Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

rise again and deliver it. To interrupt another, even in common conversation, is reckoned highly indecent. How different this is from the conduct of a polite British house of commons, where scarce a day passes without some confusion, that makes the speaker hoarse in calling to order ; and how different from the mode of conversation in many polite companies of Europe, where, if you do not deliver your sentence with great rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by the impatient loquacity of those you converse with, and never suffered to finish it!

The politeness of these savages in conversation is indeed carried to excess, since it does not permit them to contradict or deny the truth of what is asserted in their presence. By this means they indeed avoid disputes; but then it becomes difficult to know their minds, or what impression you make upon them. The missionaries who have attempted to convert them to christianity, all complain of this as one of the great difficulties of their mission. The Indians hear with patience the truths of the gospel explained to them, and give their usual tokens of assent and approbation : you would think they were convinced. No such matter. It is mere civility.

A Swedish minister, having assembled the chiefs of the Sasquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting them with the principal historical facts on which our religion is founded; such as the fall of our first parents by eating an apple, the coming of Christ to repair the mischief, his miracles and suffering, &c.

-When he had finished, an Indian oratór stood up to thank him. “ What you have told us,” says he, "is all very good. It is indeed bad to eat apples. It is

better

[ocr errors][ocr errors]

better to make them all into cyder. We are much obliged by your kindness in coming so far, to tell us those things which you have heard from your mothers. In return, I will tell you some of those we have heard from ours.

“ In the beginning, our fárhers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on, and if their hunting was unsuc. cessful, they were starving. Two of our young hunters having killed a deer, made a fire in the woods to broil some parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger, they bebeld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds, and seat herself on that hill which you see yonder among the Blue Mountains. They said to each other, it is a spirit that perhaps has smelt our broiling venison, and wishes to eat of it: let us offer some to her. They presented her with the tongue: she was pleased with the taste of it, and said, Your kindness shall be rewarded. Come to this place after'ibirteen muons, and you shall find something that will be of great benefit in nourishing you and your children to the latest generations. They did so, and to their surprise, fouod plants they had never seen before; but which, from that ancient time, have been constantly cultivated among us, to our great advantage. Where her right hand had touched the ground, they found maize; where her left hand had touched it, they found kidney-beans; and where her backside had sat on it, they found tobacco.” The good missionary, disgusted with this idle tale, said, “ What I delivered to you, were sacred truths, but wbat you tell me is mere fable, fiction, and falsehood.” The Indian, offended, replied, “My brother, it seems your friends have not done you justice in your education; they have not well instructed 2 c 2

yoll

[ocr errors]

you in the rules of common cirility. You saw that we, who understand and practice those rules, believed all your stories, why do you refuse to believe ours?"

When any of them come into our towns, our people are apt to crowd round them, gaze upon them, and incommode them where they desire to be private; this they esteem great rudeness, and the effect of the want of instruction in the rules of civility and good manners, “ We have,” say they, " as much curiosity as you, and when you come into our towns, we wish for opportunities of looking at you; but for this purpose we bide ourselves behind bushes, where you are to pass, and never intrude ourselves into your company."

Their manner of entering one another's villages has likewise its rules. It is reckoned uncivil in travelling strangers, to enter a village abruptly, without giving notice of their approach. Therefore, as soon as they arrive within hearing, they stop and hollow, remaining there till invited to enter. Two old men usually come out to them, and lead them in. There is in ever village a vacant dwelling, called the strangers' house. Here they are placed, while the old men go round from hut to hut, acquainting the inhabitants, that strangers are arrived, who are probably hungry and weary; and every one sends them what he can spare of victuals, and skins to repose on. When the strangers are refreshed, pipes and tobacco are brought; and then, but not before, conversation begins, with enquiries who they are, whither bound, what news, &c. and it usually ends with offers of service, if the strangers have occasion for guides, or any necessaries for continuing their journey; and nothing is exacted for the entertain

ment.

The

The same hospitality, esteemed among them as a principal virtue, is practised by private persons ;

of which Conrad Weiser, our interpreter, gave me the following instance. He had been naturalized among the Six Nations, and spoke well the Mohuck language. In going through the Indian country, to carry a message from our governor to the council at Onondaga, he called at the habitation of Canessetego, an old acquaintance, who embraced him, spread furs for him to sit on, and placed before him some boiled beans and venison, and mixed some rum and water for his drink. When he was well refreshed, and had lit his pipe. Canassetego began to converse with him : asked how he had fared the many years since they had seen each other, whence he then came, what occasioned the journey, &c. Conrad answered all his questions; and when the discourse began to flag, the Indian, to continue it, said, “ Conrad, you have lived long among

the white people, and know something of their customs; I have been sometimes at Albany, and have observed, that once in seven days they shut up their shops, and assemble all in the great house ; tell me what it is for? What do they do there?" " They meet there,” says Conrad,“ to hear and learn good things.-I do not doubt," says

the Indian, " that they tell you so; they bave told me the same: but I doubt the truth of what they say, and I will tell you my reasons. I went lately to Albany to sell my skins and buy blankets, koives; powder, rum, &c. You know I used generally to deal with Hans Hanson ; but I was a little inclined this time to try some other merchants. However, I called first upon Hans, and asked him what he would give for beaver. He said he could not give more than four

C 3

shillings shillings a pound: but, says he, I cannot talk on business now; this is the day when we meet together to learn good things, and I am going to the meeting. So I thought to myself, since I cannot do any business today, I may as well go to the meeting too, and I went with him. There stood up a man in black, and began to talk to the people very angrily. I did not understand what he said ; but perceiving that he looked muchi at me, and at Hanson, I imagined he was angry at seeing me there; so 'I went out, sat down near the house, struck fire, and lil my pipe, waiting till the meeting should break up. I thought too, that the man had mentioned something of beaver, and I suspected it might be the subject of their meeting. So when they caine out I accosted my merchant. Well, Hans, says I, I hope you have agreed to give more than four shillings a pound ? No, says he, I cannot give so much, I cannot give more than three shillings and sixpence. I then spoke to several other dealers, but they all sung the same song, three and sixpence, three and sixpence. This inade it clear to me that my suspicion was right; and that whatever they pretended of meeting to learn good things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians in the price of beaver. Consider but a little, Conrad, and you must be of my opinion. If they meet so often to learn good things, they would certainly have learned some before this time. But they are still ignorant. You know our practice. If a wbite man, in travelling through our country, enters one of our cabins, we all treat him as I do you; we dry him if he is wet, we warın him if he is cold, and give hiin meat and drink, that he may allay bis thirst and bunger; and we spread soft furs for him to rest

« ZurückWeiter »