Instances of Indian Genius.
ALTHOUGH we are not such enthusiasts or admirers of the qualifications of a savage life as the secretary at war; yet we have both seen and heard of such examples of extraordinary talents in the aborigines of this country, as cause us to deplore the unhappy fate of the Indian tribes. Perhaps the civilized nations of Europe are not able to produce an individual of the same astonishing powers as were exhibited by a young chief of the Sacs, a tribe of Indians who inhabit the banks of the Mississippi above the river Illinois. The story of the admirable Crichton who attracted the notice of Europe in the sixteenth century, is not more remarkable than the following account of a young Sac, which account was drawn up by a friend of ours who had an opportunity of being in his company for seven or eight days:
I was at Frankfort in the state of Kentucky, in December 1805, when upwards of thirty Indian chiefs from the nations who reside upon the Missouri and the Mississippi, arrived on their way to a visit to president Jefferson. Among these chiefs was a
320young Sac, between seventeen and eighteen years of age. It was the first time he had ever been in a white settlement; and previous to his coming to St. Louis, had never even seen a mortal but the natives of his woods. His stature was five feet ten and one half inches. The proportion of his limbs was equal to that of those exquisite models of art, which the genius of antiquity has left as a standard for modern taste. His complexion, and the skin of his body, although not so fair as the Osages (who are as white as the natives of the United States;) were not near so dark as the other Indians. His eyes were entirely destitute of that dark ferocity which is a general characteristic of the Indian tribes. They were quick and penetrating, and at the same time had that placid regard which always fascinates and attracts attention. His face it is true was painted, but even in this he displayed a taste uncommon to savages. The colours were laid on, and blended together with all the art and delicacy of a theatrical performer. I never beheld a youth who seemed so much to realise that picture, which the pen of Xenophon has drawn of young Cyrus when residing with his grandfather Astyages. But the mental talents of this youthful Sac, far surpassed the charms of his person.
The astonishing powers of memory he possessed, I discovered in the following manner: — I was curious to know in what manner he would pronounce the words of different languages, and to ascertain what language of those which I understood, the organs of his speech were best adapted to express. Upon reading several lines of English, I was surprised to find he repeated the same immediately after me without the mistake of a single word. To determine whether this was the effect of memory alone, I took up a volume of the minor Greek poets, and read twenty lines of Bion's epitaph on the death of Adonis. The sonorous melody for which this little poem is so remarkable, was the cause of my selecting it. He recited the twenty lines after me with an error of only four words. This was a specimen of memory which I believe few of the best Greek scholars can boast of, being able to recite twenty lines of Greek verse from a single reading. I next read twenty lines from the pastoral of Virgil. He had more difficulty in recollecting these. However, after several repetitions he accomplished it. I now made a trial of English poetry, and read the
321same number of lines from the first book of Pope's translation from the Iliad. These he recollected after twice reading. The most remarkable circumstance was that he recited all those lines of Greek, Latin and English the next day, without any practice in the meantime. The talent he possessed for communicating his ideas, as well as for receiving others was also extraordinary. Although he was as much a stranger to the English language, as the language of the Sacs was foreign to me: yet, after the first day, we experienced no difficulty in exchanging with each other our sentiments upon all subjects. — He remained in Frankfort seven or eight days, during which time I made it my business to enjoy exclusively his company. The Kentucky legislature was then in session; and there were several interesting arguments between Mr. Clay and Mr. Grundy upon the policy of bank establishments; but I could neither listen to the eloquence of the one, nor the logical reasoning of the other.
The conversation and remarks of this Indian youth, whom the God of our nature seemed to have inspired, not only afforded me more pleasure, but more instruction. Were I to name any period of my life in which I have enjoyed true felicity, I should have no hesitation in fixing on those few days which I spent with this Indian. I have seldom met with an artist who had a more refined taste, or a more accurate eye in sketching the beauties of nature than he had. Although it was in the month of December, yet the weather was uncommonly dry and mild; and we amused ourselves some hours each day in delineating the picturesque scenery with which Frankfort is surrounded. The observations and remarks which he made in our walks were such as might have been expected from one conversant with the works of Poussin, Salvator Rosa, or Claude de Lorrain. The interest which I felt for this extraordinary youth, induced me to make an application to Mr. Jefferson, expressive of my desire that he should be retained in the United States and educated at some respectable seminary. — The president was pleased to favour me with an answer upon the subject, concurring with me in the same wish, but stating that from the unfortunate circumstance of several of the Sacs having died on their visit to Washington, it was thought proper that he and his surviving companions should be restored to their native country.
322They returned by a different route from Kentucky, so that I never had an opportunity of seeing him again.
MESS'RS, LEWIS & HALL,
Please to insert the following in your paper, for the gratification of those who are interested in the memory of that celebrated christian chief, whose death was lately noticed by several editors. It is sent you by the permission of Mr. Jenkins, missionary of the Oneidas, who took down the speech as it was delivered.
Head chief of the Oneidas, on the discovery that their land and improvements at the castle were sold to the state, by the intrigue (as he asserts) of certain white men. [The tears ran copiously from his eyes, and from those of all that heard him in council where he spoke.]
My warriors and my children! Hear! — It is cruel — it is very cruel! a heavy burden lies on my heart; — it is very sick. This is a dark day. The clouds are black and heavy over the Oneida nation; and a strange arm is heavy upon us, and our hearts groan under it. Our fires are put out, and our beds are removed from under us. The graves of our fathers are destroyed, and their children are driven away. The Almighty is angry with us; for we have been very wicked; therefore his arm does not keep us. Where are the chiefs of the rising Sun? White chiefs now kindle their ancient fires! There no Indian sleeps but those that sleep in their graves. My house will soon be like theirs; soon will a white chief here kindle his fire. Your Scanado will soon be no more, and his village no more a village of Indians.
The news that came last night by our men from Albany, made this a sick day in Oneida. All our children's hearts are sick, and our eyes rain like the black cloud that roars on the tops of the trees of the wilderness. Long did the strong voice of Scanando cry, children, take care, be wise, be straight. His feet were then
323like the deer's, and his arm like the bear's — He can now only mourn out a few words and then be silent; and his voice will soon be heard no more in Oneida. But certainly he will be long in the minds of his children — in white men's Scanando's name has gone far, and will not die. He has spoke many words to make his children straight. Long has he said, drink no strong water; for it makes you mice for white men, who are cats. Many a meal have they eaten of you. Their mouth is a snare, and their way like the fox. Their lips are sweet, but their heart is wicked. Yet there are good whites and there are good Indians. I love all good men; and Jesus, whom I love, sees all. His great day is coming, he will make straight; he will say to cheating whites and drinking Indians, begone ye — begone ye — go, go, go. — Certainly, my children, he will drive them away. In that day I will rejoice. But oh! great sorrow in my heart that many of my children mourn. The great Jesus has looked on all the while the whites were cheating us; and it will remain in his mind — he will make all straight again. Long have I believed his good words; and as long as I live I will pray to him. He is my good Saviour — my blind eyes he will open,
Hearken, my children! when this news sounds in the council-house, toward the setting sun, and they cry, make bows and arrows sharpen the tomahawk — put the chain of friendship with the whites into the ground — warrior, kill! kill! The great chief at the setting sun wont kill any of the Six Nations that go into his land, because they have a chain of friendship with the whites; and he says, the whites have made us wicked like themselves, and that we have sold them our land. We have not sold it; we have been cheated: and my messengers shall speak true words in the great
324council-house toward the setting sun, and say — yet bury the tomahawk; Oneidas must be children of peace.
Children! Some have said, your chiefs signed papers of white men that sold our fires. Your chiefs signed no papers; sooner would they let the tomahawk lay them low. We know one of our men was hired by white men to tell our men this, and will now tell you so himself. Papers are wicked things; take care; sign none of them but such as our minister reads to us. He is straight. You now see his tears running like oars.
Father — you are our minister — dry up your tears. We know if your arm could it would help us. We know wicked men speak ill of you for our sakes. You suffer with us. But you are Jesus' servant, and he will love you no less for loving Indians.
Children — our two messengers will run and carry our sorrows to the great council fire toward the setting sun. Run, my children, and tell our words. Give health to all the chiefs assembled round the great fire. And may Jesus, the great Saviour, bring you back safe.
Portsmouth, N. H. July 23.
The following address was made by Bold Susop, the Indian, who is now in confinement at Castine, to await his trial for the murder of Mr. Knight, of Bangor, to the court by which he was examined at the latter place. He was impressed with the idea that they were about to kill him, and did not like being hung — nor did he want to go to Castine, fearing he should not be buried in his native town:
"My friends, now I speak to you what you all hear: some of you see what my hand do — now, 'spoose you kill — you shoot me here — me ready — me no want to go to Castine, cause my friends want to bury me at Old Town, and great deal of trouble they all go to Castine to see me die. Now, gentlemen, any body will shoot me here; I will pay them money — and be much obliged to them."
He was told by the court that it was not in their power to have him shot, but it seemed to be with much reluctance that he relinquished this favour. He confessed the crime, and says if he is shot, then he pays for the murder, then he thinks he may go to heaven, but if he is hung he is afraid of eternal punishment.