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
Dewitt & Davenport
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.
Thanks to Pamela Wozniak and David Collins for loaning this book for the purpose of using it on our website.
Tales of A Wigwam.
The White Stone Canoe
THERE was once a very beautiful young girl, who died suddenly on the lay she was to have been married to a handsome young man. He was also brave, but his heart was not proof against this loss. From the hour she was buried, there was no more joy or peace for him. He went often to visit the spot where the women had buried her, and sat musing there, when, it was thought, by some of his friends, he would have done better to try to amuse himself in the chase, or by diverting his thoughts in the war-path. But war and hunting had both lost their charms for him. His heart was already dead within him. He pushed aside both his war-club and his bow and arrows.
He had heard the old people say, that there was a path, that led to the land of souls, and he determined to follow it. He accordingly set out, one morning, after having completed his preparations for the journey. At first he hardly knew which way to go. He was only guided by the tradition that he must go south. For a while, he could see no change in the face of the country. Forests, and hills, and vallies, and streams had the same looks, which they wore in his native place. There was snow on the ground, when he set out, and it was sometimes seen to be piled and matted on the thick trees and hushes. At length, it began to diminish, and finally disappeared. The forest assumed a more cheerful appearance, the leaves put forth their buds, and before he was aware of the completeness of the change, he found himself surrounded by spring. He had left behind him the land of snow and ice. The air became mild, the dark clouds of winter had rolled away from the sky; a pure field of blue was above him, and as he went he saw flowers beside his path, and heard the songs of birds. By these signs he knew that he was going the right way, for they agreed with the traditions of his tribe. At length he spied a path. It led him through a grove, then up a long and elevated ridge, on the very top of which he came to a lodge. At the door stood an old man, with white hair, whose eyes, though deeply sunk, had a fiery brilliancy. He had a long robe of skins thrown loosely around his shoulders, and a staff in his hands.
The young Chippewayan began to tell his story; but the venerable chief arrested him, before he had proceeded to speak ten words. I have expected you, he replied, and had just risen to bid you welcome to my abode. She, whom you seek, passed here but a few days since, and being fatigued with her journey, rested herself here. Enter my lodge and be seated, and I will then satisfy your enquiries, and give you directions for your journey from this point. Having done this, they both issued forth to the lodge door. "You see yonder gulf, said he, and the wide stretching blue plains beyond. It is the land of souls. You stand upon its borders, and my lodge is the gate of entrance. But you cannot take your body along. Leave it here with your bow and arrows, your bundle and your dog. You will find them safe on your return." So saying, he re-entered the lodge, and the freed traveller bounded forward, as if his feet had suddenly been endowed with the power of wings. But all things retained their natural colours and shapes. The woods and leaves, and streams and lakes, were only more bright and comely than he had ever witnessed. Animals bounded across his path, with a freedom and a confidence which seemed to tell him, there was no blood shed here. Birds of beautiful plumage inhabited the groves, and sported in the waters. There was but one thing, in which he saw a very unusual effect. He noticed that his passage was not stopped by trees or other objects. He appeared to walk directly through them. They were, in fact, but the souls or shadows of material trees. He became sensible that he was in a land of shadows. When he had travelled half a day's journey, through a country which was continually becoming more attractive, he came to the banks of a broad lake, in the centre of which was a large and beautiful island. He found a canoe of shining white stone, tied to the shore. He was now sure that he had come the right path, for the aged man had told him of this. There were also shining paddles. He immediately entered the canoe, and took the paddles in his hands, when to his joy and surprise, on turning round, he beheld the object of his search in another canoe, exactly its counterpart in every thing. She had exactly imitated his motions, and they were side by side. They at once pushed out from shore and began to cross the lake. Its waves seemed to be rising and at a distance looked ready to swallow them up; but just as they entered the whitened edge of them they seemed to melt away, as if they were but the images of waves. But no sooner was one wreath of foam passed, than another, more threatening still, rose up. Thus they were in perpetual fear; and what added to it, was the clearness of the water, through which they could see heaps of beings who had perished before, and whose bones laid strewed on the bottom of the lake. The Master of Life had, however, decreed to let them pass, for the actions of neither of them had been bad. But they saw many others struggling and sinking in the waves. Old men and young men, males and females of all ages and ranks, were there; some passed, and some sank. It was only the little children whose canoes seemed to meet no waves. At length, every difficulty was gone, as in a moment, and they both leapt out on the happy island. They felt that the very air was food. It strengthened and nourished them. They wandered together over the blissful fields, where every thing was formed to please the eye and the ear. There were no tempests-there was no ice, no chilly winds-no one shivered for the want of warm clothes: no one suffered for hunger-no one mourned for the dead. They saw no graves. They heard of no wars. There was no hunting of animals; for the air itself was their food. Gladly would the young warrior have remained there forever, hut he was obliged to go hack for his body. He did not see the Master of Life, but he heard his voice in a soft breeze: "Go back, said this voice, to the land from whence you came. Your time has not yet come. The duties for which I made you, and which you are to perform, are not yet finished. Return to your people, and accomplish the duties of a good man. You will be the ruler of your tribe for many days. The rules you must observe, will be told you by my messenger, who keeps the gate. When he surrenders back your body, he will tell you what to do. Listen to him, and you shall afterwards rejoin the spirit, which you must now leave behind. She is accepted and will be ever here, as young and as happy as she was when I first called her from the land of snows." When this voice ceased, the narrator awoke. It was the fancy work of a dream, and he was still in the bitter land of snows, and hunger and tears.
THE LYNX AND THE HARE.
A FABLE FROM THE OJIBWA-ALGNONQUIN.
A LYNX almost famished, met a hare one day in the woods, in the winter season, hut the hare was separated from its enemy by a rock, upon which it stood. The lynx began to speak to it in a very kind manner. " Wabose! Wabose !" * said he, " come here my little white one, I wish to talk to you." " O no," said the hare, " I am afraid of you, and my mother told me never to go and talk with strangers." " You are very pretty," replied the lynx, " and a very obedient child to your parents; but you must know that I am a relative of yours ; I wish to send some word to your lodge ; come down and see me." The hare was pleased to be called pretty, and when she heard that it was a relative, she jumped down from the place where he stood, and immediately the lynx pounced upon her and tore her to pieces.
* This word appears to be a derivation from the radix WAWB, white. The termination in o is the objective sign. The term is made diminutive in s.
THE WORSHIP OF THE SUN.
AN OTTOWA TRADITION,
A LONG time ago, there lived an aged Odjibwa and his wife, on the shores of Lake Huron. They had an only son, a very beautiful boy, whose name was 0-na-wut-a-qut-o, or he that catches the clouds. The family were of the totem of the beaver. The parents were very proud of him, and thought to make him a celebrated man, but when he reached the proper age, he would not submit to the We-koon-de-win, or fast. When this time arrived, they gave him charcoal, instead of his breakfast, but he would not blacken his face. If they denied him food, he would seek for birds' eggs, along the shore, or pick up the heads of fish that had been cast away, and broil them. One day, they took away violently the food he had thus prepared, and cast him some coals in place of it. This act brought him to a decision. He took the coals and blackened his face, and went out of the lodge. He did not return, but slept without; and during the night, he had a dream. He dreamed that he saw a very beautiful female come down from the clouds and stand by his side. " O-no-wut-a-qut-o," said she, "I am come for you-step in my tracks." The young man did so, and presently felt himself ascending above the tops of the trees-he mounted up, step by step, into the air, and through the clouds. His guide, at length, passed through an orifice, and he, following her, found himself standing on a beautiful plain.
A path led to a splendid lodge. He followed her into it. It was large, and divided into two parts. On one end he saw bows and arrows, clubs and spears, and various warlike implements tipped with silver. On the other end, were things exclusively belonging to females. This was the home of his fair guide, and he saw that she had, on the frame, a broad rich belt, of many colours, which she was weaving. She said to him: "My brother is coming and I must hide you." Putting him in one corner, she spread the belt over him. Presently the brother came in, very richly dressed, and shining as if he had had points of silver all over him. He took down from the wall a splendid pipe, together with his sack of a-pa-ko-ze-gun, or smoking mixture. When he had finished regaling himself in this way, and laid his pipe aside, he said to his sister : " Nemissa,' (which is, my elder sister,) "when will you quit these practices? Do you forget that the Greatest of the Spirits has commanded that you should not take away the children from below? Perhaps you suppose that you have concealed O-na-wut-a-qut-o, but do I not know of his coming? If you would not offend me, send him back immediately." But this address did not alter her purpose. She would not send him back. Finding that she was purposed in her mind, he then spoke to the young lad, and called him from his hiding place. "Come out of your concealment," said he, "and walk about and amuse yourself. 'You will grow hungry if you remain there." He then presented him a bow and arrows, and a pipe of red stone, richly ornamented. This was taken as the word of consent to his marriage ; so the two were considered husband and wife from that time.
O-no-wut-a-qut-o found every thing- exceedingly fair and beautiful around him, but he found no inhabitants except her brother. There were flowers on the plains. There were bright and sparkling streams; There were green vallies and pleasant trees. There were gay birds and beautiful animals, but they were not such as he had been accustomed to see. There was also day and night, as on the earth; but he observed that every morning the brother regularly left the lodge, and remained absent all day; and every evening the sister departed, though it was commonly but for a part of the night.
His curiosity was aroused to solve this mystery. He obtained the brother's consent to accompany him in one of his daily journies. They travelled over a smooth plain, without boundaries, until O-no-wut-a-qut-o felt the gnawings of appetite, and asked his companion if there were no game. "Patience! my brother," said he, "we shall soon reach the spot where I eat my dinner, and you will then see how I am provided." After walking on a long time, they came to a place which was spread over with fine mats, where they sat down to refresh themselves. There was, at this place, a hole through the sky ; and O-no-wut-a-qut-o, looked down, at the bidding of his companion, upon the earth. He saw below the great lakes, and the villages of the Indians. In one place, he saw a war party stealing on the camp of their enemies. In another, be saw feasting and dancing. On a green plain, young men were engaged at ball. Along a stream, women were employed in gathering the a-puk-wa for mats.
"Do you see," said the brother, "that group of children playing beside a lodge. Observe that beautiful and active boy," said he, at the same time darting something at him, from his hand. The child immediately fell, and was carried into the lodge.
They looked again, and saw the people gathering about the lodge. They heard the she-she-gwan of the meeta, and the song he sung, asking that the child's life might be spared. To this request, the companion of O-no-wut-a-qut-o made answer-"send me up the sacrifice of a white dog." Immediately a feast was ordered by the parents of the child, the white dog was killed, his carcass was roasted, and all the wise men and medicine men of the village assembled to witness the ceremony. " There are many below," continued the voice of the brother, "whom you call great in medical skill, but it is because their ears are open, and they listen to my voice, that they are able to succeed. When I have struck one with sickness, they direct the people to look to me: and when they send me the offering I ask, I remove my hand from off them, and they are well." After he had said this, they saw the sacrifice parcelled out in dishes, for those who were at the feast. The master of the feast then said, "we send this to thee, Great Manito," and immediately the roasted animal came up. Thus their dinner was supplied, and after they had eaten, they returned to the lodge by another way.
After this manner they lived for some time; but the place became wearisome at last. O-no-wut-a-qut-o thought of his friends, and wished to go back to them. He had not forgotten his native village, and his father's lodge; and he asked leave of his wife, to return. At length she consented. " Since you are better pleased," she replied, with the cares and the ills, and the poverty of the world, than with the peaceful delights of the sky, and its boundless prairies, go! I give you permission, and since I have brought you hither, I will conduct you back; but remember, you are still my husband, I hold a chain in my hand by which I can draw you back, whenever I will. My power over you is not, in any manner, diminished. Beware, therefore, how you venture to take a wife among the people below. Should you ever do so, it is then that you shall feel the force of my displeasure."
As she said this, her eyes sparkled-she raised herself slightly on her toes, and stretched herself up, with a majestic air; and at that moment, O-no-wut-a-qut-o awoke from his dream. He found himself on the ground, near his father's lodge, at the very spot where he had laid himself down to fast. Instead of the bright beings of a higher world, he found himself surrounded by his parents and relatives. His mother told him he had been absent a year. The change was so great, that he remained for some time moody and abstracted, but by degrees, he recovered his spirits. He began to doubt the reality of all he had heard and seen above. At last, he forgot the admonitions of his spouse, and married a beautiful young woman of his own tribe. But within four days, she was a corpse. Even the fearful admonition was lost, and he repeated the offence by a second marriage Soon afterwards, he went out of the lodge, one night, but never returned It was believed that his wife had recalled him to the region of the clouds, where the tradition asserts, he still dwells, and walks on the daily rounds, which he once witnessed.
The native tribes are a people without maxims : One of the few which have been noticed is this : Do not tell a story in the summer ; "if you do, the toads will visit you,
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