網頁圖片
PDF
ePub 版

It most resembles very heavy distant thunder, not only shaking the air and waters, but causing the earth to tremble; and when hundreds are roaring at the same time, you can scarcely be persuaded but that the whole globe is violently and dangerously agitated.-An old champion, who is, perhaps, absolute sovereign of a little lake or lagoon, (when fifty less than himself are obliged to content themselves with swelling and roaring in little coves round about,) darts forth from the reedy coverts, all at once, on the surface of the waters in a right line, at first seemingly as rapid as lightning, but gradually more slowly, until he arrives at the centre of the lake, where he stops. He now swells himself, by drawing in wind and water through his mouth, which causes a loud sonorous rattling in the throat for near a minute; but it is immediately forced out again through his mouth and nostrils with a loud noise, brandishing his tail in the air, and the vapour running from his nostrils like smoke. At other times, when swoln to an extent ready to burst, his head and tail lifted up, he spins or twirls round on the surface of the water. He acts his part like an Indian chief, when rehearsing his feats of war.-Bartram's Travels in North America.

Stanza 28. l. 4. Then forth uprose that lone wayfaring man. They discover an amazing sagacity, and acquirc, with the greatest readiness, any thing that depends upon the attention of the mind. By experience, and an acute observation, they attain many, perfections, to which Americans are strangers.--For instance, they will cross a forest, or a plain, which is two hundred miles in breadth, so as to reach with great exactness, the point at which they intend to arrive, keeping, during the whole of that space, in a direct line, without any material deviations: and this they will do with the same ease, let the weather be fair or cloudy:-With equal acuteness they will point to that part of the heavens the sun is in, though it be intercepted by clouds or fogs. Besides this, they are able to pursue, with incredible sacility, the traces of man or beast, either on leaves or grass ; and on this account it is with great difficulty they escape discovery. They are indebted for these ta

lents not only to nature, but to an extraordinary command of the intellectual qualities, which can only be acquired by an unremitted attention, and by long experience. They are in general very happy in a retentive memory. They can recapitulate every particular that has been treated of in council, and remember the exact time when they were held. Their belts of wampum preserve the substance of treaties they have concluded with the neighbouring tribes for ages back: to which they will appeal and refer with as much perspicuity and readiness as Europeans can to their written records.

The Indians are totally unskilled in geography, as well as all the other sciences, and yet they draw on their birch bark very exact charts or maps of the countries they are acquainted with.— The latitude and longitude only are wanting to make them tolerably complete.

Their sole knowledge in astronomy consists in being able to point out the polar star, by which they regulate their course when they travel in the night.

They reckon the distance of places not by miles or leagues, but by a day's journey, which, according to the best calculation I could make, appears to be about twenty English miles. These they also divide into halves and quarters, and will demonstrate them in their maps with great exactness by the hieroglyphics just mentioned, when they regulate in council their warparties, or their most distant hunting excursions.Clarke's and Lewis's Travels.

Some of the French missionaries have supposed that the Indians are guided by instinct, and have pretended that the Indian children can find their way through a forest as easily as a person of maturer years; but this is a most absurd notion. It is unquestionably by a close attention to the growth of the trees, and position of the sun, that they find their way. On the northern side of a tree there is generally the most moss; and the bark on that side, in general, differs from that on the opposite one. The branches towards the south are, for the most part, more luxuriant than those on the other sides of trees, and several other distinctions also subsist between the northern and southern sides, conspicuous

to Indians, being taught from their infancy to attend to them, which a common observer, would, perhaps, never notice. Being accustomed from their infancy likewise to pay great attention to the position of the sun, they learn to make the most accurate allowance for its apparent motion from one part of the heavens to another; and in every part of the day they will point to the part of the heavens where it is, although the sky be obscured by clouds or mists.

An instance of their dexterity in finding their way through an unknown country, came under my observation when I was at Staunton, situated behind the Blue Mountains, Virginia. A number of the Creek nation had arrived at that town on their way to Philadelphia, whither they were going upon some affairs of importance, and had stopped there for the night. In the morning some circumstance or another, which could not be learned, induced one half of the Indians to set off without their companions, who did not follow until some hours afterwards. When these last were ready to pursue their journey, several of the towns people mounted their horses to escort them part of the way. They proceeded along the high road for some miles, but, all at once, hastily turning aside into the woods, though there was no path, the Indians advanced confidently forward. The people who accompanied them, surprised at this movement, informed them that they were quitting the road to Philadelphia, and expressed their fear lest they should miss their companions who had gone on before. They answered that they knew better, that the way through the woods was the shortest to Philadelphia, and that they knew very well that their companions had entered the wood at the very place where they did. Curiosity led some of the horsemen to go on; and to their astonishment, for their was apparently no track, they overtook the other Indians in the thickest part of the wood. But what appeared most singular was, that the route which they took was found, on examining a map, to be as direct for Philadelphia as if they had taken the bearings by a mariner's compass. From others of their nation, who had been at Philadelphia at a former period, they had probably learned the

exact direction of that city from their villages, and had never lost sight of it, although they had already travelled three hundred miles through the woods, and had upwards of four hundred miles more to go before they could reach the place of their destination. Of the exactness with which they can find out a strange place to which they have been once directed by their own people, a striking example is furnished, I think, by Mr. Jefferson, in his account of the Indian graves in Virginia. These graves are nothing more than large mounds of earth in the woods, which, on being opened, are found to contain skeletons in an erect posture : the Indian mode of sepulture has been too often described to remain unknown to you. But to come to my story. A party of Indians that were passing on to some of the seaports on the Atlantic, just as the Creeks, abovementioned, were going to Philadelphia, were observed, all on a sudden, to quit the straight road by which they were proceeding, and without asking any questions, to strike through the woods, in a direct line, to one of these graves, which lay at the distance of some miles from the road. Now very near a century must have passed over since the part of Virginia, in which this grave was situated, had been inhabited by Indians, and these Indian travellers, who were to visit it by themselves, had anquestionably never been in that part of the country before: they must have found their way to it, simply from the description of its situation, that had been handed down to them by tradition.-Weld's Travels in North America, Vol. II.

• The Indian God of War.

[ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Stanza 16. l. 4.

The Mammoth comes. That I am justified in making the Indian chief allude to the mammoth as an emblem of terror and destruction, will be seen by the authority quoted below. Speaking of the mammoth, or big buffalo, Mr. Jefferson states, that a tradition is preserved among the Indians of that animal still existing in the northern parts of America.

“ A delegation of warriors from the Delaware tribe having visited the governor of Virginia during the revolution, on matters of business, the governor asked them some questions relative to their country, and, among others, what they knew or bad heard of the animal whose bones were found at the Saltlicks on the Ohio. Their chief speaker immediately put himself into an attitude of oratory, and with a pomp suited to what he conceived the elevation of his subject, informed bim, that it was a tradition handed down from their fathers, that in ancient times a herd of these tremendous animals came to the Big-bone-licks, and began an universal destruction of the bear, deer, elk, buffalo, and other animals which had been created for the use of the Indians. That the Great Man above, looking down and seeing this, was so enraged, that be seized his lightning, descended on earth, seated himself on a neighbouring mountain on a rock, of which his seat, and the prints of his feet, are still to be seen, and hurled bis bolts among them, till the whole were slaughtered except the big bull, who presenting his forehead to the shafts, shook them off as they fell, but, missing one at length, it wounded him on the side, whereon, springing round, he bounded over the Ohio, over the Wabash, the Illinois,

S

[ocr errors]
« 上一頁繼續 »