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In The Distant Past

In The Distant Past image
Parent Issue
Day
9
Month
December
Year
1898
Copyright
Public Domain
OCR Text

We pnblished ;i letter this week dated at Saline, Dec. 7, 1833, from au -army officer which appeared iu a volume eutitled a "Winter in the West." In the same volume the following letter which mentions Ann Arbor and Dexter appears aud coutains many interestiag pioneer facts. "Dexter, Washtenaw Co., M. T. , . Dec. 12. "I have been here two or three days bnt so occtipied in riding abont looking at the country, that I have not till now attenipted to fluish this letter. Par ■different is the appearance of the cottages here, from those described above is the common residence of new settlers. They build almost altogether in the oak openings ; aud as the country is now nndulating, I have secn sonie cabine very prettily sitnated in cluinps of oaks, a gunshot from the road, with tields of young wheat extending in every direction around thera. The -oil, when flrst turned up, is a kind of vellow gravel, very tuipromising in irs appearance ; bnt it rapidly uudergoes a chemical change, becoming almost black in the field of two years ciütivatiou. and improving every season without the aid of a partiële of manure. I have now got among the rolling land, in a región fnll of lakes and oak openings, of which hitherto I had only a taste. I need hardly say how much more grateful such a country is to my eye than thejj level thickly timbered lands about Detroit and Monroe. I carne hither by way of the pretty village of Anne Arbour, which contains, I should think aboixt 700 or 800 inhabitants; many of whom, I am told, are very respectable English emigrants. I stopped at a farm house, about five miles from here, to diñe. A white lieaded boy, six or seven years old was turning a grindstone before the door, while a couple of Indians sharpened Their knives. Near them a miserable pouy, with his wooden saddle covered withafreshly flayed deer, anda brindle wiry haired dog, with the liead of a wolf, and a crest of a bone, skulked aronnd the slaughtered game, and ,-marled in its protection, when after dismounting, I approached it. His swarthy masters and myself entered the house together. "Tenepe tceen chemoeomon?" (Where is yonr American?) aid the oldest of the two to a very pretty Connecticut girl, who had reeently followed her husband to this country. She replied by pointing to him workiug at a distance in a field, and the Indians sat down patieutly till the farmer entered. The venisou was then laid on a table, and a bargaining scène commencd, which lasted full half an hour. "Can-nee-shin, chomocomon," (not a good American,) said me of the red barterers, turning to me, as the white trader offered him what he thought too little fox a whole deer. The bargain was struck, however, before a bystander could interpret the appeal for me. The skiu still remaind with the Indian, and I was not a little surprised to see produced from it ;i variety of articles of Indian produce, among which werelarge cakes of deer's tallow, abont the size of an ordinary -heese. These were all traded away in Puccession, and t small cask produced by the Indian, was filled with whisky on the spot; and the eldest inouuting the pony, they both shook me by the hand. and soon disappeared with their poisonous btirden behind at wining of the road. They were of the Ottawa tribe, well made meu, though slightly built, and with aqniline noses and tinely shaped heads; and each, when I iirst saw tliem, had the freest and most graoef.nl step I ever saw, wliether on the sod or iu the ball room. How complete was the metamorphosis when I overtook them half an hour afterwards in the woods! The fldest, who could not have been more than five and thirty, was barely sober enongh to gnide his horse ; and sitting 'irh both arms around the barrel of whiskey on the pommel before him. he reminded me of au engraving of Bacchus, in a very vulgar aud not very Avitty book. oalïed Horaer Travestre. The Indian gravity, which had before been preserved amid all the nervousness incident to a trading operation, had wow thoroughly deserted him, and toddling from side to sfde, he muttered a sort of recitativo, which combinedall the excellencies of the singing and spoutiug of a civilized toper. His companion. a youth of btit 17, seemed perfectly ober, and stopping only occasionally to piek up the whip of the f umbling rider, he stepped so lightly by liis liorse's side that the leaves scarcely rastled beneath his moccasin. I was somewhat pained of course, at the exhibition, though I confess I was uot a little diverted, while ridiug along for miles iu the silent woods with such grotesqne company. The pedestrian 'ontinued as reserved and respectfnl as ver; but my fellow cavalier, after talking ;i quautity of gibberish to me, which was of course-, prefectly uuintelligible, seemed to be at last quite angry because I could not understand him ; then, after again becoming pacifled, he iound a new source of vehemence in urgingjme to "schwap pasischeguu" (exehange my gnu.) to which he too] a great fancy, for his "papooshe pas, cachee,' (diild of a horse) as he cal led a colt that followed the forlón pony ou which he rode. I ccrald Dot help blaining myself however, for having been so long di verted with the frailties of this hospit able Sileuus, whe.n at parting, abou uightfall, where he struck into the for est, he gave ine an invitation to his wigwam, 20 miles off; signifying the distance by raising all his fingers twice at the same time nsing the words "Howh! keen mauhee neen wigwam' (come to my wigwam). How strangely are we coustituted, that one should derive amusement in the woods frorn an exhibition which, in a city, woulc only excite pain and disgust ! I have never seen a half intoxicated Indian before without the deepest feelings of commiseration. As for the alleged crime of selling Indians whiskey, it is imposible to prevent it. The love of spiritaons liquors is a natural craving of the red man, which is irreprensible, and as such I have heard the most humane aud intelligent persous Bpeak )f it - people who have passed ttieir ives among the ladians, and have lone their best to suatch them from his perditioa. The haughtiest c-hief vill travel a 100 miles for a pint of vhiskey, and get drank the moment he receives it, wheresoeyer he may be. Provideuce seems to have designed hat this mysterious race should uot oñtinne upon the earth ; and fate has nfused a fatal thirst into their bosoms, vhich is hasteiïing their doom with earfnl celerity. But six years ago, nd the woods around me were alive vith Indians ; now they are only travrsed by a few such stragglers as these. ron may talk of civilizing them - but hat, too, is impossible. Yon may more easily civilize the stupidest Afrian than the most intelligent Indian; in d yet, who for a moment woukl com)are the erect post and manly tread, ;he air, and blooded look of the one, vith his keen sagacity and rare intincts, to the misshapen form, the huffling gait, and stupid beariug of he other? Where, then, lies the difflulty? The African is an imitative nimal, the Indian is not. He will opy the form of weapons, for he has elt their edge, and he will make himelf ridiculons by wearing a cocked hat, cause he conceives it to be an emblem f authority. Rings and bracelets he may wear, for they recommend him to lis own tribe, but the forras and fashon of civilization he despises. The egro furnishes the best raw material !or a daudy that can be had ; he learns t once how to wear his hat and adust his shirt collar according to the ast mode of the white man. The Inian, if a fop, departs even farther than sual from the costume of a European. 3e comes from nature's hands all that ie ever intended him to be- the wild lau of the wciods. To the fieetness of ie deer in traversing the forest he nites the instinct of the houud in findng his way ; and when you add to ïese. the mental gift of a certain wild loqueuce, wholly unimprobable by ultivation, you have nearly summed p the iutellectual qualifications of the American savage - the genuine child of ature - the untamed - the untameable. I had a long couversation on this subect yesterday with á middle aged geneman of high intelligence and charcter, for many years settled in the teritory, and who has availed liimself of usual opportunities of studying Indiau ife and manners. We had been all ay in a cauoe paddled by ourselves, xploriug a chain of small lakes in this icinity; (probably Zukey Lake - Ed.) nd the perfect stillness of the woods round, while floating, at sunset over he transparent water, induced him to emark npou the rapid disappearance of ie inhabitauts; who, but six years ince, when he first visited this part of Michigan, kept their canoes upon every tream in the country. The observaion suggested the discussion, already lluded to, upon the feasibility of civiling the Indians; aud he told me a ariety of auecdotes about a young Otawa chief with an uupronouuceable ame, whom, on various accounts, he ad once thonght the flttest subject for ocial life he had ever met with among iae aboriginees. The confusión of his elation was so whimsical and strikingy characteristic, that I will finish his etter with the details, precisely as I iook them down ou my notebook from lie lips of my informant; oar canoe the vhile beiug allowed to float as she isted aloug the plaeid bosom of one of hose beautiful lakes into which the iver Hurón expands a few miles from ;s sonrees. "As we came ouc day to the Indiau ncampnieut, Ketche--vaum-doug-enink aught me by the hand as usual, with lis shrill exclamation of welcome; and my party proceeded at once to pitch ur tent near his, before a blazing flre f logs. After aft'ording us what asistance he could, the youug ehief left is ; but in the evening he called in gain at our tent, and bronght his 'ather and mother, his wife, and three isters with him. They all looked quite olenin; aud in mauuer, particularly, ;here was something altogether unusual. Young Ketche-waun-dougninkhad been quite my friend, always ppeared glad to see me, and was genrally sociable in his way; but now he vas grave and reserved, almost to sevrity. My familiarity with Indian haracter iuduced me to snppress everyliing like surprise at such an extraordnaryjehange of deportment, aud we sat Iras, I should think, at least half an our. At last the young Indian rose p in a formal way, and taking a posiion fnll in the light of the fire, began speech aboundiug with gesture and ehemence. The amouut of it was his: 'Listen, my friend; I see that ou are wiser than any of your white )rethren. ' (I must interrupt my story, aid my companion,' to remind you, hat bolieving my young Indian friend, who was a fine looking fellow, had ome relish for civilization, and half a ininrl, indeed, to turn white man, ] anticipated that some proposition to that gfféct would be the purport of his peffeh.) He continued - 'I am glad to see that you love the Indiaus; that yon are not ashained of our mode of life. Let me teil you what I presume you already know, that the life of the white man is one of care and trouble. The Great Spirit has blessed his red children in a peculiar manner. We have no care. We are as Che-manitou (Chemanitou God, or the Great Spirit; Mi-che-maniton, the devil, or evil spirit) made us. We have net degenreated, but are still his favorites. You never see a wrinkle on the brow of au Indian. Look, my brother, at the forehead of my old father; it is as smooth as my own, though CO winters have whitened his head. His days have glided on as uudisturbed as the smooth stream before you. - '(We were on the banks of the Shiawassee, "inerrupted the narrator. )' - Do you see, my brother, those pebbles in the bottom of the clear stream, as it throws back the' light of y our flre? It is thus that every thought can be seen that dwells in the mind of the Indian. He has no disguise - no canse for it ; the troubles of the white man disturb not the clear stream of his soul. Come with us - slinre with us the gifts of Che-mauitou, think no moro of those distant lands of your childhood, where men live but to ïai-ass each other, and gather riches that eat the soul up with care. Come - here you will build your wigwam - ! will help you ; you shall have my sis;er for your wifo - she shall weaveyour mats; and raise your corn, and dry yonr venisou, which we will kill to;ether in the woods. You have lived ong enough a life of wretchedness ; come and be happy with us. ' "I was curious to learn how the rest of the family, and especially the fair nember of it particularly designated in his singular harangue, behaved while ïer brother was pronouncing it ; and more than all, how the object of ithimelf received the address. I will eneavor to give you the exact replies of my interesting companion, without rejeating the various questions from me vhich elicited them. "My yonng friend sat down. -Throughout his speech the family oberved the utmost silence. The lady n question was as indifferent as au Inian could be - at least in manner. 'hey all looked at me for my opinión, ;he lady excepted. I will coufess that feit embacrrased, though I had but ïalf a dozen Indians for my audience. An answer, however, was necessary. [ thank you, my friend,' said I, 'and eeded not this new proof of your ïiendship. I am sensible Che-maniton as smiled upon you ; that you are his 'avorite children. But we white men ïave been taught to think many things ecessary that you red men can do well ithout; and inferior as our mode of ife is to yours, it is not the least of :s evils that it has unfltted us for the imple pleasure that Che-manitou every ay gives you. I havo friends and a mother far nway towards the risiug uu. She does uot know the red men nd might not be a mother to your sis;er. Your sister if I should take her to he rising sun with me would pine for ïer green woods and wigwam by the xright Shiawassee. She will doubtless )e happier as she is. She will take for ïer husband some red man like yourelf who will love her and prize the ilessings which Che-maniton yields ou. I again thauk you, my friend, nd your sister. I must, after a few ays, leave ths country; but I shall jear my friends in my heart, and in he crowded city where the white men ive, I shall ofteu sigh for those green woods, and lament the absence of red riends. ' '