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History of Louisisana by Le Page Du Pratz

Part 7 out of 8

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In the concise history which I have given of the people of Louisiana,
and in several other places where I have happened to mention them, the
reader may have observed that these nations have not all the same
character, altho' they live adjoining to each other. He therefore
ought not to expect a perfect uniformity in their manners, or that I
should describe all the different usages that prevail in different
parts, which would create a disagreeable medley, and tend only to
confound his ideas which cannot be too clear. My design is only to
shew in general, from the character of those people, what course we
ought to observe, in order to draw advantage from our intercourse with
them. I shall however be more full in speaking of the Natchez, a
populous nation, among whom I lived the space of eight years, and
whose sovereign, the chief of war, and the chief of the keepers of the
temple, were among my most intimate {307} friends. Besides, their
manners were more civilized, their manner of thinking more just and
fuller of sentiment, their customs more reasonable, and their
ceremonies more natural and serious; on all which accounts they were
eminently distinguished above the other nations.

All the natives of America in general are extremely well made; very
few of them are to be seen under five feet and a half, and very many
of them above that; their leg seems as if it was fashioned in a mould;
it is nervous, and the calf is firm; they are long waisted; their head
is upright and somewhat flat in the upper part, and their features are
regular; they have black eyes, and thick black hair without curls. If
we see none that are extremely fat and pursy, neither do we meet with
any that are so lean as if they were in a consumption. The men in
general are better made than the women; they are more nervous, and the
women more plump and fleshy; the men are almost all large, and the
women of a middle size. I have always been inclined to think, that the
care they take of their children in their infancy contributes greatly
to their fine shapes, tho' the climate has also its share in that, for
the French born in Louisiana are all large, well shaped, and of good
flesh and blood.

When any of the women of the natives is delivered, she goes
immediately to the water and washes herself and the infant; she then
comes home and lies down, after having disposed her infant in the
cradle, which is about two feet and a half long, nine inches broad,
and half a foot deep, being formed of straight pieces of cane bent up
at one end, to serve for a foot or stay. Betwixt the canes and the
infant is a kind of matrass of the tufted herb called Spanish Beard,
and under its head is a little skin cushion, stuffed with the same
herb. The infant is laid on its back in the cradle, and fastened to it
by the shoulders, the arms, the legs, the thighs, and the hips; and
over its forehead are laid two bands of deer-skin which keeps its head
to the cushion, and renders that part flat. As the cradle does not
weigh much above two pounds, it generally lies on the mother's bed,
who suckles the infant occasionally. The infant is rocked not
side-ways but end-ways, and when it is a {308} month old they put
under its knees garters made of buffalo's wool which is very soft, and
above the ankle bones they bind the legs with threads of the same wool
for the breadth of three or four inches. And these ligatures the child
wears till it be four or five years old.

The infants of the natives are white when they are born, but they soon
turn brown, as they are rubbed with bear's oil and exposed to the sun.
They rub them with oil, both to render their nerves more flexible, and
also to prevent the flies from stinging them, as they suffer them to
roll about naked upon all fours, before they are able to walk upright.
They never put them upon their legs till they are a year old, and they
suffer them to suck as long as they please, unless the mother prove
with child, in which case she ceases to suckle.

When the boys are about twelve years of age, they give them a bow and
arrows proportioned to their strength, and in order to exercise them
they tie some hay, about twice as large as the fist, to the end of a
pole about ten feet high. He who brings down the hay receives the
prize from an old man who is always present: the best shooter is
called the young warrior, the next best is called the apprentice
warrior, and so on of the others, who are prompted to excel more by
sentiments of honour than by blows.

As they are threatened from their most tender infancy with the
resentment of the old man, if they are any ways refractory or do any
mischievous tricks, which is very rare, they fear and respect him above
every one else. This old man is frequently the great-grandfather, or
the great-great-grand-father of the family, for those natives live to a
very great age. I have seen some of them not able to walk, without
having any other distemper or infirmity than old age, so that when the
necessities of nature required it, or they wanted to take the air, they
were obliged to be carried out of their hut, an assistance which is
always readily offered to the old men. The respect paid to them by
their family is so great, that they are looked upon as the judges of
all differences, and their counsels are decrees. An old man who is the
head of a family is called father, even by his grand-children, and
great-grand-children, {309} who to distinguish their immediate father
call him their true father.

If any of their young people happen to fight, which I never saw nor
heard of during the whole time I resided in their neighbourhood, they
threaten to put them in a hut at a great distance from their nation,
as persons unworthy to live among others; and this is repeated to them
so often, that if they happen to have had a battle, they take care
never to have another. I have already observed that I studied them a
considerable number of years; and I never could learn that there ever
were any disputes or boxing matches among either their boys or men.

As the children grow up, the fathers and mothers take care each to
accustom those of their own sex to the labours and exercises suited to
them, and they have no great trouble to keep them employed; but it
must be confessed that the girls and the women work more than the men
and the boys. These last go a hunting and fishing, cut the wood, the
smallest bits of which are carried home by the women; they clear the
fields for corn, and hoe it; and on days when they cannot go abroad
they amuse themselves with making, after their fashion, pickaxes,
oars, paddles, and other instruments, which once made last a long
while. The women on the other hand have their children to bring up,
have to pound the maiz for the subsistence of the family, have to keep
up the fire, and to make a great many utensils, which require a good
deal of work, and last but a short time, such as their earthen ware,
their matts, their clothes, and a thousand other things of that kind.

When the children are about ten or twelve years of age they accustom
them by degrees to carry small loads, which they increase with their
years. The boys are from time to time exercised in running; but they
never suffer them to exhaust themselves by the length of the race,
lest they should overheat themselves. The more nimble at that exercise
sometimes sportfully challenges those who are more slow and heavy; but
the old man who presides hinders the raillery from being carried to
any excess, carefully avoiding all subjects of quarrel and dispute, on
which account doubtless it is that they will never suffer them to

{310} Both boys and girls are early accustomed to bathe every morning,
in order to strengthen the nerves, and harden them against cold and
fatigue, and likewise to teach them to swim, that they may avoid or
pursue an enemy, even across a river. The boys and girls, from the
time they are three years of age, are called out every morning by an
old man, to go to the river; and here is some more employment for the
mothers who accompany them thither to teach them to swim. Those who
can swim tolerably well, make a great noise in winter by beating the
water in order to frighten away the crocodiles, and keep themselves

The reader will have observed that most of the labour and fatigue
falls to the share of the women; but I can declare that I never heard
them complain of their fatigues, unless of the trouble their children
gave them, which complaint arose as much from maternal affection, as
from any attention that the children required. The girls from their
infancy have it instilled into them, that if they are sluttish or
unhandy they will have none but a dull aukward fellow for their
husband; I observed in all the nations I visited, that this
threatening was never lost upon the young girls.

I would not have it thought however, that the young men are altogether
idle. Their occupations indeed are not of such a long continuance; but
they are much more laborious. As the men have occasion for more
strength, reason requires that they should not exhaust themselves in
their youth; but at the same time they are not exempted from those
exercises that fit them for war and hunting. The children are educated
without blows; and the body is left at full liberty to grow, and to
form and strengthen itself with their years. The youths accompany the
men in hunting, in order to learn the wiles and tricks necessary to be
practised in the field, and accustom themselves to suffering and
patience. When they are full grown men, they dress the field or waste
land, and prepare it to receive the seed; they go to war or hunting,
dress the skins, cut the wood, make their bows and arrows, and assist
each other in building their huts.

They have still I allow a great deal of more spare time than the
women; but this is not all thrown away. As these {311} people have not
the assistance of writing, they are obliged to have recourse to
tradition, in order to preserve the remembrance of any remarkable
transactions; and this tradition cannot be learned but by frequent
repetitions, consequently many of the youths are often employed in
hearing the old men narrate the history of their ancestors, which is
thus transmitted from generation to generation. In order to preserve
their traditions pure and uncorrupt, they are careful not to deliver
them indifferently to all their young people, but teach them only to
those young men of whom they have the best opinion.


_Of the language, government, religion, ceremonies, and feasts of the

During my residence among the Natchez I contracted an intimate
friendship, not only with the chiefs or guardians of the temple, but
with the Great Sun, or the sovereign of the nation, and his brother
the Stung Serpent, the chief of the warriors; and by my great intimacy
with them, and the respect I acquired among the people, I easily
learned the peculiar language of the nation.

This language is easy in the pronunciation, and expressive in the
terms. The natives, like the Orientals, speak much in a figurative
stile, the Natchez in particular more than any other people of
Louisiana. They have two languages, that of the nobles and that of the
people, and both are very copious. I will give two or three examples
to shew the difference of these two languages. When I call one of the
common people, I say to him _aquenan_, that is, hark ye: if, on the
other hand, I want to speak to a Sun, or one of their nobles, I say to
him, _magani_, which signifies, hark ye. If one of the common people
call at my house, I say to him, _tachte-cabanacte, are you there_, or I
am glad to see you, which is equivalent to our goodmorrow. I express
the same thing to a Sun by the word _apapegouaiche_. Again, according to
their custom, I say to one of the common people, _petchi, sit you down_;
but to a Sun, when I desire him to sit down, I say, _caham_. The two
languages are {312} nearly the same in all other respects; for the
difference of expression seems only to take place in matters relating
to the persons of the Suns and nobles, in distinction from those of
the people.

Tho' the women speak the same language with the men, yet, in their
manner of pronunciation, they soften and smooth the words, whereas the
speech of the men is more grave and serious. The French, by chiefly
frequenting the women, contracted their manner of speaking, which was
ridiculed as an effeminacy by the women, as well as the men, among the

From my conversations with the chief of the guardians of the temple, I
discovered that they acknowledged a supreme being, whom they called
_Coyococop-Chill_, or _Great Spirit_. The _Spirit infinitely great_, or
the _Spirit_ by way of excellence. The word _chill_, in their language,
signifies the most superlative degree of perfection, and is added by
them to the word which signifies _fire_, when they want to mention the
Sun; thus _Oua_ is _fire_, and _Oua-chill_ is the _supreme fire_, or the
_Sun_; therefore, by the word _Coyocop-Chill_ they mean a spirit that
surpasses other spirits as much as the sun does common fire.

"God," according to the definition of the guardian of the temple, "was
so great and powerful, that, in comparison with him, all other things
were as nothing; he had made all that we see, all that we can see, and
all that we cannot see; he was so good, that he could not do ill to
any one, even if he had a mind to it. They believe that God had made
all things by his will; that nevertheless the little spirits, who are
his servants, might, by his orders, have made many excellent works in
the universe, which we admire; but that God himself had formed man
with his own hands."

The guardian added, that they named those little spirits,
_Coyocop-techou_, that is, a _free servant_, but as submissive and as
respectful as a slave; that those spirits were always present before
God, ready to execute his pleasure with an extreme diligence; that the
air was filled with other spirits, some good some wicked; and that the
latter had a chief, who was more {313} wicked than them all; that God
had found him so wicked, that he had bound him for ever, so that the
other spirits of the air no longer did so much harm, especially when
they were by prayers entreated not to do it; for it is one of the
religious customs of those people to invoke the spirits of the air for
rain or fine weather, according as each is needed. I have seen the
Great Sun fast for nine days together, eating nothing but maiz-corn,
without meat or fish, drinking nothing but water, and abstaining from
the company of his wives during the whole time. He underwent this
rigorous fast out of complaisance to some Frenchmen, who had been
complaining that it had not rained for a long time. Those
inconsiderate people had not remarked, that notwithstanding the want
of rain, the fruits of the earth had not suffered, as the dew is so
plentiful in summer as fully to supply that deficiency.

The guardian of the temple having told me that God had made man with
his own hands, I asked him if he knew how that was done. He answered,
"that God had kneaded some clay, such as that which potters use, and
had made it into a little man; and that after examining it, and
finding it well formed, he blew up his work, and forthwith that little
man had life, grew, acted, walked, and found himself a man perfectly
well shaped." As he made no mention of the woman, I asked him how he
believed she was made; he told me, "that probably in the same manner
as the man; that their _antient speech_ made no mention of any
difference, only told them that the man was made first, and was the
strongest and most courageous, because he was to be the head and
support of the woman, who was made to be his companion."

Here I did not omit to rectify his notions on the subjects we had been
talking about, and to give him those just ideas which religion teaches
us, and the sacred writings have transmitted to us. He hearkened to me
with great attention, and promised to repeat all that I had told him
to the old men of his nation, who certainly would not forget it;
adding, that we were very happy in being able to retain the knowledge
of such fine things by means of the speaking cloth, so they name books
and manuscripts.

{314} I next proceeded to ask him, who had taught them to build a
temple; whence had they their eternal fire, which they preserved with
so much care; and who was the person that first instituted their
feasts? He replied, "The charge I am entrusted with obliges me to know
all these things you ask of me; I will therefore satisfy you: hearken
to me. A great number of years ago there appeared among us a man and
his wife, who came down from the sun. Not that we believe that the sun
had a wife who bore him children, or that these were the descendants
of the sun; but when they first appeared among us they were so bright
and luminous that we had no difficulty to believe that they came down
from the sun. This man told us, that having seen from on high that we
did not govern ourselves well; that we had no master; that each of us
had presumption enough to think himself capable of governing others,
while he could not even conduct himself; he had thought fit to come
down among us to teach us to live better.

"He moreover told us, that in order to live in peace among ourselves,
and to please the supreme Spirit, we must indispensably observe the
following points; we must never kill any one but in defence of our own
lives; we must never know any other woman besides our own; we must
never take any thing that belongs to another; we must never lye nor
get drunk; we must not be avaricious, but must give liberally, and
with joy, part of what we have to others who are in want, and
generously share our subsistence with those who are in need of it."

"The words of this man deeply affected us, for he spoke them with
authority, and he procured the respect even of the old men themselves,
tho' he reprehended them as freely as the rest. Next day we offered to
acknowledge him as our sovereign. He at first refused, saying that he
should not be obeyed, and that the disobedient would infallibly die;
but at length he accepted the offer that was made him on the following

"That we would go and inhabit another country, better than that in
which we were, which he would shew us; that we would afterwards live
conformable to the instructions he had given us; that we would promise
never to acknowledge any {315} other sovereigns but him and his
descendants; that the nobility should be perpetuated by the women
after this manner; if I, said he, have male and female children, they
being brothers and sisters cannot marry together; the eldest boy may
chuse a wife from among the people, but his sons shall be only nobles;
the children of the eldest girl, on the other hand, shall be princes
and princesses, and her eldest son be sovereign; but her eldest
daughter be the mother of the next sovereign, even tho' she should
marry one of the common people; and, in defect of the eldest daughter,
the next female relation to the person reigning shall be the mother of
the future sovereign; the sons of the sovereign and princes shall lose
their rank, but the daughters shall preserve theirs."

"He then told us, that in order to preserve the excellent precepts he
had given us, it was necessary to build a temple, into which it should
be lawful for none but the princes and princesses to enter, to speak
to the Spirit. That in the temple they should eternally preserve a
fire, which he would bring down from the sun, from whence he himself
had descended, that the wood with which the fire was supplied should
be pure wood without bark; that eight wise men of the nation should be
chosen for guarding the fire night and day; that those eight men
should have a chief, who should see them do their duty, and that if
any of them failed in it he should be put to death. He likewise
ordered another temple to be built in a distant part of our nation,
which was then very populous, and the eternal fire to be kept there
also, that in case it should be extinguished in the one it might be
brought from the other; in which case, till it was again lighted, the
nation would be afflicted with a great mortality."

"Our nation having consented to these conditions, he agreed to be our
sovereign; and in presence of all the people he brought down the fire
from the sun, upon some wood of the walnut-tree which he had prepared,
which fire was deposited in both the temples. He lived a long time,
and saw his children's children. To conclude, he instituted our feasts
such as you see them."

The Natchez have neither sacrifices, libations, nor offerings: their
whole worship consists in preserving the eternal {316} fire, and this
the Great Sun watches over with a peculiar attention. The Sun, who
reigned when I was in the country, was extremely solicitous about it,
and visited the temple every day. His vigilance had been awakened by a
terrible hurricane which some years before had happened in the
country, and was looked upon as an extraordinary event, the air being
generally clear and serene in that climate. If to that calamity should
be joined the extinction of the eternal fire, he was apprehensive
their whole nation would be destroyed.

One day, when the Great Sun called upon me, he gave me an account of a
dreadful calamity that had formerly befallen the nation of the
Natchez, in consequence, as he believed, of the extinction of the
eternal fire. He introduced his account in the following manner: "Our
nation was formerly very numerous and very powerful; it extended more
than twelve days journey from east to west, and more than fifteen from
south to north. We reckoned then 500 Suns, and you may judge by that
what was the number of the nobles, of the people of rank, and the
common people. Now in times past it happened, that one of the two
guardians, who were upon duty in the temple, left it on some business,
and the other fell asleep, and suffered the fire to go out. When he
awaked and saw that he had incurred the penalty of death, he went and
got some profane fire, as tho' he had been going to light his pipe,
and with that he renewed the eternal fire. His transgression was by
that means concealed; but a dreadful mortality immediately ensued, and
raged for four years, during which many Suns and an infinite number of
the people died.

"The guardian at length sickened, and found himself dying, upon which
he sent for the Great Sun, and confessed the heinous crime he had been
guilty of. The old men were immediately assembled, and, by their
advice, fire being snatched from the other temple, and brought into
this, the mortality quickly ceased." Upon my asking him what he meant
by "snatching the fire," he replied, "that it must always be brought
away by violence, and that some blood must be shed, unless some tree
on the road was set on fire by lightning, and {317} then the fire
might be brought from thence; but that the fire of the sun was always

It is impossible to express his astonishment when I told him, that it
was a trifling matter to bring down fire from the sun, and that I had it
in my power to do it whenever I pleased. As he was extremely desirous to
see me perform that seeming miracle, I took the smallest of two burning
glasses which I had brought from France, and placing some dry punk (or
agaric) upon a chip of wood, I drew the focus of the glass upon it, and
with a tone of authority pronounced the word _Caheuch_, that is, _come_,
as tho' I had been commanding the fire to come down. The punk
immediately smoking, I blew a little and made it flame to the utter
astonishment of the Great Sun and his whole retinue, some of whom stood
trembling with amazement and religious awe. The prince himself could not
help exclaiming, "Ah, what an extraordinary thing is here!" I confirmed
him in his idea, by telling him, that I greatly loved and esteemed that
useful instrument, as it was most valuable, and was given to me by my
grandfather, who was a very learned man.

Upon his asking me, if another man could do the same thing with that
instrument that he had seen me do, I told him that every man might do
it, and I encouraged him to make the experiment himself. I accordingly
put the glass in his hand, and leading it with mine over another piece
of agaric, I desired him to pronounce the word _Caheuch_, which he did,
but with a very faint and diffident tone; nevertheless, to his great
amazement, he saw the agaric begin to smoke, which so confounded him
that he dropt both the chip on which it was laid and the glass out of
his hands, crying out, "Ah, what a miracle!"

Their curiosity being now fully raised, they held a consultation in my
yard, and resolved to purchase at any rate my wonderful glass, which
would prevent any future mortality in their nation, in consequence of
the extinction of the eternal fire. I, in the mean time, had gone out
to my field, as if about some business; but in reality to have a
hearty laugh at the comical scene which I had just occasioned. Upon my
return the Great Sun entered my apartment with me, and laying his hand
upon mine, told me, that tho' he loved all the French, he {318} was
more my friend than of any of the rest, because most of the French
carried all their understanding upon their tongue, but that I carried
mine in my whole head and my whole body. After this preamble he
offered to bargain for my glass, and desired me to set what value I
pleased upon it, adding that he would not only cause the price to be
paid by all the families of the nation, but would declare to them that
they lay under an obligation to me for giving up to them a thing which
saved them from a general mortality. I replied, that tho' I bore his
whole nation in my heart, yet nothing made me part with my glass, but
my affection for him and his brother; that, besides, I asked nothing
in return but things necessary for my subsistence, such as corn,
fowls, game, and fish, when they brought him any of these. He offered
me twenty barrels of maiz, of 150 pounds each, twenty fowls, twenty
turkies, and told me that he would send me game and fish every time
his warriors brought him any, and his promise was punctually
fulfilled. He engaged likewise not to speak any thing about it to the
Frenchmen, lest they should be angry with me for parting with an
instrument of so great a value. Next day the glass was tried before a
general assembly of all the Suns, both men and women, the nobles, and
the men of rank, who all met together at the temple; and the same
effect being produced as the day before, the bargain was ratified; but
it was resolved not to mention the affair to the common people, who,
from their curiosity to know the secrets of their court, were
assembled in great numbers not far from the temple, but only to tell
them, that the whole nation of the Natchez were under great
obligations to me.

The Natchez are brought up in a most perfect submission to their
sovereign; the authority which their princes exercise over them is
absolutely despotic, and can be compared to nothing but that of the
first Ottoman emperors. Like these, the Great Sun is absolute master
of the lives and estates of his subjects, which he disposes of at his
pleasure, his will being the only law; but he has this singular
advantage over the Ottoman princes, that he has no occasion to fear
any seditious tumults, or any conspiracy against his person. If he
orders a man guilty of a capital crime to be put to death, the
criminal {319} neither supplicates, nor procures intercession to be
made for his life, nor attempts to run away. The order of the
sovereign is executed on the spot, and nobody murmurs. But however
absolute the authority of the Great Sun may be, and although a number
of warriors and others attach themselves to him, to serve him, to
follow him wherever he goes, and to hunt for him, yet he raises no
stated impositions; and what he receives from those people appears
given, not so much as a right due, as a voluntary homage, and a
testimony of their love and gratitude.

The Natchez begin their year in the month of March, as was the
practice a long time in Europe, and divide it into thirteen moons. At
every new moon they celebrate a feast, which takes its name from the
principal fruits reaped in the preceding moon, or from animals that
are then usually hunted. I shall give an account of one or two of
these feasts as concisely as I can.

The first moon is called that of the Deer, and begins their new year,
which is celebrated by them with universal joy, and is at the same
time an anniversary memorial of one of the most interesting events in
their history. In former times a Great Sun, upon hearing a sudden
tumult in his village, had left his hut in a great hurry, in order to
appease it, and fell into the hands of his enemies; but was quickly
after rescued by his warriors, who repulsed the invaders, and put them
to flight.

In order to preserve the remembrance of this honourable exploit, the
warriors divide themselves into two bodies, distinguished from each
other by the colour of their feathers. One of these bodies represents
the invaders, and after raising loud shouts and cries, seize the Great
Sun, who comes out of his hut undressed, and rubbing his eyes, as
though he were just awake. The Great Sun defends himself intrepidly
with a wooden tomahawk, and lays a great many of his enemies upon the
ground, without however giving them a single blow, for he only seems
to touch them with his weapon. In the mean time the other party come
out of their ambuscade, attack the invaders, and, after fighting with
them for some time, rescue their prince, and drive them into a wood,
which is represented by an arbour {320} made of canes. During the
whole time of the skirmish, the parties keep up the war-cry, or the
cry of terror, as each of them seem to be victors or vanquished. The
Great Sun is brought back to his hut in a triumphant manner; and the
old men, women, and children, who were spectators of the engagement,
rend the sky with their joyful acclamations. The Great Sun continues
in his hut about half an hour, to repose himself after his great
fatigues, which are such that an actor of thirty years of age would
with difficulty have supported them, and he however, when I saw this
feast, was above ninety. He then makes his appearance again to the
people, who salute him with loud acclamations, which cease upon his
proceeding towards the temple. When he is arrived in the middle of the
court before the temple, he makes several gesticulations, then
stretches out his arms horizontally, and remains in that posture
motionless as a statute for half an hour. He is then relieved by the
master of the ceremonies, who places himself in the same attitude, and
half an hour after is relieved by the great chief of war, who remains
as long in the same posture. When this ceremony is over, the Great
Sun, who, when he was relieved, had returned to his hut, appears again
before the people in the ornaments of his dignity, is placed upon his
throne, which is a large stool with four feet cut out of one piece of
wood, has a fine buffalo's skin thrown over his shoulders, and several
furs laid upon his feet, and receives various presents from the women,
who all the while continue to express their joy by their shouts and
acclamations. Strangers are then invited to dine with the Great Sun,
and in the evening there is a dance in his hut, which is about thirty
feet square, and twenty feet high, and like the temple is built upon a
mount of earth, about eight feet high, and sixty feet over on the

The second moon, which answers to our April, is called the Strawberry
moon, as that fruit abounds then in great quantities.

The third moon is that of the Small Corn. This moon is often
impatiently looked for, their crop of large corn never sufficing to
nourish them from one harvest to another.

{321} The fourth is that of Water-melons, and answers to our June.

The fifth moon is that of the Fishes: in this month also they gather
grapes, if the birds have suffered them to ripen.

The sixth, which answers to our August, is that of the Mulberries. At
this feast they likewise carry fowls to the Great Sun.

The seventh, which is that of Maiz, or Great Corn. This feast is
beyond dispute the most solemn of all. It principally consists in
eating in common, and in a religious manner, of new corn, which had
been sown expressly with that design, with suitable ceremonies. This
corn is sown upon a spot of ground never before cultivated; which
ground is dressed and prepared by the warriors alone, who also are the
only persons that sow the corn, weed it, reap it, and gather it. When
this corn is near ripe, the warriors fix on a place proper for the
general feast, and close adjoining to that they form a round granary,
the bottom and sides of which are of cane; this they fill, with the
corn, and when they have finished the harvest, and covered the
granary, they acquaint the Great Sun, who appoints the day for the
general feast. Some days before the feast, they build huts for the
Great Sun, and for all the other families, round the granary, that of
the Great Sun being raised upon a mount of earth about two feet high.
On the feast-day the whole nation set out from their village at
sun-rising, leaving behind only the aged and infirm that are not able
to travel, and a few warriors, who are to carry the Great Sun on a
litter upon their shoulders. The seat of this litter is covered with
several deer skins, and to its four sides are fastened four bars which
cross each other, and are supported by eight men, who at every hundred
paces transfer their burden to eight other men, and thus successively
transport it to the place where the feast is celebrated, which may be
near two miles from the village. About nine o'clock the Great Sun
comes out of his hut dressed in the ornaments of his dignity, and
being placed in his litter, which has a canopy at the head formed of
flowers, he is carried in a few minutes to the sacred granary, shouts
of {322} joy re-echoing on all sides. Before he alights he makes the
tour of the whole place deliberately, and when he comes before the
corn, he salutes it thrice with the words, _hoo, hoo, hoo_, lengthened
and pronounced respectfully. The salutation is repeated by the whole
nation, who pronounce the word _hoo_ nine times distinctly, and at the
ninth time he alights and places himself on his throne.

Immediately after they light a fire by rubbing two pieces of wood
violently against each other, and when every thing is prepared for
dressing the corn, the chief of war, accompanied by the warriors
belonging to each family, presents himself before the throne, and
addresses the Sun in these words, "speak, for I hear thee." The
sovereign then rises up, bows towards the four quarters of the world,
and advancing to the granary, lifts his eyes and hands to heaven, and
says, "Give us corn:" upon which the great chief of war, the princes
and princesses, and all the men, thank him separately, by pronouncing
the word _hoo_. The corn is then distributed, first to the female Suns,
and then to all the women, who run with it to their huts, and dress it
with the utmost dispatch. When the corn is dressed in all the huts, a
plate of it is put into the hands of the Great Sun, who presents it to
the four quarters of the world, and then says to the chief of war,
_eat_; upon this signal the warriors begin to eat in all the huts; after
them the boys of whatever age, excepting those who are on the breast;
and last of all the women. When the warriors have finished their
repast, they form themselves into two choirs before the huts, and sing
war songs for half an hour; after which the chief of war, and all the
warriors in succession, recount their brave exploits, and mention, in
a boasting manner, the number of enemies they have slain. The youths
are next allowed to harangue, and each tells in the best manner he
can, not what he has done, but what he intends to do; and if his
discourse merits approbation, he is answered by a general _hoo_; if not,
the warriors hang down their heads and are silent.

This great solemnity is concluded with a general dance by torch-light.
Upwards of two hundred torches of dried canes, each of the thickness
of a child, are lighted round the place, {323} where the men and women
often continue dancing till day-light; and the following is the
disposition of their dance. A man places himself on the ground with a
pot covered with a deer-skin, in the manner of a drum, to beat time to
the dances; round him the women form themselves into a circle, not
joining hands, but at some distance from each other; and they are
inclosed by the men in another circle, who have in each hand a
chichicois, or calabash, with a stick thrust through it to serve for a
handle. When the dance begins, the women move round {324} the men in
the centre, from left to right, and the men contrariwise from right to
left, and they sometimes narrow and sometimes widen their circles. In
this manner the dance continues without intermission the whole night,
new performers successively taking the place of those who are wearied
and fatigued.

[Illustration: _Dance of the Natchez indians_ (on p. 323)]

Next morning no person is seen abroad before the Great Sun comes out
of his hut, which is generally about nine o'clock, and then upon
signal made by the drum, the warriors make their appearance
distinguished into two troops, by the feathers which they wear on
their heads. One of these troops is headed by the Great Sun, and the
other by the chief of war, who begin a new diversion by tossing a ball
of deer-skin stuffed with Spanish beard from the one to the other. The
warriors quickly take part in the sport, and a violent contest ensues
which of the two parties shall drive the ball to the hut of the
opposite chief. The diversion generally lasts two hours, and the
victors are allowed to wear the feathers of superiority till the
following year, or till the next time they play at the ball. After
this the warriors perform the war dance; and last of all they go and
bathe; an exercise which they are very fond of when they are heated or

The rest of that day is employed as the preceding; for the feasts
holds as long as any of the corn remains. When it is all eat up, the
Great Sun is carried back in his litter, and they all return to the
village, after which he sends the warriors to hunt both for themselves
and him.

The eighth moon is that of Turkies, and answers to our October.

The ninth moon is that of the Buffalo; and it is then they go to hunt
that animal. Having discovered whereabouts the herd feeds, they go out
in a body to hunt them. Young and old, girls and married women, except
those who are with child, are all of the party, for there is generally
work for them all. Some nations are a little later in going out to
this hunting, that they may find the cows fatter, and the herds more

The tenth moon is that of Bears; at this time of hunting the feasts
are not so grand and solemn, because great part of the nations are
accompanying the hunters in their expeditions.

{325} The eleventh answers to our January, and is named as Cold-meal
Moon. The twelfth is that of Chesnuts. That fruit has been gathered
long before, nevertheless it gives its name to this moon.

Lastly, the thirteenth is that of Walnuts, and it is added to compleat
the year. It is then they break the nuts to make bread of them by
mixing with them the flour of Maiz.

The feasts which I saw celebrated in the chief village of the Natchez,
which is the residence of the Great Sun, are celebrated in the same
manner in all the villages of the nation, which are each governed by a
Sun, who is subordinate to the Great Sun, and acknowledge his absolute

It is not to be conceived how exact these people are in assigning the
pre-eminence to the men. In every assembly, whether of the whole
nation in general, or of several families together, or of one family,
the youngest boys have the preference to the women of the most
advanced age; and at their meals, when their food is distributed, none
is presented to the women, till all the males have received their
share, so that a boy of two years old is served before his mother.

The women being always employed, without ever being diverted from
their duty, or seduced by the gallantries of lovers, never think of
objecting to the propriety of a custom, in which they have been
constantly brought up. Never having seen any example that contradicted
it, they have not the least idea of varying from it. Thus being
submissive from the habit, as well as from reason, they, by their
docility, maintain that peace in their families, which they find
established upon entering them.



_Of their Marriages, and Distinction of Ranks._

Paternal authority, as I have elsewhere observed, is not less sacred
and inviolable than the pre-eminence of the men. It still subsists
among the Natchez, such as it was in the first ages of the world. The
children belong to the father, and while he lives they are under his
power. They live with him, they, their wives, and their children; the
same hut contains the whole family. The old man alone commands there,
and nothing but death puts an end to his empire. As these people have
seldom or rather never any differences among them, the paternal
authority appears in nothing more conspicuous than in the marriages.

When the boys and girls arrive at the perfect age of puberty, they
visit each other familiarly, and are suffered so to do. The girls,
sensible that they will be no longer mistresses of their heart, when
once they are married, know how to dispose of it to advantage, and
form their wardrobe by the sale of their favours; for there, as well
as in other countries, nothing for nothing. The lover, far from having
any thing to object to this, on the contrary, rates the merit of his
future spouse, in proportion to the fruits she has produced. But when
they are married they have no longer any intrigues, neither the
husband nor the wife, because their heart is no longer their own. They
may divorce their wives; it is, however, so rare to see the man and
wife part, that during the eight years I lived in their neighbourhood,
I knew but one example of it, and then each took with them the
children of their own sex.

If a young man has obtained a girl's consent, and they desire to marry,
it is not their fathers, and much less their mothers, or male or female
relations who take upon them to, conclude the match; it is the heads of
the two families alone, who are usually great-grandfathers, and
sometimes more. These two old men have an interview, in which, after the
young man has formally made a demand of the girl, they examine if there
be any relation between the two parties, and if any, what degree {327}
it is; for they do not marry within the third degree. Notwithstanding
this interview, and the two parties be found not within the prohibited
degrees, yet if the proposed wife be disagreeable to the father,
grandfather, &c. of the husband, the match is never concluded. On the
other hand, ambition, avarice, and the other passions, so common with
us, never stifle in the breasts of the fathers those dictates of nature,
which make us desire to see ourselves perpetuated in our offspring, nor
influence them to thwart their children, improperly, and much less to
force their inclinations. By an admirable harmony, very worthy of our
imitation, they only marry those who love one another, and those who
love one another, are only married when their parents agree to it. It is
rare for young men to marry before they be five-and-twenty. Till they
arrive at that age they are looked upon as too weak, without
understanding and experience.

When the marriage-day is once fixed, preparations are made for it both
by the men and women; the men go a hunting, and the women prepare the
maiz, and deck out the young man's cabin to the best of their power.
On the wedding-day the old man on the part of the girl leaves his hut,
and conducts the bride to the hut of the bridegroom; his whole family
follow him in order and silence; those who are inclined to laugh or be
merry, indulging themselves only in a smile.

He finds before the other hut all the relations of the bridegroom, who
receive and salute him with their usual expression of congratulation,
namely, _hoo, hoo_, repeated several times. When he enters the hut, the
old man on the part of the bridegroom says to him in their language,
_are you there?_ to which he answers, _yes_. He is next desired to sit
down, and then not a word passes for near ten minutes, it being one of
their prudent customs to suffer a guest to rest himself a little after
his arrival, before they begin a conversation; and besides, they look
upon the time spent in compliments as thrown away.

After both the old men are fully rested, they rise, and the bridegroom
and bride appearing before them, they ask them, if they love each
other? and if they are willing to take one another for man and wife?
observing to them at the same time, {328} that they ought not to marry
unless they propose to live amicably together; that nobody forces
them, and that as they are each other's free choice, they will be
thrust out of the family if they do not live in peace. After this
remonstrance the father of the bridegroom delivers the present which
his son is to make into his hands, the bride's father at the same time
placing himself by her side. The bridegroom then addresses the bride;
"Will you have me for your husband?" she answers, "Most willingly, and
it gives me joy; love me, as well as I love you; for I love, and ever
will love none but you." At these words the bridegroom covers the head
of the bride with the present which he received from his father, and
says to her, "I love you, and have therefore taken you for my wife,
and this I give to your parents, to purchase you." He then gives the
present to the bride's father.

The husband wears a tuft of feathers fastened to his hair, which is in
the form of a cue, and hangs over his left ear, to which is fastened a
sprig of oak with the leaves on, and in his left hand he bears a bow
and arrows. The young wife bears in her left hand a small branch of
laurel, and in her right a stalk of maiz, which was delivered to her
by her mother at the time she received the present from her husband.
This stalk she presents to her husband, who takes it from her with his
right hand, and says, "I am your husband;" she answers, and "I am your
wife." They then shake hands reciprocally with each other's relations;
after which he leads her towards the bed, and says, "There is our bed,
keep it tight;" which is as much as to say, do not defile the nuptial

The marriage ceremony being thus concluded, the bridegroom and the
bride, with their friends, sit down to a repast, and in the evening
they begin their dances, which continue often till day-light.

The nation of the Natchez is composed of nobility and common people.
The common people are named in their language _Miche-Miche-Quipy_, that
is, _Stinkards_; a name however which gives them great offense, and
which it is proper to avoid pronouncing before them, as it would not
fail to put them into a very bad humour. The common people are to the
{329} last degree submissive to the nobility, who are divided into
Suns, nobles, and men of rank.

The Suns are the descendants of the man and woman who pretended to
have come down from the sun. Among the other laws they gave to the
Natchez, they ordained that their race should always be distinguished
from the bulk of the nation, and that none of them should ever be put
to death upon any account. They established likewise another usage
which is found among no other people, except a nation of Scythians
mentioned by Herodotus. They ordained that nobility should only be
transmitted by the women. Their male and female children were equally
named Suns, and regarded as such, but with this difference, that the
males enjoyed this privilege only in their own person, and during
their own lives. Their children had only the title of nobles, and the
male children of those nobles were only men of rank. Those men of
rank, however, if they distinguished themselves by their war-like
exploits, might raise themselves again to the rank of nobles; but
their children became only men of rank, and the children of those men
of rank, as well as of the others, were confounded with the common
people, and classed among the Stinkards. Thus as these people are very
long-lived, and frequently see the fourth generation, it often happens
that a Sun sees some of his posterity among the Stinkards; but they
are at great pains to conceal this degradation of their race,
especially from strangers, and almost totally disown those great-grand
children; for when they speak of them they only say, they are dear to
them. It is otherwise with the female posterity of the Suns, for they
continue through all generations to enjoy their rank. The descendants
of the Suns being pretty numerous, it might be expected that those who
are out of the prohibited degrees might intermarry, rather than ally
with the Stinkards; but a most barbarous custom obliges them to their
mis-alliances. When any of the Suns, either male or female, die, their
law ordains that the husband or wife of the Sun shall be put to death
on the day of the interment of the deceased: now as another law
prohibits the issue of the Suns from being put to death, it is
therefore impossible for the descendants of the Suns to match with
each other.

{330} Whether it be that they are tired of this law, or that they with
their Suns descended of French blood, I shall not determine; but the
wife of the Great Sun came one day to visit me so early in the morning
that I was not got out of bed. She was accompanied with her only
daughter, a girl between fourteen and fifteen years of age, handsome
and well shaped; but she only sent in her own name by my slave; so
that without getting up, I made no scruple of desiring her to come in.
When her daughter appeared I was not a little surprized; but I shook
hands with them both, and desired them to sit down. The daughter sat
down on the foot of my bed, and kept her eyes continually fixed on me,
while the mother addressed herself to me in the most serious and
pathetic tone. After some compliments to me, and commendations of our
customs and manners, she condemned the barbarous usages that prevailed
among themselves, and ended with proposing me as a husband for her
daughter, that I might have it in my power to civilize their nation by
abolishing their inhuman customs, and introducing those of the French.
As I foresaw the danger of such an alliance, which would be opposed by
the whole nation of the Natchez, and at the same time was sensible
that the resentment of a slighted woman is very formidable, I returned
her such an answer as might shew my great respect for her daughter,
and prevent her from making the same application to some brainless
Frenchman, who, by accepting the offer, might expose the French
settlement to some disastrous event. I told her that her daughter was
handsome, and pleased me much, as she had a good heart, and a well
turned mind; but the laws we received from the Great Spirit, forbad us
to marry women who did not pray; and that those Frenchmen who lived
with their daughters took them only for a time; but it was not proper
that the daughter of the Great Sun should be disposed of in that
manner. The mother acquiesced in my reasons; but when they took their
leave I perceived plainly that the daughter was far from being
satisfied. I never saw her from that day forwards; and I heard she was
soon after married to another.

From this relation the reader may perceive that there needs nothing
but prudence and good sense to persuade those people {331} to what is
reasonable, and to preserve their friendship without interruption. We
may safely affirm that the differences we have had with them have been
more owing to the French than to them. When they are treated
insolently or oppressively, they have no less sensibility of injuries
than others. If those who have occasion to live among them, will but
have sentiments of humanity, they will in them meet with men.


_Of the Temples, Tombs, Burials, and other religious Ceremonies of the
People of_ Louisiana.

I shall now proceed to give some account of the customs that prevail
in general among all the nations of North America; and these have a
great resemblance to each other, as there is hardly any difference in
the manner of thinking and acting among the several nations. These
people have no religion expressed by any external worship. The
strongest evidences that we discover of their having any religion at
all, are their temples, and the eternal fire therein kept up by some
of them. Some of them indeed do not keep up the eternal fire, and have
turned their temples into charnel-houses.

However, all those people, without exception, acknowledge a supreme
Being, but they never on any account address their prayers to him,
from their fixt belief that God, whom they call the Great Spirit, is
so good, that he cannot do evil, whatever provocation he may have.
They believe the existence of two Great Spirits, a good and a bad.
They do not, as I have said, invoke the Good Spirit; but they pray to
the bad, in order to avert from their persons and possessions the
evils which he might inflict upon them. They pray to the evil spirit,
not because they think him almighty; for it is the Good Spirit whom
they believe so; but because, according to them, he governs the air,
the seasons, the rain, the fine weather, and all that may benefit or
hurt the productions of the earth.

They are very superstitious in respect to the flight of birds, and the
passage of some animals that are seldom seen in their country. They
are much inclined to hear and believe {332} diviners, especially in
regard to discovering things to come; and they are kept in their
errors by the Jongleurs, who find their account in them.

The natives have all the same manner of bringing up their children,
and are in general well shaped, and their limbs are justly
proportioned. The Chicasaws are the most fierce and arrogant, which
they undoubtedly owe to their frequent intercourse with the English of
Carolina. They are brave; a disposition they may have inherited as the
remains of that martial spirit that prompted them to invade their
neighbouring nations, by which they themselves were at length greatly
weakened. All the nations on the north of the colony are likewise
brave, but they are more humane than the Chicasaws, and have not their
high-spirited pride. All these nations of the north, and all those of
Louisiana, have been inviolably attached to us ever since our
establishment in this colony. The misfortune of the Natchez, who,
without dispute, were the finest of all those nations, and who loved
us, ought not in the least to lessen our sentiments of those people,
who are in general distinguished for their natural goodness of
character. All those nations are prudent, and speak little; they are
sober in their diet, but they are passionately fond of brandy, though
they are singular in never tasting any wine, and neither know nor care
to learn any composition of liquors. In their meals they content
themselves with maiz prepared various ways, and sometimes they use
fish and flesh. The meat that they eat is chiefly recommended to them
for being wholesome; and therefore I have conjectured that dog's
flesh, for which we have such an aversion, must however be as good as
it is beautiful, since they rate it so highly as to use it by way of
preference in their feasts of ceremony. They eat no young game, as
they find plenty of the largest size, and do not think delicacy of
taste alone any recommendation; and therefore, in general, they would
not taste our ragouts, but, condemning them as unwholesome, prefer to
them gruel made of maiz, called in the colony Sagamity.

The Chactaws are the only ugly people among all the nations in
Louisiana; which is chiefly owing to the fat with which {333} they rub
their skin and their hair, and to their manner of defending themselves
against the moskitos, which they keep off by lighting fires of
fir-wood, and standing in the smoke.

Although all the people of Louisiana have nearly the same usages and
customs, yet as any nation is more or less populous, it has
proportionally more or fewer ceremonies. Thus when the French first
arrived in the colony, several nations kept up the eternal fire, and
observed other religious ceremonies, which they have now disused,
since their numbers have been greatly diminished. Many of them still
continue to have temples, but the common people never enter these, nor
strangers, unless peculiarly favoured by the nation. As I was an
intimate friend of the sovereign of the Natchez, he shewed me their
temple, which is about thirty feet square, and stands upon an
artificial mount about eight feet high, by the side of a small river.
The mount slopes insensibly from the main front, which is northwards,
but on the other sides it is somewhat steeper. The four corners of the
temple consist of four posts, about a foot and an half diameter, and
ten feet high, each made of the heart of the cypress tree, which is
incorruptible. The side-posts are of the same wood, but only about a
foot square; and the walls are of mud, about nine inches thick; so
that in the inside there is a hollow between every post. The inner
space is divided from east to west into two apartments one of which is
twice as large as the other. In the largest apartment the eternal fire
is kept, and there is likewise a table or altar in it, about four feet
high, six long, and two broad. Upon this table lie the bones of the
late Great Sun in a coffin of canes very neatly made. In the inner
apartment, which is very dark, as it receives no light but from the
door of communication, I could meet with nothing but two boards, on
which were placed some things like small toys, which I had not light
to peruse. The roof is in the form of a pavilion, and very neat both
within and without, and on the top of it are placed three wooden
birds, twice as large as a goose, with their heads turned towards the
east. The corner and side-posts, as has been mentioned, rise above the
earth ten feet high, and it is said they are as much sunk under
ground; it cannot therefore but appear surprising how the natives
could transport such large beams, fashion them, and raise them {334}
upright, when we know of no machines they had for that purpose.
Besides the eight guardians of the temple, two of whom are always on
watch, and the chief of those guardians, there also belongs to the
service of the temple a master of the ceremonies, who is also master
of the mysteries; since, according to them, he converses very
familiarly with the Spirit. Above all these persons is the Great Sun,
who is at the same time chief priest and sovereign of the nation. The
temples of some of the nations of Louisiana are very mean, and one
would often be apt to mistake them for the huts of private persons,
but to those who are acquainted with their manners, they are easily
distinguishable, as they have always before the door two posts formed
like the ancient Termini, that is, having the upper part cut into the
shape of a man's head. The door of the temple, which is pretty
weighty, is placed between the wall and those two posts, so that
children may not be able to remove it, to go and play in the temple.
The private huts have also posts before their doors, but these are
never formed like Termini.

None of the nations of Louisiana are acquainted with the custom of
burning their dead, which was practised by the Greeks and Romans; nor
with that of the Egyptians, who studied to preserve them to
perpetuity. The different American nations have a most religious
attention for their dead, and each have some peculiar customs in
respect to them; but all of them either inter them, or place them in
tombs, and carefully carry victuals to them for some time. These tombs
are either within their temples, or close adjoining to them, or in
their neighbourhood. They are raised about three feet above the earth,
and rest upon four pillars, which are forked stakes fixed fast in the
ground. The tomb, or rather bier, is about eight feet long, and a foot
and a half broad; and after the body is placed upon it, a kind of
basket-work of twigs is wove round it, and covered with mud, an
opening being left at the head for placing the victuals that are
presented to the dead person. When the body is all rotted but the
bones, these are taken out of the tomb, and placed in a box of canes,
which is deposited in the temple. They usually weep and lament for
their dead three days; but for those who are killed in war, they make
a much longer and more grievous lamentation.

{335} Among the Natchez the death of any of their Suns, as I have
before observed, is a most fatal event; for it is sure to be attended
with the destruction of a great number of people of both sexes. Early
in the spring 1725, the Stung Serpent, who was the brother of the
Great Sun, and my intimate friend, was seized with a mortal distemper,
which filled the whole nation of the Natchez with the greatest
consternation and terror; for the two brothers had mutually engaged to
follow each other to the land of spirits; and if the Great Sun should
kill himself for the sake of his brother, very many people would
likewise be put to death. When the Stung Serpent was despaired of, the
chief of the guardians of the temple came to me in the greatest
confusion, and acquainting me with the mutual engagements of the two
brothers, begged of me to interest myself in preserving the Great Sun,
and consequently a great part of the nation. He made the same request
to the commander of the fort. Accordingly we were no sooner informed
of the death of the Stung Serpent, than the commander, some of the
principal Frenchmen, and I, went in a body to the hut of the Great
Sun. We found him in despair; but, after some time, he seemed to be
influenced by the arguments I used to dissuade him from putting
himself to death. The death of the Stung Serpent was published by the
firing of two muskets, which were answered by the other villages, and
immediately cries and lamentations were heard on all sides. The Great
Sun, in the mean time, remained inconsolable, and sat bent forwards,
with his eyes towards the ground. In the evening, while we were still
in his hut, he made a sign to his favourite wife; who in consequence
of that threw a pailful of water on the fire, and extinguished it.
This was a signal for extinguishing all the fires of the nation, and
filled every one with terrible alarms, as it denoted that the Great
Sun was still resolved to put himself to death. I gently chided him
for altering his former resolution, but he assured me he had not, and
desired us to go and sleep securely. We accordingly left him,
pretending to rely on the assurance he had given us; but we took up
our lodging in the hut of his chief servants, and stationed a soldier
at the door of his hut, whom we ordered to give us notice of whatever
happened. There was no need to fear our being betrayed by the wife of
{336} the Great Sun, or any others about him; for none of them had the
least inclination to die, if they could help it. On the contrary, they
all expressed the greatest thankfulness and gratitude to us for our
endeavors to avert the threatened calamity from their nation.

Before we went to our lodgings we entered the hut of the deceased, and
found him on his bed of state, dressed in his finest cloaths, his face
painted with vermilion, shod as if for a journey, with his
feather-crown on his head. To his bed were fastened his arms, which
consisted of a double-barreled gun, a pistol, a bow, a quiver full of
arrows, and a tomahawk. Round his bed were placed all the calumets of
peace he had received during his life, and on a pole, planted in the
ground near it, hung a chain of forty-six rings of cane painted red,
to express the number of enemies he had slain. All his domesticks were
round him, and they presented victuals to him at the usual hours, as
if he were alive. The company in his hut were composed of his
favourite wife, of a second wife, which he kept in another village,
and visited when his favourite was with child; of his chancellor, his
physician, his chief domestic, his pipe-bearer, and some old women,
who were all to be strangled at his interment. To these victims a
noble woman voluntarily joined herself, resolving, from her friendship
to the Stung Serpent, to go and live with him in the country of
spirits. I regretted her on many accounts, but particularly as she was
intimately acquainted with the virtues of simples, had by her skill
saved many of our people's lives, and given me many useful
instructions. After we had satisfied our curiosity in the hut of the
deceased, we retired to our hut, where we spent the night. But at
day-break we were suddenly awaked, and told that it was with
difficulty the Great Sun was kept from killing himself. We hastened to
his hut, and upon entering it I remarked dismay and terror painted
upon the countenances of all who were present. The Great Sun held his
gun by the butt-end, and seemed enraged that the other Suns had seized
upon it, to prevent him from executing his purpose. I addressed myself
to him, and after opening the pan of the lock, to let the priming fall
out, I chided him gently for his not acting according to his former
resolution. He pretended at first {337} not to see me; but, after some
time, he let go his hold of the musket, and shook hands with me
without speaking a word. I then went towards his wife, who all this
while had appeared in the utmost agony and terror, and I asked her if
she was ill. She answered me, "Yes, very ill," and added, "if you
leave us, my husband is a dead man, and all the Natchez will die; stay
then, for he opens his ears only to your words, which have the
sharpness and strength of arrows. You are his true friend, and do not
laugh when you speak, like most of the Frenchmen." The Great Sun at
length consented to order his fire to be again lighted, which was the
signal for lighting the other fires of the nation, and dispelled all
their apprehensions.

Soon after the natives begun the dance of death, and prepared for the
funeral of the Stung Serpent. Orders were given to put none to death
on that occasion, but those who were in the hut of the deceased. A
child however had been strangled already by its father and mother,
which ransomed their lives upon the death of the Great Sun, and raised
them from the rank of Stinkards to that of Nobles. Those who were
appointed to die were conducted twice a day, and placed in two rows
before the temple, where they acted over the scene of their death,
each accompanied by eight of their own relations who were to be their
executioners, and by that office exempted themselves from dying upon
the death of any of the Suns, and likewise raised themselves to the
dignity of men of rank.

Mean while thirty warriors brought in a prisoner, who had formerly
been married to a female Sun; but, upon her death, instead of
submitting to die with her, had fled to New Orleans, and offered to
become the hunter and slave of our commander in chief. The commander
accepting his offer, and granting him his protection, he often visited
his countrymen, who, out of complaisance to the commander, never
offered to apprehend him: but that officer being now returned to
France, and the runaway appearing in the neighbourhood, he was now
apprehended, and numbered among the other victims. Finding himself
thus unexpectedly trapped, he began to cry bitterly; but three old
women, who were his relations, offering to die in his stead, he was
not only again exempted from death, but {338} raised to the dignity of
a man of rank. Upon this he afterwards became insolent, and profiting
by what he had seen and learned at New Orleans, he easily, on many
occasions, made his fellow-countrymen his dupes.

[Illustration: _Burial of the Stung Serpent_]

On the day of the interment, the wife of the deceased made a very
moving speech to the French who were present, recommending her
children, to whom she also addressed herself, to their friendship, and
advising perpetual union between {339} the two nations. Soon after the
master of the ceremonies appeared in a red-feathered crown, which half
encircled his head, having a red staff in his hand in the form of a
cross, at the end of which hung a garland of black feathers. All the
upper part of his body was painted red, excepting his arms, and from
his girdle to his knees hung a fringe of feathers, the rows of which
were alternately white and red. When he came before the hut of the
deceased, he saluted him with a great _hoo_, and then began the cry of
death, in which he was followed by the whole people. Immediately after
the Stung Serpent was brought out on his bed of state, and was placed
on a litter, which six of the guardians of the temple bore on their
shoulders. The procession then began, the master of the ceremonies
walking first, and after him the oldest warrior, holding in one hand
the pole with the rings of canes, and in the other the pipe of war, a
mark of the dignity of the deceased. Next followed the corpse, after
which came those who were to die at the interment. The whole
procession went three times round the hut of the deceased, and then
those who carried the corpse proceeded in a circular kind of march,
every turn intersecting the former, until they came to the temple. At
every turn the dead child was thrown by its parents before the bearers
of the corpse, that they might walk over it; and when the corpse was
placed in the temple the victims were immediately strangled. The Stung
Serpent and his two wives were buried in the same grave within the
temple; the other victims were interred in different parts, and after
the ceremony they burnt, according to custom, the hut of the deceased.



_Of the Arts and Manufactures of the Natives._

The arts and manufactures of the natives are so insignificant, when
compared with ours, that I should not have thought of treating of
them, if some persons of distinction had not desired me to say
something of them, in order to shew the industry of those people, and
how far invention could carry them, in supplying those wants which
human nature is continually exposed to.

As they would have frequent occasion for fire, the manner of lighting
it at pleasure must have been one of the first things that they
invented. Not having those means which we use, they bethought
themselves of another ingenious method which they generally practise.
They take a dry dead stick from a tree, about the thickness of their
finger, and pressing one end against another dry piece of wood, they
turn it round as swiftly as they can till they see the smoke appear,
then blowing gently soon make the wood flame.

Cutting instruments are almost continually wanted; but as they had no
iron, which, of all metals, is the most useful in human society, they
were obliged, with infinite pains, to form hatchets out of large
flints, by sharpening their thin edge, and making a hole through them
for receiving the handle. To cut down trees with these axes would have
been almost an impracticable work; they were therefore obliged to
light fires round the roots of them, and to cut away the charcoal as
the fire eat into the tree. They supplied the want of knives for
cutting their victuals with thin splits of a hard cane, which they
could easily renew as they wore out.

They made their bows of acacia wood, which is hard and easily cleft;
and at first their bowstrings were made of the bark of the wood, but
now they make them of the thongs of hides. Their arrows are made of a
shrub that sends out long straight shoots; but they make some of small
hard reeds: those that are intended for war, or against the buffalo,
the deer, or large carp, are pointed with the sharp scale of the armed
fish, which is neatly fastened to the head of the arrow with splits of
cane and fish-glue.

{341} The skins of the beasts which they killed in hunting naturally
presented themselves for their covering; but they must be dressed
however before they could be properly used. After much practice they
at length discovered that the brain of any animal suffices to dress
its skin. To sew those skins they use the tendons of animals beat and
split into threads, and to pierce the skins they apply the bone of a
heron's leg, sharpened like an awl.

To defend themselves against the inclemencies of the weather, they
built huts of wood, which were close and strong enough to resist the
impetuosity of the wind. These huts are each a perfect square; none of
them are less than fifteen feet square, and some of them are more than
thirty feet in each of their fronts. They erect these huts in the
following manner: they bring from the woods several young
walnut-trees, about four inches in diameter, and thirteen or twenty
feet high; they plant the strongest of these in the four corners, and
the others fifteen inches from each other in straight lines, for the
sides of the building; a pole is then laid horizontally along the
sides in the inside, and all the poles are strongly fastened to it by
split canes. Then the four corner poles are bent inwards till they all
meet in the centre, where they are strongly fastened together; the
side-poles are then bent in the same direction, and bound down to the
others; after which they make a mortar of mud mixed with Spanish
beard, with which they fill up all the chinks, leaving no opening but
the door, and the mud they cover both outside and inside with mats
made of the splits of cane. The roof is thatched with turf and straw
intermixed, and over all is laid a mat of canes, which is fastened to
the tops of the walls by the creeping plant. These huts will last
twenty years without any repairs.

The natives having once built for themselves fixed habitations, would
next apply themselves to the cultivation of the ground. Accordingly,
near all their habitations, they have fields of maiz, and of another
nourishing grain called Choupichoul, which grows without culture. For
dressing their fields they invented hoes, which are formed in the
shape of an L, having the lower part flat and sharp; and to take the
husk {342} from their corn they made large wooden mortars, by
hollowing the trunks of trees with fire.

To prepare their maiz for food, and likewise their venison and game,
there was a necessity for dressing them over the fire, and for this
purpose they bethought themselves of earthen ware, which is made by
the women, who not only form the vessel, but dig up and mix the clay.
In this they are tolerable artists; they make kettles of an
extraordinary size, pitchers with a small opening, gallon bottles with
long necks, pots or pitchers for their bear oil, which will hold forty
pints; lastly, large and small plates in the French fashion: I had
some made out of curiosity upon the model of my delf-ware, which were
a very pretty red. For sifting the flour of their maiz, and for other
uses, the natives make sieves of various finenesses of the splits of
cane. To supply themselves with fish they make nets of the bark of the
limetree; but the large fish they shoot with arrows.

The beds of the natives are placed round the sides of their huts,
about a foot and a half from the ground, and are formed in this
manner. Six forked stakes support two poles, which are crossed by
three others, over which canes are laid so close as to form an even
surface, and upon these are laid several bear skins, which serve for
the bed furniture; a buffalo's skin is the coverlet, and a sack stuft
with Spanish beard is the bolster. The women sometimes add to this
furniture of the bed mats wove of canes, dyed of three colours, which
colours in the weaving are formed into various figures. These mats
render the bottom of the bed still smoother, and in hot weather they
remove the bear skins and lie upon them. Their seats or stools, which
they seldom use, are about six or seven inches high, and the seat and
feet are made of the same piece.

The women likewise make a kind of hampers to carry corn, flesh, fish,
or any other thing which they want to transport from one place to
another; they are round, deeper than broad, and of all sizes. Here, as
well as in other countries, the women take special care to lay up
securely all their trinkets and finery. They make baskets with long
lids that roll doubly over them, and in these they place their
ear-rings and pendants, their {343} bracelets, garters, their ribbands
for their hair, and their vermilion for painting themselves, if they
have any, but when they have no vermilion they boil ochre, and paint
themselves with that.

The women also make the men's girdles and garters, and the collars for
carrying their burdens. These collars are formed of two belts of the
breadth of the hand of bear's skin, dressed so as to soften it, and
these belts are joined together by long cross straps of the same
leather, that serve to tie the bundles, which are oftener carried by
the women than the men. One of the broad belts goes over their
shoulders, and the other across their forehead, so that those two
parts mutually ease each other.

The women also make several works in embroidery with the skin of the
porcupine, which is black and white, and is cut by them into thin
threads, which they dye of different colours. Their designs greatly
resemble those which we meet with on gothic architecture; they are
formed of straight lines, which when they meet always cross each
other, or turn off at square angles.

The conveniences for passing rivers would soon be suggested to them by
the floating of wood upon the water. Accordingly one of their methods
of crossing rivers is upon floats of canes, which are called by them
Cajeu, and are formed in this manner: They cut a great number of
canes, which they tie up into faggots, part of which they fasten
together side-ways, and over these they lay a row crossways, binding
all close together, and then launching it into the water. For carrying
a great number of men with their necessary baggage, they soon found it
necessary to have other conveniences; and nothing appeared so proper
for this as some of their large trees hollowed; of these they
accordingly made their pettyaugres, which as I mentioned above are
sometimes so large as to carry ten or twelve ton weight. These
pettyaugres are conducted by short oars, called Pagaies, about six
feet long, with broad points, which are not fastened to the vessel,
but managed by the rowers like shovels.



_Of the Attire and Diversions of the Natives: Of their Meals and

The natives of Louisiana, both men and women, wear a very thin dress
in the summer. During the heat the men wear only a little apron of
deer skin, dressed white or dyed black; but hardly any but chiefs wear
black aprons. Those who live in the neighbourhood of the French
settlements wear aprons of coarse limbourgs, a quarter of a yard
broad, and the whole breadth of the cloth, or five quarters long;
these aprons are fastened by a girdle about their waists, and tucked
up between the thighs.
During the heats the women wear only half a yard of limbourg stuff
about their middle, which covers them down to the knees; or in place
of that they use deer skin; and the rest of the body both in men and
women is naked.

Many of the women wear cloaks of the bark of the mulberry-tree, or of
the feathers of swans, turkies, or India ducks. The bark they take
from young mulberry shoots that rise from the roots of trees that have
been cut down; after it is dried in the sun they beat it to make all
the woody part fall off, and they give the threads that remain a
second beating, after which they bleach them by exposing them to the
dew. When they are well whitened they spin them about the coarseness
of pack-thread, and weave them in the following manner: they plant
two stakes in the ground about a yard and a half asunder, and having
stretched a cord from the one to the other, they fasten their threads
of bark double to this cord, and then interweave them in a curious
manner into a cloak of about a yard square with a wrought border round
the edges.

The young boys and girls go quite naked; but the girls at the age of
eight or ten put on a little petticoat, which is a kind of fringe made
of threads of mulberry bark. The boys do not wear any covering till
they are twelve or thirteen years of age.

Some women even in hot weather have a small cloak wrapt round like a
waistcoat; but when the cold sets in, they wear a {345} second, the
middle of which passes under the right arm, and the two ends are
fastened over the left shoulder, so that the two arms are at liberty,
and one of the breasts is covered. They wear nothing on their heads;
their hair is suffered to grow to its full length, except in the
fore-part, and it is tied in a cue behind in a kind of net made of
mulberry threads. They carefully pick out all the hairs that grow upon
any part of the body.

The shoes of the men and women are of the same fashion, but they
rarely wear any but when they travel. They are made of deer-skin, the
sole and upper-leather of the same piece, which is sewed together on
the upper part of the foot; they are cut about three inches longer
than the foot, and are folded over the toes; the quarters are about
nine inches high, and fasten round the leg like a buskin. The womens'
ear-rings are made of the center part of a large shell, called burgo,
which is about the thickness of one's little finger, and there is a
hole in the ear about that size for holding it. Their necklaces are
composed of several strings of longish or roundish kernel-stones,
somewhat resembling porcelaine; and with the smallest of these
kernel-stones they ornament their furs, garters, &c.

From their early youth the women get a streak pricked cross their
nose; some of them have a streak pricked down the middle of their
chin; others in different parts, especially the women of the nations
who have the R in their language. I have seen some who were pricked
all over the upper part of the body, not even excepting the breasts
which are extremely sensible.

In the cold weather the men cover themselves with a shirt made of two
dressed deer-skins, which is more like a fur night-gown than a shirt:
they likewise, at the same time, wear a kind of breeches, which cover
both the thighs and the legs. If the weather be very severe, they
throw over all a buffalo's skin, which is dressed with the wool on,
and this they keep next to their body to increase the warmth. In the
countries where they hunt beavers, they make robes of six skins of
those animals sewed together.

{346} The youths here are as much taken up about dress, and as fond of
vying with each other in finery as in other countries; they paint
themselves with vermilion very often; they deck themselves with
bracelets made of the ribs of deer, which are bent by the means of
boiling water, and when polished, look as fine as ivory; they wear
necklaces like the women, and sometimes have a fan in their hand; they
clip off the hair from the crown of the head, and there place a piece
of swan's skin with the down on; to a few hairs that they leave on
that part they fasten the finest white feathers that they can meet
with; a part of their hair which is suffered to grow long, they weave
into a cue, which hangs over their left ear.

They likewise have their nose pricked, but no other part till they are
warriors, and have performed some brave action, such as killing an
enemy, and bringing off his scalp. Those who have signalized
themselves by some gallant exploit, cause a tomahawk to be pricked on
their left shoulder, underneath which is also pricked the hieroglyphic
sign of the conquered nation. Whatever figure they intend to prick, is
first traced on the skin with a bit of charcoal, and having fixed six
needles in a piece of wood in two rows, in such a manner that they
only stick out about the tenth part of an inch, they prick the skin
all over the mark, and then rub charcoal dust over the part, which
enters the punctures, and leaves a mark that can never be effaced.
This pricking generally gives a fit of sickness to the patient, who is
obliged for some time to live only on boiled maiz. The warriors also
pierce the lower part of their ears, and make a hole an inch diameter,
which they fill with iron wire. Besides these ear-rings they have a
belt hung round with little bells, if they can purchase any from the
French, so that they march more like mules than men. When they can get
no bells, they fasten to their belts wild gourds with two or three
pebbles in each. The chief ornament of the sovereigns, is their crown
of feathers; this crown is composed of a black bonnet of net work,
which is fastened to a red diadem about two inches broad. The diadem
is embroidered with white kernel-stones, and surmounted with white
feathers, which in the fore-part are about eight inches long, and half
as much behind. This crown or feather hat makes a very pleasing

{347} All nations are not equally ingenious at inventing feasts,
shews, and diversions, for employing the people agreeably, and filling
up the void of their usual employments. The natives of Louisiana have
invented but a very few diversions, and these perhaps serve their turn
as well as a greater variety would do. The warriors practise a
diversion which is called the game of _the pole_, at which only two play
together at a time. Each has a pole about eight feet long, resembling
a Roman f, and the game consists in rolling a flat round stone, about
three inches diameter and an inch thick, with the edge somewhat
sloping, and throwing the pole at the same time in such a manner, that
when the stone rests, the pole may touch it or be near it. Both
antagonists throw their poles at the same time, and he whose pole is
nearest the stone counts one, and has the right of rolling the stone.
The men fatigue themselves much at this game, as they run after their
poles at every throw; and some of them are so bewitched by it, that
they game away one piece of furniture after another. These gamesters
however are very rare, and are greatly discountenanced by the rest of
the people.

The women play with small bits of cane, about eight or nine inches
long. Three of these they hold loosely in one hand, and knock them to
the ground with another; if two of them fall with the round side
undermost, she that played counts one; but if only one, she counts
nothing. They are ashamed to be seen or found playing; and as far as I
could discover, they never played for any stake.

The young people, especially the girls, have hardly any kind of
diversion but that of the ball: this consists in tossing a ball from
one to the other with the palm of the hand, which they perform with a
tolerable address.

When the natives meet with a Frenchman whom they know, they shake
hands with him, incline their head a little, and say in their own
language, "Are you there, my friend?" If he has no serious affair to
propose to them, or if they themselves have nothing of consequence to
say, they pursue their journey.

If they happen to be going the same way with a French man, they never
go before him, unless something of consequence {348} oblige them. When
you enter into their hut, they welcome you with the word of
salutation, which signifies "Are you there, my friend?" then shake
hands with you, and pointing to a bed, desire you to sit down. A
silence of a few minutes then ensues till the stranger begins to
speak, when he is offered some victuals, and desired to eat. You must
taste of what they offer you, otherwise they will imagine that you
despise them.

When the natives converse together, however numerous the assembly be,
never more than one person speaks at once. If one of the company has
any thing to say to another, he speaks so low that none of the rest
hear him. Nobody is interrupted, even with the chiding of a child; and
if the child be stubborn, it is removed elsewhere. In the council,
when a point is deliberated upon and debated, they keep silence for a
short time, and then they speak in their turns, no one offering to
interrupt another.

The natives being habituated to their own prudent custom, it is with
the utmost difficulty they can keep from laughing, when they see
several French men or French women together, and always several of
them speaking at the same time. I had observed them for two years
stifling a laugh on those occasions, and had often asked the reason of
it, without receiving any satisfactory answer. At length I pressed one
of them so earnestly to satisfy me, that after some excuses, he told
me in their language, "Our people say, that when several Frenchmen are
together, they speak all at once, like a flock of geese."

All the nations whom I have known, and who inhabit from the sea as far
as the Illinois, and even farther, which is a space of about fifteen
hundred miles, carefully cultivate the maiz corn, which they make
their principal subsistence. They make bread of it baked in cakes,
another kind baked among the ashes, and another kind in water; they
make of it also cold meal, roasted meal, gruel, which in this country
is called Sagamity. This and the cold meal in my opinion are the two
best dishes that are made of it; the others are only for a change.
They eat the Sagamity as we eat soup, with a spoon made of a buffalo's
horn. When they eat flesh or fish they use bread. They likewise use
two kinds of millet, which they shell in the manner {349} of rice; one
of these is called Choupichoul, and the other Widlogouil, and they
both grow almost without any cultivation.

In a scarcity of these kinds of corn, they have recourse to
earth-nuts, which they find in the woods; but they never use these or
chestnuts but when necessity obliges them.

The flesh-meats they usually eat are the buffalo, the deer, the bear,
and the dog: they eat of all kind of water-fowl and fish; but they
have no other way of dressing their meat but by roasting or boiling.
The following is their manner of roasting their meat when they are in
the fields hunting: they plant a stake in the ground sloping towards
the fire, and on the point of this stake they spit their meat, which
they turn from time to time. To preserve what they do not use, they
cut it into thin pieces, which they dry, or rather half-roast, upon a
grate made of canes placed cross-ways. They never eat raw flesh, as so
many people have falsely imagined, and they limit themselves to no set
hours for their meals, but eat whenever they are hungry; so that we
seldom see several of them eating at once, unless at their feasts,
when they all eat off the same plate, except the women, the boys, and
the young girls, who have each a plate to themselves.

When the natives are sick, they neither eat flesh nor fish, but take
Sagamity boiled in the broth of meat. When a man falls sick, his wife
sleeps with the woman in the next bed to him, and the husband of that
woman goes elsewhere. The natives, when they eat with Frenchmen, taste
of nothing but of pure roast and boiled: they eat no sallad, and
nothing raw but fruit. Their drink is pure water or pure brandy, but
they dislike wine and all made liquors.

Having mentioned their manner of feeding, I shall say a word or two of
their manner of fasting. When they want rain, or when they desire hot
weather for ripening their corn, they address themselves to the old
man who has the greatest character for living wisely, and they intreat
him to invoke the aerial spirits, in order to obtain what they demand.
This old man, who never refuses his countrymen's request, prepares to
fast for nine days together. He orders his wife to withdraw, and {350}
during the whole time he eats nothing but a dish of gruel boiled in
water, without salt, which is brought him once a day by his wife after
sun-set. They never will accept of any reward for this service, that
the spirits may not be angry with them.


_Of the_ Indian _Art of War._

I will now present the reader with their manner of making war, which
is uniformly the same among all the nations. When one nation intends
to make war upon another in all the forms, they hold a council of war,
which is composed of the oldest and bravest warriors. It is to be
supposed that this nation has been insulted, that the other has
committed some hostilities against it, or that they have disturbed
them in their hunting country, coming thither to steal their game, as
they call it. There is always some pretence for declaring war; and
this pretence, whether true or false, is explained by the war-chief,
who omits no circumstance that may excite his nation to take up arms.

After he has explained the reasons for the war, the old men debate the
question in presence of the great chief or sovereign of the nation.
This sovereign and the great chief of war are only witnesses of the
debate; for the opinion of the old men always prevails, and the two
chiefs voluntarily agree to it, from their respect and their great
regard for the experience and wisdom of those venerable counsellors.

If it is resolved to demand from the other nation the reason of the
hostilities committed by them, they name one of their bravest and most
eloquent warriors, as a second to their speech-maker or chancellor,
who is to carry the pipe of peace, and address that nation. These two
are accompanied by a troop of the bravest warriors, so that the
embassy has the appearance of a warlike expedition; and, if
satisfaction is not given, sometimes ends in one. The ambassadors
carry no presents with them, to shew that they do not intend to
supplicate or beg a peace: they take with them only the pipe of peace,
{351} as a proof that they come as friends. The embassy is always well
received, entertained in the best manner, and kept as long as
possible; and if the other nation is not inclined to begin a war, they
make very large presents to the ambassadors, and all their retinue, to
make up for the losses which their nation complains of.

[Illustration: _Bringing the Pipe of Peace_]

If a nation begins actual hostilities without any formalities, the
nation invaded is generally assisted by several allies, {352} keeps
itself on the defensive, gives orders to those who live at a great
distance to join the main body of the nation, prepares logs for
building a fort, and every morning sends some warriors out upon the
scout, choosing for that purpose those who trust more to their heels
than their heart.

The assistance of the allies is generally solicited by the pipe of
peace, the stalk of which is about four feet and a half long, and is
covered all over with the skin of a duck's neck, the feathers of which
are glossy and of various colours. To this pipe is fastened a fan made
of the feathers of white eagles, the ends of which are black, and are
ornamented with a tuft dyed a beautiful red.

When the allies are assembled a general council is held in presence of
the sovereign, and is composed of the great war-chief, the war-chiefs
of the allies, and all the old warriors. The great war-chief opens the
assembly with a speech, in which he exhorts them to take vengeance of
the insults they have received; and after the point is debated, and
the war agreed upon, all the warriors go a hunting to procure game for
the war-feast, which, as well as the war-dance, lasts three days.

The natives distinguish the warriors into three classes, namely, true
warriors, who have always given proofs of their courage; common
warriors, and apprentice-warriors. They likewise divide our military
men into the two classes of true warriors and young warriors. By the
former they mean the settlers, of whom the greatest part, upon their
arrival, were soldiers, who being now perfectly acquainted with the
tricks and wiles of the natives, practice them upon their enemy, whom
they do not greatly fear. The young warriors are the soldiers of the
regular troops, as the companies are generally composed of young men,
who are ignorant of the stratagems used by the natives in time of war.

When the war-feast is ready the warriors repair to it, painted from
head to foot with stripes of different colours. They have nothing on
but their belt, from whence hangs their apron, their bells, or their
rattling gourds, and their tomahawk. In their right hand they have a
bow, and those of the {353} north in their left carry a buckler formed
of two round pieces of buffalo's hide sewed together.

The feast is kept in a meadow, the grass of which is mowed to a great
extent; there the dishes, which are of hollow wood, are placed round
in circles of about twelve or fifteen feet diameter, and the number of
those circular tables is proportioned to the largeness of the
assembly, in the midst of whom is placed the pipe of war upon the end
of a pole seven or eight feet high. At the foot of this pole, in the
middle of a circle is placed the chief dish of all, which is a large
dog roasted whole; the other plates are ranged circularly by threes;
one of these contains maiz boiled in broth like gruel, another roasted
deer's flesh, and the other boiled. They all begin with eating of the
dog, to denote their fidelity and attachment to their chief; but
before they taste of any thing, an old warrior, who, on account of his
great age, is not able to accompany the rest to the war, makes an
harangue to the warriors, and by recounting his own exploits, excites
them to act with bravery against the enemy. All the warriors then,
according to their rank, smoke in the pipe of war, after which they
begin their repast; but while they eat, they keep walking continually,
to signify that a warrior ought to be always in action and upon his

While they are thus employed, one of the young men goes behind a bush
about two hundred paces off, and raises the cry of death. Instantly
all the warriors seize their arms, and run to the place whence the cry
comes; and when they are near it the young warrior shews himself
again, raises the cry of death, and is answered by all the rest, who
then return to the feast, and take up the victuals which in their
hurry they had thrown upon the ground. The same alarm is given two
other times, and the warriors each time act as at first. The war drink
then goes round, which is a heady liquor drawn from the leaves of the
Cassine after they have been a long while boiled. The feast being
finished, they all assemble about fifty paces from a large post, which
represents the enemy; and this each of them in his turn runs up to,
and strikes with his tomahawk, recounting at the same time all his
former brave exploits, and sometimes boasting of valorous deeds that
he never performed. But {354} they have the complaisance to each other
to pardon this gasconading.

All of them having successively struck the post, they begin the dance
of war with their arms in their hands; and this dance and the
war-feast are celebrated for three days together, after which they set
out for the war. The women some time before are employed in preparing
victuals for their husbands, and the old men in engraving upon bark
the hieroglyphic sign of the nation that attacks, and of their number
of warriors.

Their manner of making war is to attack by surprize; accordingly, when
they draw near to any of the enemy's villages, they march only in the
night; and that they may not be discovered, raise up the grass over
which they trod. One half of the warriors watch, while the other half
sleep in the thickest and most unfrequented part of the wood.

If any of their scouts can discover a hut of the enemy detached from
the rest, they all surround it about day-break, and some of the
warriors entering, endeavor to knock the people on the head as they
awake, or take some man prisoner. Having scalped the dead, they carry
off the women and children prisoners, and place against a tree near
the hut the hieroglyphic picture, before which they plant two arrows
with their points crossing each other. Instantly they retreat into the
woods, and make great turnings to conceal their route.

The women and children whom they take prisoners are made slaves. But
if they take a man prisoner the joy is universal, and the glory of
their nation is at its height. The warriors, when they draw near to
their own villages after an expedition, raise the cry of war three
times successively; and if they have a man prisoner with them,
immediately go and look for three poles to torture him upon; which,
however weary or hungry they be, must be provided before they take any
refreshment. When they have provided those poles, and tied the
prisoner to them, they may then go and take some victuals. The poles
are about ten feet long; two of them are planted upright in the ground
at a proper distance, and the other is cut through in the middle, and
the two pieces are fastened crossways {355} to the other two, so that
they form a square about five feet every way. The prisoner being first
scalped by the person who took him, is tied to this square, his hands
to the upper part, and his feet to the lower, in such a manner that he
forms the figure of a St. Andrew's cross. The young men in the mean
time having prepared several bundles of canes, set fire to them; and
several of the warriors taking those flaming canes, burn the prisoner
in different parts of his body, while others burn him in other parts
with their tobacco-pipes. The patience of prisoners in those miserable
circumstances is altogether astonishing. No cries or lamentations
proceed from them; and some have been known to suffer tortures, and
sing for three days and nights without intermission. Sometimes it
happens that a young woman who has lost her husband in the war, asks
the prisoner to supply the room of the deceased, and her request is
immediately granted.

[Illustration: _Torture of Prisoners_--INSET: _Plan of Fort_]

I mentioned above that when one nation declares war against another,
they leave a picture near one of their villages. That picture is
designed in the following manner. On the top towards the right hand is
the hieroglyphic sign of the nation that declares war; next is a naked
man with a tomahawk in his hand; and then an arrow pointed against a
woman, who is flying away, her hair floating behind her in the air;
immediately {356} before this woman is the proper emblem of the nation
against whom the war is declared. All this is on one line; and below
is drawn the figure of the moon, which is followed by one I, or more;
and a man is here represented, before whom is a number of arrows which
seem to pierce a woman who is running away. By this is denoted, when
such a moon is so many days old, they will come in great numbers and
attack such a nation; but this lower part of the picture does not
always carry true intelligence. The nation that has offered the
insult, or commenced hostilities wrongfully, rarely finds any allies
even among those nations who call them brothers.

In carrying on a war they have no such thing as pitched battles, or
carrying on of sieges; all the mischief they do each other, is by
surprise and skirmishing, and in this their courage and address
consists. Among them flight is no ways shameful; their bravery lies
often in their legs; and to kill a man asleep or at unawares, is quite
as honourable among them, as to gain a signal victory after a stout

When a nation is too weak to defend itself in the field, they
endeavour to protect themselves by a fort. This fort is built
circularly of two rows of large logs of wood, the logs of the inner
row being opposite to the joining of the logs of the outer row. These
logs are about fifteen feet long, five feet of which are sunk in the
ground. The outer logs are about two feet thick, and the inner about
half as much. At every forty paces along the wall a circular tower
jets out; and at the entrance of the fort, which is always next to the
river, the two ends of the wall pass beyond each other, and leave a
side opening. In the middle of the fort stands a tree with its
branches lopt off within six or eight inches of the trunk, and this
serves for a watch-tower. Round this tree are some huts, for the
protection of the women and children from random arrows; but
notwithstanding all these precautions for defense, if the besieged are
but hindered from coming out to water, they are soon obliged to

When a nation finds itself no longer able to oppose its enemy, the
chiefs send a pipe of peace to a neutral nation, and solicit their
mediation, which is generally successful, the vanquished {357} nation
sheltering themselves under the name of the mediators, and for the
future making but one nation with them.

Here it may be observed that when they go to attack others, it
sometimes happens that they lose some of their own warriors. In that
case, they immediately, if possible, scalp their dead friends, to
hinder the enemy from having that subject of triumph. Moreover, when
they return home, whether as victors or otherwise, the great warchief
pays to the respective families for those whom he does, not bring back
with him; which renders the chiefs very careful of the lives of their


_Of the Negroes of_ Louisiana.


_Of the Choice of Negroes; of their Distemper, and the Manner of curing

Having finished my account of the natives of Louisiana, I shall
conclude this treatise with some observations relating to the negroes;
who, in the lower part of the province especially, perform all the
labours of agriculture. On that account I have thought proper to give
some instructions concerning them, for the benefit of those who are
inclined to settle in that province.

The negroes must be governed differently from the Europeans; not
because they are black, nor because they are slaves; but because they
think differently from the white men.

First, they imbibe a prejudice from their infancy, that the white men
buy them for no other purpose but to drink their blood; which is owing
to this, that when the first negroes saw the Europeans drink claret,
they imagined it was blood, as that wine is of a deep red colour; so
that nothing but the actual experience of the contrary can eradicate
the false opinion. But as none of those slaves who have had that
experience ever return to their own country, the same prejudice
continues to subsist on the coast of Guinea where we purchase them.
Some {358} who are strangers to the manner of thinking that prevails
among the negroes, may perhaps think that the above remark is of no
consequence, in respect to those slaves who are already sold to the
French. There have been instances however of bad consequences flowing
from this prejudice; especially if the negroes found no old slave of
their own country upon their first arrival in our colonies. Some of
them have killed or drowned themselves, several of them have deserted
(which they call making themselves Marons) and all this from an
apprehension that the white men were going to drink their blood. When
they desert they believe they can get back to their own country by
going round the sea, and may live in the woods upon the fruits, which
they imagine are as common every where as with them.

They are very superstitious, and are much attached to their
prejudices, and little toys which they call _gris, gris_. It would be
improper therefore to take them from them, or even speak of them to
them; for they would believe themselves undone, if they were stripped
of those trinkets. The old negroes soon make them lose conceit of

The first thing you ought to do when you purchase negroes, is to cause
them to be examined by a skilful surgeon and an honest man, to
discover if they have the venereal or any other distemper. When they
are viewed, both men and women are stripped naked as the hand, and are
carefully examined from the crown of the head to the sole of the feet,
then between the toes and between the fingers, in the mouth, in the
ears, not excepting even the parts naturally concealed, though then
exposed to view. You must ask your examining surgeon if he is
acquainted with the distemper of the yaws, which is the virus of
Guinea, and incurable by a great many French surgeons, though very
skilful in the management of European distempers. Be careful not to be
deceived in this point; for your surgeon may be deceived himself;
therefore attend at the examination yourself, and observe carefully
over all the body of the negro, whether you can discover any parts of
the skin, which though black like the rest, are however as smooth as a
looking-glass, without any tumor or rising. Such spots may be easily
discovered; {359} for the skin of a person who goes naked is usually
all over wrinkles. Wherefore if you see such marks you must reject the
negro, whether man or woman. There are always experienced surgeons at
the sale of new negroes, who purchase them; and many of those surgeons
have made fortunes by that means; but they generally keep their secret
to themselves.

Another mortal distemper with which many negroes from Guinea are
attacked, is the scurvy. It discovers itself by the gums, but
sometimes it is so inveterate as to appear outwardly, in which case it
is generally fatal. If any of my readers shall have the misfortune to
have a negro attacked with one of those distempers, I will now teach
him how to save him, by putting him in a way of being radically cured
by the surgeons; for I have no inclination to fall out with those
gentlemen. I learned this secret from a negro physician, who was upon
the king's plantation, when I took the superintendence of it.

You must never put an iron instrument into the yaw; such an
application would be certain death. In order to open the yaw, you take
iron rust reduced to an impalpable powder, and passed through a fine
search; you afterwards mix that powder with citron juice till it be of
the consistence of an ointment, which you spread upon a linen cloth
greased with hog's grease, or fresh lard without salt, for want of a
better. You lay the plastier upon the yaw, and renew it evening and
morning, which will open the yaw in a very short time without any

The opening being once made, you take about the bulk of a goose's egg
of hog's lard without salt, in which you incorporate about an ounce of
good terebinthine; after which take a quantity of powdered verdigris,
and soak it half a day in good vinegar, which you must then pour off
gently with all the scum that floats at top. Drop a cloth all over
with the verdigris that remains, and upon that apply your last
ointment. All these operations are performed without the assistance of
fire. The whole ointment being well mixed with a spatula, you dress
the yaw with it; after that put your negro into a copious sweat, and
he will be cured. Take special care that your surgeon uses no
mercurial medicine, as I have seen; for that will occasion the death
of the patient.

{360} The scurvy is no less to be dreaded than the yaws; nevertheless
you may get the better of it, by adhering exactly to the following
prescription: take some scurvy-grass, if you have any plants of it,
some ground-ivy, called by some St. John's wort, water-cresses from a
spring or brook, and for want of that, wild cresses; take these three
herbs, or the two last, if you have no scurvy-grass; pound them, and
mix them with citron-juice, to make of them a soft paste, which the
patient must keep upon both his gums till they be clean, at all times
but when he is eating. In the mean while he must be suffered to drink
nothing but an infusion of the herbs above named. You pound two
handfuls of them, roots and all, after washing off any earth that may
be upon the roots or leaves; to these you join a fresh citron, cut
into slices. Having pounded all together, you then steep them in an
earthen pan in a pint of pure water of the measure of Paris; after
that you add about the size of a walnut of powdered and purified
saltpetre, and to make it a little relishing to the negro, you add
some powder sugar. After the water has stood one night, you squeeze
out the herbs pretty strongly. The whole is performed cold, or without
fire. Such is the dose for a bottle of water Paris measure; but as the
patient ought to drink two pints a day, you may make several pints at
a time in the above proportion.

In these two distempers the patients must be supported with good
nourishment, and made to sweat copiously. It would be a mistake to
think that they ought to be kept to a spare diet; you must give them
nourishing food, but a little at a time. A negro can no more than any
other person support remedies upon bad food, and still less upon a
spare diet; but the quantity must be proportioned to the state of the
patient, and the nature of the distemper. Besides, good food makes the
best part of the remedy to those who in common are but poorly fed. The
negro who taught me these two remedies, observing the great care I
took of both the negro men and negro women, taught me likewise the
cure of all the distempers to which the women are subject; for the
negro women are as liable to diseases as the white women.



_Of the Manner of governing the Negroes._

When a negro man or woman comes home to you, it is proper to caress
them, to give them something good to eat, with a glass of brandy; it
is best to dress them the same day, to give them something to sleep
on, and a covering. I suppose the others have been treated in the same
manner; for those marks of humanity flatter them, and attach them to
their masters. If they are fatigued or weakened by a journey, or by
any distempers, make them work little; but keep them always busy as
long as they are able to do any thing, never suffering them to be
idle, but when they are at their meals. Take care of them when they
are sick, and give attention both to their remedies and their food,
which last ought then to be more nourishing than what they usually
subsist upon. It is your interest so to do, both for their
preservation, and to attach them more closely to you; for though many
Frenchmen say that negroes are ungrateful, I have experienced that it
is very easy to render them much attached to you by good treatment,
and by doing them justice, as I shall mention afterwards.

If a negro woman lies-in, cause her to be taken care of in every thing
that her condition makes necessary, and let your wife, if you have
one, not disdain to take the immediate care of her herself, or at
least have an eye over her.

A Christian ought to take care that the children be baptised and
instructed, since they have an immortal soul. The mother ought then to
receive half a ration more than usual, and a quart of milk a day, to
assist her to nurse her child.

Prudence requires that your negroes be lodged at a proper distance, to
prevent them from being troublesome or offensive; but at the same time
near enough for your conveniently observing what passes among them.
When I say that they ought not to be placed so near your habitation as
to be offensive, I mean by that the smell which is natural to some
nations of negroes, such as the Congos, the Angolas, the Aradas, and
others. On this account it is proper to have in their camp a bathing
place formed by thick planks, buried in the earth about a foot or a
{362} foot and a half at most, and never more water in it than about
that depth, for fear lest the children should drown themselves in it;
it ought likewise to have an edge, that the little children may not
have access to it, and there ought to be a pond without the camp to
supply it with water and keep fish. The negro camp ought to be
inclosed all round with palisades, and to have a door to shut with a
lock and key. The huts ought to be detached from each other, for fear
of fire, and to be built in direct lines, both for the sake of
neatness, and in order to know easily the hut of each negro. But that
you may be as little incommoded as possible with their natural smell,
you must have the precaution to place the negro camp to the north or
north-east of your house, as the winds that blow from these quarters

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