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PREFACE TO THE THIRD EDITION.
“This, too, shall pass away," were the words graven on the ring of the Persian despot, Nadir Shah, to remind him of the evanescence of all things earthly. This, too, shall pass away, was the doom long ago pronounced on all that is primitive in life or scenery within the limits of our national domain; but no one could have dreamed that the decree would find so swift an execution. Less than six years have passed since the incidents related in this volume took place, but that short interval has been the witness of changes almost incredible. The herds of buffalo which blackened the prairies of the Arkansas and the Platte have vanished before the increasing stream of emigrant caravans. Fort Laramie, which then was a mere trading post, occupied by a handful of Canadians, and overawed by surrounding savages, is now a military station of the United States, controlling and regulating the humbled tribes of the adjacent regions. The waste and lonely valley of the Great Salt Lake has become, as if by magic, the seat of a populous city, the hive of a fanatical multitude, whose movements are an object of national importance, and whose character and fortunes form a theme of the highest philosophic interest. Remote and barbarous California, rich in nothing but tallow and cowhides, is transformed into a modern Ophir, swarming with eager life, and threatening to revolutionize the financial system of the world with the outpourings of its wealth.
Primeval barbarism is assailed at last in front and rear, from the Mississippi and from the Pacific; and, thus brought between two fires, it cannot long sustain itself. With all respect to civilization, I cannot help regretting this final consummation; and such regret will not be misconstrued by any one who has tried the prairie and mountain life, who has learned to look with an affectionate interest on the rifle that was once his companion and protector, the belt that sustained his knife and pistol, and the pipe which beguiled the tedious hours of his midnight watch, while men and horses lay sunk in sleep around him.
The following narrative was written in great measure with the view of preserving, in my own mind, a clear memory of the scenes and adventures which it records. It therefore takes the form of a simple relation of facts, free, for the most part, from reflections or digressions of any kind; and in this circumstance of its origin, the reader will find good assurance of its entire authenticity.
February 1st, 1862,
The journey which the following narrative describes was undertaken on the writer's part with a view of studying the manners and character of Indians in their primitive state. Al. though in the chapters which relate to them, he has only attempted to sketch those features of their wild and picturesque life which fell, in the present instance, under his own eye, yet in doing so he has constantly aimed to leave an impression of their character correct as far as it goes. In justifying his claim to accuracy on this point, it is hardly necessary to advert to the representations given by poets and novelists, which, for the most part, are mere creations of fancy. The Indian is certainly entitled to a high rank among savages, but his good qualities are not those of an Uncas or an Outa’issi.
The sketches were originally published in the Knicker. bocker Magazine, commencing in Febrvary 1847.
BOSTON, February 15, 1849.