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proportion, either in his drawing, or in his attempts at statuary. He seizes upon some minute and characteristic trait, which is at once sufficient to denote the species, and he is easily satisfied about the rest.
Thus a simple cross, with a strait line from shoulder to shoulder, and a dot, or circle above, to serve for a head, is the symbol of the human frame; and without any adjunct of feet, or hands, it could not have been mistaken for any thing else-certainly for any other object in the animal creation.
MNEMONIC SYMBOLS OF THE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS.
PRELIMINARY REMARKS.-SYMBOLICAL REPRESENTATIONS AND HIEROGLYPHICS, ONE OF THE
EARLIEST OBSERVED TRAITS IN THE CUSTOMS AND ARTS OF THE AMERICAN ABORIGINES; BUT THIS ART NOT SUSPECTED TO HAVE A SYSTEMATIC FORM AMONG THE RUDE HUNTER TRIBES OF NORTH AMERICA, UNTIL THE YEAR 1820, WHEN IT was DISCOVERED ON THE SOURCE OF THE MISSISSIPPI. THIS INSTANCE GIVEN, WITH A DRAW
ING: THE HINT PURSUED.
The practice of the North American tribes, of drawing figures and pictures on skins, trees, and various other substances, has been noticed by travellers and writers from the earliest times. Among the more northerly tribes, these figures are often observed on that common substitute for the ancient papyrus, among these nations, the bark of the betula papyracea, or white birch: a substance possessing a smooth surface, easily impressed, very flexible, and capable of being preserved in rolls. Often these devices are cut, or drawn in colours on the trunks of trees, more rarely on rocks or boulders. According to Colden and Lafitou records of this rude character were formerly to be seen on the blazed surface of trees, along some of the ancient paths and portages leading from the sources of the Atlantic rivers into the interior, or in the valley of the St. Lawrence; but these, after satisfying a transient curiosity, have long since yielded to the general fate of these simple and unenduring monuments. Pictures and symbols of this kind are now to be found only on the unreclaimed borders of the great area west of the Alleghanies and the Lakes, in the wide prairies of the west, or along the Missouri and the upper Mississippi. It is known that such devices were in use, to some extent, at the era of the discovery, among most of the tribes, situated between the latitudes of the capes of Florida, and Hudson's Bay, although they have been considered as more particularly characteristic of the tribes of the Algonquin type. In a few instances, these pictorial inscriptions have been found to be painted or stained on the faces of rocks, or on loose boulders, and still more rarely, devices were scratched or pecked into the surface, as is found to be the case still at Dighton and Venango. Those who are intent
on observations of this kind, will find figures and rude hieroglyphics in variably at the present time, on the grave posts which mark the places of Indian sepulchre at the west and north. The nations who rove over the western prairies, inscribe them on the skins of the buffalo. North of latitude 42°, the bark of the birch, which furnishes at once the material of canoes, tents, boxes, water-dippers, and paper, constitutes the common medium of their exhibition. Tablets of hard wood are confined to such devices as are employed by their priests and prophets, and medicinemen; and these characters uniformly assume a more mystical or sacred import. But the recent discovery, on one of the tributaries of the Susquehanna, of an Indian map, drawn on stone, with intermixed devices, a copy of which appears in the 1st volume of the collections of the Historical Committee of the American Philosophical Society, proves that stone was also employed in that branch of inscription. This discovery was on the area occupied by the Lenapees.
Colden, in his history of the Five Nations, * informs us that when, in 1696, the Count de Frontenac marched a well appointed army into the Iroquois country, with artillery and all other means of regular military offence, he found, on the banks of the Onondaga, now called Oswego river, a tree, on the trunk of which the Indians had depicted the French army, and deposited two bundles of cut rushes at its foot, consisting of 1434 pieces—an act of defiance on their part, which was intended to inform their invaders, that they would have to encounter this number of warriors. In speaking in another passage of the general traits of the Five Nations, he mentions the general custom prevalent among the Mohawks going to war, of painting, with red paint, on the trunk of a tree, such symbols, as might serve to denote the object of their expedition. Among the devices was a canoe pointed towards the enemies' country. On their return, it was their practice to visit the same tree, or precinct, and denote the result: the canoe being, in this case, drawn with its bows in the opposite direction. Lafitou, in his account of the nations of Canada, makes observations on this subject to which we shall more particularly refer hereafter, which denote the general prevalence of the custom in that quarter. Other writers, dating as far back as Smith and de Bre, bear a passing testimony to the existence of this trait among the northern tribes. Few have however done more than notice it, and none are known to have furnished any amount of connected details.
A single element in the system attracted early notice. I allude to the institution of the Totem, which has been well known among the Algonquin tribes from the settlement of Canada. By this device, the early missionaries observed, that the natives marked their division of a tribe into clans, and of a clan into families, and the distinction was thus very clearly preserved. Affinities were denoted and kept up, long after tradi
* London, 1747, p. 190.
tion had failed in its testimony. This distinction, which is marked with much of the certainty of heraldic bearings in the feudal system, was seen to mark the arms, the lodge, and the trophies of the chief and warrior. It was likewise employed to give identity to the clan of which he was a member, on his ad-je-da-teg or grave-post. This record went but little farther ; a few strokes or geometric devices were drawn on these simple monuments, to denote the number of men he had slain in battle.
It has not been suspected in any notices to which I have had access, that there was a pictorial alphabet, or a series of homophonous figures, in which, by the juxtaposition of symbols representing acts, as well as objects of action, and by the introduction of simple adjunct signs, a series of disjunctive, yet generally connected ideas, were denoted; or that the most prominent incidents of life and death could be recorded so as to be transmitted from one generation to another, as long at least as the monument and the people endured. Above all, it was not anticipated that there should have been found, as will be observed in the subsequent details, a system of sym
a bolic notation for the songs and incantations of the Indian metas and priests, making an appeal to the memory for the preservation of language.
Persons familiar with the state of the western tribes of this continent, particularly in the higher northern latitudes, have long been aware that the songs of the Indian priesthood, and wabenoes, were sung from a kind of pictorial notation, made on bark. It is a fact which has often come to the observation of military officers performing duties on those frontiers, and of persons exercising occasional duties in civil life, who have passed through their territories. But there is no class of persons to whom the fact of such notations being made, is so well known, as the class of Indian traders and interpreters who visit or reside a part of the season at the Indian villages. I have never conversed with any of this latter class of persons to whom the fact of such inscriptions, made in various ways, was not so familiar as in their view to excite no surprise or even demand remark
My attention was first called to the subject in 1820. In the summer of that year I was on an exploring journey through the lake country. At the mouth of the small river Huron, on the banks of Lake Superior, there was an Indian grave fenced around with saplings, and protected with much care. At its head stood a post, or tabular stick, upon which was drawn the figure of the animal which was the symbol of the clan to which the deceased chief belonged. Strokes of red paint were added to denote, either the number of war parties in which he had been engaged, or the number of scalps which he had actually taken from the enemy. The interpreter who accompanied us, and who was himself tinctured with Indian blood, gave the latter, as the true import of these marks.
On quitting the river St. Louis, which flows into the head of the lake at the Fond du Lac, to cross the summit dividing its waters from those of
the Mississippi, the way led through heavy and dense woods and swamps, and the weather proved dark and rainy, so that, for a couple of days to gether, we had scarcely a glimpse of the sun.
The party consisted of sixteen persons, with two Indian guides ; but the latter, with all their adroitness in threading the maze, were completely at fault for nearly an entire day. At night we lay down on ground elevated but a few inches above the level of the swamp. The next morning as we prepared to leave the camp, a small sheet of birch bark containing devices was observed elevated on the top of a sapling, some 8 or 10 feet high. One end of this pole was thrust firmly into the ground leaning in the direction we were to go. On going up to this object, it was found, with the aid of the interpreter, to be a symbolic record of the circumstances of our crossing this summit
, and of the night's encampment at this spot. Each person was appropriately depicted, distinguishing the soldiers from the officer in command, and the latter from the scavans of the party. The Indians themselves were depicted without hats, this being, as we noticed, the general symbol for a white man or European. The entire record, of which a figure is annexed, accurately symbolized the circumstances, and they were so clearly drawn, according to their conventional rules, that thu intelligence would be communicated thereby to any of their people who might chance to travel or wander this way. This was the object of the inscription.
Fig. No. 1. represents the subaltern officer in command of the party of the U. S. troops. He is drawn with a sword to denote his official
rank. No. 2 denotes the person who officiated in quality of Secretary. He is represented holding a book. No. 3 denotes the geologist and mineralogist of the party. He is drawn with a hammer. Nos. 4 and 5 are attachés ; No. 6, the interpreter.
The group of figures marked 9 represents eight infantry soldiers, each of whom, as shown in group No. 10, was armed with a musket. No. 15 denotes that they had a separate fire, and constituted a separate mess. Figures 7 and 8 are the two Chippewa guides, the principal of whom, called Chamees, or the Pouncing-hawk, led the way over this dreary summit. These are the only human figures on this unique bark letter, who are drawn without a hat. This was the characteristic seized on, by them, and generally employed by the tribes, to distinguish the Red from the white race. Figures 11 and 12 represent a prairie hen, and a green tortoise,
. which constituted the sum of the preceding day's chase, and were eaten at the encampment. The inclination of the pole, was designed to show the course pursued from that particular spot : there were three hacks in it, below the scroll of bark, to indicate the estimated length of this part of the journey, computing from water to water, that is to say, from the head of the portage Aux Couteaux on the St. Louis river, to the of Sandy lake, the Ka-ma-ton-go-gom-ag of the Odjibwas.
The story was thus briefly and simply told ; and this memorial was set up by the guides, to advertise any of their countrymen, who might chance to wander in that direction, of the adventure—for it was evident, both from this token, and from the dubiousness which had marked the prior day's wanderings, that they regarded the passage in this light, and were willing to take some credit for the successful execution of it.
Before we had penetrated quite to this summit, we came to another evidence of their skill in this species of knowledge, consisting of one of those contrivances which they denominate Man-i-to-wa-teg, or Manito Poles. On reaching this our guides shouted, whether from a superstitious impulse, or the joy of having found a spot they certainly could recognize, we could not tell. We judged the latter. It consisted of eight poles, of equal length, shaved smooth and round, painted with yellow ochre, and set so as to enclose a square area. It appeared to have been one of those rude temples, or places of incantation or worship, known to the metas, or priests, where certain rites and ceremonies are performed. But it was not an ordinary medicine lodge. There had been far more care in its construction.
On reaching the village of Sandy lake, on the upper Mississippi, the figures of animals, birds, and other devices were found, on the rude coffins, or wrappings of their dead, which were scaffolded around the precincts of the fort, and upon the open shores of the lake. Similar devices were also observed, here, as at other points in this region, upon their