Three Rivers
History From America's Most Famous Valleys

The Indian In His Wigwam
Characteristics of The Red Race of America
From Original Notes and Manuscripts
By Henry R. Schoolcraft
New York
Dewitt & Davenport
Tribune Buildings

This is a lengthy book and covers many of the Red Race who are not native to New York State. Pertinent parts of the book will be posted. abjerry
Thanks to Pamela Wozniak and David Collins for loaning this book for the purpose of using it on our website.


OF all the existing branches of the Algonquin stock in America, this extensive and populous tribe appears to have the strongest claims to intellectual distinction, on the score of their traditions, so far, at least, as the present state of our inquiries extends. They possess, in their curious fictitious legends and lodge-tales, a varied and exhaustless fund of tradition, which is repeated from generation to generation. These legends hold, among the wild men of the north, the relative rank of story-books ; and are intended both to amuse and instruct. This people possess also, the art of picture writing, in a degree which denotes that they have been, either more careful, or more fortunate, in the preservation of this very ancient art of the human race. Warriors, and the bravest of warriors, they are yet an intellectual people.

Their traditions and belief, on the origin of the globe, and the existence of a Supreme Being, are quite accordant with some things in our own history and theory. They believe that the Great Spirit created material matter, and that he made the earth and heavens, by the power of his will. He afterwards made animals and men, out of the earth, and he filled space with subordinate spirits, having something of his own nature, to whom he gave a part of his own power. He made one great and master spirit of evil, to whom ho also gave assimilated and subordinate evil spirits, to execute his will. Two antagonist powers, they believe, were thus placed in the world who are continually striving for the mastery, and who have power to affect the fortunes and lives of men. This constitutes the groundwork of their religion, sacrifices and worship.

They believe that animals were created before men, and that they originally had rule on the earth. By the power of ??ecromancy, some of these animals were transformed to men, who, as soon as they assumed this new form, began to hunt the animals, and make war against them. It is expected that these animals will resume their human shapes, in a future state, and hence their hunters, feign some clumsy excuses, for their present policy of killing them. They believe that all animals, and birds and reptiles, and even insects, possess reasoning faculties, and have souls. It is in these opinions, that we detect the ancient doctrine of transmigration. Their most intelligent priests tell us, that their forefathers worshipped the sun ; this luminary was regarded by them, as one of their Medas told me, as the symbol of divine intelligence, and the figure of it is drawn in their system of picture writing, to denote the Great Spirit. This symbol very often occurs in their pictures of the medicine dance, and the wabeno dance, and other sacred forms of their rude inscriptions.

They believe, at least to some extent, in a duality of souls, one of which is fleshly, or corporeal, the other is incorporeal or mental. The fleshly soul goes immediately, at death, to the land of spirits, or future bliss. The mental soul abides with the body, and hovers round the place of sepulture. A future state is regarded by them, as a state of rewards, and not of punishments. They expect to inhabit a paradise, filled with pleasures for the eye, and the ear, and the taste. A strong and universal belief in divine mercies absorbs every other attribute of the Great Spirit, except his power and ubiquity; and they believe, so far as we can gather it, that this mercy will be shown to all. There is not, in general, a very discriminating sense of moral distinctions and responsibilities, and the faint out-shadowings, which we sometimes hear among them, of a deep and sombre stream to be crossed by the adventurous soul, in its way to the land of bliss, does not exercise such a practical influence over their lives, as to interfere with the belief of universal acceptance after death. So firm is this belief, that their proper and most reverend term for the Great Spirit, is Gezha Monedo, that is to say, Merciful Spirit. Gitchy Monedo, which is also employed, is often an equivocal phrase. The term Wazheaud, or Maker, is used to designate the Creator, when speaking of his animated works. The compound phrase Waosemigoyan, or universal Father, is also heard.

The great spirit of evil, called Mudje Monedo, and Matche Monito, is regarded as a created, and not a pre-existing being. Subordinate spirits of evil, are denoted by using the derogative form of the word, in sh by which Moneto is rendered Monetosh. The exceeding flexibility of the language is well calculated to enable them to express distinction of this nature.

This tribe has a general tradition of a deluge, in which the earth was covered with water, reaching above the highest hills, or mountains, but not above a tree which grew on the latter, by climbing which a man was saved. This man was the demi-god of their fictions, who is called Manabozho, by whose means the waters were stayed and the earth re-created. He employed for this purpose various animals who were sent to dive down for some of the primordial earth, of which a little was, at length, brought up by the beaver, and this formed the germ or nucleus of the new, or rather rescued planet. What particular allegories are hid under this story, is not certain ; but it is known that this, and other tribes, are much in the habit of employing allegories, and symbols, under which we may suspect, they have concealed parts of their historical traditions and beliefs. This deluge of the Algonquin tribes was produced, as their legends tell, by the agency of the chief of the evil spirits, symbolized by a great serpent, who is placed, throughout the tale, in an antagonistical position to the demi-god Manabosho, This Manabozho, is the same, it is thought, with the Abou, and the Michabou, or the Great Hare of elder writers.

Of their actual origin and history, the Chippewas have no other certain tradition, than that they came from Wabenong, that is to say, the land of the EAST. They have no authentic history, therefore, but such remembered events, as must be placed subsequent to the era of the discovery of the continent. Whether this tradition is to be interpreted as an ancient one, having reference to their arrival on the continent, or merely to the track of their migration, after reaching it, is a question to be considered. It is only certain, that they came to their present position on the banks of Lake Superior, from the direction of the Atlantic seaboard, and were, when discovered, in the attitude of an invading nation, pressing westward and northward. Their distinctive name sheds no light on this question. They call themselves Od-jib-wag, which is the plural of Odjibwa,-a term which appears to denote a peculiarity in their voice, or manner of utterance. This word has been pronounced Chippewa by the Saxon race in America, and is thus recorded in our treaties and history. They are, in language, manners and customs, and other characteristics, a well marked type of the leading Algonquin race, and indeed, the most populous, important, and wide spread existing branch of that family now on the continent. The term Chippewa, may be considered as inveterately fixed by popular usage, but in all disquisitions which have their philology or distinctive character in view, the true vernacular term of OD-jib-WA, will be found to possess advantages to writers. The word Algonquin is still applied to a small local band, at the Lake of Two Mountains, on the Utawas river, near Montreal, but this term, first bestowed by the French, has long been a generic phrase for the entire race, who are identified by the ties of a common original language in the United States and British America.

One of the most curious opinions of this people is their belief in the mysterious and sacred character of fire. They obtain sacred fire, for all national and ecclesiastical purposes, from the flint. Their national pipes are lighted with this fire. It is symbolical of purity. Their notions of the boundary between life and death, which is also symbolically the limit of the material vergia between this and a future state, are revealed, in connection with the exhibition of flames of fire. They also make sacrifices by fire of some part of the first fruits of the chase. These traits are to be viewed, perhaps, in relation to their ancient worship of the sun, above noticed, of which the traditions and belief, are still generally preserved. The existence among them of the numerous classes of jossakeeds, or mutterers-(the word is from the utterance of sounds low on the earth,) is a trait that will remind the reader of a similar class of men, in early ages, in the eastern hemisphere. These persons constitute, indeed, the Magii of our western forests. In the exhibition of their art, and of the peculiar notions they promulgate on the subject of a sacred fire, and the doctrine of transmigration, they would seem to have their affiliation of descent rather with the disciples of Zoroaster and the fruitful Persian stock, than with the less mentally refined Mongolian hordes.

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