Графични страници
PDF файл

When this chant has been sung, there is a pause, during which some one who is expert in these things, and has a turn for the comic or ironic, utters a short speech, in the manner of a recitative, in which a peculiar intonation is given, and generally interrogates the supposed pilferer, as if he were present to answer questions, or accusations. There can be no pretence, that this recitative part of the song is always the same, at different times and places, or even that the same person should not vary his phraseology. On the contrary, it is often an object to vary it. It is a perfect improvisation, and it may be supposed that the native composer is always actuated by a desire to please, as much as possible by novelty. The whole object indeed is, to keep up the existing merriment, and excite fun and laughter.

The following may be taken as one of these recitative songs, written out, on the plan of preserving the train of thought, and some of those peculiar interjections in which these languages so much abound. The chorus alone, it is to be observed, is fixed in its words and metre, however transposed or repeated, and, unlike an English song, preceding the stanza or narrative.


Cereal chorus. Wagemin! wagemin!

Thief in the blade,
Blight of the cornfield

Recitative. See you not traces, while pulling the leaf,

Plainly depicting the Taker and thief?
See you not signs by the ring and the spot,
How the man crouched as he crept in the lot?
Is it not plain by this mark on the stalk,
That he was heavily bent in his walk?
Old man be nimble ! the old should be good,
But thou art a cowardly thief of the wood.

Cereal Chorus. Wagemin! wagemin!

Thief in the blade,
Blight of the cornfield

Recitative. Where, little TAKER of things not your own-

Where is your rattle, your drum, and your bone?
Surely a WALKER so nimble of speed,
Surely he must be a Meta* indeed.

* A Juggler.

See how he stoops, as he breaks off the ear,
Nushka !* he seems for a moment in fear;
Walker, be nimble-oh! walker be brief,

Hooh !f it is plain the old man is the thief.
Cereal chorus. Wagemin! wagemin!

Thief in the blade,
Blight of the cornfield

Recitative. Wabuma ! corn-taker, why do you lag?

None but the stars see you—fill up your bag!
Why do you linger to gaze as you pull,

is it most full ?
A-tia!$ see, a red spot on the leaf,
Surely a warrior cannot be a thief!
Ah, little night-thief, be deer your pursuit

And leave here no print of your dastardly foot.

Tell me, my

little man,


Health ! dearest of the heavenly powers,
With thee to pass my evening hours,

Ah! deign to hear my prayer;
For what can wealth or beauty give,
If still in anguish doomed to live

A slave to pain and care.
Not sovereign power, nor charms of love,
Nor social joys the heart can move,

If thou refuse thy aid;
E'en friendship, sympathy divine !
Does, in thy absence, faintly shine,

Thou all-inspiring maid.
Return then, to my longing soul,
Which sighs to feel thy sweet control

Transfused through every pore;
My muse, enraptured, then shall sing
Thee-gift of heaven's all bounteous king,

And gratefully adore.
February 4, 1807.

• A sharp exclamation quickly to behold something striking.

A derogatory exclamation.
ġ A masculine exclamation, to express surprise

Behold thou



The Indian, who takes his position as an orator, in front of his people, and before a mixed assemblage of white men, is to be regarded, in a measure, as an actor, who has assumed a part to perform. He regards himself as occupying a position in which all eyes are directed upon him, in scrutiny, and he fortifies himself for the occasion, by redoubled efforts in cautiousness and studied stoicism. Rigid of muscle, and suspicious of mind by nature, he brings to his aid the advantages of practised art, to bear bim out in speaking for his tribe, and to quit him manfully of his task by uttering sentiments worthy of them and of himself. This is the statue-like and artistic phasis of the man. It is here that he is, truly

“ A man without a fear-a stoic of the wood." All this is laid aside, so far as it is assumed, when he returns from the presence of the “pale-faces,” and rejoins his friends and kindred, in his own village, far away from all public gaze, in the deep recesses of the forest. Let us follow the man to this retreat, and see what are his domestic manners, habits, amusements, and opinions.

I have myself visited an Indian camp, in the far-off area of the Northwest, in the dead of winter, under circumstances suited to allay his suspicions, and inspire confidence, and have been struck with the marked change there is in his social temper, character, and feelings. And I have received the same testimony from Indian traders, who have spent years among them in these secluded positions, and been received by them as friends and kindred. All indeed, who have had frequent and full opportunities of witnessing the red man on his hunting grounds, concur in bearing evidence to his social, hospitable, and friendly habits and manners. Viewed in such positions, the most perfect sincerity and cheerfulness prevail ; and their intercourse is marked with the broadest principles of charity and neighbocly feeling. The restraint and ever watchful suspicion which they evince at the frontier post, or in other situations exposed to the scrutiny and cupidity of white men, is thrown aside and gives way to ease, sociability and pleasantry. They feel while thus ensconced in the shades of their native forests, a security unknown to their breasts in any other situations. The strife seems to be, who shall excel in offices of friendship and charity, or in spreading the festive board. If one is more fortunate than the other, in taking meat, or wielding the arrow or spear, the spoil is set apart for a feast, to which all the adults, without distinction, are invited. When the set time of the feast arrives, each one, according to ancient custom, takes his dish and spoon, and proceeds to the entertainer's lodge. The victuals are served up with scrupulous attention that each receives a portion of the best parts. While at the meal, which is prolonged by cheerful conversation, anecdote, and little narrations of personal adventure, the females are generally listeners; and none, except the aged, ever obtrude a remark. The young women and girls show that they partake in the festivity by smiles, and are scrupulous to evince their attention to the elder part of the company. Conversation is chiefly engrossed by the old men and chiefs, and middle-aged men. Young men, who are desirous to acquire a standing, seldom offer a remark, and when they do, it is with modesty. The topics discussed at these public meals relate generally to the chace, to the news they have heard, or to personal occurrences about the village; or to deeds, “real or fabulous,” of “old lang syne;" but the matters are discussed in a lively, and not in a grave style. Business, if we may be allowed that term for what concerns their trade and government intercourse, is never introduced except in formal councils, convened specially, and opened formally by smoking the pipe. It seems to be the drift of conversation, in these sober festivities (for it must be recollected that we are speaking of the Indians on their wintering grounds and beyond the reach, certainly beyond the free or ordinary use of ardent spirits), to extract from their hunts and adventures, whatever will admit of a pleasant turn, draw forth a joke, or excite a laugh. Ridiculous misadventures, or comical situations, are sure to be applauded in the recital. Whatever is anti-social, or untoward, is passed over, or if referred to by another, is parried off, by some allusion to the scene before them.

Religion (we use this term for what concerns the great spirit, sacred dreams, and the ceremonies of the Meda or medicine dance), like business, is reserved for its proper occasion. It does not form, as with us, a free topic of remark, at least among those who are professors of the dance. Thus they cheat away the hours in pleasantry, free, but not tumultuous in their mirth, but as ardently bent on the enjoyment of the present moment, as if the sum of life were contained in these three words, “eat, drink, and be merry.” When the feast is over, the women return to their lodges, and leave the men to smoke. On their return, they commence a conversation on what they have heard the men advance, and thus amuse themselves till their husbands return. The end of all is generally some good advice to the children.

The company in these ordinary feasts is as general, with respect to the rank, age or standing of the guests, as the most unlimited equality of rights can make it. All the aged and many of the young are invited. There is, however, another feast instituted, at certain times

[ocr errors]

during the season, to which young persons only are ir vited, or admitted, except the entertainer and his wife, and generally two other aged persons, who preside over the feast and administer its rites. The object of this feast seems to be instruction, to which the young and thoughtless are induced to listen for the anticipated pleasure of the feast. Before this feast commences, the entertainer, or some person fluent in speech, whom he has selected for the purpose, gets up and addresses the youth of both sexes on the subject of their course through life. He admonishes them to be attentive and respectful to the aged and to adhere to their counsels: never to scoff at the decrepid, deformed, or blind : to obey their parents : to be modest in their conduct: to be charitable and hospitable: to fear and love the great Spirit, who is the giver of life and every good gift. These precepts are dwelt upon at great length, and generally enforced by examples of a good man and woman and a bad man and woman, and after drawing the latter, it is ever the custom to say, “ you will be like one of these.” At the end of every sentence, the listeners make a general cry of haa. When the advice is finished, an address, or kind of prayer to the great Spirit is made, in which he is thanked for the food before them, and for the continuance of life. The speaker then says, “ Thus the great Spirit supplies us with food; act justly, and conduct well, and you will ever be thus bountifully supplied.” The feast then commences, and the elders relax their manner and mix with the rest, but are still careful to preserve order, and a decent, respectful behavior among the guests.

Let it not be supposed, however, that the Indian's life, while on his wintering grounds, is a round of feasting. Quite the contrary, and his


; feasts are often followed by long and painful fasts, and the severity of the seasons, and scarcity of game and fish, often reduce himself and family to the verge of starvation, and even death. When the failure of game, or any other causes, induce the hunter to remove to a new circle of country, the labor of the removal falls upon the female part of the family. The lodge, utensils and fixtures of every kind, are borne upon the women's backs, sustained by a strap of leather around the forehead. On reaching the intended place of encampment, the snow is cleared away, cedar branches brought and spread for a flooring, the lodge set up, the moveables stowed away, wood collected, and a fire built, and then, and not until then, can the females sit down and warm their feet and dry their moccasins. If there be any provisions, a supper is cooked. If there be none, all studiously strive to conceal the exhibition of the least concern on this account, and seek to divert their thoughts by conversation quite foreign to the subject. The little children are the only part of the family who complain, and who are privileged to complain, but even they are taught at an early age to suffer and be silent. Generally, something is reserved by the mother, when food becomes scarce,



« ПредишнаНапред »