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REDARKS CONCERNING THE SAVAGES
OF NORTH AMERICA.
SAVAGES we call them because their manners diffes from ours, which we think the perfection of civility ; they think the same of thoirs.
Perhaps if we could examine the manners of different nations with impartiality, we should find no people so rude as to be without any rules of politeness; nor any so polite as not to have some remains of rudeness.
The Indian men when young, are hunters and warriors; when old, counsellors; for all their government is by the council and advice of the sages; there is no force, there are no prisons, no officers, to compel obedience, or inflict punishment. Hence they generally study oratory; the best speaker having the most influence. The Indian women till the ground, dress the fourl, nurse and bring up the chil. dren, and preserve and hand down to posterity the memory of public transactions. These employinents of men and women are accounted natural and ho. nourable. Having few artificial wants, they have abundance of leisure for improvement in conversation. Our laborious manner of life, compared with theirs, they esteem slavish and base; and the learning on which we value ourselves, they regard as fri. volous and useless. An instance of this occurred at the treaty of Lancaster, in Pennsylvania, anno 1744, between the government of Virginia and the Six Nations. After the principal business was settled, the commissioners from Virginia acquainted the Indians by a speech, that there was at Williamburgh a col. lege, with a fund, for educating Indian youth; and if the chiefs of the Six Nations would send dowp lialf a dozen of their sons to that college, the government would take care they should be well provided for, and instructed in all the learning of the white people. It is one of the Indian rules of politeness not 10 an. swer a public proposition the same day that it is
made : they think it would be treating it as a light matter, and that they show it respect by taking time to consider it, as of a matter important. They there. fore deferred their answer till the day following: when their speaker began by expressing their deep sense of the kindness of the Virginia government, in making them that offer; “ for we know,” says he," that you highly esteem the kind of learning taught in those colleges, and that the maintenance of our young men, while with you would be very expensive to you. We are convinced, therefore, that you inean to do us
ood by your proposal;' and we thank you heartily. But you who are wise must know, that different nations have different conceptions of things; and you will therefore not take it amiss, if our ideas of this kind of education happen not to be the same with yours. We have had some experience of it; several of our young people were formerly brought up at the colleges of the northern provinces; they were instructed in all your sciences; but when they came back to us, they were had runners; ignorant of every means of living in the woods; unable to bear either cold or hunger; knew neither how to build a cabin, take a deer, or kill an enemy; spoke our language imperfectly; were therefore neither fit for hunters, warriors, or counsellors: they were totally good for nothing. We are however not the less obliged by your kind offer, though we decline accepting of it; and to show our grateful sense of it if the gentlemen of Virginia will send us a dozen of their sons, we will take great care of their education, instruct them in all we know, and make men of them.
Having frequent occasions to hold public councils, they have acquired great order and decency in con. ducting them. The old men sit in the foremost ranks, the warriors in the next, and the women and children in the hindmost The business of the women is to take notice of what passes, imprint it in their memories, for they have no writing, and communicate it to the children. They are the records of the council, and they preserve traditions of the stia pulations in treaties a hundred years back; which, when we compare with our writing, we always find
exact. He that would speak, rises. The rest ob gerve a profound silence. When he has finished, and sits down, they leave him five or six minutes to recollect, that if he has omitted any thing he intended to say or has any thing to add, he may 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 sentences witli great rapidity, you are cut off in the middle of it by ihe 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 contradiet 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 10 tonvert 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 thair 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 Susquehannah Indians, made a sermon to them, acquainting then 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 sufferings, &c. When he had finished, an Indian orator stood up to thank him." What you have told 118,” says he, “is all very good. It is indeed bad te eat apples. It is better to make them all into cider. We are much obliged to 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 which we have heard from ours.
“In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on; and if their hunting was unsuccessful, 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 aniong the blue mountuins. They said to each other, it is a spirit that perhaps has smelt our broiled 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 thirteen moons, 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, found plants they had never seen before; but which, from ihat 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 vouched it, they found kidneybeans; 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 what 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 you in the rules of common civility. 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
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 hide 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 halloo, remaining there till invited to enter. 'Two old men usually come out to invite and lead them in. There is in every village a vacant dwelling, called the stranger's house. Here they are placed, while the old men go round from hùt to but, 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 inquiries 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 entertainment.
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 lan. guage. In going through the Indian country, to carry a message from our governor to the council at Onondaga, he called at the habitation of Canassetego, an old acquaintance, who embraced him, spread furs for him to sit on, placed before him some boiled heans and venison, and mixed some rum and water for bis drink. When he was well refreshed, and had lit his pipe, Canassetego began to converse with him: usked him how he had fared the muny 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