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The character of the Indians, is only to be known by their circunstances and way of passing through life. A Constantly employed in procuring a precarious subsist. ence, by hunting wild animals, and often engaged in war, i it cannot be expected that they enjoy much gaiety of tem. per, or a high flow of spirits. They are therefore generally grave, approaching to sadness : they have none of that giddy vivacity, peculiar to some nations of Europe, but despise it. Their behaviour to those about them is regu. lar, modest, and respectful. They seldom speak but when they have something important to observe, and all their actions, words, and even looks, are attended with some meaning. Their subsistence depends entirely on what they procure with their hands; and their lives, their honour, and every thing dear to them, may be lost by the smallest inattention, to the designs of their enemies. As no particular object has power to attach them to one place, more than another, they go wherever the necessaries of life can be procured in the greatest abundance. The different tribes, or nations, when compared with civilized societies, are extremely small. These tribes often live at an immense distance ; they are separated by a desart frontier, and hid in the bosom of impenetrable woods, and almost boundless forests.
There is in each society, a certain kind of government which with very little deviation, prevails over the whole continent; their manners and way of life, are nearly similar and uniform. An Indian has no method by which he can render himself considerable, among his companions, but by his personal accomplishments, either of body or mind; but, as nature has not been very lavish in these distinctions, where all enjoy the same education, all are pretty much upon an equality, and will desire to remain so. Liberty, is therefore the prevailing passion of the American Indians ; and their government under the influence of this sentiment, is perhaps better secured, than by the wisest political regulations. They are very far, however, from despising all sort of authority: they are attentive to the voice of wisdom, which experience has confirmed on the aged, and they inlist under the banners of the chief, in whose valour and military address, they have learned 10 repose a just and merited confidence
Date Among those tribes which are most engaged in war, sus the power of the chief is naturally predominant; because dit the idea of having a military leader was the first source
of his superiority ; and the continued exigencies of the
state requiring such a leader will enhance it. His power e however, is rather persuasive than coercive, he is rere. mrenced as a father, rather than feared as a monarch. He
has no guards, no prisons, no officers of justice ; and, one
act of ill-judged violence, would pull him from his humble to throne. Do The elders in the other form of government, which may att be considered as a mild and nominal aristocracy, have no
more power. Age alone is sufficient for acquiring respect,
influence, and authority ; experience alone, is the only la source of knowledge aynong a savage people. I Among the Indians, business is conducted with the ut.
most simplicity, and recalls to those who are acquainted 14 with antiquity, a lively representation of the early ages.
The heads of families meet together in a house or cobin, obile appointed for the purpose : here the business is discussed ; a and here those of the nation distinguished for their elo
quence or wisdom, have an opportunity of displaying their talents. Their orators, like those of Homer, express themselves in a bold, figurative style, more strong than refined, with gestures violent, but natural and expressive, When the business is over, and they happen to be wel provided with food, they appoint a feast upon the occasion, of which almost the whole nation partake ; the feast is accompanied with a song, in which the exploits of their forefathers are celebrated. They have dances ira, but chiefly of the military kind, like the Greeks and Romans, which inspire the younger with a martial spirit.
To assist their memory, they have belts of small shells (wampum) or beads, of different colours, each represent1sing a di:ferent object, which is marked by their colour or
arrangement. At the conclusion of every subject on which they discourse, when they treat with a foreign state, they deliver one of those belts ; for, if this ceremony should be omitted, all that they have said passes for nothing. These belts are carefully deposited in each town, as the public records of the nation ; and to them they occasionally have recourse, when any public contest happens with a neigh
bouring tribe. Of late, as the materials of which those belts are made have become searce, they often give some skin in the place of the wampum; and receive in return, presents of a more valuable kind, from the commissioners appointed to treat with them ; for they never consider a trcaty of any weight, unless every article in it be ratified by some gratification.
It sometimes happens, that those different tribes or nations, scattered as they are, at an immense distance from one another, meet in their excursions whilst hunting. If there subsists no animosity between them, they behave in The most friendly and courteous manner ; but, if they happen to be in a state of war, or, if there has been no pre. vious intercourse between them, all who are not friends are deemed enemies, and they fight with the most savage fury.
War, hunting, and fishing, are the principal emplayments of the men ; almost every other concern is consigntd to the women.
The most prevailing motive with the Indians for enter. ing into a war, if it does not arise from an accidental rencounter, is either to l'evenge themselves for the death of some lost friends, or to acquire prisoners, who may assist them in their hunting, and whom they adopt into their society. These wars are either undertaken by some pri. vate adventurers, or by the whole community. In the lat. ter case, all the young men who desire to go out to battle (for no one is compelled contrary to his inclination) give a piece of wood io the chief, as a token of their design to accompany him. The chief who is to conduct the enterprize, fasts several days, and carefully observes his dreams during that time ; which the presumption natural to savages mostly renders as favourable as he could desire. A variety of other superstitious ceremonies are observed.
The war kettle is set on the fire, as an emblem that they are going out to devour their enemies; which among these nations, it is probable, was formerly the case ; since they still continue to express it in clear terms, and use an emblem significant of the ancient usage. Then they dispatch a cup or large shell to their allies ; inviting them to join in the destruction of their enemies, and drink their blood.; for like the ancient Greeks, they think that those in their alliance, must not only adopt their quarrels, but that they must also have their resentments wound up to the same high pitch with themselves.
There are no people who carry their friendships or resentments so far as they do ; this natura!ly results from their peculiar circumstances. The Americans live in small societies, accustomed to see but few objects, and few persons : to be deprived of these objects to which they are so closely attached, renders them miserable. Their ideas are too confined to enable them to entertain just sentiments of humanity, or universal benevolence. But this very cirtum: stance, while it makes them cruel and savage, to an incre
dible degree, towards those with whom they are at war, adds a new force to their particular friendships, and to the common tie which unites the members of the same tribe, or those in alliance with them.
With attending to this reflection, some facts which immediately follow would excite our wonder, without informing our reason ; and we would be bewildered in a
number of particulars, seemingly opposite to one another, į vithout being sensible of the general cause from which they proceed.
Having finished all the ceremonies previous to the war, and the appointed day for setting out on their expedition has arrived, they take leave of their friends, and exchange their clothes, or whatever moveables they have, in token of mutual friendship ; after which they proceed from the town, their wives and female relations walking before, and attending them to some distance. The warriors march dressed in all their finery, and most showy apparel, without any order. The chief walks slowly before them, singing the war song; while the rest observe the most profound silence. When they come up to their women, they deliver to them all their ornaments, and putting on their worst clothes, proceed on their expedition.
Every nation has its peculiar ensign or standard, which is generally a representation of some beast, bird, or fish. Those among the Five Nations, are the bear, otter, wolf, tortoise, and eagle, and by those names the tribes are usually distinguished. They have the figures of tisose animals pricked and painted on several parts of their bodies : and when they march through the woods, they
commonly, at every encampment, cut the representation of their ensign on trees, especially after a successful campaign : marking at the same time, the number of scalps and prisoners they have taken. "
Their military dress is very singular ; they cut off, or pull out all their hair, except a spot about the breadth of two crown-pieces, near the top of their heads, and entirely destroy their eye brows: the lock left upon their heads, they divide into several parcels ; cach of which is stiffened and adorned with wampum, beads, and feathers of various kinds; the whole twisted into a form resembling the modern pompoon. Their heads are painted red down to the eves, and sprinkled over with white down. The gristles of their ears are split almost around, and distended with wires or splinters, so as to meet and tie together at the nape of the neck; these are also hung with some ornaments, and generally bear the representation of some bird or beast. Their noses are likewise bored, and hung with trinkets of beads, and their faces painted with various co. lours, so as to make an awful' appearance. Their breasts are adorned with a gorget, or medal of brass, copper, 01 some other metal ; and the scalping knife hangs by a string from the neck.
The most approved qualities among Indians in war are vigilance and attention, to execute and avoid surprize ; and indeed, in these arts they are superior to all other nations in the world. Accustomed to a continual wander. ing in the forests, their conceptions sharpened by keen necessity, and living in every respect according to nati re, their external senses have a degree of acuteness which at first viet appears incredible. They can trace out their enemies at an immense distance, by the smoke of their fires, which they smell, and by the tracks of their feet upon the ground, imperceptible to an European eye, but which they can count with facility. It is said they can even distinguish the different nations to which they be. long, and determine the precise time in which they pas. sed; when an European with the aid of glasses could not discover the least trace of a foot-step. These circumstances are of less importance as theịr savage enemies are equally well acquainted with them. i