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BLOME'S STATE OF HIS MAJESTY'S ISLES AND
TERRITORIES IN AMERICA,
[London, Printed 1687.]
NATIVES OF PENNSYLVANIA.
The natives I shall consider in their persons, language, manners, religion, and government, with my sense of their original. For their persons, they are generally tall, straight, wellbuilt, and of singular proportion; they tread strong and clever, and mostly walk with a lofty chin; of complexion black, but by design, as the gipsies in England; they grease themselves with bear's fat clarified, and using no defence against sun or weather, their skins must needs be swarthy; their eye is little and black not unlike a straight-looked Jew; the thick lip and flat nose, so frequent to the East Indians and blacks, are not common to them; for I have seen as comely European-like faces among thein uf both sexes, as on your
side the sea; and truly an Italian complexion hath not much more of the white, and the noses of several of them have as much of the Roman.
Their language is lofty, yet narrow, but like the Hebrew in signification, full like short-hand in writing; one word serveth in the place of three, and the rest are supplied by the understanding of the hearer; imperfect in their tenses, wanting in their moods, participles, adverbs, conjunctions, and interjections. I have made it my business to understand it that I might not want an interpreter on any occasion, and I must say
I know not a language spoken in Europe that hath words of more sweetness or greatness, in accent and emphasis than theirs.
Of their customs and manners there is much to be said. I will begin with children: so soon as they are born, they wash them in water, and while very young and in cold treather to choose, they plunge them in the rivers, to harden and embolden them; having wrapt them in a clout, they lay them on a straight thin board, a little more than the length and breadth of the child, and swaddle it fast upon the board, to make it straight; wherefore all Indians have flat heads, and thus they carry them at their backs. The children will go very young, at nine months commonly; they wear only a small clout round their waist till they are big; if boys, they go a fishing till ripe for the woods, which is about fifteen; then they hunt; ånd having given some proofs of their manhood, by a good return of skins, they may marry, else it is a shame to think of a wife:
The girls stay with their mothers, and help to hoe the ground, plant corn, and carry burthens; and they do well to use them to that young, which they must do when they are old, for the wives are the true servants of their husbands ; otherwise the men are very affectionate to them.
When the young women are fit for marriage, they'wear something upon their heads for an advertisement, but so‘as their faces are hardly to be seen, but when they please. The age they marry at, if women, is about thirteen and fourteen, if men, seventeen and eighteen, they are rarely older: their houses are mats, or barks of trees, set on poles, in the fashion of an English barn, but out of the power of the winds, for they are hardly higher than a man; they lie on reeds or grass.
In travel they lodge in the woods about a great fire, with the mantle duffies they wear by day, wrapt about them, and a few boughs stuck round them. Their diet is maize or Indian corn, divers ways prepared ; sometimes roasted in the ashes, "some
times beaten and boiled with water, which they call Homine, they also make cakes, not unpleasant to eat; they have likewise several sorts of beans and pease, that are good nourishment, and the woods and rivers are their larder.
If an European comes to see them, or calls for lodging at their house or wigwam, they give him the best place and first cut. If they come to visit us, they salute us with an It hah! which is as much as to say, good be to you, and sit them down which is mostly on the ground, close to their heels, their legs upright; may be they speak not a word more, but observe all passages. If you give them any thing to eat or drink, well, for they will not ask; and be it little or much, if it be with kindness they are well pleased, else they go away sullen, but say nothing. They are great concealers of their own resentments, brought to it I believe by the revenge that hath been practised among them; in either of these they are not exceeded by the Italians. A tragical instance fell out, since I came into the country; a king's daughter, thinking herself slighted by her husband, in suffering another woman to lie down between them, rose up, went out, pluckt a root out of the ground, and eat it, upon which she immediately died, and for which, last week, he made an offering to her kindred, for atonement, liberty, and marriage, as two others did to the kindred of their wives that died a natural death; for till widowers have done so they must not marry again. Some of the young women are said to take undue liberty before marriage for a portion"; but when married, chaste: when with child, they know their husbands no more, till delivered; and during their month, they touch no meat they eat but with a stick, lest they should defile it; nor do their husbands frequent them till that time be expired.
But in liberality they excel; nothing is too good for their friends, give them a fine gun, coat, or other things, it may pass twenty hands before it sticks; light of heart, strong affections, but soon spent; the most merry creatures that live, feast
and dance perpetually; they never have much, nor want much; wealth circulateth like the blood, all parts partake; and though none shall want what another hath, yet exact observers of property.
Some kings have sold, others presented me with several parcels of land; the pay or presents I made them, were not hoarded by the particular owners, but the neighbouring kings and their clans being present when the goods were brought out, the parties chiefly concerned consulted what, and to whom they should give them; to every king then, by the hands of a person for that work appointed, is a present sent, so sorted and folded, and with that gravity, that it is admirable; then that king subdivideth it in like manner among the dependants, they hardly leaving themselves an equal share with one of their subjects: and be it on such occasions as festivals, or at their common meals, the kings distribute, and to themselves last; they care for little, and the reason is, a little contents them: in this they are sufficiently revenged on us; if they are ignorant of our pleasures, they are also free from our pains.
They are not disquieted with bills of lading and exchange, nor perplexed with chancery suits and exchequer reckonings; we sweat and toil to live, their pleasure feeds them, I mean their hunting, fishing, and fowling, and this table is spread everywhere; they eat twice a day, morning and evening; their seats and tables are the ground. Since the Europeans came into these parts, they are grown great lovers of strong liquors, rum especially, and for it they exchange the richest of their skins and furs: if they are heated with liquors, they are restless till they have enough to sleep; and this is their cry, Some more, and I will go to sleep; but when drunk, one of the most wretched spectacles in the world.
In sickness, impatient to be cured; for it, give any thing, especially for their children, to whom they are extremely natural; they drink at those times a yeran, or decoction of some roots, in spring water; and if they eat any flesh, it must be
of the female of any creature; if they die they bury them with their apparel, be they men or women, and the nearest of kin Aings in something precious with them, as a token of their love; their mourning is blacking of their faces, which they continue for a year: they are choice of the graves of their dead; for, least they should be lost by time, and fall to common use, they pick off the grass that grows upon them, and heap up the fallen earth with great care and exactness.
These poor people are under a dark night in things relating to religion, or rather to the tradition of it; yet, they believe a God and immortality without the helps of Metaphysics; for they say there is a great king that made them, who dwells in a glorious country to the southward of them, and that the souls of the good shall go thither, where they shall live again. Their worship consists of two parts, sacrifice and cantico: Their sacrifice is their first fruits, the first and fattest bullock they kill, goes to the fire, where he is all burnt with a mournful ditty of him that performs the ceremony, but with such marvellous fervency and labour of body, that he will even sweat to a foam; the other part of their cantico, is performed by round dances, sometimes words, sometimes songs, then shouts, two being in the middle that begin, and by singing and drumming on a board, direct the chorus; their postures in the dance are very antick and differing, but all keep measure, This is done with equal earnestness and labour, but great appearance of joy.
In the fall, when the corn comes in, they begin to feast one another; there have been two great festivals already, to which all come that will. I was at one myself; their entertainment was a great seat by a spring, under some shady trees, and twenty bucks, with hot cakes of new corn, both wheat and beans, which they make up in a square form, in the leaves of the stem, and bake them in the ashes; and after that they fell to dance; but they that go, must carry a small present of their money,
may be sixpence, which is made in the bone of a