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what may have been in those early days; but as far as warrantable conjecture goes, no such despotic organizations existed then. T'he Northern Indians appear never to have labored, in the usual sense of the word, either for themselves, or for those having the rule over them. They appear to have contemned manual toil, and on all occasions to have been ashamed to dig. We doubt whether all the toil, in the way of digging, that has been got out of the Northern tribes since they have been known to the whites, would achieve any one of the extensive works in question found in the State of Ohio. There is, therefore, the double difficulty in this question, — the want of the necessary labor, and the want of suitable means to apply it to advantage, had the labor been at command. The Indian antiquities at the north, though comparatively humble in their character, oppose inquiry at every step. Still, all opposition may be surmounted by such patient and industrious investigators as Mr. Schoolcraft.
We have made no quotations from the Report before us, though we have availed ourselves largely of its facts. These constitute the merit and value of the volume, which hardly admitted much display of literary execution. The manner, however, is good; the arrangement of the subject is judicious, and presents its various parts distinctly to view, while the style is unambitious and clear.
We have alluded to the proofs of intellectual power in the Indians with which Mr. Schoolcraft had before furnished the public ; and we are now induced to make an extract from ibis Report, which has a bearing upon this point. It is a tradition of the Senecas. When we are looking for proofs of this intellectual power in the Indians, in what shape do we expect to find them? They have been a barbarous people from the beginning. With such a character, Indian intellect can be expected to display itself only in their traditions. Imagination is a faculty that develops itself in the infancy of a nation; it is strong almost in proportion as the nation is rude, and gradually loses its force step by step with the advance of civilization. Imagination seems to be a wild product; it luxuriates among a wild people, like the rank and unchecked growth of the face of the earth. The forest puts forth an enormous vegetation ; trees and parasites flourish there with a giant's strength; all the nourishment of the soil is sucked up by them. The sun licks up nothing ; a dense veil - No. 135.
intercepts its burning rays, and allows only their genial warmth to sift down upon the ground. Cultivation changes all this ; iu regulating every thing, we restrain every thing ; it is improvement, but it is still a check. The horse under the bit and in the draught is the same animal as the snorting courser of the prairie ; but his matchless energies are all cramped and subdued. It is nearly so with the imagination ; the Indian gives it full play. These traditions are the coins of the aborigines, often obscured and overlaid with extraneous matter ; still, they are almost the only remains that bear the stamp of remote ages. We cannot always understand them ; so it is with many coins ; nevertheless, they are preserved with great care, in the hope that interpretation may one day come. But these traditions are more valuable than coins in one respect; they have a value, even if they fail to be interpreted. The imagination they display is independent of such interpretation. Very few of the Indian tales which Mr. Schoolcraft has heretofore published are intelligible in their bearing ; doubtless, they all had an application to events, either moral or physical. We may hope, but must probably hope in vain, to find out that application in most cases. The tree which has been prostrate for ages in the forest, if undisturbed, still retains an aspect in its final decay that leaves no doubt of its original character. It has not a leaf, a twig, a branch, nor perhaps even a fibre of its trunk, remaining. The only index may be a long, slender tumulus, which, having become a mere spongy mass, a foot might kick out of shape with a few blows. As long as this tumulus remains, it shows to the least-practised eye that a tree once stood and had fallen there, though the most expert botanist might fail to detect the class or genus to which it belonged. It proves that a majestic forest once was there, and we care little whether the remains we pow contemplate are those of an oak or a pine.
Thus it is, in some degree, with these tales. They have doubtless lost their original texture, have lost nearly all that gave them, in their day of freshness, their beauty, their force, and their distinctness of character. Nevertheless, they are the best remains of the Indian character, and, as such, should be preserved with jealous care, with all their simplicity, all their mutilations, all their shapelessness. Mr. Schoolcraft gives us in this Report several specimens of the Indian's carving ; his intention was, that the wood-cuts should present an exact fac-simile of what they copy, with every blemish, all rudeness of outline, and all awkwardness in filling up carefully preserved. The artist may have sometimes departed from this rigorous rule ; we are led to suspect that he did not always do as badly as the original required. As the artist ought to have done in all instances, and as we believe his employer intended he should do, so we believe Mr. Schoolcraft meant to do with all these tales.
The tradition we have alluded to, as given in this Report, is the following. Mr. Schoolcraft is speaking of the Senecas,
when he says,
“The term by which they call themselves is Nundowaga, or the People of the Hill; a name that leads us at once to consider the accounts of their own origin. Various relations of this story have been given, differing in some of their details, but all coin. ciding in the main events, namely: that they originated and lived on a well-known hill, at the head of the Canandaigua lake, where they were put in imminent peril of utter destruction by a monstrous serpent, which circled itself about the fort, and lay with its mouth open at the gate. The following is given from a native source, and has some novel details to recommend it.
“ While the tribe had its seat and council-fire on this hill, a woman and her son were living near it, when the boy one day caught a small two-headed serpent, called Kaistowanea, in the bushes. He brought it home as a pet to amuse himself, and put it in a box, where he fed it on bird's flesh, and other dainties. After some time it had become so large that it rested on the beams of the lodge, and the hunters were obliged to feed it with their deer; but it soon went out and made its abode on a neighbouring hill, where it maintained itself. It often went out and sported in the lake, and in time became so large and mischievous that the tribe were put in dread of it. They consulted on the subject one evening, and determined to fly the next morning ; but with the light of the next morning the monster had encircled the hill, and lay with his double mouth extended before the gate. Some attempted to pass out, but were driven back; others tried to climb over its body, but were unable. Hunger at last drove them to desperation, and they made a rush at the pass, but only rushed into the monster's double jaws. All were devoured but a warrior and his sister, who waited in vain expectancy of relief. At length, the warrior had a dream, in which he was showed that if he would fledge his arrows with the hair of his sister, the charm
would prevail over the enemy. He was warned not to heed the frightful heads and hissing tongues, but shoot at the heart. Accordingly, the next morning, he armed himself with his keenest weapons, charmed as directed, and boldly shot at the serpent's heart
. The instantaneous recoiling of the monster proved that the wound was mortal. He began in great agony to roll down the hill, breaking down trees and uttering horrid noises, until he rolled into the lake. Here he slaked his thirst, and tried by water to mitigate his agony, dashing about in fury. At length he vomited up all the people he had eaten, and immediately expired, and sank to the bottom.” — pp. 60, 61.
This tradition is doubtless given as it was received. It has all the marks of Indian crudeness and extravagance about it, and may therefore be regarded as genuine. Mr. Schoolcraft hazards an interpretation of it, which is not objectionable as far as it goes, but seems to fall far short of what might be warranted by the scope of the tradition. It has relation, without doubt, to an important event in the early history of the Senecas ; a dim shadow cast forward into subsequent times, showing an obscure outline of some great revolution. It would be no stretch of Indian phraseology, even at the present day, to narrate a similar modern event in equally figurative language. The Indian families are designated, as Mr. Schoolcraft has largely explained in his various works, by totems, or names of certain animals, birds, &c. The serpent in this case may signify a chief who was adopted, while young, into the bosom of an alien tribe, and who, when he had become strong, returned the kindness, serpent-like, with ingratitude and injury, bringing his benefactors to the brink of ruin. The elevation of the serpent to the “ beams ” is probably only a mode of intimating the elevation of the stranger to superiority and power in the friendly tribe ; the change of diet from bird's flesh to deer's meat bespeaks the increase of his exactions.
All the steps from secret enmity to open hostility are shadowed forth. The siege is plain enough, and the destruction of all the tribe, excepting a warrior and his sister, in the course of it, is equally so. The mode in which the relief is effected is not equally clear, and fancy has a wide field to play in. The agency of the woman in bringing it about — an agency so common in the troubles of life — is exerted in a strange way. We are left to conjecture how her “hair” over
came the enemy. Fledging arrows with it, unless they were Cupid's darts, gives us no clew. " Golden locks," and even “raven hair,” have had a large share in catastrophes ; but not such raven hair, — the black, coarse, lank locks, that invariably cover the squaw's head. The white man's fancy cannot comprehend this ; but the red man's may.
We have less to do, however, with interpretations of this tradition, than with its merit in comparison with similar proofs of intellectual invention exhibited by the ancients of our own color. This tradition will compare advantageously, in most points, with the stories which set forth, in a like allegorical manner, the early events of the Grecian and Roman history. They are not more figurative or romantic, and only less susceptible of interpretation because the early Indian history is utterly unknown. Grecian and Roman history 'began in fable, and might have ended in obscurity, had the same ignorance prevailed in after times as at the beginning. The allegory of the Golden Fleece has covered over with a sort of classic beauty an expedition that was probably not less predatory, nor more daring, than numberless Indian expeditions that lie concealed under their allegorical coverings, which have not becoine classical only because the Indians never became civilized. The light of letters fortunately shone on our ancients as they advanced in growth. It was not so with the Indians ; they have had no records. Nations have risen and sunk, and left no memorial behind them. Individuals have acquired fame, which, like a deep and strong sound, has vibrated through the air far and wide, catching the attention of every ear, and calling forth the admiration of every mind; but which, like a mere sound,
1 sooner or later, gradually died away into silence. Perhaps a vague tradition, like that we are considering, might give it an uncertain existence, but without lineament or distinctness, liable to any appropriation, and bearing down with it, from generation to generation, no proof of persons, and but a misty proof of an event.
It is a subject for deep reflection, this difference of fate that marks the achievements of civilization and barbarism. The one has a perpetuity that may end only with civilized man ; the others die with the generation that witnessed them. Probably the degree of merit or splendor has been the same; a nation may have been saved, or a nation may have been