Imágenes de página
PDF
ePub

effect as this consciousness of self-degradation. Skenandoh was one of the ablest Indians that ever appeared in North America ; and if the colonies feared him with justice before the Revolution, they had a right to forgive him in consequence of his conduct during it. His principle was, that on every occasion the rights of the natives of a country should be defended. This, which in the first instance led him to oppose the AngloAmericans, induced him afterwards to unite with them, when what he considered a still more foreign stock landed as its invaders. The colonists he would have exterminated, if he could ; but still a succession of generations had infused some of the "red men's” blood into their veins, and he preferred them on this account to the British, who had reason to regret the preference during the revolutionary warfare. The United States honoured him with a public funeral, and the Indians gave

him the appellation of the “ white man's friend;" for, though a tornado in war, he was the “zephyr in peace," and fully capable of the warmest friendship. About a month before his death, in reference to his long life and the solitude in which age unfortunately leaves us, he most beautifully and pathetically said :

I am an aged hemlock ; the winds of an hundred winters have whistled through my branches; I am dead at the top. The generation to which I belong has run away and left me. Why I live, the great good Spirit only knows. Pray to my Jesus, that I may have patience to wait for my appointed time to die."

That appointed time was soon to come, and his last desire was, to be buried by the side of the pious missionary by whom he had been converted. Surely Skenaudoh has at least redeemed himself from the motto which we have selected from the immortal satirist whose sweet lines are prefixed to this communication. The following is in a different style: it is the ferocious, but firm, defiance of the chieftain of the Creek nation, to the general who had captured him :

“ I fought against you at Fort Mimms. I fought against you at Georgia. I did you all the injury I could. Had not treachery, left me desolate, I would have done you more.

The warriors who were faithful all died by my side-they died in battle. I mourn over their loss, but they are gone to glory. I am their chief—a captive, but a soldier. Do your utmost—I shall not disgrace their memories!"

Our readers are aware that words like these, coming from an Indian captive, are not words of course. They mean what they say; and when the fires of death are blazing, and the torture is anticipating their effect upon the victim, his placid smile exhibits their impotence upon a spirit whose endurance is the prelude to his national canonization. One sigh, one struggle, would exclude him for ever from the tribe's respect and the hero's paradise ; and his captivity affords him the most signal and most durable triumph over his enemies. A very fine instance of this heroism has been handed down in the person of the Virginian chief, Opechauchanough. Bold, artful, and insinuating ; master alike of arms and intrigue, he kept the early settlers of Virginia in a state of continual alarm ; and when so decrepid from age as to be unable to walk, he, from the litter in which he was borne, directed the onset and retreat of his warriors in the dreadful massacre of 1641, which almost exterminated the colony. At last, worn out, exhausted, and almost blind, he was taken prisoner, and carried to James Town, where he was mortally wounded by the less civilized savage who was appointed to guard him. To the last moment his courage remained unbroken. Like the staff of the prophet it was his support alike in prosperity and adversity, in sickness and in death. His last words, indeed, proved this remarkably. Just as he was expiring, he heard an unusual bustle in his prison, and faintly opening his eyes, he discovered a number of persons crowding around for the purpose of gratifying a cruel and unseasonable curiosity. The dying chieftain's sensibility was indignantly excited. Without seeming to notice the intruders, he raised himself from his mat, and, with a voice and air of authority, desired that the governor should instantly be sent for; when he arrived, the Indian, looking at him steadfastly and scornfully, exclaimed,

“ Had it been my lot to have captured Sir William Berkeley, I should have disdained to have thus exposed him to my people."

The sudden burst of passion was too much for his debilitated frame. Nature yielded, and he fell back in death before indig, nation's hectic had faded from his cheek. There is sometimes to be found amongst the fragments of this people a spirit of policy, which, perhaps, more civilized nations might imitate without disadvantage. The following appeal from a Cherokee chief to some of his countrymen who were about to join our troops against the colonists, contains some precepts, which by a little change of words, might be rendered applicable to every people upon earth, but more particularly to those whose internal dissensions have sometimes induced the madness of calling in a foreign arbitrament:

My countrymen ! God made us all, both red and white Americans, to live on the same land. Since he has said that we should live together, why do we join the people who come from the salt waters !

We can do without them, we and our children. When the Great Spirit gave us a country, he gave it to be a residence for our lives, and a resting-place for our bones; and this he says to all to whom he has given a country. The cold water which he gave us still runs: so are the paths for the government of good men still here. Foolish as I am, my little understanding tells me, when I see these things, that they are God's works. When the white people first came amongst us, the Great Spirit bad forbid our mixture :-we did mix-and, to avoid the pain of separating the husband from the wife, the father from his children, and the brother from his sister, he has continued the course of the mixed blood in our veins. We must remain so, because he directs it so. From this mixture of our blood, and accession of our strength, Washington, the white man's brother, has gained a name in warfare-a name far above the names of white men. But you all know how slow was his progress when opposed by the united arm of our fathers; and you all know how rapid it has been since whiskey and calico have divided us. Remember, then, that we are one people.'

There are countries in Europe, and not far from England, to whom both in ancient and modern times the Cherokee's advice might have spared some affliction. Our missionaries have discovered, that the talents of some of the tribes in the arts of peace have been quite commensurate with their warlike capabilities; and they have skilfully and successfully enlisted their co-operation. Even in the propagation of the Gospel, and the diffusion of Christian knowledge, they have often found them eminently useful. Enthusiasm is the natural characteristic of a savage life; the chase, the scenery, the power of wandering wherever fancy leads, and the pre-eminence which superiority either in mind or person never fails to ensure, awaken the savage into constant exertion, and he becomes, in some degree, more or less excited and elevated, as it were, by the romance of nature. This disposition has particularly evinced itself wherever conversion has been successful; and the dreams and trances which monks invented in the corruptions of the church, for the deception of credulity, the Indian zealots have either really experienced in their moments of excitement, or, what in its effect is much the same, they have conscientiously worked themselves into a belief of their existence. The most remarkable of those personages was a chief of the Alleganies, whose miraculous conversion and restless piety procured for him the appellation of " the Indian Prophet.” During the first fifty years of his life he was remarkable for nothing except his stupidity and intoxication. In his fiftieth year however, while in the act of lighting his pipe, he suddenly fell back upon his bunk, upon which he was then sitting, and continued in a state of insensibility for several hours; his family supposing him dead, had made preparations for laying him out, according to their barbarous prac. tice, the tribe was invited to the funeral festivity, and they were in the very act of removing him when he revived. His first words were, · Don't be ed. I have seen he n. Call the nation together, that I may tell them what has appeared to me." The nation were accordingly summoned round the chieftain,

VOJ. J. NO. VII.

when with much solemnity he informed them that he had seen four beautiful young men, who had been sent from heaven by the Great Spirit, and who thus addressed him: “ The Great Spirit is angry with you, and with all the red men; and unless you refrain from drunkenness, lying, and stealing, and turn yourselves to him, you shall never enter the beautiful place which we will now shew you.” He stated that he was then conducted by these young men to the gate of heaven, which was opened, but he was not allowed to enter ; that it was more beautiful than any thing which he could describe or they conceive ; that the inhabitants appeared to be in a state of the most perfect happiness; that he was suffered to remain there three or four hours, and was then reconducted by the same young men, who, on taking their leave, promised they would visit him early, and commanded him to inform all other Indians of what he had seen and heard. He immediately visited the different tribes in the western states, with the exception of the Oneidas. They all put the most implicit faith in what he told them, and revered him as a prophet. The consequences were most providential; his tribe, from being filthy, lazy, and drunken, became a cleanly, industrious, sober, and happy people. The prophet asserted that he annually received those heavenly visitations, immediately after each of which he visited the tribes in person ; and it was during one of those annual pilgrimages that he died. He was called "the Prophet of Peace,” in contradistinction to a brother of their ferocious chief Tecumseh, who was designated as “ the Prophet of War.” Many of the Indians, however, consider the zeal of the missionaries as misplaced, and complain loudly on the subject.-On the approach of the late war between Great Britain and the United States, a formal “ talk” was held before American commissioners, when Hauanossa, their orator, thus announced the determination of the tribes, and took this no impolitic opportunity to state their grievances on that subject.

“ Brothers, we return thanks to the Great Spirit for the many favours he has bestowed on us, and we hope he will continue to cherish his children with his blessings. We rejoice that he has permitted us to meet you here to-day in friendship and in peace. We wish you to consider well what we are going to say to you; for we speak from the very bottom of our hearts, and not from the ends of our tongues, and we wish you

to do the same. Brothers, we have been told that the King over the great waters has greatly injured our white brethren of the great council fires, and that war will soon take place. We have heard also that the supporters of this King are persuading our red brethren to join him, and to raise the tomahawk against the white brethren amongst whom we reside. We are told that he is endeavouring to win them by presents and by promises. Brothers, we do solemnly assure you that ihe agents of this King shall never succeed in destroying our affections for you. We wish to live retired. Our highest ambition is to cultivate

his cause.

Dar corn-fields in peace. War is our detestation, Our fathers have told us its dreadful evils. We well know that nothing is to be gained by spilling the blood of our fellow creatures, and our children are as dear to us as your children are to you. We value also our property, and by war we know we should lose it. Already, we are told, have the forces of the Prophet* made an attack on our white brethren towards the setting-sun. From our hearts we declare to you we shall not espouse

We will never join his forces, or wield the tomahawk at the bidding of the King who lives beyond the waters. Brothers, we are not the terrible beings you have conceived us to be. We do not thirst for blood. We are men, and are clothed in the feelings of humanity. Let your women and your children sleep in quiet, and tell the white man that our wish is peace. Brothers, we have a complaint to make to you. Certain white men often come amongst us for the purpose of inducing us to kneel before their altars. They come to shake that faith which the Great Spirit has breathed into our souls, which is our greatest comfort and worldly consolation. Now, our religion is as dear to us as the religion of the white man is to him. Why then should they obstinately come amongst us. They tend not only to destroy our hopes of a future life, but to throw us into religious parties and confusion. We formerly stated this to the great father of the white people. We were admitted into his presence. We were pleased to find that he condemned the practice. He knew as well as we did that our red brethren had never prospered in their conversion to the religious faith of the white people. Brothers, we are happy to inform you that the resolution we adopted some years ago, to abolish the use of strong liquors, has not yet been violated. We wish we could say the same thing of our red brethren of the Buffaloe village. We are sorry to say that a barrel of whiskey is the god they worship. Brothers, we have another complaint to make to you: our white brethren often come and carry away our timber; and last year they cut down more than they did in all the years preceding! Once we owned the whole country-the great forest was our own :—the whites have taken part of it—the remainder is still ours; and is not property as dear to the red man and the red man's child as it is to white men ? Brothers, make your laws known to them, and punish them. Make this talk known to all the white men, wherever they may be; and tell them, to live in harmony and peace is the wish of the heart and the tribe of Hauanossa."

Infinitely, however, the most simple, soul-stirring, energetic speech, in the annals of Indian eloquence, is the well-known speech of Logan, the celebrated Shawanee chieftain.

Nothing more reconciles the spirits of savage life to its close than the probability of a splendid funeral. For this they will endure almost any privation; and even at this day, in the remote parts of Ireland, the scanty savings of laborious poverty are not unfrequently left by will to provide the wretched peasant

* The brother of Tecumseh, before referred to. + Vide the Notes to “ Gertrude of Wyoming."

« AnteriorContinuar »