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Pictures and Illustrations.

Map of Leading Indian Tribes


St. Mary's River

Calumet Song

Jurisdiction of Montreal

Pipe and Tomahawk Dance (Ojibwa)

Site of Perrot's Fort, 1685-1686

View of Michilimackinack

Winnebago Wigwams



Among the subjects of perennial interest, not only to historical students but to the general reading public, are the customs, character, and beliefs of the North American Indians, and their relations with the white peoples who have possessed themselves of the vast territories once occupied by those aborigines. The present work is devoted to these subjects, its text presenting old French and American memoirs by writers who, having spent many years among the Indians, were most competent and reliable as authority on aboriginal life. The Mémoire of Nicolas Perrot (written probably during 1680 .o 1718, but not published until 1864), and La Potherie's Histoire de l'Amerique septentrionale (first published in 1716), have long been known to historical writers, and often cited by them; but these works are largely unknown to the reading public, as they long since passed out of print, and have never been published in English. Yet they are original sources of prime importance to students of Indian history and life; for Perrot, the most noted of the Canadian coureurs de bois, spent most of his life among the western tribes, and was a keen and shrewd observer while it is his lost memoirs on Indian affairs which, as the best authorities surmise furnished material for most of La Potherie's second volume (the part of his Histoire which is used in the present work).

Very appropriately are these narratives of the French domination over the Indians followed by two valuable


papers on the natives after they passed under the control of the United States; these were written a century later, by American officials who were perhaps equally conversant with the Indian tribes of the Northwest Territory. One of these was Major Morrell Marston, U.S.A., commanding at Fort Armstrong (located at the present Rock Island, Ill.), who in 1820 sent a report on the Sauk and Fox tribes to Reverend Dr. Jedidiah Morse, a special agent sent in that year by President Monroe to investigate the conditions and needs of the Indian tribes in the United States. Dr. Morse's report of this mission (published in 1822) is a most valuable storehouse of information on that subject; but it is known mainly to historical writers, and is almost buried under nearly a century's dust. For the present publication I have used the original autograph manuscript of Marston, which is now in the Manuscript Department of the Wisconsin State Historical Society. This statement applies equally to the document which follows Marston's, the "Account of the manners and customs of the Sauk and Fox nations" furnished (in 1827) to Gen. William , then U.S. superintendent of Indian affairs, by Thomas Forsyth, government agent among those tribes -- a man who was considered one of the ablest of the Indian agents of his time, and was almost the counterpart of Perrot in his understanding of Indian character, influence over the tribes, and shrewdness of judgment. This paper by him has never before been printed in any form. To these documents I have added certain appendices which, with the extensive annotations provided, supply desirable sidelights, especially on the real character of the American Indian -- all drawn from the best authorities, and presenting the subject in the light of actual observation and scientific method. By this treatment I


have endeavored to bring the work down to the present day, and render it a connected and homogeneous whole.

Perrot's life among the Indian tribes began as early as 1665, little more than a half-century after the founding of Quebec; and during nearly forty years he traveled and lived among the Indians -- successively as engagé to the Jesuit missionaries, coureur de bois and trader, explorer, and agent of the Quebec government. His narrative greatly illumines the history of the relations between the French colony and the Indian tribes within its sphere of influence, and still more the character and customs of the aboriginal peoples in their primitive condition; for he was the first white visitor to several of the western tribes, and even those of the east were not yet very greatly altered by contact with Europeans. He describes the creation myths and the religious ideas of the Algonquian peoples; their occupations, modes of hunting, and sports; their marriage and burial customs; their traits of character, both good and bad. He recounts the wars between the Algonkins and Iroquois, and the expulsion of the Hurons from their ancient homes by the latter; the flight westward of the peoples defeated and ruined by the fierce Iroquois; the relations of the French with all the savage peoples; and the extension of French domination and possession toward the west. After relating various instances of treachery committed by the Hurons, he dilates on the insolence and vainglory of the savages' nature, and the impossibility of relying on them for loyalty to France; and closes by outlining the attitude and policy which the French ought to assume toward the western tribes. Father Tailhan, the first editor of Perrot, performed his task con amore, and was an excellent editor, even from the standpoint of our modern historical methods. He did not


alter or obscure the text, or even attempt to "modernize" it; he explained all his emendations, was careful and fair in statement, and sought not his own glory; and his portrait of Perrot, as regards both character and abilities, is well drawn. His annotations were voluminous, unnecessarily so at the present time, on account of the greater accessibility of the works on which he drew; and I have therefore condensed them as much as possible, in order to obtain space for later and more scientific information -- retaining, however, all that is useful to the modern reader, as well as many of Tailhan's comments on Indian character and the policy of the whites toward the dispossessed Indian tribes.

Perrot's lost writings evidently reappear in the next document here presented, the second volume of La Potherie's Histoire de l'Amerique septentrionale. This is occupied with the tribes west of Lake Huron, and contains much information that is nowhere else found, especially regarding the peoples along the upper Mississippi; it describes with considerable detail their customs, mode of life, and character; their early tribal history; and their relations with each other and with the French. This last feature is of especial value, as describing the nature and course of intertribal and interracial politics in that early period (over two centuries ago) when these great commonwealths of Michigan, Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, and Minnesota were still an almost unbroken wilderness, inhabited only by savage and often nomadic tribes, and explored only by a few adventurous Frenchmen -- such as Perrot, La Salle, and Joliet -- and a few zealous and intrepid missionaries, like Dablon, Allouez, and Marquette. These white men found the tribes of that region in a highly primitive social state, at that time entirely unaffected, or but slightly


modified, by contact with European civilization; and their observations, as recorded in Perrot, La Potherie, Charlevoix, and the Jesuit Relations, are invaluable as records of early aboriginal life, customs, and beliefs, and for the study of primitive society.

Of the same character are the relations of Marston and Forsyth at a later period, save that in their time all the Indian tribes had become more influenced by contact with the white people, and that their forced exodus to the west side of the Mississippi was well under way, before the steady pressure of white migration to the open, fertile regions of the Central West. Marston made diligent inquiries regarding the beliefs, customs, mode of life, occupations, etc., of the Sauk and Fox tribes; and he presents, besides these matters, sketches of their leading chiefs, enumeration of the clans within the tribes, etc. At the close of his letter, he criticizes the government factory system, and makes suggestions as to the best way of carrying on the Indian trade and improving the material and social condition of the Indians.

Equally interesting and valuable is Forsyth's account of the same tribes, written seven years later; to some extent he covers the same ground as does Marston, but he adds much new material. He describes the relations of the Sauk and Fox with other tribes, and with the whites; their mode of warfare, and their military societies; their customs and mode of life; their marriage and funeral ceremonies, and the naming and training of children; their physical traits, and their treatment of disease; their ideas of the universe, religious beliefs, and mental traits; their amusements, hunting, etc. At the end of this memoir, Forsyth presents some observations on the language of those tribes, and a vocabulary of considerable length.


Following these documents are three appendices: (A) a biographical sketch of Nicolas Perrot, condensed from Tailhan's notes; (B) notes by leading ethnologists on Indian social organization, mental and moral traits, religious beliefs, and some important religious movements among western tribes; (C) letters written to the editor by missionaries and other competent observers, describing the character and present condition of the Sioux, Potawatomi, and Winnebago tribes.

All these documents are of great value as original accounts of the western tribes, obtained through personal observation and inquiry by reliable and competent men, and their writings are a precious contribution to both historical and ethnological knowledge. But perhaps even more valuable to the student in those fields are the conclusions that have thus far been reached by the ethnologists of to-day, based on collected data of this sort and on their own studies of aboriginal life and thought, and considered in the light of modern science and philosophy. Much of this valuable material it has been my privilege to secure for the present work, through the generous cooperation of the Bureau of American Ethnology at Washington, the chief officials of which have kindly furnished to me not only answers to various special inquiries, but the proof-sheets of volume two, Handbook of American Indians, permitting me to use in my annotations, etc., such matter as I might desire. This liberality has enabled me to present to my readers the latest and most reliable information regarding many topics, which otherwise could have been obtained only by long and tedious search through many printed volumes and even in some cases would have been entirely inaccessible. With this aid, I have endeavored to round out and unify the subject as presented in the documents


here published, and to place before the reader a more accurate and lifelike view of aboriginal life and character than is usually entertained by readers who know the Indian mainly through newspaper and magazine "stories," novels, and "Wild West shows." My work on these volumes will be well repaid if those who read them gain a clearer realization that the Indian is in reality very much the same kind of being that his white brother would have been if put in the red man's place; and that we all, whether red, black, brown, yellow, or white, belong to one great human race, the work of one Creator, the children of one common Father.

The deepening and growing consciousness in the world of human brotherhood, and of our responsibility toward one another, is perhaps the most cheering token of progress and upward growth in this latter day; but unfortunately one still encounters occasional survivals of the idea once current in certain quarters that "there is no good Indian except a dead one." Inhuman and brutal as this is, it has been uttered even by persons who called themselves Christians; and occasion still remains to protest against such cruel and unjust notions. Complete refutation of them is found in the many instances of noble words and deeds by Indians; in the progress made by some of the tribes in civilization and religious life; in the results of modern ethnological research and study; and in the practical application of the Golden Rule, which, translated into the vernacular, reads, "Put yourself in his place." There is of course, as every one knows, an evil side in the savage character; the history of many tribes and many individuals is blackened by duplicity, treachery, and ferocious cruelty; and there are depraved Indians, as well as good ones. But it must not be forgotten that the Indians have, with some exceptions, during


most of our acquaintance with them been in the primitive stages of culture, and we can not in justice apply to them the same strictness of judgment to which we who have passed through many more centuries of evolution and progress are rightly liable; that the white man's record in the border wars and even in later dealings with the Indians, is not so spotless that we can cast all the blame on the other side; and that in no case is it right to censure all for the evil deeds of some.

The government of the United States is doing all in its power, in most cases, for the best welfare of the Indian peoples under its care; but it needs for this purpose a backing of public interest and opinion even stronger than it has thus far received, and, still more, the efforts of each individual citizen to aid, by word and deed, in securing just and humane treatment for the Indians. So long as greedy and conscienceless traders sell to them (in violation of the laws) vile whisky and shoddy or adulterated goods, so long as other unscrupulous white men take advantage of their ignorance or lack of judgment to cheat them in regard to their work or other business dealings, so long will the efforts of missionaries, government officials, and others who are trying to uplift the Indians be to a certain extent neutralized; and public opinion should be interested and strong enough to rebuke sharply all such evil acts, no matter by whom committed. I do not ask for any sentimental effusion or lavish giving in behalf of the Indians; but only for justice in all our dealings with them, and for the same humane and kind interest in improving their material and moral condition that we consider proper for the poor or ignorant classes in our white population. Let them be given a "square deal" in every way, and there is no doubt that in time they will prove themselves worthy of it.


My cordial thanks are tendered to those who have furnished information and other aid in the preparation of this work. Every contribution that I have used has been credited to its proper source, and is gratefully appreciated. Especial recognition is due to Dr. W. H. Holmes (now curator of ethnological department in U.S. National Museum) and Dr. F. W. Hodge, of the Bureau of American Ethnology, for aid and favors which I have already mentioned; Prof. Frederick J. Turner, of Harvard University (late of University of Wisconsin), for valuable criticism and suggestions; Mr. Charles E. Brown, secretary of the Wisconsin Archeological Society and curator of the State Historical Museum, for valuable aid; Dr. R. G. Thwaites, secretary of the Wisconsin State Historical Society, for permission to use some sixty pages of matter in Wisconsin Historical Collections, volume sixteen (translated for that work from Perrot and La Potherie by the present editor), and other courtesies; and Mr. Frank E. Stevens, Sycamore, Ill., for photograph of Fort Armstrong and various information. Thanks are also extended to Dr. W. B. Hinsdale, of the University of Michigan; Sister Lillian, S.H.N., Oneida, Wis.; Gardner P. Stickney, Milwaukee, Wis.; Hon. Francis E. Leupp, late commissioner of Indian affairs; and Dr. E. Kremers, University of Wisconsin, for various courtesies.

E. H. B.
Madison, Wis., January, 1911.