« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
great fatigues, in all weathers in quest of food. He must defend his hunting grounds, in peace and war, and has his life daily in his handsLong absences are often necessary, on these accounts. It is at such times, during the open season, that the Indian female exerts her industry. In the fall season, she takes her children in a canoe, or if she have none, invites a female companion to go with her, along the streams, to cut the rush, to be manufactured into mats, at her leisure, in the winter. It is also a part of her duty, at all seasons, to provide fuel for the lodge fire, which she is careful to do, that she may suitably receive her husband, on his return from the chase, and have the means of drying his wet moccasins, and a cheerful spot, where he may light his pipe, and regain his mental equilibrium, while she prepares his meals. The very idea of a female's chopping wood, is to some horriffic. But it is quite true that the Indian female does chop wood, or at least, exert an undue labour, in procuring this necessary article of the household. In speaking of the female, we, at once, rush to the poetic idea of the refinement of lady like gentleness, and delicacy. Not only does the nature of savage life and the hardiness of muscle created by centuries of forest vicissitude, give the hunter's wife, but a slender claim on this particular shade of character, but the kind ot labour implied, is very different from the notion civilized men have of "wood chopping." The emigrant swings a heavy axe of six pounds weight, incessantly, day in, and day out, against immense trees, in the heaviest forest, until he has opened the land to the rays of the sun, and prepared an amount of cyclopean labours for the power of fire, and the ox. The hunter clears no forests, the limits of which on the contrary, he carefully cherishes for his deer to range in. He seats himself down, with his lodge, in the borders of natural glades, or meadows, to plant his few hills of maize. He had no metallic axe, capable of cutting down a tree, before 1492, and he has never learned to wield a heavy axe up to 1844. His wife, always made her lodge fires,by gathering sticks, and she does so still. She takes a hatchet of one or two pounds weight, and after collecting dry limbs in the forest, she breaks them into lengths of about 18 inches, and ties them in bundles, or faggots, and carries them, at her leisure, to her lodge. Small as these sticks are, in their length and diameter, but few are required to boil her pot. The lodge, being of small cir cumference, but little heat is required to warm the air, and by suspending the pot by a string from above, over a small blaze, the object is attained, without that extraordinary expenditure of wood, which, to the perfect amazement of the Indian, characterizes the emigrant's roaring fire of logs. The few fields which the Indians have cleared and prepared for corn fields, in northern latitudes, are generally to be traced tosome adventitious opening, and have been enlarged very slowly. Hence, I have observed, that when they have come to be appraised, to fix their value as improvements upon the land, under treaty provisions, that the amount thereof may be paid the /
owner, they have uniformly set a high estimate upon these ancient clearmgs, and sometimes regarded their value, one would think, in the inverse proportion of these limits. As if, indeed, there were some merit, in having but half an acre of cleared ground, where, it might be supposed, the owner would have cultivated ten acres. And this half acre, is to be regarded as the industrial sum of the agricultural labours of all ages and sexes, during perhaps, ten generations. Could the whole of this physical effort, therefore, be traced to female hands, which is doubtful, for the old men and boys, will often do something, it would not be a very severe imposition. There is at least, a good deal, it is believed, in this view of the domestic condition of the women to mitigate the severity of judgment, with which the proud and labour-hating hunter, has sometimes been visited. He has. in our view, the most important part of the relative duties of Indian life, to sustain. In the lodge he is a mild, considerate man, of the non-interfering and non-scolding species. He may indeed, be looked upon, rather as the guest of his wife, than what he is often represented to be, her tyrant, and he is often only known as the lord of the lodge, by the attention and respect which she shows to him. He is a man of few words. If her temper is ruffled, he smiles. If he is displeased, he walks away. It is a province in which his actions acknowledge her right to rule; and it is one, in which his pride and manliness have exalted him above the folly of altercation.
THE MANITO TREE.
There is a prominent hill in the vicinity of Sault Ste. Marie, at the outlet of lake Superior, called by the French La Butte da Terra. An Indian footpath formerly connected this hill with the old French settlement at those falls, from which it is distant about a mile. In the intermediate space, near the path, there formerly stood a tree, a large mountain ash, from which, Indian tradition says, there issued a sound, resembling that produced by their own war-drums, during one of the most calm and cloudless days. This occurred long before the French appeared in the country. It was consequently regarded as the local residence of a spirit, and deemed sacred.
From that time they began to deposit at its foot, an offering of small green twigs and boughs, whenever they passed the path, so that, in process of time, a high pile of these offerings of the forest was accumulated. It seemed as if, by this procedure, the other trees had each made an offering to this tree. At length the tree blew down, during a violent storm, and has since entirely decayed, but the spot was recollected and the offerings kept up, and they would have been continued to the present hour, had not an accidental circumstance put a stop to it.
In the month of July 1822, the government sent a military force to take post, at that ancient point of French settlement, at the foot of the falls, and one of the first acts of the commanding officer was to order out a fatigue party to cut a wagon road from the selected site of the post to the hill. This road was directed to be cut sixty feet wide, and it passed over the site of the tree. The pile of offerings was thus removed, without the men's knowing that it ever had had a superstitious origin; and thus the practice itself came to an end. I had landed with the troops, and been at the place but nine days, in the exercise of my appropriate duties as an Agent on the part of the government to the tribe, when this trait of character was mentioned to me, and I was thus made personally acquainted with the locality, the cutting of the road, and the final extinction of the rite.
Our Indians are rather prone to regard the coming of the white man, at fulfilling certain obscure prophecies of their own priests; and that they are; at best, harbingers of evil to them; and with their usual belief in fatality, they tacitly drop such rites as the foregoing. They can excuse themselves to their consciences in such cases, in relinquishing the worship of a local manito, by saying: it is the tread of the white man that has desecrated the ground.
80 THE WHITE 3T0NE CANOE.
The young Chippewayan began to tell his story ; but the venerable chiof arrested him, before he had proceeded to speak ten words. I have expected you, he replied, and had just risen to bid you welcome to my abode. She, whom you seek, passed here but a few days since, and being fatigued with her journey, rested herself here. Enter my lodge and be seated, and I wfil then satisfy your enquiries, and give you directions for your journey from this point. Having done this, they both issued forth to the lodge door. "You see yonder gulf, said he, and the wide stretching blue plains be yond. It is the land of souls. You stand upon its borders, and my lodge is the gate of entrance. But you cannot take your body along. Leave it here with your bow and arrows, your bundle and your dog. You will find them safe on your return." So saying, he re-entered the lodge, and the freed traveller bounded forward, as if his feet had suddenly been endowed with the power of wings. But all things retained their natural colours and shapes. The woods and leaves, and streams and lakes, were only more bright and comely than he had ever witnessed. Animals bounded across his path, with a freedom and a confidence which seemed to tell him, there was no blood shed here. Birds of beautiful plumage inhabited the groves, and sported in the waters. There was but one thing, in which he saw a very unusual effect. He noticed that his passage was not stopped by trees or other objects. He appeared to walk directly through them. They were, in fact, but the souls or shadows of material trees. He became sensible that he was in a land of shadows. When he had travelled half a day's journey, through a country which was continually becoming more attractive, he came to the banks of a broad lake, in the centre of which was a large and beautiful island. He found a canoe of shining white stone, tied to the shore. He was now sure that he had come the right path, for the aged man had told him of this. There were also shinmg paddles. He immediately entered the canoe, and took the paddles in his hands, when to his joy and surprise, on turning round, he beheld the object of his search in another canoe, exactly its counterpart in every thing. She had exactly imitated his motions, and they were side by side. They at once pushed out from shore and began to cross the lake. Its waves seemed to be rising and at a distance looked ready to swallow them up; but just as they entered the whitened edge of them they seemed to melt away, as if they were but the images of waves. But no sooner was one wreath of foam passed, than another, more threatening still, rose up. Thus they were in perpetual fear; and what added to it, was the clearness of the water, through which they could see heaps of beings who had perished before, and whose bones laid strewed on the bottom of the lake. The Master of Life had, however, decreed to let them pass, for the actions of neither of them had been bad. But they saw many others struggling and sinking in the waves. Old men and young men, males and females of all ages and ranks, were there; some passed, and