Page images

When they go out, therefore, they take care to avoid making use of any thing that might lead to a discovery. They light no fire to warm themselves, or to prepare their victuals ; they lie close to the ground during the day, when they draw near the residence of their enemies, and travel only in the night, and marching along in files ; he that closes the rear, carefully covers the tracks of his own feet, and those who preceded him with leaves. When they halt to refresh themselves, scouts are sent out to reconnoitre the country, and beat up every place where they suspect an enemy lies concealed.

In this manner they enter unawares the villages of their foes; and while the flower of the nation are engaged in hunting, massacre all the children, women and helpless old men; or make prisoners of as many as they can manage, or have strength enough to be useful to their nation. But when the enemy is apprized of their design, and coming on in arms against them, they throw themselves flat on the ground among the withered herbs and leaves, which their faces are painted to resemble. They then allow a part to pass unmolested, when all at once, with a tremendous shout, rising up from their ambush, they pour a storm of arrows or musket bullets upon their foes.

The party attacked, returns the same cry; every one shelters himself with a tree, and returns the fire of the adverse party, as soon as they raise themselves from the ground to give a second fire. Thus does the battle continue, until the one party is so much weakened, as to be incapable of further resistance. But if the force on each side continues nearly equal, the fierce spirits of the savages, inflamed by the loss of their friends, can no longer be restrained. They abandon their distant war, and rush upon one another with clubs and hatchets in their hands, magnifying their own courage, and insulting their enemies with the bitterest reproaches. A cruel combat ensues, death appears in a thousand hideous forms, which would congeal the blood of civilized nations to behold ; but which rouses the fury of savages. They trample, they insult over the dead bodies, and tear the scalp from the head. The flame continues to rage till resistance ceases ; then they secure the prisoners, whose fate, if men, are a thousand times more unhappy than those who clied in the

field. The conquerors set up a hideous yell to lament the friends they have lost.

They approach in a melancholy, severe gloom to their own village ; a messenger is sent to announce their arrival, and the women with frightful shrieks, come out to mourn their dead brothers, or their husbands. When they are arrived, the chief relates in a low voice, to the elders, a circumstantial account of every particular of the expedi. tion. The orator then proclaims this account aloud to the people ; and as he mentions the names of those who have fallen, the shrieks of the women are redoubled.

The men too join in these cries, according as each is most connected with the deceased, by blood or friendship. The last ceremony is the proclamation of victory ; each individual then forgets his private misfortunes, and joins in the triumph of his nation; all tears are wiped from their eyes, and by an unaccountable transition, they pass in a moment from the bitterness of sorrow, to an extravagance of joy.

But the manner in which they treat their prisoners, is the chief characteristic of the savages. The friendly affections which glow with an intense warmth within the bounds of their own villages, seldom extend beyond them. They feel nothing for the enemies of their nation but an implacable resentment. The prisoners who have them, selves the same feelings, know the intentions of their cons querors, and are prepared for them. The person who has taken the captive, attends him to the cottage, where, according to the distribution made by the elders, he is to be delivered to supply the loss of a relative. If those who receive him have their family weakened by war or other accidents, they adopt the captive into the family. But if they have no occasion for him, or their resentment for the loss of their friends be too high to endure the sight of any connected with those who were concerned in it, they sentence him to death. All those who have met with the same severe sentence being collected, the whole nation is assembled at the execution as for some great solemnity, A scaffold is erected, and the prisoners are tied to a stake, where they begin their death song, and prepare for the ensuing scene of cruelty, with the most andaunted courage. Their enemies on the other side, are determined to put if to the proof, by the most cruel and exquisite tortures.

They begin at the extremity of his body, and gradually approach the more vital parts; one plucks out his nails by the roots, one by one; another takes a finger into his mouth and tears off the flesh with his teeth ; a third thrusts the mangled finger into the bowl of a pipe made red hot, which he smokes like tobacco ; then they pound his toes and fingers to pieces between two stones ; they cut circles about his joints, and gashes in the fleshy parts of the limbs, which they sear immediately with red hot irons, cutting, burning, and pinching them alternately ; they pull off his flesh, thus mangled and roasted, bit by bit, devouring it with greediness, and smearing their faces with the blood ; their passions encreasing in horror and fury, they proceed to twist the bare nerves and tendons about an iron, tearing and snapping them, while others are employed in pulling and extending the limbs in every direction so as to increase the torment. This continues often five or six hours; and sometimes (such is the constitutional strength of the savages), for days together. Then they frequently unbind

him, to give a breathing to their fury, to think what new : tortures they shall inflict, and to refresh the strength of the

sufferer, who, wearied out with such a variety of unheardof torments, often falls into so profound a sleep, that they apply the fire to awake him, and renew his sufferings. He is again fastened to a stake, and again they renew their cruelty; they stick him all over with matches of a wood that easily takes fire, and burns but slowly, they run sharp reeds into every part of his body, they drag out his teeth with pincers, and thrust out his eyes; and lastly, having burned his flesh from his bones with slow fires, after having

mangled his body in the most shocking manner, and so į mutilated his face that nothing human appears in it, after

having peeled the skin from the head, and poured a heap of red hot coals or boiling water on the naked scull, they once more unbind the miserable victim ; who blind and staggering with pain and weakness, is assaulted on every side with clubs and stones, and falling into their fires at every step, until one of the chiefs, out of compassion or weary of cruelty, puts an end to his life by a club or dagger. The body is then put into a kettle, and this inhuman and horrid employment is succeeded by a feast as barbarous.

The women, forgetting the human as well as the female nature, surpass the men in cruelty, and act like furies while this scene of horror is going on : the principal persons of the nation sit around the stake looking on, and smoking their pipes without the least emotion. But what is niost extraordinary, the sufferer himself, in the little intervals of his torments, smokes, appears unconcerned, and converses with his tormentors about indifferent matters. During the whole time of his execution, there seems a contest which shall succeed; they, by inflicting the most horrid pains, or he, by enduring them with a firmness and constancy almost above human : not a sigh, not a groan, not a distortion of countenance, escapes him : he possesses his mind entirely in the midst of his torments : he recounts his own exploits : he informs them of the cruelties he has committed upon their countrymen, and threatens them with the revenge that will attend his death ; that they were old women who knew not how to put a warrior to death ; and though his reproaches exasperate them to madness, he continues to insult them with their ignorance in the art of tormenting ; pointing out himself more exquisite methods, and more sensible parts of the body to be afflicted. The women have this part of courage as well as the men, and it is as rare for an Indian to behave otherwise, as it would be for an European to suffer as an Indian.

Such is the wonderful power of an early intuition, and a ferocious thirst of glory. “I am brave and intrepid," says the savage in the face of his tormentors, “I peither “ fear death nor torments, those who fear them are cow“ ards; they are less than women : life is nothing to “ those who have courage ; may my enemies be confound

ed with despair and rage : oh! that I could devour « them, and drink their blood to the last drop.” But neither the intrepidity on one side, nor the inflexibility on the other, are matter of astonishment ; for vengeance and fortitude, in the midst of torments, are duties consi. dered with them as sacred; they are the effects of their earliest education, and depend upon principles insulled into them from their infancy.

On all other occasions they are humane and compassionate. Nothing can exceed the warmth of their affec tion towards their friends, who consist of all those who live in the same village, or are in alliance with them ;

among these all things are common; their houses, their : provisions, and their most valuable articles are not with

held from a friend ; has any one of these had ill success in

hunting, his harvest failed, or his house burned, he feels - 10 other effect of his misfortune, than it gives him an op

portunity to experience the benevolence and regard of his associates. On the other hand the Indian, to the enemy of his country or his tribe, or to those who have privately of. fended him, is implacable. He conceals his sentiments;

he appears reconciled, until, by some treachery or suri prize, he has an opportunity of executing an horrible re

venge. No length of time is sufficient to allay his resent- ment; no distance of place great enough to protect the ob

ject ; he crosses the steepest mountains, he pierces the most impenetrable forests, and traverses the most dismal - swamps and desarts, for several hundreds of miles, bearing

the inclemency of the season, the fatigue of the expedition, - the extremes of hunger and thirst, with patience and cheer

fulness, in hopes of surprizing his enemy, on whom he exercises the most schocking barbarities, even to the eating of his flesh. To such extremes do the Indians extend their friendship and their enmity; and such indeed is the character of all strong uncultivated minds.

The treatment of their dead shews, in glowing colours, the strength of their friendship, and warm attachment, to their departed friends. When any one of the society is cut off, he is lamented by the whole ; on this occasion a variety of ceremonies are performed. The body is washed, - anointed, and painted. Then the women lament the loss

with hideous howlings, intermixed with songs, which celebrate the great actions of the deceased and his ancestors.

The men mourn also, though in a less extravagant manner. The whole village is present at the interment, and the corpse is habited in their most sumptuous ornaments. Close to the body of the deceased are placed his bow and arrows, and other weapons of war, with whatever he valued most in his lifetime, and a quantity of provisions for his subsistence on the journey which he is supposed to take. The solemnity, like every other, is attended with feasting. The funeral being ended, the relations of the deceased Confine themselves to their huts, for a considerable time,

« PreviousContinue »