Pictures and Illustrations.
Letter to Reverend Dr. Jedidiah Morse, by Major Morrell Marston, U.S.A., commanding at Fort Armstrong, Ill.; November, 1820.
From original manuscript in the library of the Wisconsin Historical Society.
Fort Armstrong, November, 1820.
SIR: Your letter dated "Mackinaw, June 20, 1820," requesting me to give you the names of the Indian tribes around me within as large a circle as my information can be extended with convenience and accuracy -- the extent of the territories they respectively occupy, with the nature of their soil and climate -- their mode of life, customs, laws and political institutions -- the talents and character of their chiefs and other principal and influential men, and their disposition in respect to the introduction and promotion among them, of education and civilisation; what improvements in the present system of Indian trade could in my opinion be made, whic would render this commercial intercourse with them more conducive to the promotion of peace between them and us, and contribute more efficiently to the improvement of their moral condition; together with a number of particular questions to be put to the Indians for their answers or to be otherwise answered according to circumstances, came to hand in due time and would have been answered immediately, had it been in my power to have done so as fully as I wished.
Soon after the receipt of your communication, I invited four of the principal chiefs of the Sauk and Fox nations to my quarters, with a view of gaining all the information wished or expected from them, three of whom accordingly attended, when I made known to them that you as an agent of the President had requested certain information relating to their two nations, which I hoped they would freely communicate to the best of their knowledge and belief, as their great father the President was anxious to be made acquainted with their situation in order to be enabled to relieve their wants and give them such advice from time to time as they might need. They replied, that they were willing and ready to communicate all the information in their power to give relative to their two nations; but I soon found that when the questions were put to them they became suspicious and unwilling to answer to them, and that
141many of their answers were evasive and foreign to the questions.
Question to Mas-co, a Sauk chief -- What is the name of your nation? Answer -- Since we can remember we have never had any other name than Saukie or Saukieuck.
Question to Mas-co -- What its original name? Answer -- Since the Great Spirit made us we have had that name and no other.
Question to Mas-co -- What the names by which it has been known among Europeans? Answer --The French called us by that name; they were the first white people
142we had ever seen; since, the white people call us Sauks.
Question to Wah-bal-lo
Question to Wah-bal-lo -- What its original name? Answer -- Since the Great Spirit made us we have had that name and no other.
Question to Wah-bal-lo -- What the names by which it has been known among Europeans? Answer -- The French called us Renards, and since, the white people have called us Foxes.
Question -- Are any portion of your tribes scattered in other parts? Answer -- Yes.
Question -- Where? Answer -- There are some of our people on the Milsouri, some near Fort Edwards
Question -- To what nations are you related by language? Answer -- The Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo nations are related by language.
Question -- Manners and customs? Answer -- The Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo's manners and customs are alike except those who have had intercourse with the whites.
One of the chiefs added that the Shawnees descended from the Sauk nation: that at a bears-feast a chief took the feet of the animal for his portion who was not entitled to them (which were esteemed the greatest luxury) and that a quarrel ensued, in consequence of which he Waa-pa-laa (Fox)
145and his band withdrew and have ever since been called the Shawnee nation.
They acknowledge that the Sauks, Foxes, Kickapoos and lowas are in close alliance, but observed that the reason for being in alliance with the lowas was; because they were a bad people, and therefore it was better to have their friendship than enmity.
Question -- With what tribes can you converse, and what is the common language in which you converse with them? Answer -- There are only three nations with which we can [talk,] the Sauk, Fox and Kickapoo nations, by being with [any] other nation we might learn their language, but if we [don't] see them how can we speak to them or they to us? Is [it] not the same with you white people?
Question -- What tribe do you call Grandfather? Answer -- The Delawares call us and all other Indians Grandchildren, and we in return call them Grandfather; but we know of no relationship subsisting between them and us.
Question -- What tribes are Grandchildren? Answer -- There are no tribes or other nations we call grandchildren.
Question -- Where is the great council fire for all the tribes connected with your own tribes? Answer -- We have no particular place, when we have any business to transact it is done at some one of our villages.
Question -- Do you believe that the soul lives after the body is dead? Answer -- How should we know, none of our people who have died, have ever returned to inform us.
No other questions were put to the chiefs as they appeared to be determined to give no further information. In conversation with one of them afterwards upon the
146subject, they give as a reason for declining to answer the remainder of the questions, that Govr Clark
I have since been informed by some of the old men of the two nations that the Sauk and Fox nations emigrated from a great distance below Detroit and established themselves at a place called Saganaw
147remained on this river until about sixteen years ago, when they returned to their present situation. This is all the information I have been able to collect from themselves relating to the rise and progress of their two nations. At present their villages are situated on a point of land formed by the junction of the Rock and Mississippi Rivers, which they call Sen-i-se-po Ke-be-sau-kee (Rock River Peninsula) this land as well as all they ever claimed on the east side of the Mississippi was sold by them to our government in 1805. The agents of government have been very desirious for some time to effect their removal, but they appear unwilling to leave it.
I recently spoke of one of the principal Fox chiefs upon this subject and he replied that their people were not willing to leave Ke-be-sau-kee in consequence of a great number of their chiefs and friends being buryed there, but that he wished them to remove, as they would do much better to be farther from the Mississippi where they would have less intercourse with the whites. They claim a large tract of country on the west of the Mississippi: it commences at the mouth of the upper Iowa River, which is above Prairie du Chien and follows the Mississippi down as far as Des Moine River and extending back towards the Missouri as far as the dividing ridge, and some of them say quite to that River -- a large proportion of this tract is said to be high prairie; that part of it which lies in the vicinity of the Iowa and Des Moine Rivers is said to be valuable; their hunting grounds are on the head waters of these rivers, and are considered the best in any part of the Mississippi county. I have not been able to ascertain the extent of Territory claimed by any other nations.
The Sauk village is situated on the bank of the Rock
148River and about two miles from its mouth, and contains [blank in Ms.] lodges, the principal Fox village is on the bank of the Mississippi opposite Fort Armstrong, it contains thirty five permanent lodges. There is also a small Sauk village of five or six lodges on the left bank of the Mississippi near the mouth of des Moine and below Fort Edwards, and a Fox village near the lead mines (about hundred miles above this place) of about twenty lodges, and another near the mouth of the Wapsipinica [River]
They leave their villages as soon as their corn, beans, etc., is ripe and taken care of, and their traders arrive and give out their credits (or their outfits on credit-Morse) and go to their wintering grounds; it being previously determined on in council what particular ground each party shall hunt on. The old men, women,
149and children embark in canoes, the young men go by land with their horses; on their arrival they immediately commence their winter's hunt, which last about three months. Their traders follow them and establish themselves at convenient places in order to collect their dues and supply them with such goods as they need. In a favorable season most of these Indians are able not only to pay their traders, and will supply themselves and families with blankets,
150the winter, but to leave considerable of the proceeds of their hunt on hand; the surplus which generally consists of the most valuable peltries, such as beaver, otter, etc., they take home with them to their Villages, and dispose of for such articles as they may find necessary. In the winter of 1819-1820 these two nations had five traders. This number of traders employed nine clerks and interpreters, with annual salaries of from two hundred to twelve hundred dollars each (the average about four hundred dollars), and forty-three labourers whose pay was from one hundred to two hundred dollars each pr annum. These traders including the peltries received at the United States factory
151of the Sauk and Fox Indians during this season nine hundred and eighty packs.
They consisted of 2760 beaver skins; 922 Otter; 13,440 Raccoon; 12,900 Musk Rat skins; 500 Mink; 200 Wildcat; 680 Bear skins; 28,680 Deer; whole number -- 60,082. The estimated value of which is fifty eight thousand and eight hundred dollars.
The quantity of tallow presumed to be collected from the Deer is 286,800 pounds. The traders also collected during the same time from these savages at least: 3,000 Ibs. of feathers; 1,000 Ibs. of bees wax.
They return to their villages in the month of April and after putting their lodges in order, commence preparing the ground to receive the seed. The number of acres cultivated by that part of the two nations who reside at their villages in this vicinity is supposed to be upwards of three hundred. They usually raise from seven to eight thousand bushels of corn, besides beans, pumpkins, melons, etc. About one thousand bushels of the corn they annually sell to traders and others. The remainder (except about five bushels for each family, which is taken along with them) they put into bags, and bury in holes dug in the ground for their use in the Spring and Summer.
The labor of agriculture is confined principally to the women, and this is done altogether with the hoe.
In June the greatest part of the young men go out on a summer hunt, and return in August. While they are absent the old men and women are collecting rushes for mats, and bark to make into bags for their corn, etc.
The women usually make about three hundred floor
153mats every summer; these mats are as handsome and as durable as those made abroad. The twine which connects the rushes together is made either of basswood bark after being boiled and hammered, or the bark of the nettle; the women twist or spin it by rolling it on the leg with the hand. Those of the able bodied men who do not go out to hunt are employed in digging and smelting lead at the mines on the Mississippi: in this business a part of the women are also employed, from four to five hundred thousand weight of this mineral is dug by them during a season: the lots in smelting of which is about 25 pr cent; most of it however is disposed of by them in the state that it is dug out of the mine, at about two dollars pr hundred.
I now proceed to give such further information as a year's residence in the vicinity of the Sauk, Fox, and a part of the Kickapoo nations (about two hundred souls of which built a village last season near the mouth of Rock River) and considerable intercourse with several other nations has enabled me to collect.
In the first place it is no more than justice for me to acknowledge that I am greatly indebted for much of the information contained in this letter to Thomas Forsyth Esqr. Indian Agent, Mr. George Davenport, and Dr. Muir
154manners and customs of the Chippewa, Ottawa, and Pottawattamie nations, which are similar, if not the same as those of the Sauks, Foxes, and Kickapoos. In addition to the information furnished by these gentlemen, I have long been in expectation of receiving from Mr. Blondeau late a Sub. I. Agent and a man of intelligence in the religion, manners, and customs of the Sauk and Fox nations; he was born with the Sauks, his mother being a woman of that nation, and is probably more competent to give a correct account of them than any other man; this however, I have been disappointed as yet in receiving; the expectation of receiving this document has been the principal cause of delay in answering your communication.
Among your queries are the following. -- What are your terms for father, mother, Heaven, Earth; the pronouns I, thou, he? In what manner do you form the genitive case and plural number? How do you distinguish present, past and future time?
In the Sauk tongue: No-sah, is my father; Co-sah, your father; Oz-son,his father ;Na-ke-ah, is my mother; Ke-ke-ah, your mother; O-chan-en-e, his mother; Heaven is che-pah-nock; Earth, Ar-kee; I is Neen; thou, keen; you (in the plural), Keen-a-wa; he, Ween; us, Ne-non; they, We-ne-wa. I have not been able to ascertain the manner they form the genitive case. The plural number of most nouns is formed by the addition of the syllable uck as Sau-kie, Sau-kie-uck. The plural of personal pronouns is generally formed by the addition of the syllable wah.
The name of the principal chief of the Sauks is Nan-nah-que, he is about forty years of age, rather small in stature, unassuming in his deportment, and disposed to cultivate the friendship of the whites; but he does not
155appear to possess any extraordinary capacity. The two next chiefs in rank are Mus-ke-ta-bah (red head) and Mas-co; the latter is a man of considerable intelligence but rather old, and too fond of whiskey to have much influence with his nation. These chiefs are all decidedly opposed to a change of their condition. About a year since this nation met with a heavy lots in the death of Mo-ne-to-mack, the greatest chief that they have had for many years. Among other things which he contemplated accomplishing for the good of his people, was to have their lands surveyed and laid off into tracts for each family or tribe. He has left a son, but as yet he is too young to assume any authority.
The principal chief of the Fox nation is Wah-bal-lo; he appears to be about thirty. He is a man of considerable capacity and very independent in his feelings, but rather unambitious and indolent. The second chief of this nation is Ty-ee-ma (Strawberry); he is about forty. This man seems to be more intelligent than any other to be found either among the Foxes or Sauks, but he is extremely unwilling to communicate any thing relative to the history, manners and customs of his people. He has a variety of maps of different parts of the world and appears to be desirous of gaining geographical information; but is greatly attached to the savage state. I have frequently endeavored to draw from him his opinion with regard to a change of their condition from the savage to the civilised state. He one day informed me when conversing upon this subject, that the Great Spirit had put Indians on the earth to hunt and gain a living in the wilderness; that he always found that when any of their people departed from this mode of life, by attempting to learn to read, write and live as white people do, the Great Spirit was displeased, and they soon died; he concluded
156by observing that when the Great Spirit made them he gave them their medicine bag and they intended to keep it.
I have not had an opportunity of becoming much acquainted with that part of the Kickapoo nation living in this vicinity. There are two principal chiefs among them, Pah-moi-tah-mah (the swan that cries) and Pe-can (the Nut) the former is an old man; the latter appears to be about forty; this nation has had considerable intercourse with the whites, but they do not appear to have profited much from it. They appear to be more apt to learn and practice their vices, than their virtues.
The males of each nation of the Sauks and Foxes are divided into two grand divisions, called kish-co-qua and osh-kosh: to each there is a head called, war chief. As soon as the first male child of a family is born he is arranged to the first band, and when a second is born to the second band, and so on.
The name of the Chief of the first band of Sauks, is
157Ke-o-kuck; when they go to war and on all public occasions, his band is always painted white, with pipe clay. The name of the second war chief is Na-cal-a-quoik: his band is painted black. Each of these chiefs is entitled to one or two aid-de-camps, selected by themselves from among the braves of their nation, who generally accompany them on all public occasions and whenever they go abroad. These two chiefs were raised to their present rank in consequence of their success in opposing the wishes of the majority of the nation to flee from their village on the approach of a body of American troops during the late war; they finally persuaded their nation to remain on the condition of their engaging to take the command and sustain their position. Our troops from some cause or other did not attack them, and they of course remained unmolested. In addition to these, there are a great number of petty war chiefs or partizans, who frequently head small parties of volunteers and go against their enemies; they are generally those who have lost some near relative by the enemy. An Indian intending to go to war will commence by blacking his face, permitting his hair to grow long, and neglecting his personal appearance, and also, by frequent fastings, some times for two or three days together, and refraining
158from all intercourse with the other sex; if his dreams are favorable he thinks that the Great Spirit will give him success; he then makes a feast, generally of dog's meat (it being the greatest sacrifice that he can make to part with a favorite dog); when all those who feel inclined to join him will attend the feast; after this is concluded they immediately set off on their expedition. It frequently happens that in consequence of unfavorable dreams or some trifling accident the whole party will return without meeting with the enemy. When they are successful in taking prisoners or scalps, they return to their villages with great pomp and ceremony. The party will halt several miles from a village and send a messenger to inform the nation of their success, and of the time that they intend to enter the village; when all the female friends of the party will dress themselves in their best attire and go out to meet them; on their arrival it is the privilege of these women to take from them all their blankets, trinkets, etc., that they may possess; the whole party then paint themselves and approach the village with the scalps stretched on small hoops and suspended to long poles or sticks, dancing, singing, and beating the drum, in this manner they enter the village. The chiefs in council will then determine whether they shall dance the scalps (as they term it) or not, if this is permitted, the time is fixed by them, when the ceremony shall commence, and when it shall end. In these dances
161more than a hundred of them dancing at once, all painted, and clad in their most gaudy attire. The foregoing manner of raising a war party, etc., is peculiar to the Sauks, Foxes and Kickapoos; with the Chippewas, Ottawas, and Pottawattamies it is some what different. A warrior of these nations wishing to go against his enemies, after blacking his face, fasting, etc., prepares a temporary lodge out of the village in which he seats himself and smokes his pipe; in the middle of his lodge hangs a belt of wampum or piece of scarlet cloth, ornamented; a young Indian wishing to accompany him goes into the lodge and draws the belt of wampum or piece of cloth thro' his left hand and sits down and smokes of the tobacco already prepared by the partizan. After a sufficient number is collected in this manner, the whole begin to compare their dreams daily together; if their dreams are favorable, they are anxious to march immediately; otherwise they will give up the expedition for the present saying, that it will not please the Great Spirit
162it for them to go, or that their medicine is not good or, that their partizan has cohabited with his wife. If every thing goes right the whole will meet at their leader's lodge, where they will beat the drums and pray the Great Spirit to make them successful over their enemies. When the party consists of twenty or upwards, its leader will appoint a confidential man, to carry the great medicine bag. After they are assembled at the place of rendezvous and in readiness to march, the partizan will make a speech in which he will inform them that they are now about to go to war; that when they meet their enemies he hopes they will behave like men, and not fear death; that the Great Spirit will deliver their enemies into their hands, and that they shall have liberty to do as they please with them; but at the same time if there are any among them who are fearful of anything whatever, such had better remain at home and not set out on such a hazardous expedition.
Among the Ottawas the partizan leads when they march out but the warrior who first delivers him a scalp or prisoner leads the party homeward and receives the belt of wampum. On the arrival of the party at the village, they distribute the prisoners to those who have lost relations by the enemy; or if the prisoners are to be killed, their spirits are delivered over to some particular person's relations who have died and are now in the other world.
Among the Pottawattamies it is different; all prisoners or scalps belong to the partizan, and he disposes of them as he may think proper: he will some times give a prisoner to a family who has lost a son and the prisoner will be adopted by the family and considered the same as though he was actually the person whose place he fills. This latter practice is also observed among the Sauks and Foxes.
In addition to the grand divisions of the males, each nation is subdivided into a great number of families or tribes. Among the Sauks there are no less than fourteen tribes; each of them being distinguished by a particular name (generally by the name of some animal) some of which are as follows -- The bear tribe, wolf tribe, dog tribe, elk tribe, eagle tribe, partridge tribe, sturgeon tribe, sucker tribe, and the thunder tribe. Except in particular cases all the Indian nations mentioned in the foregoing are governed almost altogether by the advice of their chiefs and the fear of punishment from the evil spirit not only in this, but in the other world. The only instances wherein I have ever known any laws enforced or penalties exacted for a disobedience of them by the Sauks and Foxes, are when they are returning in the spring from their hunting grounds to their village. The village chiefs then advise the war chiefs to declare the martial law to be in force, which is soon proclaimed and the whole authority placed in the hands of the war chiefs.
164be to prevent one family from returning before another whereby it might be exposed to an enemy; or by arriving at the village before the others, dig up its neighbours' corn. It is the business of the war chiefs in these cases to keep all the canoes together; and on land to regulate the march of those who are mounted or on foot. One of the chiefs goes ahead to pitch upon the encamping ground for each night, where he will set up a painted pole or stake as a signal for them to halt; any Indian going beyond this is punished, by having his canoe, and whatever else he may have along with him, destroyed. On their arrival at their respective villages, sentinels are posted, and no one is allowed to leave his village until every thing is put in order; when this is accomplished the martial law ceases to be in force. A great deal of pains appears to be taken by the chiefs and principal men to impress upon the minds of the younger part of their respective nations what they conceive to be their duty to themselves and to each other. As soon as day light appears it is a practice among the Sauks and Foxes for a chief or principal man to go through their respective villages, exhorting and advising them, in a very loud voice, what to do, and how to conduct themselves. Their families in general appear to be well regulated, all the laborious duties of the lodge, and of the field, however, are put upon the women, except what little assistance the old men are able to afford. The children appear to be particularly under the charge of their mother; the boys until they are of a suitable age to handle the bow or gun.
165Corporal punishment is seldom resorted to for their correction; if they commit any fault, it is common for their mother to black their faces, and send them out of the lodge, when this is done they are not allowed to eat until it is washed off; sometimes they are kept a whole day in this situation as a punishment for their misconduct.
When the boys are six or seven years of age a small bow is put into their hands and they are sent out to hunt birds about the lodge or village; this they continue to do for five or six years, when their father purchases them shot guns, and they begin to hunt ducks, geese, etc. Their father (particularly in winter evenings) will relate to them the manner of approaching a Deer, Elk, or Buffaloe, also the manner of setting a trap, and when able, he will take them a hunting with him, and show them the tracks of different animals, all of which the boy pays the greatest attention to.
The girls as a matter of course are under the direction of their mother, and she will show them how to make moggazins, leggins, mats, etc. She is very particular to keep them continually employed, so that they may have the reputation of being industrious girls, and therefore the more acceptable or more sought after by the young men.
Most of the Indians marry early in life, the men from sixteen to twenty generally, and the girls from fourteen to eighteen. There appears to be but little difficulty in a young Indians procuring himself a wife, particularly if he is a good hunter, or has distinguished himself in battle. There are several ways for a young Indian to get himself a wife; sometimes the match is made by the parents of the young man and girl without his knowledge, but the most common mode of procuring a wife is as follows:
A young man will see a young woman that he takes a
166fancy to; he will commence by making a friend of some young man, a relation of hers (perhaps her brother); after this is done he will disclose his intentions to his friend, saying, that he is a good hunter and has been several times to war, etc., appealing to him for the truth of his assertions, and conclude by saying, if your parents will let me have your sister for a wife I will serve them faithfully, that is to say, according to custom, which is until she has a child; after which he can take her away to his own relations or live with his wife's. During the servitude of a young Indian neither he nor his wife has any thing at their disposal, he is to hunt, and that in the most industrious manner, his wife is continually at work, dressing skins,
167a wife apply particularly to the Sauk, Fox, and Kickapoo nations; with the Chippewas, Ottawas, and Pottawattamies, a wife is sometimes purchased by the parent of the young man, when she becomes at once his own property; but the most common mode of procuring a wife in all these nations is by servitude. It frequently happens that when an Indians servitude for one wife has expired he will take another (his wife's sister perhaps) and again serve her parents according to custom. Many of these Indians have two or three wives, the greatest number that I have known any man to have at one time was five. When an Indian wants more than one wife, he generally prefers that they should be sisters, as they are more likely to agree and live together peaceable. An old man of fifty or sixty will frequently marry a girl of sixteen and who already has two or three wives. It seldom happens that a man separates from his wife, it sometimes does however happen, and then she is at liberty to marry again. The crime of adultery is generally punished by the Pottawattamies, by the husband's biting off the woman's nose and afterwards separating from her.
There appears to be no marriage ceremony among these Indians at the present day.
The Pottawattamies have a ceremony in naming their children;
168child invite some old and respectable man to their lodge in the evening, and inform him, that they wish him to name their child the day following. The old man then engages two or more young men to come to the lodge early in the next morning to cook a feast; this feast must be cooked by young men in a lodge by themselves, no other person is permitted to enter until it is ready for the guests who are then and not before invited. After the feast is over the old man then rises and informs the company the object of their being together, and gives the child its name, and then goes on to make a long speech, by saying, that he hopes the Great Spirit will preserve the life of the child, make a good hunter and a successful warrior, etc. With the Sauks, Foxes, and Kickapoos this ceremony is not always attended to; they however, in common with the Chippewas, Ottawas, and Pottawattamies, have a great number of feasts. They all make a feast of the first Dear, Bear, Elk, Buffaloe,
169etc., a young man kills; even the first small bird, that a boy kills, is preserved and makes a part of the next feast. There appears to be a great deal of secrecy and ceremony in preparing these feasts.
Other feasts to the Great Spirit are frequently made by these Indians, sometimes by one person alone; but it is oftener the case, that several join in making them. They repair to the lodge where the feast is to be made, shut themselves up, and commence beating the drum, shaking the che-che-quon (a gourd shell with a handful of corn in it),
170commence eating. When each man's proportion is eaten, the bones are all collected and put into a bowl and afterwards thrown into the river or burnt,
171lodge is ever used in any other, not even the steel and flint with which they strike fire. No Indian ever approaches this lodge while a woman occupies it, and
172should a white man approach it and wish to light his pipe by the fire of a woman while in this situation, she will not allow him by any means to do so, saying, that it will make his nose bleed and his head ache; that it will make him sick,
When an Indian dies, his relations put on him his best
173clothes, and either bury him in the ground or put him on a scaffold; but the former is the most common mode of disposing of the dead. As soon as an Indian dies his relations engage three or four persons to bury the body; they usually make a rough coffin of a piece of a canoe or some bark, the body is then taken to the grave in a blanket or buffaloe skin, and placed in the coffin, together with a hatchet, knife, etc., and then covered over with earth. Some of the near relations usually follow the corps; the women on these occasions appear to be much affected. If the deceased was a warrior, a post is usually erected at his head, on which is painted red crosses of different sizes, to denote the number of men, women, and children he has killed of the enemy during his life time, and which they say he will claim as his slaves now that he has gone to the other world. It is frequently the case that some of his friends will strike a post, or tree, and say I will speak; he then in a loud voice will say at such a place I killed an enemy, I give his spirit to our departed friend; and sometimes he may give a greater number in the same manner. The friends of the deceased will afterwards frequently take victuals, tobacco, etc., to his grave and there leave it, believing that whatever they present to him in this manner, he will have in the other world.
An Indian always mourns for the loss of near relations from six to twelve months, by neglecting his personal appearance, blacking his face, etc. A woman will mourn for the lots of a husband, at least twelve months, during which time she appears to be very solitary and sad, never speaking to any one unless necessary, and always wishing to be alone; at the expiration of their mourning she will paint and dress as formerly, and endeaver to get another husband.
The belief of these Indians relative to their creation
174is not very dissimilar to our own. Masco, one of the chiefs of the Sauks informed me that they believed, that the Great Spirit in the first place created from the dirt of the earth two men; but finding that these alone would not answer his purpose, he took from each man a rib and made two women, from these four he says sprang all red men; that the place where they were created was Mo-ne-ac (Montreal). That they were all one nation until they behaved so badly that the Great Spirit came among them, and talked different languages to them, which caused them to separate, and form different nations: he said that it was at this place that Indians first saw white men, that they then thought they were spirits. I asked him how they supposed white men were made; he replyed that Indians supposed the Great Spirit made them of the fine dust of the earth as they knew more than they did. They appear to entertain a variety of opinions with regard to a future state; a Fox Indian told me that their people generally believed that as soon as an Indian left this world, he commenced his journey for the habitation provided for him by the Great Spirit in the other world; that those who had conducted themselves well in this life, met with but little difficulty in finding the road which leads to it; but that those who had behaved badly always got into the wrong road, which was very crooked and very difficult to travel in; that they frequently met with broad rivers which they had to ford or swim; and in this manner they were punished, until the Great Spirit thought proper to put them into the good road, and then they soon reached their friends, and the country of their future residence, where all kinds of game was plenty, and where they had but little to do, but to dance by night, and sleep by day; he further observed that when young children died they
175did not at first fare so well. That originally there were two Great Spirits who were brothers, and equally good, that one of them died and went to another world and has ever since been called Mach-i-Man-i-to (the Evil Spirit) that this Spirit has a son who makes prisoners of all the children that die too young to find the good path, and takes them to his own town, where they were formerly deprived by him of their brains, in order that when they grew up they might not have sense enough to leave him. That the Good Spirit seeing this, sent an eagle to peck a hole in the head of every young child as soon as it dies and makes its appearance in the other world, and to deprive it of its brain and conceal the same in the ground; that the child is always immediately after taken as a prisoner by the Evil Spirit and kept until of a suitable age to travel, when the eagle returns its brain; and then, it having sense enough, immediately leaves the Bad Spirit and finds the good road.
Most of these Indians say that their deceased friends appear occasionally to them in the shape of birds and different kinds of beasts. A Fox Indian observed one morning last summer that the spirit of a certain Indian (who was buryed the day before) appeared last night near his grave in the shape of a Turkey, and that he heard the noise of him almost all night. I enquired of another Indian (quite an old man) if any of their people had ever returned from the dead, he replyed, that he had heard of only one or two instances of the kind; but that he believed they knew what they were about in this world.
I do not at the present time think of anything further relative to the history, manners, religion and customs of the Indians worthy of notice. No part of what I have written is taken from books, but almost every thing has
176been drawn from either the Indians themselves or from persons acquainted with their language, manners, customs, etc., on this account I presume that it will be the more acceptable.
I will now proceed agreeably to your request to give you my ideas relative to the Indian trade, etc.
In the first place I have to observe, that the Factory System for supplying the Indians with such articles as they may need, does not appear to me to be productive of any great advantage, either to the savages, themselves, or to the government. But very few, if any of the Indians have sufficient forecast to save enough of the proceeds of their last hunt to equip themselves for the next; the consequence is, that when the hunting season approaches they must be dependant upon some one for a credit. An Indian family generally consists of from five to ten persons, his wife, children, children-in-law, and grandchildren, all of whom look to its head for their supplies; and the whole of the proceeds of the hunt goes into one common stock, which is disposed of by him for the benefit of the whole. When cold weather approaches they are generally destitute of many articles, which are necessary for their comfort and convenience; besides guns, traps, and ammunition; some kettles, blankets, strouding, etc., are always wanting; for these articles they have no one to look to but the private trader; as it is well known that the United States Factors give no credit; but even if they did, the number of these establishments is too limited to accommodate any considerable number of Indians, as but few of them will travel far to get their supplies if it can be avoided: and farther, the Indians (who are good judges of the quality of the articles they are in want of) are of the opinion
177that the Factor's goods are not so cheap, taking into consideration their quality, as their private trader's; in this I feel pretty well convinced, from my own observation, and the acknowledgment of one of the most respectable Factors of our government, Judge Johnson, of Prairie du Chien, that they are correct; this gentleman informed me but a few months ago that the goods received for his establishment were charged at least 25 pct higher than their current prices, and that he had received many articles of an inferior and unsuitable quality for Indian trade.
The amount of goods actually disposed of by the United States Factors at Green Bay, Chicago, Prairie du Chien, and Fort Edwards, if I am rightly informed is very inconsiderable. The practice of selling goods to the whites and of furnishing outfits to Indian traders,
178are the principal causes of their sales being so great as they actually are.
In my opinion the best plan of supplying the natives is by private American traders of good character, if they could be placed under proper restrictions.
In the first place it is for their interest to please the Indians and prevent their having whiskey (particularly when they are on their hunting grounds) and to give them good advice.
Secondly. They always give them a credit sufficient to enable them to commence hunting.
Thirdly. They winter near their hunting grounds and agreeably to the suggestion of a late secretary of war, take to themselves "help mates" from the daughters of the forest, and thereby do much towards civilizing them.
Fourthly. They always have comfortable quarters for the Indians when they visit them, and by the frequent intercourse which subsists between them become acquainted with us and imperceptibly imbibe many of our ideas, manners, and customs.
Fifthly. From interested motives, if from no other, traders will always advise the Indians to keep at peace among themselves and with the whites.
There are some changes which I think might be made to advantage in the regulations for Indian traders. In the first place with a view to do away the impression which almost universally prevails in the minds of the Indians in this part of the country, that the traders, clerks, interpreters, boatmen, and laborers, and also their goods are almost all British (which unfortunately happens to be nearly the truth, for their is scarcely a single boatman or laborer employed by the traders who is not a British subject, their goods it is well known are
179almost altogether of British manufacture), I would recommend, that no clerk, interpreter, boatman or laborer be employed by them who is not a citizen of the United States; and further, that every trader be obliged to display the American flag on his boat when travelling, and at his tent or hut when encamped.
The best and most successful means which could be employed by government to civilize the Indians or render them lets savage than they now are, in my opinion would be for the agent of each nation to reside at or near one of their principal villages, there to have a comfortable habitation and a council room sufficiently large to accommodate all who might wish to attend his councils. To employ a blacksmith and a carpenter, and of course have shops and suitable tools for them; every nation has a great deal for a blacksmith to do; there would probably be lets for a carpenter to attend to, but he might be advantageously employed in making agricultural implements, etc. For him to cultivate in the vicinity of the village, with the consent of the nation a small farm and to keep a small stock of horses, oxen and cows. It should be understood among the Indians that the farming establishment is solely for the benefit of the agent, should it be known among them that the object was to learn them to cultivate the soil as the whites do, they would most certainly object to it; but if this is not known, they will soon see the advantages of employing the plough, harrow, etc., and be induced to imitate our examples; and thus get on the road which leads to civilization before they are aware of it.
If an agent of government should go among them, as has sometimes been the case, and inform them that he had been sent by their great father, the president, to
180learn them how to cultivate the soil, spin, weave cloth and live like white people, they would be sure to set their faces against him and his advice, and say that he is a fool; that Indians are not like white people, the Great Spirit has not made them of the same color, neither has he made them for the same occupations.
The next step towards their civilization would probably be, that some of their old people would remain at their respective villages, if [they] could be assured of their being secure from their enemies, while the others are on their hunting grounds: thus they would go on from step to step until they would become not only civilized beings, but Christians.
I consider it important that government should exchange as soon, as practicable all British flags and medals which the Indians may have in their possession for American ones.
181they will reply, we have no others, give us American flags and medals and you then will see them only. The flags given to them ought to be made of silk, their British flags being made of that material, and besides they are more durable as well as more portable than the worsted ones. One of each nation should be of a large size, for them to display at their villages on public occasions: they have at present British flags considerably larger than the American Army standards. The practice of painting these flags causes them to break and soon wear out, they should be made in the same manner that navy flags are.
The annuities paid by government to the Sauk and Fox nations
182among them, in consequence of their not being able to divide and subdivide the articles received so as to give every one a part. I believe that powder, flints, and tobacco would be much more acceptable to them than the blankets, strouding, etc., which they have been in the habit of receiving.
I enclose a list of ten nations of Indians who inhabit the upper Milsilsippi [and] the borders of the great lakes, showing the names given them by Europeans and by each other. The latter information I have obtained principally from the Indians themselves.
I have the honor to remain with great respect your Obt Sert M. MARSTON, Bt Maj. 5 Infy, Command'g. To the REV. Dr MORSE, New Haven, Connecticut.
Wapsipinica (the same as wapisipinik, plural of wapisipin, meaning "swan-root") is the tuber of the arrowhead (Sagittaria variabilis). The tubers are generally as large as hens' eggs, and are greatly relished when raw; but they have a bitter milky juice, not agreeable to the palates of civilized men. This, however, is destroyed by boiling, and the roots are thus rendered sweet and palatable. They afford nourishment to the swans and other aquatic birds that congregate in great numbers about the lakes of the northwest. -- WM. R. GERARD.
R. R; Elliott says (U.S. Cath. Hist. Mag., vol. iv, 312): "Blankets marked with ‘points’ were formerly manufactured in Europe especially for the northwestern American trade, and during the present century were distinguished commercially as ‘Mackinac blankets.’ They were made of good, honest wool, half-inch thick, with two black stripes at each end. The size was marked by a black line four inches long and about half an inch wide, woven in a corner of the blanket" Strouding is defined by the Standard Dictionary as "a coarse, warm cloth or blanketing, formerly used in the Indian trade." A blanket made of this goods was called a "stroud." The name is said to be derived from a place in Gloucestershire, Eng., named Stroud. -- ED.
See Draper's "Fur Trade and Factory System at Green Bay, 1816-21," with sketch of the factory there, Matthew Irwin, in Wis. Hist. Colls., vol. vii, 269-288; F. J. Turner's "Character and Influence of the Indian Trade in Wisconsin," in Johns Hopkins University Studies, vol. ix (1891), 543-615; H. M. Chittenden's American Fur Trade of the Far West (N.Y., 1902); C. Larpenteur's Fur Trade on the Upper Missouri, 1833-1872 (N.Y., 1898). -- ED.
See B. H. Hibbard's "Indian Agriculture in Southern Wisconsin," in Proceedings of Wisconsin Historical Society, 1904, pp. 145-155; and C. E. Brown's "Wisconsin Garden Beds," in Wis. Archeologist, vol. viii, no. 3, 97-105. See references to Wis. Hist. Colls, in note 254 to this book, for mention of lead mining by Indians. -- ED.
The Blondeau here mentioned was evidently Maurice, son of Nicholas Blondeau and a Fox woman; they resided at Portage des Sioux. Maurice was born about 1780, and died probably near 1830; he married a Sauk half-breed woman and had two children. -- ED.
The term Oshkushi "is the animate form of an inanimate word referring to ‘hoof,’ ‘claw,’ ‘nail;’ applied to a member of the social divisions of the Sauk, Foxes, and Kickapoo. The division is irrespective of clan and is the cause of intense rivalry in sport. Their ceremonial color is black." -- WILLIAM JONES, in Handbook Amer. Indians.
The name Oshkosh was borne by a chief of the Menominee, born in 1795, died Aug. 31, 1850. He, with a hundred of his tribesmen, fought under the British in the capture of Ft. Mackinaw from the Americans in July, 1812. At the treaty of Butte des Morts (Aug. 11, 1827) he represented his tribe, being named chief at that time for this purpose. A portrait of him, painted by Samuel M. Brookes, is in the possession of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. The city of Oshkosh, in Wisconsin, bears his name. -- ED.
This was a form of taboo, "a Polynesian term (tabu) applied to a sacred interdiction proper to or laid upon a person, place, day, name, or any conceivable thing which is thereby rendered sacred and communication with it except to a few people or under certain circumstances forbidden. It was formerly such a striking institution, and was in consequence so frequently mentioned by explorers and travelers, that the word has been adopted into English both as applying to similar customs among other races and in a colloquial sense. Its negative side, being the more conspicuous, became that attached to the adopted term; but religious prohibitions among primitive races being closely bound up with others of a positive character, it is often applied to the latter as well; and writers frequently speak of the taboos connected with the killing of a bear or a bison, or the taking of a salmon, meaning thereby the ceremonies then performed, both positive and negative -- In colloquial English usage, it has ceased to have any religious significance. Whether considered in its negative or in its positive aspect this term may be applied in North America to a number of regulations observed at definite periods of life, in connection with important undertakings, and either by individuals or by considerable numbers of persons. Such were the regulations observed by boys and girls at puberty; by parents before the birth of a child; by relatives after the decease of a relative; by hunters and fishermen in the pursuit of their occupations; by boys desiring guardian spirits or wishing to become shamans; by shamans and chiefs desiring more power, or when curing the sick, prophesying, endeavoring to procure food by supernatural means, or ‘showing their power’ in any manner; by novitiates into secret societies, and by leaders in society or tribal dances in preparation for them. . . In tribes divided into totemic clans or gentes each individual was often called upon to observe certain regulations in regard to his totem animal," which sometimes took the form of an absolute prohibition against killing that animal; "but at other times it merely involved an apology to the animal or abstinence from eating certain parts of it. The negative prohibitions, those which may be called the taboos proper, consisted in abstinence from hunting, fishing, war, women, sleep, certain kinds of work, etc., but above all abstinence from eating; while among positive accompaniments may be mentioned washing, sweat-bathing, flagellation, and the taking of emetics and other medicines. In the majority of American tribes, the name of a dead man was not uttered -- unless in some altered form -- for a considerable period after his demise; and sometimes, as among the Kiowa, the custom was carried so far that names of common animals or other terms in current use were entirely dropped from the language because of the death of a person bearing such a name. Frequently it was considered improper for a man to mention his own name, and the mention of the personal name was avoided by wives and husbands in addressing each other, and sometimes by other relatives as well. But the most common regulation of this kind was that which decreed that a man should not address his mother-in-law directly, or vice versa: and the prohibition of intercourse often applied to fathers-in-law and daughters-in-law also." Anything desired or feared by man might occasion these prohibitions or regulations; misfortunes might result from their non-fulfilment, or they might bring good fortune--more or less as the regulation was more or less strictly observed. The taboo is one aspect of religious phenomena known by many other names; and, at least among the lower races, is almost as broad as religion itself.
"The significance of a girl's entrance into womanhood was not only appreciated by all American tribes, but its importance was much exaggerated. It was believed that whatever she did or experienced then was bound to affect her entire subsequent life, and that she had exceptional power over all persons or things that came near her at that period. For this reason she was usually carefully set apart from other people in a small lodge in the woods, in a separate room, or behind some screen. There she remained for a period varying from a few days, preferably four, to a year or even longer -- the longer isolation being endured by girls of wealthy or aristocratic families -- and prepared her own food or had it brought to her by her mother or some old woman, the only person with whom she had anything to do. Her dishes, spoons, and other articles were kept separate from all others, and had to be washed thoroughly before they could be used again, or, as with the Iroquois, an entirely new set was provided for her. For a long period she ate sparingly and took but little water, while she bathed often. Salt especially was tabooed by the girl at this period." Many other taboos were in vogue, among the different tribes, and the girl was made the subject of various ceremonies peculiar to this period of her life; and many superstitions regarding her and her condition were current among the savages. "The whole period of isolation and fast usually ended with a feast and public ceremonies as a sign that the girl was now marriageable and that the family was now open to offers for her hand. . . Although not so definitely connected with the puberty, certain ordeals were undergone by a boy at about that period which were supposed to have a deep influence on his future career. Among these are especially to be noted isolation and fasts among the mountains and woods, sweat bathing and plunging into cold water, abstinence from animal food, the swallowing of medicines sometimes of intoxicating quality, and the rubbing of the body with fish spines and with herbs. As in the case of the girl, numbers of regulations were observed which were supposed to affect the boy's future health, happiness, and success in hunting, fishing, and war. . . The regulations of a boy were frequently undergone in connection with ceremonies introducing him into the mysteries of the tribe or of some secret society. They were not as widespread in North America as the regulations imposed upon girls, and varied more from tribe to tribe. It has also been noticed that they break down sooner before contact with whites." -- JOHN R. SWANTON, in Handbook Amer. Indians.
"John W. Johnson, a native of Maryland, was United States factor at Prairie du Chien, in 1816, and afterwards. In his manners, he was a real gentleman, and a very worthy man; but unfortunately, he was quite deaf. He married a Sauk woman, and raised several children, and educated them; and finally retired to St. Louis, wealthy, where he resided the last I heard of him." -- JOHN SHAW, in Wis. Hist. Colls., vol. x, 222.
The article here cited contains a description, with several illustrations, of the known Spanish, French, British, and United States medals given to Indians. -- ED.