Imágenes de página

Many recent acts of barbarity which have been committed upon the Indians, I have deemed it prudent to omit in the present work; but those who read the speeches in Congress on the late war against the Seminole Indians, will find therein much to excite their sympathy. My object is not to awaken national feel; ings or prejudices, but to unite the efforts of all good men in behalf of these oppressed children of the wilderness; so that societies may be formed, to watch over their rights, and, by the powerful agency of the press, to restrain lawless power from farther acts of cruelty and injustice.--Happily this feeling has of late been * extended in the United States; and the humane and just sentiments promulgated by His Excellency De Witt Clinton, Governor of the State of New York, the unwearied zeal of Mr. Colden, the mayor, and the humane disposition of many persons of the highest respectability in the United States, lead me to avoid even the appearance of wishing to allow any sentiment to mingle in this work, which might attach to it an air of nationality. The kindness and civility which I have experienced in the United States, I have uniformly and shall ever be ready to acknowledge.

With this exposition of my motives, sources of information, and desires, I trust my feeble efforts will be supported by all classes of people; and, entreating a favourable feeling towards the execution and arrangement, I commit the cause of the American Indians to an enlightened and benevolent Public.

New York, 1st May, 1821.

[ocr errors]



CHAPTER I. INTRODUCTORY. My design in the following pages is rather to collect a series of facts and observations, bearing on the recent and present state and character of the North American Indians, than to furnish an account of their remote history. Whether they are or are not the Aborigines; whether their derivation is to be sought among the Tartars, who, in ages past, according to the sublime hypothesis of Governor De Witt Clinton, over-ran and exterminated nations who then inhabited great part of North America, and who had made considerable progress in the arts of civilized life; whether the theory adopted by Adair and Dr. Boudinot be true, that they are the descendants of the long-lost ten tribes of Israel; whether, in short, America was peopled from any of the countries of the old hemisphere, or those from America, are questions which, however interesting, I leave to be discussed by abler Antiquarians than myself. My anxiety, awakened by the present oppressed and demoralized condition of the red Indians, has indeed glanced baekwards a few years to ascertain their character previous to their intercourse with European man; and I think it might be safely asserted that, until that fatal period of their history, they were, in the unsophisticated qualities of mind, one of the noblest people of the earth. It is indeed astonishing how, without the aid of science or letters, they could

have acquired so much of that moral power, dignity, and courtesy, which in our pride we attribute exclu. sively to civilized life. Their religious belief is, 10 say the least of it, purer than that of refined and philosophical Greece and Rome; and they follow its doctrines with perfect sincerity. Neither infidelity, lukewarmness, nor hypocrisy in regard to spiritual matters is ever found among them, excepting, indeed, their prophets, priests, and conjurers. We are told by M. De la Salle, in the account of his last expedition and discoveries in North America, in 1678, “that at the decrease of the moon, the Indians carried a great dish of their greatest dainties to the door of the temple, as an oblatory sacrifice; which the priests offered to their god, and then they carried it home, and feasted themselves with it.” Here, at any rate, is a little touch of sacerdotal refinement, worthy of an European Friar.

Their languages are characterized by abundance, strength, comprehensiveness of expression, and admirable method in their grammatical structure; "indeed,” says Mr. Duponcean, "from the view offered by Mr. Heckewelder of the Lenni Lenape idiom, it would rather appear to have been formed by philosophers in their closets, than by savages in the wilderness."* And in their oratory, which they take great pains to cultivate, they have never been exceeded, in ancient or modern senates, for pertinent argument, and eloquence both imaginative and pathetic. Governor Clinton, speaking of the Iroquois, or Five Nations, tells us that, “their exterior relations, general interests, and national affairs were conducted and superintended by a great council, assembled annually in Onondaga, the central canton, composed of the chiefs of each republic; and eighty sachems were frequently convened at this national assembly. It took cognizance of the great questions of war and peace; of the affairs of the tributary nations, and of their negotiations with the

* Duponceau's Report to the Aperican Philosophical Society, hdla a1 Philadelphia, p. 14.

French and English colonies. All their proceedings were conducted with great deliberation, and were distinguished for order, decorum, and solemnity. In eloquence, in dignity, and in all the characteristics of profound policy, they surpassed an assembly of feudal barons, and were perhaps not far inferior to the great Amphyctionic Council of Greece."* In another place he spesks of the sublime display of intellectual power in the address of Garangula, an Onondaga chief, to M. Delabarre, a French general, who in 1683, marched with an army against the Iroquois. This rhetorical talent, however, is declared by the same authority to be peculiar to the Five Nations. “The most remarkable difference,” he states, “existed between the confederates and the other Indian nations, with respect to eloquence. You may search in vain in the records and writings of the past, or in events of the present times, for a single model of eloquence among the Algonkins, the Abenaquis, the Delawares, the Shawanese, or any other nation of Indians except the Iroquois."† On the other hand, the Rev. Mr. Heckewelder, who has spent the greater portion of a long life among the Lenni Lenape, or Delawares, bas affirmed in his bistorical account of the Indian nations, (of which the Lenni Lenape and the Iroquois form the two great divisions, that the Delawares are also conspicuous for oratorical ability. He quotes a speech of Captain Pipe, a chief of that nation, and has made use of the following words in commenting on it. “Here we see boldness, frankness, dignity, and humanity happily blended together, and most eloquently displayed. I am much mistaken if the component parts of this discourse are not put together much according to the rules of oratory which are taught in the schools, and which were certainly unknown to this savage. The peroration is short, but truly pathetic, and I would say, sublime; and then the admirable way in which it is prepared! I wish I

* De Witt Clinton's Discourse to the New-York Society, p. 49, 50: † De Witt Clinton's Discourse to the New York Society, p. 71.

« AnteriorContinuar »