descended from one of those
two nations.

In fact, where is the impossibility, that some prince in one of those
countries, upon failing in an attempt to raise himself to the
sovereign power, should leave his native country with all his
partizans, and look for some new land, where, after he had established
himself, he might drop all foreign correspondence? The easy navigation
of the South Sea renders the thing probable; and the new map of the
eastern bounds of Asia, and the western of North America, lately
published by Mr. De Lisle, makes it still more likely. This map makes
it plainly appear, that between the islands of Japan, or northern
coasts of China, and those of America, there are other lands, which to
this day have remained unknown; and who will take upon him to say
there is no land, because it has never yet been discovered? I have
therefore good grounds to believe, that the Mexicans came originally
from China or Japan, especially when I consider their reserved and
uncommunicative disposition, which to this day prevails among the
people of the eastern parts of Asia. The great antiquity of the
Chinese nation likewise makes it possible that a colony might have
gone from thence to America early enough to be looked upon as _the
Ancients of the country_, by the first of the Phenicians who could be
supposed to arrive there. As a further corroboration of my
conjectures, I was informed by a man of learning in 1752, that in the
king's library there is a Chinese manuscript, which positively affirms
that America was peopled by the inhabitants of Corea.

{285} When the Natchez retired to this part of America, where I saw
them, they there found several nations, or rather the remains of
several nations, some on the east, others on the west of the
Missisippi. These are the people who are distinguished among the
natives by the name of Red Men; and their origin is so much the more
obscure, as they have not so distinct a tradition, as the Natchez, nor
arts and sciences like the Mexicans, from whence we might draw some
satisfactory inferences. All that I could learn from them was, that
they came from between the north and the sun-setting; and this account
they uniformly adhered to whenever they gave any account of their
origin. This lame tradition no ways satisfying the desire I had to be
informed on this point, I made great inquiries to know if there was
any wise old man among the neighbouring nations, who could give me
further intelligence about the origin of the natives. I was happy
enough to discover one, named Moncacht-ape among the Yazous, a nation
about forty leagues north from the Natchez. This man was remarkable
for his solid understanding and elevation of sentiments; and I may
justly compare him to those first Greeks, who travelled chiefly into
the east to examine the manners and customs of different nations, and
to communicate to their fellow-citizens, upon their return, the
knowledge which they had acquired. Moncacht-ape, indeed, never
executed so noble a plan; but he had however conceived it, and had
spared no labour and pains to effectuate it. He was by the French
called the Interpreter, because he understood several of the North
American languages; but the other name which I have mentioned was
given him by his own nation, and signifies _the killer of pain and
fatigue_. This name was indeed most justly applicable to him; for, to
satisfy his curiosity, he had made light of the most dangerous and
painful journeys, in which he had spent several years of his life. He
stayed two or three days with me; and upon my desiring him to give me
an account of his travels, he very readily complied with my request,
and spoke to the following effect:

"I had lost my wife, and all the children whom I had by her, when I
undertook my journey towards the sun-rising. I set out from my village
contrary to the inclinations of all my {286} relations, and went first
to the Chicasaws, our friends and neighbours. I continued among them
several days to inform myself whether they knew whence we all came, or
at least whence they themselves came; they, who were our elders; since
from them came the language of the country. As they could not inform
me, I proceeded on my journey. I reached the country of the
Chaouanous, and afterwards went up the Wabash or Ohio, almost to its
source, which is in the country of the Iroquois or Five Nations. I
left them however towards the north; and during the winter, which in
that country is very severe and very long, I lived in a village of the
Abenaquis, where I contracted an acquaintance with a man somewhat
older than myself, who promised to conduct me the following spring to
the Great Water. Accordingly when the snows were melted, and the
weather was settled, we proceeded eastward, and, after several days
journey, I at length saw the Great Water, which filled me with such
joy and admiration that I could not speak. Night drawing on, we took
up our lodging on a high bank above the water, which was sorely vexed
by the wind, and made so great a noise that I could not sleep. Next
day the ebbing and flowing of the water filled me with great
apprehension; but my companion quieted my fears, by assuring me that
the water observed certain bounds both in advancing and retiring.
Having satisfied our curiosity in viewing the Great Water, we returned
to the village of the Abenaquis, where I continued the following
winter; and after the snows were melted, my companion and I went and
viewed the great fall of the river St. Laurence at Niagara, which was
distant from the village several days journey. The view of this great
fall at first made my hair stand on end, and my heart almost leap out
of its place; but afterwards, before I left it, I had the courage to
walk under it. Next day we took the shortest road to the Ohio, and my
companion and I cutting down a tree on the banks of the river, we
formed it into a pettiaugre, which served to conduct me down the Ohio
and the Missisippi, after which, with much difficulty I went up our
small river; and at length arrived safe among my relations, who were
rejoiced to see me in good health.

{287} "This journey, instead of satisfying, only served to excite my
curiosity. Our old men, for several years, had told me that the
antient speech informed them that the Red Men of the north came
originally much higher and much farther than the source of the river
Missouri; and as I had longed to see, with my own eyes, the land from
whence our first fathers came, I took my precautions for my journey
westwards. Having provided a small quantity of corn, I proceeded up
along the eastern bank of the river Missisippi, till I came to the
Ohio. I went up along the bank of this last river about the fourth
part of a day's journey, that I might be able to cross it without
being carried into the Missisippi. There I formed a Cajeux or raft of
canes, by the assistance of which I passed over the river; and next
day meeting with a herd of buffaloes in the meadows, I killed a fat
one, and took from it the fillets, the bunch, and the tongue. Soon
after I arrived among the Tamaroas, a village of the nation of the
Illinois, where I rested several days, and then proceeded northwards
to the mouth of the Missouri, which, after it enters the great river,
runs for a considerable time without intermixing its muddy waters with
the clear stream of the other. Having crossed the Missisippi, I went
up the Missouri along its northern bank, and after several days
journey I arrived at the nation of the Missouris, where I staid a long
time to learn the language that is spoken beyond them. In going along
the Missouri I passed through meadows a whole day's journey in length,
which were quite covered with buffaloes.

"When the cold was past, and the snows were melted, I continued my
journey up along the Missouri till I came to the nation of the West,
or the Canzas. Afterwards, in consequence of directions from them, I
proceeded in the same course near thirty days, and at length I met
with some of the nation of the Otters, who were hunting in that
neighbourhood, and were surprised to see me alone. I continued with
the hunters two or three days, and then accompanied one of them and
his wife, who was near her time of lying-in, to their village, which
lay far off betwixt the north and west. We continued our journey along
the Missouri for nine days, and then we marched {288} directly
northwards for five days more, when we came to the Fine River, which
runs westwards in a direction contrary to that of the Missouri. We
proceeded down this river a whole day, and then arrived at the village
of the Otters, who received me with as much kindness as if I had been
of their own nation. A few days after I joined a party of the Otters,
who were going to carry a calumet of peace to a nation beyond them,
and we embarked in a pettiaugre, and went down the river for eighteen
days, landing now and then to supply ourselves with provisions. When I
arrived at the nation who were at peace with the Otters, I staid with
them till the cold was passed, that I might learn their language,
which was common to most of the nations that lived beyond them.

"The cold was hardly gone, when I again embarked on the Fine River,
and in my course I met with several nations, with whom I generally
staid but one night, till I arrived at the nation that is but one
day's journey from the Great Water on the west. This nation live in
the woods about the distance of a league from the river, from their
apprehension of bearded men, who come upon their coasts in floating
villages, and carry off their children to make slaves of them. These
men were described to be white, with long black beards that came down
to their breasts; they were thick and short, had large heads, which
were covered with cloth; they were always dressed, even in the
greatest heats; their cloaths fell down to the middle of their legs,
which with their feet were covered with red or yellow stuff. Their
arms made a great fire and a great noise; and when they saw themselves
outnumbered by Red Men, they retired on board their large pettiaugre,
their number sometimes amounting to thirty, but never more.

"Those strangers came from the sun-setting, in search of a yellow
stinking wood, which dyes a fine yellow colour; but the people of this
nation, that they might not be tempted to visit them, had destroyed
all those kind of trees. Two other nations in their neighbourhood
however, having no other wood, could not destroy the trees, and were
still visited by the strangers; and being greatly incommoded by them,
had invited their allies to assist them in making an attack upon them
the next {289} time they should return. The following summer I
accordingly joined in this expedition, and after traveling five long
days journey, we came to the place where the bearded men usually
landed, where we waited seventeen days for their arrival. The Red Men,
by my advice, placed themselves in ambuscade to surprize the
strangers, and accordingly when they landed to cut the wood, we were
so successful as to kill eleven of them, the rest immediately escaping
on board two large pettiaugres, and flying westward upon the Great

"Upon examining those whom we had killed, we found them much smaller
than ourselves, and very white; they had a large head, and in the
middle of the crown the hair was very long; their head was wrapt in a
great many folds of stuff, and their cloaths seemed to be made neither
of wool nor silk; they were very soft, and of different colours. Two
only of the eleven who were slain had fire-arms with powder and ball.
I tried their pieces, and found that they were much heavier than
yours, and did not kill at so great a distance.

"After this expedition I thought of nothing but proceeding on my
journey, and with that design I let the Red Men return home, and
joined myself to those who inhabited more westward on the coast, with
whom I travelled along the shore of the Great Water, which bends
directly betwixt the north and the sun-setting. When I arrived at the
villages of my fellow-travellers, where I found the days very long and
the night very short, I was advised by the old men to give over all
thoughts of continuing my journey. They told me that the land extended
still a long way in a direction between the north and sun-setting,
after which it ran directly west, and at length was cut by the Great
Water from north to south. One of them added, that when he was young,
he knew a very old man who had seen that distant land before it was
eat away by the Great Water, and that when the Great Water was low,
many rocks still appeared in those parts. Finding it therefore
impracticable to proceed much further, on account of the severity of
the climate, and the want of game, I returned by the same route by
which I had set out; and reducing my whole travels westward to days
journeys, I compute that they would have employed {290} me thirty-six
moons; but on account of my frequent delays, it was five years before
I returned to my relations among the Yazous."

Moncacht-ape, after giving me an account of his travels, spent four or
five days visiting among the Natchez, and then returned to take leave
of me, when I made him a present of several wares of no great value,
among which was a concave mirror about two inches and a half diameter,
which had cost me about three halfpence. As this magnified the face to
four or five times its natural size, he was wonderfully delighted with
it, and would not have exchanged it with the best mirror in France.
After expressing his regret at parting with me, he returned highly
satisfied to his own nation.

Moncacht-ape's account of the junction of America with the eastern
parts of Asia seems confirmed from the following remarkable fact. Some
years ago the skeletons of two large elephants and two small ones were
discovered in a marsh near the river Ohio; and as they were not much
consumed, it is supposed that the elephants came from Asia not many
years before. If we also consider the form of government, and the
manner of living among the northern nations of America, there will
appear a great resemblance betwixt them and the Tartars in the
north-east parts of Asia.


_An Account of the Several Nations of_ Indians _in_ Louisiana.


_Of the Nations inhabiting on the East of the_ Missisippi.

If to the history of the discoveries and conquests of the Spaniards we
join the tradition of all the nations of America, we shall be fully
persuaded, that this quarter of the world, before it was discovered by
Christopher Columbus, was very populous, not only on the continent but
also in the islands.

However, by an incomprehensible fatality, the arrival of the Spaniards
in this new world seems to have been the unhappy epoch of the
destruction of all the nations of America, {291} not only by war, but
by nature itself. As it is but too well known how many millions of
natives were destroyed by the Spanish sword, I shall not therefore
present my readers with that horrible detail; but perhaps many people
do not know that an innumerable multitude of the natives of Mexico and
Peru voluntarily put an end to their own lives, some by sacrificing
themselves to the manes of their sovereigns who had been cut off, and
whose born victims they, according to their detestable customs, looked
upon themselves to be; and others, to avoid falling under the
subjection of the Spaniards, thinking death a less evil by far than

The same effect has been produced among the people of North America by
two or three warlike nations of the natives. The Chicasaws have not
only cut off a great many nations who were adjoining to them, but have
even carried their fury as far as New Mexico, near six hundred miles
from the place of their residence, to root out a nation that had
removed at that distance from them, in a firm expectation that their
enemies would not come so far in search of them. They were however
deceived and cut off. The Iroquois have done the same in the east
parts of Louisiana; and the Padoucas and others have acted in the same
manner to nations in the west of the colony. We may here observe, that
those nations could not succeed against their enemies without
considerable loss to themselves, and that they have therefore greatly
lessened their own numbers by their many warlike expeditions.

I mentioned that nature had contributed no less than war to the
destruction of these people. Two distempers, that are not very fatal
in other parts of the world, make dreadful ravages among them; I mean
the small-pox and a cold, which baffle all the art of their
physicians, who in other respects are very skilful. When a nation is
attacked by the small-pox, it quickly makes great havock; for as a
whole family is crowded into a small hut, which has no communications
with the external air, but by a door about two feet wide and four feet
high, the distemper, if it seizes one, is quickly communicated to all.
The aged die in consequence of their advanced years and the bad
quality of their food; and the young, if they are not {292} strictly
watched, destroy themselves, from an abhorrence of the blotches in
their skin. If they can but escape from their hut, they run out and
bathe themselves in the river, which is certain death in that
distemper. The Chatkas, being naturally not very handsome, are not so
apt to regret the loss of their beauty; consequently suffer less, and
are much more numerous than the other nations.

Colds, which are very common in the winter, likewise destroy great
numbers of the natives. In that season they keep fires in their huts
day and night; and as there is no other opening but the door, the air
within the hut is kept excessive warm without any free circulation; so
that when they have occasion to go out, the cold seizes them, and the
consequences of it are almost always fatal.

The first nations that the French were acquainted with in this part of
North America, were those on the east of the colony; for the first
settlement we made there was at Fort Louis on the river Mobile. I
shall therefore begin my account of the different nations of Indians
on this side of the colony, and proceed westwards in the same order as
they are situated.

But however zealous I may be in displaying not only the beauties, but
the riches and advantages of Louisiana, yet I am not at all inclined
to attribute to it what it does not possess; therefore I warn my
reader not to be surprised, if I make mention of a few nations in this
colony, in comparison of the great number which he may perhaps have
seen in the first maps of this country. Those maps were made from
memoirs sent by different travellers, who noted down all the names
they heard mentioned, and then fixed upon a spot for their residence;
so that a map appeared stiled with the names of nations, many of whom
were destroyed, and others were refugees among nations who had adopted
them and taken them under their protection. Thus, though the nations
on this continent were formerly both numerous and populous, they are
now so thinned and diminished, that there does not exist at present a
third part of the nations whose names are to be found in the maps.

The most eastern nation of Louisiana is that called the Apalaches,
which is a branch of the great nation of the Apalaches, {293} who
inhabited near the mountains to which they have given their name. This
great nation is divided into several branches, who take different
names. The branch in the neighbourhood of the river Mobile is but
inconsiderable, and part of it is Roman Catholic.

On the north of the Apalaches are the Alibamous, a pretty considerable
nation; they love the French, and receive the English rather out of
necessity than friendship. On the first settling of the colony we had
some commerce with them; but since the main part of the colony has
fixed on the river, we have somewhat neglected them, on account of the
great distance.

East from the Alibamous are the Caouitas, whom M. de Biainville,
governor of Louisiana, wanted to distinguish above the other nations,
by giving the title of emperor to their sovereign, who then would have
been chief of all the neighbouring nations; but those nations refused
to acknowledge him as such, and said that it was enough if each nation
obeyed its own chief; that it was improper for the chiefs themselves
to be subject to other chiefs, and that such a custom had never
prevailed among them, as they chose rather to be destroyed by a great
nation than to be subject to them. This nation is one of the most
considerable; the English trade with them, and they suffer the traders
to come among them from policy.

To, the north of the Alibamous are the Abeikas and Conchacs, who, as
far as I can learn, are the same people; yet the name of Conchac seems
appropriated to one part more than another. They are situated at a
distance from the great rivers and consequently have no large canes in
their territory. The canes that grow among them are not thicker than
one's finger, and are at the same time so very hard, that when they
are split, they cut like knives, which these people call _conchacs_. The
language of this nation is almost the same with that of the Chicasaws,
in which the word _conchac_ signifies a knife.

The Abeikas, on the east of them, have the Cherokees, divided into
several branches, and situated very near the Apalachean mountains. All
the nations whom I have mentioned {294} have been united in a general
alliance for a long time past, in order to defend themselves against the
Iroquois, or Five Nations, who, before this alliance was formed, made
continual war upon them; but have ceased to molest them since they have
seen them united. All these nations, and some small ones intermixed
among them, have always been looked upon as belonging to no colony,
excepting the Apalaches; but since the breaking out of the war with the
English in 1756, it is said they have voluntarily declared for us.

The nations in the neighbourhood of the Mobile, are first the Chatots,
a small nation consisting of about forty huts, adjoining to the river
and the sea. They are Roman Catholics, or reputed such; and are
friends to the French, whom they are always ready to serve upon being
paid for it. North from the Chatots, and very near them, is the French
settlement of Fort Louis on the Mobile.

A little north from Fort Louis are situated the Thomez, which are not
more numerous than the Chatots, and are said to be Roman Catholics.
They are our friends to to such a degree as even to teaze us with
their officiousness.

Further north live the Taensas, who are a branch of the Natchez, of
whom I shall have occasion to speak more at large. Both of these
nations keep the eternal fire with the utmost care; but they trust the
guard of it to men, from a persuasion that none of their daughters
would sacrifice their liberty for that office. The whole nation of the
Taensas consists only of about one hundred huts.

Proceeding still northwards along the bay, we meet with the nation of
the Mobiliens, near the mouth of the river Mobile, in the bay of that
name. The true name of this nation is Mouvill, which the French have
turned into Mobile, calling the river and the bay from the nation that
inhabited near them. All these small nations were living in peace upon
the arrival of the French, and still continue so; the nations on the
east of the Mobile serving as a barrier to them against the incursions
of the Iroquois. Besides, the Chicasaws look upon them as their
brethren, as both they, and their neighbours on the east of the {295}
Mobile, speak a language which is nearly the same with that of the

Returning towards the sea, on the west of the Mobile, we find the
small nation of the Pacha-Ogoulas, that is, Nation of Bread, situated
upon the bay of the same name. This nation consists only of one
village of about thirty huts. Some French Canadians have settled in
their neighbourhood, and they live together like brethren, as the
Canadians, who are naturally of a peaceable disposition, know the
character of the natives, and have the art of living with the nations
of America. But what chiefly renders the harmony betwixt them durable,
is the absence of soldiers, who never appear in this nation.

Further northwards, near the river Pacha-Ogoulas, is situated the
great nation of the Chatkas, or Flat-heads. I call them the great
nation, for I have not known or heard of any other near so numerous.
They reckon in this nation twenty-five thousand warriors. There may
perhaps be such a number of men among them, who take that name; but I
am far from thinking that all these have a title to the character of

According to the tradition of the natives, this nation arrived so
suddenly, and passed so rapidly through the territories of others,
that when I asked them, whence came the Chatkas? they answered me,
that they sprung out of the ground; by which they meant to express
their great surprize at seeing them appear so suddenly. Their great
numbers awed the natives near whom they passed; their character being
but little inclined to war, did not inspire them with the fury of
conquest; thus they at length arrived in an uninhabited country which
nobody disputed with them. They have since lived without any disputes
with their neighbours; who on the other hand have never dared to try
whether they were brave or not. It is doubtless owing to this that
they have increased to their present numbers.

They are called Flat-heads; but I do not know why that name has been
given to them more than to others, since all the nations of Louisiana
have their heads as flat, or nearly so. They are situated about two
hundred and fifty miles north {296} from the sea, and extend more from
east to west than from south to north.

[Illustration: _Indian Buffalo Hunt on foot_]

Those who travel from the Chatkas to the Chicasaws, seldom go by the
shortest road, which extends about one hundred and eighty miles, and
is very woody and mountainous. They choose rather to go along the
river Mobile, which is both the easiest and most pleasant route. The
nation of the Chicasaws is very warlike. The men have very regular
features, {297} are large, well-shaped, and neatly dressed; they are
fierce, and have a high opinion of themselves. They seem to be the
remains of a populous nation, whose warlike disposition had prompted
them to invade several nations, whom they have indeed destroyed, but
not without diminishing their own numbers by those expeditions. What
induces me to believe that this nation has been formerly very
considerable, is that the nations who border upon them, and whom I
have just mentioned, speak the Chicasaw language, though somewhat
corrupted, and those who speak it best value themselves upon it.

I ought perhaps to except out of this number the Taensas, who being a
branch of the Natchez, have still preserved their peculiar language;
but even these speak, in general, the corrupted Chicasaw language,
which our French settlers call the Mobilian language. As to the
Chatkas, I suppose, that being very numerous, they have been able to
preserve their own language in a great measure; and have only adopted
some words of the Chicasaw language. They always spoke to me in the
Chicasaw tongue.

In returning towards the coast next the river Missisippi, we meet with
a small nation of about twenty huts, named Aquelou-Pissas, that is,
_Men who understand and see_. This nation formerly lived within three of
four miles of the place where New Orleans is built; but they are
further north at present, and not far from the lake St. Lewis, or
Pontchartrain. They speak a language somewhat approaching to that of
the Chicasaws. We have never had great dealings with them.

Being now arrived at the river Missisippi, I shall proceed upwards
along its banks as far as to the most distant nations that are known
to us.

The first nation that I meet with is the Oumas, which signifies the
Red Nation. They are situated about twenty leagues from New Orleans,
where I saw some of them upon my arrival in this province. Upon the
first establishment of the colony, some French went and settled near
them; and they have been very fatal neighbours, by furnishing them
with brandy, which they drink to great excess.

{298} Crossing the Red River, and proceeding still upwards, we find
the remains of the nation of the Tonicas, who have always been very
much attached to the French, and have even been our auxiliaries in
war. The Chief of this nation was our very zealous friend; and as he
was full of courage, and always ready to make war on the enemies of
the French, the king sent him a brevet of brigadier of the red armies,
and a blue ribbon, from whence hung a silver medal, which on one side
represented the marriage of the king, and on the reverse had the city
of Paris. He likewise sent him a gold-headed cane; and the Indian
Chief was not a little proud of wearing those honourable distinctions,
which were certainly well bestowed. This nation speaks a language so
far different from that of their neighbours, in that they pronounce
the letter R, which the others have not. They have likewise different

The Natchez in former times appear to have been one of the most
respectable nations in the colony, not only from their own tradition,
but from that of the other nations, in whom their greatness and
civilized customs raised no less jealousy than admiration. I could
fill a volume with what relates to this people alone; but as I am now
giving a concise account of the people of Louisiana, I shall speak of
them as of the rest, only enlarging a little upon some important
transactions concerning them.

When I arrived in 1720 among the Natchez, that nation was situated
upon a small river of the same name; the chief village where the Great
Sun resided was built along the banks of the river, and the other
villages were planted round it. They were two leagues above the
confluence of the river, which joins the Missisippi at the foot of the
great precipices of the Natchez. From thence are four leagues to its
source, and as many to Rosalie, and they were situated within a league
of the fort.

Two small nations lived as refugees among the Natchez. The most
ancient of these adopted nations were the Grigras, who seem to have
received that name from the French, because when talking with one
another they often pronounce those two syllables, which makes them be
remarked as strangers among the Natchez, who, as well as the
Chicasaws, and all the nations {299} that speak the Chicasaw language,
cannot pronounce the letter R.

The other small nation adopted by the Natchez, are the Thioux, who
have also the letter R in their language. These were the weak remains
of the Thioux nation, formerly one of the strongest in the country.
However, according to the account of the other nations, being of a
turbulent disposition, they drew upon themselves the resentment of the
Chicasaws, which was the occasion of their ruin; for by their many
engagements they were at length so weakened that they durst not face
their enemy, and consequently were obliged to take refuge among the

The Natchez, the Grigras, and the Thioux, may together raise about
twelve hundred warriors; which is but a small force in comparison of
what the Natchez could formerly have raised alone; for according to
their traditions they were the most powerful nation of all North
America, and were looked upon by the other nations as their superiors,
and on that account respected by them. To give an idea of their power,
I shall only mention, that formerly they extended from the river
Manchac, or Iberville, which is about fifty leagues from the sea, to
the river Wabash, which is distant from the sea about four hundred and
sixty leagues; and that they had about five hundred Suns or princes.
From these facts we may judge how populous this nation formerly has
been; but the pride of their Great Suns, or sovereigns, and likewise
of their inferior Suns, joined to the prejudices of the people, has
made greater havock among them, and contributed more to their
destruction, than long and bloody wars would have done.

As their sovereigns were despotic, they had for a long time past
established the following inhuman and impolitic custom, that when any
of them died, a great number of their subjects, both men and women,
should likewise be put to death. A proportionable number of subjects
were likewise killed upon the death of any of the inferior Suns; and
the people on the other hand had imbibed a belief that all those who
followed their princes into the other world, to serve them there,
would be eternally happy. It is easy to conceive how ruinous such an
{300} inhuman custom would be among a nation who had so many princes
as the Natchez.

It would seem that some of the Suns, more humane than the rest, had
disapproved of this barbarous custom, and had therefore retired to
places at a remote distance from the centre of their nation. For we
have two branches of this great nation settled in other parts of the
colony, who have preserved the greatest part of the customs of the
Natchez. One of these branches is the nation of the Taensas on the
banks of the Mobile, who preserve the eternal fire, and several other
usages of the nation from whom they are descended. The other branch is
the nation of the Chitimachas, whom the Natchez have always looked
upon as their brethren.

Forty leagues north from the Natchez is the river Yasous, which runs
into the Missisippi, and is so called from a nation of the same name
who had about a hundred huts on its banks.

Near the Yazous, on the same river, lived the Coroas, a nation
consisting of about forty huts. These two nations pronounce the letter

Upon the same river likewise lived the Chacchi-Oumas, a name which
signifies _red Cray-fish_. These people had not above fifty huts.

Near the same river dwelt the Ouse-Ogoulas, or the Nation of the Dog,
which might have about sixty huts.

The Tapoussas likewise inhabited upon the banks of this river, and had
not above twenty-five huts. These three last nations do not pronounce
the letter R, and seem to be branches of the Chicasaws, especially as
they speak their language. Since the massacre of the French settlers
at the Natchez, these five small nations, who had joined in the
conspiracy against us, have all retired among the Chicasaws, and make
now but one nation with them.

To the north of the Ohio, not far from the banks of the Missisippi,
inhabit the Illinois, who have given their name to the river on the
banks of which they have settled. They are divided into several
villages, such as the Tamaroas, the Caskaquias, {301} the Caouquias,
the Pimiteouis, and some others. Near the village of the Tamaroas is a
French post, where several French Canadians have settled.

This is one of the most considerable posts in all Louisiana, which
will appear not at all surprising, when we consider that the Illinois
were one of the first nations whom we discovered in the colony, and
that they have always remained most faithful allies of the French; an
advantage which is in a great measure owing to the proper manner of
living with the natives of America, which the Canadians have always
observed. It is not their want of courage that renders them so
peaceable, for their valour is well known. The letter R is pronounced
by the Illinois.

Proceeding further northwards we meet with a pretty large nation,
known by the name of the Foxes, with whom we have been at war near
these forty years past, yet I have not heard that we have had any
blows with them for a long time.

From the Foxes to the fall of St. Anthony, we meet with no nation, nor
any above the Fall for near an hundred leagues. About that distance
north of the Fall, the Sioux are settled, and are said to inhabit
several scattered villages both on the east and west of the


_Of the Nations inhabiting on the West of the_ Missisippi.

Having described as exactly as possible all the nations on the east of
the Missisippi, as well those who are included within the bounds of
the colony, as those who are adjoining to it, and have some connection
with the others; I shall now proceed to give an account of those who
inhabit on the west of the river, from the sea northwards.

Between the river Missisippi, and those lakes which are filled by its
waters upon their overflowing, is a small nation named Chaouchas, or
Ouachas, who inhabit some little villages, but are of so little
consequences that they are no otherwise known to our colonists but by
their name.

{302} In the neighbourhood of the lakes abovementioned live the
Chitimachas. These are the remains of a nation which was formerly
pretty considerable; but we have destroyed part of them by exciting
our allies to attack them. I have already observed that they were a
branch of the Natchez, and upon my first settling among these, I found
several Chitimachas, who had taken refuge among them to avoid the
calamities of the war which had been made upon them near the lakes.

Since the peace that was concluded with them in 1719, they have not
only remained quiet, but kept themselves so prudently retired, that,
rather than have any intercourse with the French, or traffic with them
for what they look upon as superfluities, they choose to live in the
manner they did an hundred years ago.

Along the west coast, not far from the sea, inhabit the nation named
Atacapas, that is, Man-eaters, being so called by the other nations on
account of their detestable custom of eating their enemies, or such as
they believe to be their enemies. In this vast country there are no
other cannibals to be met with besides the Atacapas; and since the
French have gone among them, they have raised in them so great an
horror of that abominable practice of devouring creatures of their own
species, that they have promised to leave it off; and accordingly for
a long time past we have heard of no such barbarity among them.

The Bayouc-Ogoulas were formerly situated in the country that still
bears their name. This nation is now confounded with the others to
whom it is joined.

The Oque-Loussas are a small nation situated north-west from the Cut
Point. They live on the banks of two small lakes, the waters of which
appear black by reason of the great number of leaves which cover the
bottom of them, and have given name to the nation, Oque-Loussas in
their language signifying Black Water.

From the Oque-Loussas to the Red River, we meet with no other nation;
but upon the banks of this river, a little above the Rapid, is seated
the small nation of the Avoyels. These are the people who bring to our
settlers horses, oxen, and cows. {303} I know not in what fair they
buy them, nor with what money they pay for them; but the truth is,
they sell them to us for about seventeen shillings a-piece. The
Spaniards of New-Spain have such numbers of them that they do not know
what to do with them, and are obliged to those who will take them off
their hands. At present the French have a greater number of them than
they want, especially of horses.

About fifty leagues higher up the Red River, live the Nachitoches,
near a French post of the same name. They are a pretty considerable
nation, having about two hundred huts. They have always been greatly
attached to the French; but never were friends to the Spaniards. There
are some branches of this nation situated further westward; but the
huts are not numerous.

Three hundred miles west from the Missisippi, upon the Red River, we
find the great nation of the Cadodaquioux. It is divided into several
branches which extend very widely. This people, as well as the
Nachitoches, have a peculiar language; however, there is not a village
in either of the nations, nor indeed in any nation of Louisiana, where
there are not some who can speak the Chicasaw language, which is
called the vulgar tongue, and is the same here as the Lingua Franca is
in the Levant.

Between the Red River and the Arkansas there is at present no nation.
Formerly the Ouachites lived upon the Black River, and gave their name
to it; but at this time there are no remains of that nation; the
Chicasaws having destroyed great part of them, and the rest took
refuge among the Cadodaquioux, where their enemies durst not molest
them. The Taensas lived formerly in this neighbourhood upon a river of
their name; but they took refuge on the banks of the Mobile near the
allies of the Chicasaws, who leave them undisturbed.

The nation of the Arkansas have given their name to the river on which
they are situated, about four leagues from its confluence with the
Missisippi. This nation is pretty considerable, and its men are no
less distinguished for being good hunters than stout warriors. The
Chicasaws, who are of a {304} restless disposition, have more than
once wanted to make trial of the bravery of the Arkansas; but they
were opposed with such firmness, that they have now laid aside all
thoughts of attacking them, especially since they have been joined by
the Kappas, the Michigamias, and a part of the Illinois, who have
settled among them. Accordingly there is no longer any mention either
of the Kappas or Michigamias, who are now all adopted by the Arkansas.

The reader may have already observed in this account of the natives of
Louisiana, that several nations of those people had joined themselves
to others, either because they could no longer resist their enemies,
or because they hoped to improve their condition by intermixing with
another nation. I am glad to have this occasion of observing that
those people respect the rights of hospitality, and that those rights
always prevail, notwithstanding any superiority that one nation may
have over another with whom they are at war, or even over those people
among whom their enemies take refuge. For example, a nation of two
thousand warriors makes war upon, and violently pursues another nation
of five hundred warriors, who retire among a nation in alliance with
their enemies. If this last nation adopt the five hundred, the first
nation, though two thousand in number, immediately lay down their
arms, and instead of continuing hostilities, reckon the adopted nation
among the number of their allies.

Besides the Arkansas, some authors place other nations upon their
river. I cannot take upon me to say that there never were any; but I
can positively affirm, from my own observation upon the spot, that no
other nation is to be met with at present on this river, or even as
far as the Missouri.

Not far from the river Missouri is situated the nation of the Osages,
upon a small river of the same name. This nation is said to have been
pretty considerable formerly, but at present they can neither be said
to be great nor small.

The nation of the Missouris is very considerable, and has given its
name to the large river that empties itself into the Missisippi. It is
the first nation we meet with from the confluence {305} of the two
rivers, and yet it is situated above forty leagues up the Missouri.
The French had a settlement pretty near this nation, at the time when
M. de Bourgmont was commandant in those parts; but soon after he left
them, the inhabitants massacred the French garrison.

The Spaniards, as well as our other neighbours, being continually
jealous of our superiority over them, formed a design of establishing
themselves among the Missouris, about forty leagues from the Illinois,
in order to limit our boundaries westward. They judged it necessary,
for the security of their colony, entirely to cut off the Missouris,
and for that purpose they courted the friendship of the Osages, whose
assistance they thought would be of service to them in their
enterprize, and who were generally at enmity with the Missouris. A
company of Spaniards, men, women, and soldiers, accordingly set out
from Santa Fe, having a Dominican for their chaplain, and an engineer
for their guide and commander. The caravan was furnished with horses,
and all other kinds of beasts necessary; for it is one of their
prudent maxims, to send off all those things together. By a fatal
mistake the Spaniards arrived first among the Missouris, whom they
mistook for the Osages, and imprudently discovering their hostile
intentions, they were themselves surprised and cut off by those whom
they intended for destruction. The Missouris some time afterwards
dressed themselves with the ornaments of the chapel; and carried them
in a kind of triumphant procession to the French commandant among the
Illinois. Along with the ornaments they brought a Spanish map, which
seemed to me to be a better draught of the west part of our colony,
towards them, than of the countries we are most concerned with. From
this map it appears, that we ought to bend the Red River, and that of
the Arkansas, somewhat more, and place the source of the Missisippi
more westerly than our geographers do.

The principal nations who inhabit upon the banks, or in the
neighbourhood of the Missouri, are, besides those already mentioned,
the Canzas, the Othoues, the White Panis, the Black Panis, the
Panimachas, the Aiouez, and the Padoucas. The most numerous of all
those nations are the Padoucas, the smallest {306} are the Aiouez, the
Othoues, and the Osages; the others are pretty considerable.

To the north of all those nations, and near the river Missisippi, it
is pretended that a part of the nation of the Sioux have their
residence. Some affirm that they inhabit now on one side of the river,
now on another. From what I could learn from travellers, I am inclined
to think, that they occupy at the same time both sides of the
Missisippi, and their settlements, as I have elsewhere observed, are
more than an hundred leagues above the Fall of St. Anthony. But we
need not yet disquiet ourselves about the advantages which might
result to us from those very remote countries. Many ages must pass
before we can penetrate into the northern parts of Louisiana.


_A Description of the natives of_ Louisiana; _of their manners and
customs, particularly those of the_ Natchez: _of their language, their
religion, ceremonies_, Rulers _or_ Suns, _feasts, marriages, &c._


_A description of the natives; the different employments of the two
sexes; and their manner of bringing up their children._

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