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These arts of love diffuses? What, but God?
CXLII. — TIE NORTH AMERICAN INDIANS.
1. TRAITS OF CHIARACTER. — Flint. An Indian seldom jests. He usually speaks low, and under his breath. Loquacity is with him an indication of being a trifling character, and of deeds inversely less as his words are more The young men, and even the boys, have a sullen, moody, and unjoyous countenance; and seem to have little of that elastic gayety with which the benevolence of Providence has endowed the first days of the existence of most other beings. In this general remark, we ought not, perhaps, to include the squaw, who shows some analogy of feeling to the white female.
The males evidently have not the quick sensibilities, the acute perceptions, of most other races. They do not easily sympathize with what is enjoyment or suffering about them. Nothing but an overwhelming excitement can arouse them. They seem callous to all the passions, but rage. Every one has remarked how little surprise they express for whatever is new, strange, or striking. True, it is partially their pride that induces them to affect this indifference, — for, that it is affected, we have had numberless opportunities to discover. It is, with them, not only pride, but calculation, to hold in seeming contempt things which they are aware they cannot obtain and possess. But they seem to be lorn with an instinctive determination to be independent, if possible, of nature and society, and to concen'trate within themselves an existence, which, at any moment, they seem willing to lay down.
Their impassible fortitude and endurance of suffering, their contempt of pain and death, invest their character with a kind of
moral grandeur. Some part of this may be the result of their training, discipline, and exercise of self-control; but it is to be doubted whether some part be not the result of a more than ordinary degree of physical insensibility. It has been said, but with how much truth we do not pretend to say, that, in undergoing amputation, and other surgical operations, their nerves do not shrink, or show the same tendency to spasms, with those of the whites. When the savage - to explain his insensibility to cold — called upon the white man to recollect how little his own face was affected by it, in consequence of its constant exposure, the savage added, “ My body is all face.”
Surely it is preposterous to admire, as some pretend to do, the savage character in the abstract. Let us make every effort to convey pity, mercy, and immortal hopes, to their rugged bosoms. Pastorals that sing sa vage independence and generosity, and gratitude and happiness in the green woods, may be ArcadianEl enough to those who never saw sa vages in their wigwams, or never felt the apprehension of their nocturnal and hostile yell, from the depth of the forest around their dwelling. But let us not undervalue the comfort and security of municipales and social life; nor the sensibilities, charities, and endearments, of a civilized home. Let our great effort be to tame and domesticate the Indians. Their happiness, steeled against feeling, at war with nature, the elements, and one another, can have no existence, except in the visionary dreamings of those who have never contemplated their actual condition.
It is curious to remark, however, that, different as are their religions, their discipline, and their standards of opinion, in most respects, from ours, in the main they have much the same notion of a great, respectable, and good man, that we have. If we mark the universal passion for military display among our own race, and observe what place is assigned by common feeling, as well as history, to military prowess, we shall hardly consider it a striking difference from our nature, that bravery, and contempt of death, and reckless daring, command the first place in their homage. But, apart from these views, the same traits of character that entitle a man to the appellation of virtuous and good, and that insure respect among us, have much the same bearing upon the estimation of the Indians. In conversing with them, we are struck with surprise, to observe how widely and deeply the obligations of truth, constancy, honor, generosity, and forbearance, are felt and understood among them.
As regards their vanity, we have not often had the fortune to contemplate a young squaw at her toilet; but, from the studied arrangement of her calico jacket, from the glaring circles of ver
milion on her plump and circular face, from the artificial manner in which her hair, of intense black, is clubbed in a coil of the thickness of a man's wrist, from the long time it takes her to complete these arrangements, from the manner in which she minces and ambles, and plays off her prettiest airs, after she has put on all her charms, we should clearly infer, that dress and personal ornament occupy the same portion of her thoughts that they do of the fashionable woman of civilized society. In regions contiguous to the whites, the squaws have generally a calico shirt of the finest colors.
A young Indian warrior is notoriously the most thorough going beau in the world. Bond-street and Broadway furnish no subjects that will undergo as much crimping and confinement, to appear in full dress. We are confident that we have observed such a character, constantly occupied with his paints and his pocket-glass, three full hours, laying on his colors, and arranging his tresses, and contemplating, from time to time, with visible satisfaction, the progress of his growing attractions. When he has finished, the proud triumph of irresistible charms is in his eye. The chiefs and warriors, in full dress, have one, two, or three broad clasps of silver about their arms; generally jewels in their ears, and often in their noses; and nothing is more common than to see a thin, circular piece of silver, of the size of a dollar, depending from the nose, a little below the upper lip.
Nothing shows more clearly the influence of fashion : this ornament, so painfully inconvenient, as it evidently is to them, and so horridly ugly and disfiguring, seems to be the utmost finish of Indian taste. Painted porcupine-quills are twisted in their hair. Tails of animals hang from their hair behind. A necklace of bear's or alligator's teeth, or of claws of the bald eagle hangs loosely down, with an interior and smaller circle of large red beads; or, in default of them, a rosaryEl of red hawthorns surrounds the neck. From the knees to the feet, the legs are ornamented with great numbers of little, perforated, cylindrical pieces of silver or brass, that emit a simultaneous tinkle as the person walks. If to all this he add an American hat, and a soldier's coat of blue, faced with red, over the customary calico shirt of the gaudiest colors. that can be found, be lifts his feet high, and steps firmly on the ground, to give his tinklers an uniform and full sound, and apparently considers his appearance with as much complacency as the human bosom can be supposed to feel. This is a very curtailed piew of an Indian beau, but every reader competent to judge will admit its fidelity, as far as it goes, to the description of a young Indian warrior, when prepared to take part in a public dance.
2. Indian Mounds. — Flint. At first the eye mistakes these mounds for hills; but when it catches the regularity of their breast-works and ditches, it discovers, at once, that they are the labors of art and of men. When the evidence of the senses convinces us that human bones moulder in these masses; when you dig about them, and bring to light domestic utensils, and are compelled to believe that the busy tide of life once flowed here; when you see, at once, that these races were of a very different character from the present generation, — you begin to inquire if any tradition, if any, the faintest records, can throw any light upon these habitations of men of another age. Is there no scope, beside these mounds, for imagination and for contemplation of the past ? The men, their joys, their sorrows, their bones, are all buried together. But the grand features of nature remain. There is the beautiful prairie over which they “strutted through life's poor play.” The forests, thehills, the mounds, lift their heads in unalterable repose, and furnish the same sources of contemplation to us that they did to those generations that have passed away.
These mounds must date back to remote depths in the olden time. From the ages of the trees on them, we can trace them back six hundred years, leaving it entirely to the imagination to descend further into the depths of time beyond. And yet, after the rains, the washing, and the crumbling, of so many ages, many of them are still twenty-five feet high. Some of them are spread over an extent of acres. I have seen, great and small, I should suppose, a hundred. Though diverse in position and form, they all have an uniform character. They are, for the most part, in rich soils, and in conspicuous situations. Those on the Ohio are covered with very large trees. But in the prairie regions, where I have seen the greatest numbers, they are covered with tall grass, and are generally near beaches, which indicate the former courses of the rivers, in the finest situations for present culture ; and the greatest population clearly has been in those very positions where the most dense future population will be.
3. DISAPPEARANCE OF INDIANS FROM THE OHIO. — Audubon. When I think of the times, and call back to my mind the grandeur and beauty of those almost uninhabited shores ; when I picture to myself the dense and lofty summits of the forest, that everywhere spread along the hills, and overhung the margins of the stream, unmolested by the axe of the settler; when I know how dearly purchased the safe navigation of that 'iver has been by
the blood of many worthy Virginians; when I see that no longer any aborig'inėse are to be found there, and that the vast herds of elks, deer, and buffaloes, which once pastured on these hills and in these valleys, making for themselves great roads to the several salt springs, have ceased to exist; when I reflect that all this grand portion of our Union, instead of being in a state of nature, is now more or less covered with villages, farms, and towns, where the din of hammers and machinery is constantly heard ; that the woods are fast disappearing under the axe by day and the fire by night; that hundreds of steamboats are gliding to and fro, over the whole length of the majestic river, forcing commerce to take root and to prosper at every spot; when I see the surplus population of Europe coming to assist in the destruction of the forest and transplanting civilization into its darkest recesses; when I remember that these extraordinary changes have all taken place in the short period of twenty years
-I pause, wonder, and, although I know all to be true, can scarcely believe its reality.
4. TEIR RETREAT WESTWARD. — Sprague. As a race, they have withered from the land. Their arrows are broken, their springs are dried up, their cabins are in the dust. Their council-fire has long since gone out on the shore, and their war-cry is fast dying away to the untrodden West. Slowly and sadly they climb the distant mountains, and read their doom in the setting sun. They are shrinking before the mighty tide which is pressing them away; they must soon hear the roar of the last wave, which will settle over them forever. Ages hence, the inquisitive white man, as he stands by some growing city, will ponder on the structure of their disturbed remains, and wonder to what manner of person they belonged. They will live only in the songs and chronicles of their exterminators. Let these be faithful to their rude virtues as men, and pay due tribute to their unhappy fate as a people.
CXLIII. — WAR THE CHILD OF BARBARISM. 1. It is only from the soldier himself, and in the language of the eye that has seen its agonies, and of the ear that has heard its shrieks, that we can obtain a correct idea of the miseries of war. Though far from our happy shores, many of us may have seen it in its ravages and in its results, — in the green mound