Part 4 out of 4
and Niagara, to Michilimackinac, a fort situated between the Lakes Huron
and Michigan, and distant from Boston 1300 miles."
It is interesting to follow his footsteps in these localities, though
they be not bold footsteps.
He mentions the town of the Sacs, on the Wisconsin, as the largest and
best built he saw, "composed of ninety houses, each large enough for
several families. These are built of hewn plank, neatly jointed, and
covered with bark so compactly as to keep out the most penetrating
rains. Before the doors are placed comfortable sheds, in which the
inhabitants sit, when the weather will permit, and smoke their pipes.
The streets are regular and spacious. In their plantations, which lie
adjacent to their houses, and which are neatly laid out, they raise
great quantities of Indian corn, beans and melons."
Such settlements compare very well with those which were found on the
Mohawk. It was of such that the poor Indian was thinking, whom our host
saw gazing on the shore of Nomabbin lake.
He mentions the rise and fall of the lake-waters, by a tide of three
feet, once in seven years,--a phenomenon not yet accounted for.
His view of the Indian character is truly impartial. He did not see it
so fully drawn out by circumstances as Henry did, (of whose narrative we
shall presently speak,) but we come to similar results from the two
witnesses. They are in every feature Romans, as described by Carver, and
patriotism their leading impulse. He deserves the more credit for the
justice he is able to do them, that he had undergone the terrors of
death at their hands, when present at the surrender of one of the forts,
and had seen them in that mood which they express by drinking the blood
and eating the hearts of their enemies, yet is able to understand the
position of their minds, and allow for their notions of duty.
No selfish views, says he, influence their advice, or obstruct their
Let me mention here the use they make of their vapor baths. "When about
to decide on some important measure, they go into them, thus cleansing
the skin and carrying off any peccant humors, so that the body may, as
little as possible, impede the mind by any ill conditions."
They prepare the bath for one another when any arrangement is to be
made between families, on the opposite principle to the whites, who make
them drunk before bargaining with them. The bath serves them instead of
a cup of coffee, to stimulate the thinking powers.
He mentions other instances of their kind of delicacy, which, if
different from ours, was, perhaps, more rigidly observed.
Lovers never spoke of love till the daylight was quite gone.
"If an Indian goes to visit any particular person in a family, he
mentions for whom his visit is intended, and the rest of the family,
immediately retiring to the other end of the hut or tent, are careful
not to come near enough to interrupt them during the whole of the
In cases of divorce, which was easily obtained, the advantage rested
with the woman. The reason given is indeed contemptuous toward her, but
a chivalric direction is given to the contempt.
"The children of the Indians are always distinguished by the name of the
mother, and, if a woman marries several husbands, and has issue by each
of them, they are called after her. The reason they give for this is,
that, 'as their offspring are indebted to the father for the soul, the
invisible part of their essence, and to the mother for their corporeal
and apparent part, it is most rational that they should be distinguished
by the name of the latter, from whom they indubitably derive their
This is precisely the division of functions made by Ovid, as the father
sees Hercules perishing on the funeral pyre.
"Nec nisi materna Vulcanum parte potentem
Sentiet. Aeternum est a me quod traxit et expers
Atque immune necis, nullaqe domabile flamma."
He is not enough acquainted with natural history to make valuable
observations. He mentions, however, as did my friend, the Indian girl,
that those splendid flowers, the Wickapee and the root of the
Wake-Robin, afford valuable medicines. Here, as in the case of the
Lobelia, nature has blazoned her drug in higher colors than did ever
He observes some points of resemblance between the Indians and Tartars,
but they are trivial, and not well considered. He mentions that the
Tartars have the same custom, with some of these tribes, of shaving all
the head except a tuft on the crown. Catlin says this is intended, to
afford a convenient means by which to take away the scalp; for they
consider it a great disgrace to have the foeman neglect this, as if he
considered the conquest, of which the scalp is the certificate, no
addition to his honors.
"The Tartars," he says, "had a similar custom of sacrificing the dog;
and among the Kamschatkans was a dance resembling the dog-dance of our
My friend, who joined me at Mackinaw, happened, on the homeward journey,
to see a little Chinese girl, who had been sent over by one of the
missions, and observed that, in features, complexion, and gesture, she
was a counterpart to the little Indian girls she had just seen playing
about on the lake shore.
The parentage of these tribes is still an interesting subject of
speculation, though, if they be not created for this region, they have
become so assimilated to it as to retain little trace of any other. To
me it seems most probable, that a peculiar race was bestowed on each
region, as the lion on one latitude and the white bear on another. As
man has two natures--one, like that of the plants and animals, adapted
to the uses and enjoyments of this planet, another, which presages and
demands a higher sphere--he is constantly breaking bounds, in proportion
as the mental gets the better of the mere instinctive existence. As yet,
he loses in harmony of being what he gains in height and extension; the
civilized man is a larger mind, but a more imperfect nature than the
It is pleasant to meet, on the borders of these two states, one of those
persons who combines some of the good qualities of both; not, as so many
of these adventurers do, the rapaciousness and cunning of the white,
with the narrowness and ferocity of the savage, but the sentiment and
thoughtfulness of the one, with the boldness, personal resource, and
fortitude of the other.
Such a person was Alexander Henry, who left Quebec in 1760, for Mackinaw
and the Sault St. Marie, and remained in those regions, of which he has
given us a most lively account, sixteen years.
His visit to Mackinaw was premature; the Indians were far from
satisfied; they hated their new masters. From the first, the omens were
threatening, and before many months passed, the discontent ended in the
seizing of the fort at Mackinaw and massacre of its garrison; on which
occasion Henry's life was saved by a fine act of Indian chivalry.
Wawatam, a distinguished chief, had found himself drawn, by strong
affinity, to the English stranger. He had adopted him as a brother, in
the Indian mode. When he found that his tribe had determined on the
slaughter of the whites, he obtained permission to take Henry away with
him, if he could. But not being able to prevail on him, as he could not
assign the true reasons, he went away deeply saddened, but not without
obtaining a promise that his brother should not be injured. The reason
he was obliged to go, was, that his tribe felt his affections were so
engaged, that his self-command could not be depended on to keep their
secret. Their promise was not carefully observed, and, in consequence of
the baseness of a French Canadian in whose house Henry took
refuge,--baseness such as has not, even by their foes, been recorded of
any Indian, his life was placed in great hazard. But Wawatam returned in
time to save him. The scene in which he appears, accompanied by his
wife--who seems to have gone hand in hand with him in this matter--lays
down all his best things in a heap, in the middle of the hall, as a
ransom for the captive, and his little, quiet speech, are as good as the
Iliad. They have the same simplicity, the same lively force and
Henry goes away with his adopted brother, and lives for some time among
the tribe. The details of this life are truly interesting. One time he
is lost for several days while on the chase. The description of these
weary, groping days, the aspect of natural objects and of the feelings
thus inspired, and the mental change after a good night's sleep, form a
little episode worthy the epic muse. He stripped off the entire bark of
a tree for a coverlet in the snow-storm, going to sleep with "the most
distracted thoughts in the world, while the wolves around seemed to know
the distress to which he was reduced;" but he waked in the morning
another man, clear-headed, able to think out the way to safety.
When living in the lodge, he says: "At one time much scarcity of food
prevailed. We were often twenty-four hours without eating; and when in
the morning we had no victuals for the day before us, the custom was to
black our faces with grease and charcoal, and exhibit, through
resignation, a temper as cheerful as in the midst of plenty." This wise
and dignified proceeding reminds one of a charming expression of what is
best in French character, as described by Rigolette, in the Mysteries of
Paris, of the household of Pere Cretu and Ramnonette.
He bears witness to much virtue among them. Their superstitions, as
described by him, seem childlike and touching. He gives with much humor,
traits that show their sympathy with the lower animals, such as I have
mentioned. He speaks of them as, on the whole, taciturn, because their
range of topics is so limited, and seems to have seen nothing of their
talent for narration. Catlin, on the contrary, describes them as lively
and garrulous, and says, that their apparent taciturnity among the
whites is owing to their being surprised at what they see, and
unwilling, from pride, to show that they are so, as well as that they
have little to communicate on their side, that they think will be
After peace was restored, and Henry lived long at Mackinaw and the Sault
St. Marie, as a trader, the traits of his biography and intercourse with
the Indians, are told in the same bold and lively style. I wish I had
room for many extracts, as the book is rare.
He made a journey one winter on snow shoes, to Prairie du Chien, which
is of romantic interest as displaying his character. His companions
could not travel nearly so fast as he did, and detained him on the way.
Provisions fell short; soon they were ready to perish of starvation.
Apprehending this, on a long journey, in the depth of winter, broken by
no hospitable station, Henry had secreted some chocolate. When he saw
his companions ready to lie down and die, he would heat water, boil in
it a square of this, and give them. By the heat of the water and the
fancy of nourishment, they would be revived, and induced to proceed a
little further. At last they saw antlers sticking up from the ice, and
found the body of an elk, which had sunk in and been frozen there, and
thus preserved to save their lives. On this "and excellent soup" made
from bones they found they were sustained to their journey's end; thus
furnishing, says Henry, one other confirmation of the truth, that
"despair was not made for man;" this expression, and his calm
consideration for the Canadian women that was willing to betray him to
death, denote the two sides of a fine character.
He gives an interesting account of the tribe called "The Weepers," on
account of the rites with which they interrupt their feasts in honor of
He gives this humorous notice of a chief, called "The Great Road."
"The chief, to whose kindly reception we were so much indebted, was of a
complexion rather darker than that of the Indians in general. His
appearance was greatly injured by the condition of his hair, and this
was the result of an extraordinary superstition.
"The Indians universally fix upon a particular object as sacred to
themselves--as the giver of prosperity and as their preserver from evil.
The choice is determined either by a dream or some strong predilection
of fancy, and usually falls upon an animal, part of an animal, or
something else which is to be met with by land, or by water; but the
Great Road had made choice of his hair, placing, like Samson, all his
safety in this portion of his proper substance! His hair was the
fountain of all his happiness; it was his strength and his weapon--his
spear and his shield. It preserved him in battle, directed him in the
chase, watched over him in the march, and gave length of days to his
wives and children. Hair, of a quality like this, was not to be profaned
by the touch of human hands. I was assured that it never had been cut
nor combed from his childhood upward, and that when any part of it fell
from his head, he treasured that part with, care; meanwhile, it did not
escape all care, even while growing on the head, but was in the
especial charge of a spirit, who dressed it while the owner slept. The
spirit's style of hair-dressing was peculiar, the hair being matted into
ropes, which spread in all directions."
I insert the following account of a visit from some Indians to him at
Mackinaw, with a design to frighten him, and one to Carver, for the same
purpose, as very descriptive of Indian manners:
"At two o'clock in the afternoon, the Chippeways came to my house, about
sixty in number, and headed by Mina-va-va-na, their chief. They walked
in single file, each with his tomahawk in one hand, and scalping knife
in the other. Their bodies were naked, from the waist upwards, except in
a few examples, where blankets were thrown loosely over the shoulders.
Their faces were painted with charcoal, worked up with grease; their
bodies with white clay in patterns of various fancies. Some had feathers
thrust through their noses, and their heads decorated with the same. It
is unnecessary to dwell on the sensations with which I beheld the
approach of this uncouth, if not frightful, assemblage."
"Looking out, I saw about twenty naked young Indians, the most perfect
in their shape, and by far the handsomest I had ever seen, coming
towards me, and dancing as they approached to the music of their drums.
At every ten or twelve yards they halted, and set up their yells and
When they reached my tent I asked them to come in, which, without
deigning to make me any answer, they did. As I observed they were
painted red and black, as they are when they go against an enemy, and
perceived that some parts of the war-dance were intermixed with their
other movements, I doubted not but they were set on by the hostile chief
who refused my salutation. I therefore determined to sell my life as
dearly as possible. To this purpose I received them sitting on my chest,
with my gun and pistols beside me; and ordered my men to keep a watchful
eye on them, and be also on their guard.
The Indians being entered, they continued their dance alternately,
singing at the same time of their heroic exploits, and the superiority
of their race over every other people. To enforce their language, though
it was uncommonly nervous and expressive, and such as would of itself
have carried terror to the firmest heart; at the end of every period
they struck their war-clubs against the poles of my tent with such
violence, that I expected every moment it would have tumbled upon us. As
each of them in dancing round passed by me, they placed their right
hands over their eyes, and coming close to me, looked me steadily in the
face, which I could not construe into a token of friendship. My men gave
themselves up for lost; and I acknowledge for my own part, that I never
found my apprehensions more tumultuous on any occasion."
He mollified them, however, in the end by presents.
It is pity that Lord Edward Fitzgerald did not leave a detailed account
of his journey through the wilderness, where he was pilot of an unknown
course for twenty days, as Murray and Henry have of theirs. There is
nothing more interesting than to see the civilized man thus thrown
wholly on himself and his manhood, and _not_ found at fault.
McKenney and Hall's book upon the Indians is a valuable work. The
portraits of the chiefs alone would make a history, and they are
Most of the anecdotes may be found again in Drake's Book of the Indians;
which will afford a useful magazine to their future historian.
I shall, however, cite a few of them, as especially interesting to
Of Guess, the inventor of the Cherokee alphabet, it was observable in
the picture, and observed in the text, that his face had an oriental
cast. The same, we may recall, was said of that of the Seeress of
Prevorst, and the circumstance presents pleasing analogies. Intellect
dawning through features still simple and national, presents very
different apparitions from the "expressive" and "historical" faces of a
broken and cultured race, where there is always more to divine than to
Of the picture of the Flying Pigeon, the beautiful and excellent woman
mentioned above, a keen observer said, "If you cover the forehead, you
would think the face that of a Madonna, but the forehead is still
savage; the perceptive faculties look so sharp, and the forehead not
moulded like a European forehead." This is very true; in her the moral
nature was most developed, and the effect of a higher growth upon her
face is entirely different from that upon Guess.
His eye is inturned, while the proper Indian eye gazes steadily, as if
on a distant object. That is half the romance of it, that it makes you
think of dark and distant places in the forest.
Guess always preferred inventing his implements to receiving them from
others: and, when considered as mad by his tribe, while bent on the
invention of his alphabet, contented himself with teaching it to his
little daughter; an unimpeachable witness.
Red Jacket's face, too, is much more intellectual than almost any other.
But, in becoming so, it loses nothing of the peculiar Indian stamp, but
only carries these traits to their perfection. Irony, discernment,
resolution, and a deep smouldering fire, that disdains to flicker where
it cannot blaze, may there be read. Nothing can better represent the
sort of unfeelingness the whites have towards the Indians, than their
conduct towards his remains. He had steadily opposed the introduction of
white religion, or manners, among the Indians. He believed that for them
to break down the barriers was to perish. On many occasions he had
expressed this with all the force of his eloquence. He told the
preachers, "if the Great Spirit had meant your religion for the red man,
he would have given it to them. What they (the missionaries) tell us, we
do not understand; and the light they ask for us, makes the straight and
plain path trod by our fathers dark and dreary."
When he died, he charged his people to inter him themselves. "Dig my
grave, yourselves, and let not the white man pursue me there." In
defiance of this last solemn request, and the invariable tenor of his
life, the missionaries seized the body and performed their service over
it, amid the sullen indignation of his people, at what, under the
circumstances, was sacrilege.
Of Indian religion a fine specimen is given in the conduct of one of the
war chiefs, who, on an important occasion, made a vow to the sun of
entire renunciation in case he should be crowned with success. When he
was so, he first went through a fast, and sacrificial dance, involving
great personal torment, and lasting several days; then, distributing all
his property, even his lodges, and mats, among the tribe, he and his
family took up their lodging upon the bare ground, beneath the bare sky.
The devotion of the Stylites and the hair-cloth saints, is in act,
though not in motive, less noble, because this great chief proposed to
go on in common life, where he had lived as a prince--a beggar.
The memoir by Corn Plant of his early days is beautiful.
Very fine anecdotes are told of two of the Western chiefs, father and
son, who had the wisdom to see the true policy toward the whites, and
steadily to adhere to it.
A murder having taken place in the jurisdiction of the father, he
delivered himself up, with those suspected, to imprisonment. One of his
companions chafed bitterly under confinement. He told the chief, if they
ever got out, he would kill him, and did so. The son, then a boy, came
in his rage and sorrow, to this Indian, and insulted him in every way.
The squaw, angry at this, urged her husband "to kill the boy at once."
But he only replied with "the joy of the valiant," "He will be a great
Brave," and then delivered himself up to atone for his victim, and met
his death with the noblest Roman composure.
This boy became rather a great chief than a great brave, and the
anecdotes about him are of signal beauty and significance.
There is a fine story of an old mother, who gave herself to death
instead of her son. The son, at the time, accepted the sacrifice,
seeing, with Indian coolness, that it was better she should give up her
few solitary and useless days, than he a young existence full of
promise. But he could not abide by this view, and after suffering awhile
all the anguish of remorse, he put himself solemnly to death in the
presence of the tribe, as the only atonement he could make. His young
wife stood by, with her child in her arms, commanding her emotions, as
he desired, for, no doubt, it seemed to her also, a sacred duty.
But the finest story of all is that of Petalesharro, in whose tribe at
the time, and not many years since, the custom of offering human
sacrifices still subsisted. The fire was kindled, the victim, a young
female captive, bound to the stake, the tribe assembled round. The young
brave darted through them, snatched the girl from her peril, placed her
upon his horse, and both had vanished before the astonished spectators
had thought to interpose.
He placed the girl in her distant home, and then returned. Such is the
might of right, when joined with courage, that none ventured a word of
resentment or question. His father, struck by truth, endeavored, and
with success, to abolish the barbarous custom in the tribe. On a later
occasion, Petalesharro again offered his life, if required, but it was
This young warrior visiting Washington, a medal was presented him in
honor of these acts. His reply deserves sculpture: "When I did it, I
knew not that it was good. I did it in ignorance. This medal makes me
know that it was good."
The recorder, through his playful expressions of horror at a declaration
so surprising to the civilized Good, shows himself sensible to the grand
simplicity of heroic impulse it denotes. Were we, too, so good, as to
need a medal to show us that we are!
The half-breed and half-civilized chiefs, however handsome, look vulgar
beside the pure blood. They have the dignity of neither race.
The death of Oseola, (as described by Catlin,) presents a fine picture
in the stern, warlike kind, taking leave with kindness, as a private
friend, of the American officers; but, as a foe in national regards, he
raised himself in his dying bed, and painted his face with the tokens of
The historian of the Indians should be one of their own race, as able to
sympathize with them, and possessing a mind as enlarged and cultivated
as John Ross, and with his eye turned to the greatness of the past,
rather than the scanty promise of the future. Hearing of the wampum
belts, supposed to have been sent to our tribes by Montezuma, on the
invasion of the Spaniard, we feel that an Indian who could glean
traditions familiarly from the old men, might collect much that we could
Still, any clear outline, even of a portion of their past, is not to be
hoped, and we shall be well contented if we can have a collection of
genuine fragments, that will indicate as clearly their life, as a
horse's head from the Parthenon the genius of Greece.
Such, to me, are the stories I have cited above. And even European
sketches of this greatness, distant and imperfect though they be, yet
convey the truth, if made in a sympathizing spirit. Adair's Red Shoes,
Murray's old man, Catlin's noble Mandan chief, Henry's Wa-wa-tam, with
what we know of Philip, Pontiac, Tecumseh and Red Jacket, would suffice
to give the ages a glimpse at what was great in Indian life and Indian
We hope, too, there will be a national institute, containing all the
remains of the Indians,--all that has been preserved by official
intercourse at Washington, Catlin's collection, and a picture gallery as
complete as can be made, with a collection of skulls from all parts of
the country. To this should be joined the scanty library that exists on
I have not mentioned Mackenzie's Travels. He is an accurate observer,
but sparing in his records, because his attention was wholly bent on his
own objects. This circumstance gives a heroic charm to his scanty and
simple narrative. Let what will happen, or who will go back, he cannot;
he must find the sea, along those frozen rivers, through those starving
countries, among tribes of stinted men, whose habitual interjection was
"edui, it is hard, uttered in a querulous tone," distrusted by his
followers, deserted by his guides, on, on he goes, till he sees the
sea, cold, lowering, its strand bristling with foes; but he does see it.
His few observations, especially on the tribes who lived on fish, and
held them in such superstitious observance, give a lively notion of the
A little pamphlet has lately been published, giving an account of the
massacre at Chicago, which I wish much I had seen while there, as it
would have imparted an interest to spots otherwise barren. It is written
with animation, and in an excellent style, telling just what we want to
hear, and no more. The traits given of Indian generosity are as
characteristic as those of Indian cruelty. A lady, who was saved by a
friendly chief holding her under the waters of the lake, while the balls
were whizzing around, received also, in the heat of the conflict, a
reviving draught from a squaw, who saw she was exhausted; and, as she
lay down, a mat was hung up between her and the scene of butchery, so
that she was protected from the sight, though she could not be from
sounds, full of horror.
I have not wished to write sentimentally about the Indians, however
moved by the thought of their wrongs and speedy extinction. I know that
the Europeans who took possession of this country, felt themselves
justified by their superior civilization and religious ideas. Had they
been truly civilized or Christianized, the conflicts which sprang from
the collision of the two races, might have been avoided; but this cannot
be expected in movements made by masses of men. The mass has never yet
been humanized, though the age may develop a human thought.
Since those conflicts and differences did arise, the hatred which
sprang, from terror and suffering, on the European side, has naturally
warped the whites still farther from justice.
The Indian, brandishing the scalps of his friends and wife, drinking
their blood and eating their hearts, is by him viewed as a fiend,
though, at a distant day, he will no doubt be considered as having acted
the Roman or Carthaginian part of heroic and patriotic self-defence,
according to the standard of right and motives prescribed by his
religious faith and education. Looked at by his own standard, he is
virtuous when he most injures his enemy, and the white, if he be really
the superior in enlargement of thought, ought to cast aside his
inherited prejudices enough to see this,--to look on him in pity and
brotherly goodwill, and do all he can to mitigate the doom of those who
survive his past injuries.
In McKenney's book, is proposed a project for organizing the Indians
under a patriarchal government, but it does not look feasible, even on
paper. Could their own intelligent men be left to act unimpeded in their
behalf, they would do far better for them than the white thinker, with
all his general knowledge. But we dare not hope the designs of such will
not always be frustrated by the same barbarous selfishness they were in
Georgia. There was a chance of seeing what might have been done, now
Yet let every man look to himself how far this blood shall be required
at his hands. Let the missionary, instead of preaching to the Indian,
preach to the trader who ruins him, of the dreadful account which will
be demanded of the followers of Cain, in a sphere where the accents of
purity and love come on the ear more decisively than in ours. Let every
legislator take the subject to heart, and if he cannot undo the effects
of past sin, try for that clear view and right sense that may save us
from sinning still more deeply. And let every man and every woman, in
their private dealings with the subjugated race, avoid all share in
embittering, by insult or unfeeling prejudice, the captivity of Israel.
SAULT ST. MARIE.
Nine days I passed alone at Mackinaw, except for occasional visits from
kind and agreeable residents at the fort, and Mr. and Mrs. A. Mr. A.,
long engaged in the fur-trade, is gratefully remembered by many
travellers. From Mrs. A., also, I received kind attentions, paid in the
vivacious and graceful manner of her nation.
The society at the boarding house entertained, being of a kind entirely
new to me. There were many traders from the remote stations, such as La
Pointe, Arbre Croche,--men who had become half wild and wholly rude, by
living in the wild; but good-humored, observing, and with a store of
knowledge to impart, of the kind proper to their place.
There were two little girls here, that were pleasant companions for me.
One gay, frank, impetuous, but sweet and winning. She was an American,
fair, and with bright brown hair. The other, a little French Canadian,
used to join me in my walks, silently take my hand, and sit at my feet
when I stopped in beautiful places. She seemed to understand without a
word; and I never shall forget her little figure, with its light, but
pensive motion, and her delicate, grave features, with the pale, clear
complexion and soft eye. She was motherless, and much left alone by her
father and brothers, who were boatmen. The two little girls were as
pretty representatives of Allegro and Penseroso, as one would wish to
I had been wishing that a boat would come in to take me to the Sault St.
Marie, and several times started to the window at night in hopes that
the pant and dusky-red light crossing the waters belonged to such an
one; but they were always boats for Chicago or Buffalo, till, on the
28th of August, Allegro, who shared my plans and wishes, rushed in to
tell me that the General Scott had come, and, in this little steamer,
accordingly, I set off the next morning.
I was the only lady, and attended in the cabin by a Dutch girl and an
Indian woman. They both spoke English fluently, and entertained me much
by accounts of their different experiences.
The Dutch girl told me of a dance among the common people at Amsterdam,
called the shepherd's dance. The two leaders are dressed as shepherd and
shepherdess; they invent to the music all kinds of movements,
descriptive of things that may happen in the field, and the rest were
obliged to follow. I have never heard of any dance which gave such free
play to the fancy as this. French dances merely describe the polite
movements of society; Spanish and Neapolitan, love; the beautiful
Mazurkas, &c., are warlike or expressive of wild scenery. But in this
one is great room both for fun and fancy.
The Indian was married, when young, by her parents, to a man she did not
love. He became dissipated, and did not maintain her. She left him.
taking with her their child; for whom and herself she earns a
subsistence by going as chambermaid in these boats. Now and then, she
said, her husband called on her, and asked if he might live with her
again; but she always answered, no. Here she was far freer than she
would have been in civilized life.
I was pleased by the nonchalance of this woman, and the perfectly
national manner she had preserved after so many years of contact with
all kinds of people. The two women, when I left the boat, made me
presents of Indian work, such as travellers value, and the manner of the
two was characteristic of their different nations. The Indian brought me
hers, when I was alone, looked bashfully down when she gave it, and made
an almost sentimental little speech. The Dutch girl brought hers in
public, and, bridling her short chin with a self-complacent air,
observed she had _bought_ it for me. But the feeling of affectionate
regard was the same in the minds of both.
Island after island we passed, all fairly shaped and clustering
friendly, but with little variety of vegetation.
In the afternoon the weather became foggy, and we could not proceed
after dark. That was as dull an evening as ever fell.
The next morning the fog still lay heavy, but the captain took me out in
his boat on an exploring expedition, and we found the remains of the
old English fort on Point St. Joseph's. All around was so wholly
unmarked by anything but stress of wind and weather, the shores of these
islands and their woods so like one another, wild and lonely, but
nowhere rich and majestic, that there was some charm in the remains of
the garden, the remains even of chimneys and a pier. They gave feature
to the scene.
Here I gathered many flowers, but they were the same as at Mackinaw.
The captain, though he had been on this trip hundreds of times, had
never seen this spot, and never would, but for this fog, and his desire
to entertain me. He presented a striking instance how men, for the sake
of getting a living, forget to live. It is just the same in the most
romantic as the most dull and vulgar places. Men get the harness on so
fast, that they can never shake it off unless they guard against this
danger from the very first. In Chicago, how many men, who never found
time to see the prairies or learn anything unconnected with the business
of the day, or about the country they were living in!
So this captain, a man of strong sense and good eyesight, rarely found
time to go off the track or look about him on it. He lamented, too, that
there had been no call which induced him to develop his powers of
expression, so that he might communicate what he had seen, for the
enjoyment or instruction of others.
This is a common fault among the active men, the truly living, who could
tell what life is. It should not be so. Literature should not be left to
the mere literati--eloquence to the mere orator. Every Caesar should be
able to write his own commentary. We want a more equal, more thorough,
more harmonious development, and there is nothing to hinder from it the
men of this country, except their own supineness, or sordid views.
When the weather did clear, our course up the river was delightful. Long
stretched before us the island of St. Joseph's, with its fair woods of
sugar maple. A gentleman on board, who belongs to the Fort at the Sault,
said their pastime was to come in the season of making sugar, and pass
some time on this island,--the days at work, and the evening in dancing
and other amusements.
I wished to extract here Henry's account of this, for it was just the
same sixty years ago as now, but have already occupied too much room
with extracts. Work of this kind done in the open air, where everything
is temporary, and every utensil prepared on the spot, gives life a truly
festive air. At such times, there is labor and no care--energy with
gaiety, gaiety of the heart.
I think with the same pleasure of the Italian vintage, the Scotch
harvest-home, with its evening dance in the barn, the Russian
cabbage-feast even, and our huskings and hop-gatherings--the
hop-gatherings where the groups of men and girls are pulling down and
filling baskets with the gay festoons, present as graceful pictures as
the Italian vintage.
I should also like to insert Henry's descriptions of the method of
catching trout and white fish, the delicacies of this region, for the
same reason as I want his account of the Gens de Terre, the savages
among savages, and his tales, dramatic, if not true, of cannibalism.
I have no less grieved to omit Carver's account of the devotion of a
Winnebago prince at the Falls of St. Anthony, which he describes with a
simplicity and intelligence, that are very pleasing.
I take the more pleasure in both Carver and Henry's power of
appreciating what is good in the Indian character, that both had run the
greatest risk of losing their lives during their intercourse with the
Indians, and had seen them in their utmost exasperation, with all its
I wish I had a thread long enough to string on it all these beads that
take my fancy; but, as I have not, I can only refer the reader to the
books themselves, which may be found in the library of Harvard College,
if not elsewhere.
How pleasant is the course along a new river, the sight of new shores;
like a life, would but life flow as fast, and upbear us with as full a
stream. I hoped we should come in sight of the rapids by daylight; but
the beautiful sunset was quite gone, and only a young moon trembling
over the scene, when we came within hearing of them.
I sat up long to hear them merely. It was a thoughtful hour. These two
days, the 29th and 30th August, are memorable in my life; the latter is
the birthday of a near friend. I pass them alone, approaching Lake
Superior; but I shall not enter into that truly wild and free region;
shall not have the canoe voyage, whose daily adventure, with the
camping out at night beneath the stars, would have given an interlude
of such value to my existence. I shall not see the Pictured Rocks, their
chapels and urns. It did not depend on me; it never has, whether such
things shall be done or not.
My friends! may they see, and do, and be more, especially those who have
before them a greater number of birthdays, and of a more healthy and
TO EDITH, ON HER BIRTHDAY.
If the same star our fates together bind,
Why are we thus divided, mind from mind?
If the same law one grief to both impart,
How could'st thou grieve a trusting mother's heart?
Our aspiration seeks a common aim,
Why were we tempered of such differing frame?
--But 'tis too late to turn this wrong to right;
Too cold, too damp, too deep, has fallen the night.
And yet, the angel of my life replies,
Upon that night a Morning Star shall rise,
Fairer than that which ruled the temporal birth,
Undimmed by vapors of the dreamy earth;
It says, that, where a heart thy claim denies,
Genius shall read its secret ere it flies;
The earthly form may vanish from thy side,
Pure love will make thee still the spirit's bride.
And thou, ungentle, yet much loving child,
Whose heart still shows the "untamed haggard wild,"
A heart which justly makes the highest claim,
Too easily is checked by transient blame;
Ere such an orb can ascertain its sphere,
The ordeal must be various and severe;
My prayers attend thee, though the feet may fly,
I hear thy music in the silent, sky.
I should like, however, to hear some notes of earthly music to-night. By
the faint moonshine I can hardly see the banks; how they look I have no
guess, except that there are trees, and, now and then, a light lets me
know there are homes with their various interests. I should like to hear
some strains of the flute from beneath those trees, just to break the
sound of the rapids.
When no gentle eyebeam charms;
No fond hope the bosom warms:
Of thinking the lone mind is tired--
Nought seems bright to be desired;
Music, be thy sails unfurled,
Bear me to thy better world;
O'er a cold and weltering sea,
Blow thy breezes warm and free;
By sad sighs they ne'er were chilled,
By sceptic spell were never stilled;
Take me to that far-offshore,
Where lovers meet to part no more;
There doubt, and fear and sin are o'er,
The star of love shall set no more.
With the first light of dawn I was up and out, and then was glad I had
not seen all the night before; it came upon me with such power in its
dewy freshness. O! they are beautiful indeed, these rapids! The grace is
so much more obvious than the power. I went up through the old Chippeway
burying ground to their head, and sat down on a large stone to look. A
little way off was one of the home lodges, unlike in shape to the
temporary ones at Mackinaw, but these have been described by Mrs.
Jameson. Women, too, I saw coming home from the woods, stooping under
great loads of cedar boughs, that were strapped upon their backs. But in
many European countries women carry great loads, even of wood, upon
their backs. I used to hear the girls singing and laughing as they were
cutting down boughs at Mackinaw; this part of their employment, though
laborious, gives them the pleasure of being a great deal in the free
I had ordered a canoe to take me down the rapids, and presently I saw it
coming, with the two Indian canoe-men in pink calico shirts, moving it
about with their long poles, with a grace and dexterity worthy fairy
land. Now and then they cast the scoop-net; all looked just as I had
fancied, only far prettier.
When they came to me, they spread a mat in the middle of the canoe; I
sat down, and in less than four minutes we had descended the rapids, a
distance of more than three quarters of a mile. I was somewhat
disappointed in this being no more of an exploit than I found it. Having
heard such expressions used as of "darting," or, "shooting down," these
rapids, I had fancied there was a wall of rock somewhere, where descent
would somehow be accomplished, and that there would come some one gasp
of terror and delight, some sensation entirely new to me; but I found
myself in smooth water, before I had time to feel anything but the
buoyant pleasure of being carried so lightly through this surf amid the
breakers. Now and then the Indians spoke to one another in a vehement
jabber, which, however, had no tone that expressed other than pleasant
excitement. It is, no doubt, an act of wonderful dexterity to steer amid
these jagged rocks, when one rude touch would tear a hole in the birch
canoe; but these men are evidently so used to doing it, and so adroit,
that the silliest person could not feel afraid. I should like to have
come down twenty times, that I might have had leisure to realize the
pleasure. But the fog which had detained us on the way, shortened the
boat's stay at the Sault, and I wanted my time to walk about.
While coming down the rapids, the Indians caught a white-fish for my
breakfast; and certainly it was the best of breakfasts. The white-fish I
found quite another thing caught on this spot, and cooked immediately,
from what I had found it at Chicago or Mackinaw. Before, I had had the
bad taste to prefer the trout, despite the solemn and eloquent
remonstrances of the Habitues, to whom the superiority of white fish
seemed a cardinal point of faith.
I am here reminded that I have omitted that indispensable part of a
travelling journal, the account of what we found to eat. I cannot hope
to make up, by one bold stroke, all my omissions of daily record; but
that I may show myself not destitute of the common feelings of humanity,
I will observe that he whose affections turn in summer towards
vegetables, should not come to this region, till the subject of diet be
better understood; that of fruit, too, there is little yet, even at the
best hotel tables; that the prairie chickens require no praise from me,
and that the trout and white-fish are worthy the transparency of the
In this brief mention I by no means mean to give myself an air of
superiority to the subject. If a dinner in the Illinois woods, on dry
bread and drier meat, with water from the stream that flowed hard by,
pleased me best of all, yet at one time, when living at a house where
nothing was prepared for the table fit to touch, and even the bread
could not be partaken of without a headach in consequence, I learnt to
understand and sympathize with the anxious tone in which fathers of
families, about to take their innocent children into some scene of wild
beauty, ask first of all, "Is there a good table?" I shall ask just so
in future. Only those whom the Powers have furnished small travelling
cases of ambrosia, can take exercise all day, and be happy without even
bread morning or night.
Our voyage back was all pleasure. It was the fairest day. I saw the
river, the islands, the clouds to the greatest advantage.
On board was an old man, an Illinois farmer, whom I found a most
agreeable companion. He had just been with his son, and eleven other
young men, on an exploring expedition to the shores of lake Superior. He
was the only old man of the party, but he had enjoyed, most of any, the
journey. He had been the counsellor and playmate, too, of the young
ones. He was one of those parents,--why so rare?--who understand and
live a new life in that of their children, instead of wasting time and
young happiness in trying to make them conform to an object and standard
of their own. The character and history of each child may be a new and
poetic experience to the parent, if he will let it. Our farmer was
domestic, judicious, solid; the son, inventive, enterprising,
superficial, full of follies, full of resources, always liable to
failure, sure to rise above it. The father conformed to, and learnt
from, a character he could not change, and won the sweet from the
His account of his life at home, and of his late adventures among the
Indians, was very amusing, but I want talent to write it down. I have
not heard the slang of these people intimately enough. There is a good
book about Indiana, called the New Purchase, written by a person who
knows the people of the country well enough to describe them in their
own way. It is not witty, but penetrating, valuable for its practical
wisdom and good-humored fun.
[Illustration: MACKINAW BEACH]
There were many sportsman stories told, too, by those from Illinois and
Wisconsin. I do not retain any of these well enough, nor any that I
heard earlier, to write them down, though they always interested me from
bringing wild, natural scenes before the mind. It is pleasant for the
sportsman to be in countries so alive with game; yet it is so plenty
that one would think shooting pigeons or grouse would seem more like
slaughter, than the excitement of skill to a good sportsman. Hunting
the deer is full of adventure, and needs only a Scrope to describe it to
invest the western woods with _historic_ associations.
How pleasant it was to sit and hear rough men tell pieces out of their
own common lives, in place of the frippery talk of some fine circle with
its conventional sentiment, and timid, second-hand criticism. Free blew
the wind, and boldly flowed the stream, named for Mary mother mild.
A fine thunder shower came on in the afternoon. It cleared at sunset,
just as we came in sight of beautiful Mackinaw, over which a rainbow
bent in promise of peace.
I have always wondered, in reading travels, at the childish joy
travellers felt at meeting people they knew, and their sense of
loneliness when they did not, in places where there was everything new
to occupy the attention. So childish, I thought, always to be longing
for the new in the old, and the old in the new. Yet just such sadness I
felt, when I looked on the island, glittering in the sunset, canopied by
the rainbow, and thought no friend would welcome me there; just such
childish joy I felt, to see unexpectedly on the landing, the face of one
whom I called friend.
The remaining two or three days were delightfully spent, in walking or
boating, or sitting at the window to see the Indians go. This was not
quite so pleasant as their coming in, though accomplished with the same
rapidity; a family not taking half an hour to prepare for departure, and
the departing canoe a beautiful object. But they left behind, on all the
shore, the blemishes of their stay--old rags, dried boughs, fragments
of food, the marks of their fires. Nature likes to cover up and gloss
over spots and scars, but it would take her some time to restore that
beach to the state it was in before they came.
S. and I had a mind for a canoe excursion, and we asked one of the
traders to engage us two good Indians, that would not only take us out,
but be sure and bring us back, as we could not hold converse with them.
Two others offered their aid, beside the chief's son, a fine looking
youth of about sixteen, richly dressed in blue broadcloth, scarlet sash
and leggins, with a scarf of brighter red than the rest, tied around his
head, its ends falling gracefully on one shoulder. They thought it,
apparently, fine amusement to be attending two white women; they carried
us into the path of the steamboat, which was going out, and paddled with
all their force,--rather too fast, indeed, for there was something of a
swell on the lake, and they sometimes threw water into the canoe.
However, it flew over the waves, light as a sea-gull. They would say,
"Pull away," and "Ver' warm," and, after these words, would laugh gaily.
They enjoyed the hour, I believe, as much as we.
The house where we lived belonged to the widow of a French trader, an
Indian by birth, and wearing the dress of her country. She spoke French
fluently, and was very ladylike in her manners. She is a great character
among them. They were all the time coming to pay her homage, or to get
her aid and advice; for she is, I am told, a shrewd woman of business.
My companion carried about her sketch-book with her, and the Indians
were interested when they saw her using her pencil, though less so than
about the sun-shade. This lady of the tribe wanted to borrow the
sketches of the beach, with its lodges and wild groups, "to show to the
_savages_," she said.
Of the practical ability of the Indian women, a good specimen is given
by McKenney, in an amusing story of one who went to Washington, and
acted her part there in the "first circles," with a tact and sustained
dissimulation worthy of Cagliostro. She seemed to have a thorough love
of intrigue for its own sake, and much dramatic talent. Like the chiefs
of her nation, when on an expedition among the foe, whether for revenge
or profit, no impulses of vanity or wayside seductions had power to turn
her aside from carrying out her plan as she had originally projected it.
Although I have little to tell, I feel that I have learnt a great deal
of the Indians, from observing them even in this broken and degraded
condition. There is a language of eye and motion which cannot be put
into words, and which teaches what words never can. I feel acquainted
with the soul of this race; I read its nobler thought in their defaced
figures. There _was_ a greatness, unique and precious, which he who does
not feel will never duly appreciate the majesty of nature in this
I have mentioned that the Indian orator, who addressed the agents on
this occasion, said, the difference between the white man and the red
man is this: "the white man no sooner came here, than he thought of
preparing the way for his posterity; the red man never thought of this."
I was assured this was exactly his phrase; and it defines the true
difference. We get the better because we do
"Look before and after."
But, from the same cause, we
"Pine for what is not."
The red man, when happy, was thoroughly happy; when good, was simply
good. He needed the medal, to let him know that he _was_ good.
These evenings we were happy, looking over the old-fashioned garden,
over the beach, over the waters and pretty island opposite, beneath the
growing moon; we did not stay to see it full at Mackinaw. At two
o'clock, one night, or rather morning, the Great Western came snorting
in, and we must go; and Mackinaw, and all the north-west summer, is now
to me no more than picture and dream;--
"A dream within a dream."
These last days at Mackinaw have been pleasanter than the "lonesome"
nine, for I have recovered the companion with whom I set out from the
East, one who sees all, prizes all, enjoys much, interrupts never.
At Detroit we stopped for half a day. This place is famous in our
history, and the unjust anger at its surrender is still expressed by
almost every one who passes there. I had always shared the common
feeling on this subject; for the indignation at a disgrace to our arms
that seemed so unnecessary, has been handed down from father to child,
and few of us have taken the pains to ascertain where the blame lay. But
now, upon the spot, having read all the testimony, I felt convinced that
it should rest solely with the government, which, by neglecting to
sustain General Hull, as he had a right to expect they would, compelled
him to take this step, or sacrifice many lives, and of the defenceless
inhabitants, not of soldiers, to the cruelty of a savage foe, for the
sake of his reputation.
I am a woman, and unlearned in such affairs; but, to a person with
common sense and good eyesight, it is clear, when viewing the location,
that, under the circumstances, he had no prospect of successful defence,
and that to attempt it would have been an act of vanity, not valor.
I feel that I am not biased in this judgment by my personal relations,
for I have always heard both sides, and, though my feelings had been
moved by the picture of the old man sitting down, in the midst of his
children, to a retired and despoiled old age, after a life of honor and
happy intercourse with the public, yet tranquil, always secure that
justice must be done at last, I supposed, like others, that he deceived
himself, and deserved to pay the penalty for failure to the
responsibility he had undertaken. Now on the spot, I change, and believe
the country at large must, ere long, change from this opinion. And I
wish to add my testimony, however trifling its weight, before it be
drowned in the voice of general assent, that I may do some justice to
the feelings which possessed me here and now.
A noble boat, the Wisconsin, was to be launched this afternoon, the
whole town was out in many-colored array, the band playing. Our boat
swept round to a good position, and all was ready but--the Wisconsin,
which could not be made to stir. This was quite a disappointment. It
would have been an imposing sight.
In the boat many signs admonished that we were floating eastward. A
shabbily dressed phrenologist laid his hand on every head which would
bend, with half-conceited, half-sheepish expression, to the trial of his
skill. Knots of people gathered here and there to discuss points of
theology. A bereaved lover was seeking religious consolation
in--Butler's Analogy, which he had purchased for that purpose. However,
he did not turn over many pages before his attention was drawn aside by
the gay glances of certain damsels that came on board at Detroit, and,
though Butler might afterwards be seen sticking from his pocket, it had
not weight to impede him from many a feat of lightness and liveliness. I
doubt if it went with him from the boat. Some there were, even,
discussing the doctrines of Fourier. It seemed pity they were not going
to, rather than from, the rich and free country where it would be so
much easier, than with us, to try the great experiment of voluntary
association, and show, beyond a doubt, that "an ounce of prevention is
worth a pound of cure," a maxim of the "wisdom of nations," which has
proved of little practical efficacy as yet.
Better to stop before landing at Buffalo, while I have yet the advantage
over some of my readers.
* * * * *
THE BOOK TO THE READER
WHO OPENS, AS AMERICAN READERS OFTEN DO, AT THE END,
WITH DOGGEREL SUBMISSION.
To see your cousin in her country home,
If at the time of blackberries you come,
"Welcome, my friends," she cries with ready glee,
"The fruit is ripened, and the paths are free.
But, madam, you will tear that handsome gown;
The little boy be sure to tumble down;
And, in the thickets where they ripen best,
The matted ivy, too, its bower has drest.
And then, the thorns your hands are sure to rend,
Unless with heavy gloves you will defend;
Amid most thorns the sweetest roses blow,
Amid most thorns the sweetest berries grow."
If, undeterred, you to the fields must go,
You tear your dresses and you scratch your hands;
But, in the places where the berries grow,
A sweeter fruit the ready sense commands,
Of wild, gay feelings, fancies springing sweet--
Of bird-like pleasures, fluttering and fleet.
Another year, you cannot go yourself,
To win the berries from the thickets wild,
And housewife skill, instead, has filled the shelf
With blackberry jam, "by best receipts compiled,--
Not made with country sugar, for too strong
The flavors that to maple juice belong;
But foreign sugar, nicely mixed 'to suit
The taste,' spoils not the fragrance of the fruit."
"'Tis pretty good," half-tasting, you reply,
"I scarce should know it from fresh blackberry.
But the best pleasure such a fruit can yield,
Is to be gathered in the open field;
If only as an article of food,
Cherry or crab-apple are quite as good;
And, for occasions of festivity,
West India sweetmeats you had better buy."
Thus, such a dish of homely sweets as these
In neither way may chance the taste to please.
Yet try a little with the evening-bread;
Bring a good needle for the spool of thread;
Take fact with fiction, silver with the lead,
And, at the mint, you can get gold instead;
In fine, read me, even as you would be read.