Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

on the ground as he strode nearer the Commissioners, “ was around his knee, for my people had owned him as a brave. Give up our lands, where dry the bones of our fathers - where sleep the bodies of those who led on our war parties - where lie those who have shouted loudest in our scalp dances — who have washed their hands and faces in the blood of our enemies—who have gone out empty and returned loaded with severed limbs of our foes! Give up these lands, so sacred to all we hold dear — do you ask it, and do we listen tamely? The Evil Spirit has taken away our tongues when the white man comes among us, and our tomahawks are too heavy to be lifted when the long knife tells us what he pleases. Sell! — give up!- forsake !-- remove from the lands where we first breathed, where we have hunted, lived, and been happy! This is impossible ;” and his voice sunk to a tone of deep and impassioned feeling, but, regaining his lofty spirit, he dashed the blanket from his body, and exposed his form naked, except the breech-cloth and a huge turtle which hung by a cord round his neck and completely covered his back. “ Look here,” he cried, pointing to the cicatrices on his limbs ; “ these are the marks of wounds gained in defending these lands, and I would rather that each should open again and bleed afresh, than that we should lose the soil in whose defence they were received. I was shot down and stabbed — but I was happy; the land for which I fought was still our own; and when borne from my wigwam to view the dance around the scalps of our enemies, the Great Spirit gave me strength, and I, who a moment before could not stir a limb, leaped from the ground, and, whilst my wounds shed tears of blood, I danced and spit upon the trophies from our foes. Yield that land, the thoughts of which made my very wounds a pleasure! You would not ask me, if you knew how often in very delight I have thrust my fingers into these sores, and, tearing them open, exulted, thinking myself, in my bodily pain, once more facing those who would dispossess us of our fathers' tombs. Say no more — you have enough ; we beg a little now of you. If you were not so much stronger than we, we would be willing to meet you to fight for them; but we are weak, and would be at peace ; leave us what we have, and we will forget that all was once ours.” He seated himself on the ground, and drawing his blanket over his head, smoked his pipe in silence.

One of the Foxes then rose, and in a flood of eloquence poured forth, in his liquid language, sentiments of the same cast, and ended by a flourish of high, haughty independence, that, say what they will, only the unrestricted rover of the forest can boast. “We are weak, to be sure,” said he, “but the dying wolf can snarl if he cannot bite; come then and take our lands — we've got but one life, and when that has gone, there will be no one to prevent you from going where you like.

though

round us. 1. kather to be

I am only one of my people. I speak only for myself, and though your soldiers, who hire themselves to our Great Father to be shot, and shoot whoever he tells them to, surround us, let me tell—I hate the white man, and hope to see the day when we will once more smoke our pipes where now stand their big villages, whilst their wigwams are burning around us;" he showed his snow-white teeth whilst he laughed, and bending his body, struck his brawny hand thrice on the ground and cried, “once more will all this be ours. Then if the Great Spirit lets any more white men come in their big canoes to ask us for our land, the scalping knife shall be the answer. We'll fill the cracks of our wigwams with their hair, and the wind shall not make us cold ! You talk of people over the water! Go, tell such stories to our chil. dren who can't understand, or to our old women who can't hear. This hand has taken many a life, and is strong enough to take many more. The Great Spirit in a dream has told me I should be buried under a mound of scalps !” As these words were repeated to the different tribes, he seated himself, and regarded with stern silence the Commission, who were somewhat confused by this powerful outbreaking of the warrior chief.

Seeing that little was to be effected in this excited state of mind, the council adjourned till next day, and in the interim, by the distribution of presents, such as blankets, calico, guns, powder, beads, pork, &c., prepared those, whose minds were not made of the “ sterner stuff,” to listen with patience, if not yield to a solicitation to barter away their lands. The effect was apparent at the next meeting. One by one the chiefs consented, but those who had spoken the day before maintained a gloomy silence; and as they sat on the earth, listlessly making marks in the sand or plucking the blades of grass from their roots, they seemed not to be aware of what was going on. A stranger would have thought they took no concern in the transaction, but under this unruffled surface boiled the molten rage of mortified but not crushed spirits.

The treaty was settled on that and the two following days, and a day or two after was assigned for the signing of it. The chiefs and principal men made their marks by just touching the pen, and did it with a thoughtless lightness. Carree-maun-nee was now called. His people had decided against him, and his duty required him to abide by the decision of their council. He rose, but how different was his bearing from that when, a day or two before, he stood there giving vent to his soul, and falsely believed his tribe would unflinchingly support him. The dream was over! the delusion past! As he stole, like a bashful girl, to the table, his form and face enveloped closely by his blanket, with maiden timidity he stretched forth his hand and tremblingly touched the pen. The touch was like an electric shock;

VOL. VIL

60

he started the blanket fell from his head — a choking voice came from his throat — 'twas over ; he gathered his mantle once more about him, and shrunk back to his place as if it was the first time he had known dishonor. As he seated himself, he drew forth his knife, and cut a rude gash in the finger that had dared so to disgrace him as by its touch to yield the burial ground of his ancestors. A flash came over him — he sprang to the ground, dashed aside the blanket and made one stride to the table. “I take back that mark,” he yelled in a tone that blanched the cheeks of those who heard it — he paused “ But no! it is done — my people have said it !” With meekness he recovered himself and stole back to his seat. Every eye was suddenly turned to the next person called, and as they sought again for the last signer they found his place vacant. He had left a scene so fraught with agony to his soul.

The Fox chief, whose bold and warlike speech has been recorded, was now called. His name was the cloud that leaves a mark on the heavens wherever it has been.” As he heard his name called, he was on his feet. No depression gained the mastery of his proud unbending spirit. The fire that shot from his eye on a previous day was there still; the sarcastic curve of his lips still smiled upon them; the heavy tread of his foot was unaltered ; indeed, he looked brighter and more cheerful, if any thing, than before. His disappointment, instead of quenching, had added fresh fuel to the flame; and, as he tripped, self-possessed, to the table, with his blanket trailing behind him, he looked more like a God than a mortal. The tip of the forefinger of his right hand was blackened; he had put it in mourning for the office it was to perform. He turned his back to the pen, and thrusting his band behind him, touched it, whilst he cried : “My hand, not my heart, signs it. Our chiefs have got milk, instead of blood, in their veins — by and by, perhaps, they will get well; much they'll mind the White Man's goose quill and his black paint there. They'll scratch out those marks with the knife, blot out the figures on it with blood, and,” gritting his teeth as if he already saw his forebodings fulfilled, " tear the paper in pieces with their tomahawks.” As he took his seat, he whispered to a cunning chief who sat beside him, whose name denoted his character, The Snake that bites in the Grass : — “ The day will come, the Great Spirit visited me last night, when our people, the Sacs and Foxes at least, will make their marks on the skins of the white men.” “ Be quiet now," said the Snake, “ one of these days we'll present the Great Spirit with a pack made of the skins of the pale faces.” The Snake who bites in the Grass was then called. He was dressed in only the customary costume of breechcloth and blanket. Around his neck was the skin of a rattle-snake, half swallowed up by the full length skin of a moccasin snake. The rattle-snake warns those who approach it of its being there, the moccasin bites without such friendly caution. This arrangement of skins showed the reptile stealthily conquering its more generous enemy. He was a spare man, with a wrinkled face, decayed teeth, and insignificant appearance. He might have weathered some forty years. There was nothing peculiar in his appearance, not even his eye, except you caught it fixed on you. When this was the case, however, how different your opinion of his whole exterior. You thought him remarkable in figure and face, and wondered at the entire alteration. It was the indescribable something in the gaze that met yours which produced this effect. He seemed to search into your soul, and you imagined you felt the fangs of a reptile fastening on your vitals. But he seldom fixed his gaze long; his eyes danced about in his head with a restlessness that showed, though he could study others he did not wish them to study him. As he reached the board, he addressed the assemblage in a few words, speaking first to the Commissioners :“Fathers,” said he, “ my heart has been sick a long time — a good many moons have died since I have had a heart that was not too heavy to carry. But since I now see that our Great Father (meaning the President) has sent three of his wisest chiefs to give us good talks, clothing for our people, food for our children, powder and lead to hunt game and bring in heaps of furs — I begin to feel as a new man. I see the dark clouds that made us keep in our wigwams blowing away and the sun shining again. Our Great Father is too good -- he wants to make us happy, to teach us to be like his white children and have plenty to eat and drink; and all he asks is, a little land. What is the land to us? Our fathers sleep in it, but our white brethren wont dig them up, they are too good; and if they wanted too, our Great Father would not allow it. We have plenty of land left, and I, who am a great warrior, willingly sign this paper.”

He was, indeed, a warrior of note. No medicine bag in his nation held as many scalps as his. He did not go forth with war-parties, but alone ; and the scalps of many a man, woman, or child of some other tribe, whom their people thought had perished by cold, water, or beasts of prey, hung in his wigwam. Without noise, without the warning yell, he had taken more than a hundred lives, and so stealthily that the bereaved relatives never could trace their loss to any particular tribe, let alone the individual.

As he signed the paper and took his seat, he muttered in the ear of “the cloud that leaves its mark in the heavens wherever it has been," “I gave them lie for lie, did I not ?" and as he carefully exposed to his companion's sight the handle of his knife, he made a chuckling laugh as he added, “ May we moisten some day every spot of the soil

we have sold them with their milky blood.” The other responded whilst he exhibited the small war-club concealed beneath his blanket, “ May the day come when this will be cut up with notches."*

THE DEPARTURE OF AN EARLY FRIEND.

“He shall receive a glorious kingdom, and a beautiful crown from the Lord's hand.” Wisdom of Solomon.

Thou hast gone to thy final rest,

Thy goal is early won,
The church-yard sod is o'er thee prest,

Thy journeying is done.
Why shed I tears of bitterness?

Thou hast left an earthly strife,
In thy unblemished perfectness,

To gain a crown of life.

But yesterday, - I pressed thy hand,

And communed with thee here;
Now,-- with a mournful heart I stand,

And weep beside thy bier ;
For God in youth's unblighted bloom

Hath called thee to depart; -
Thy form is resting in the tomb,

Thy memory in my heart.

The vine flower and the brier rose

Will o'er thy grave-sod bloom,
And in the undisturbed repose

Breathe out their sweet perfume;
While flitting birds will fold their wings,

And warble to the air,
As if to calm the sorrowings

Of those who linger there.

I weep: - but not for thee:-press on!

Thy griefs have found an end;
Virtue has lost a champion,

My heart an early friend.
Thy soul its recompense hath found;

Its pilgrimage is o'er;
The church-yard bath an added mound,
And heaven one spirit more.

'R.C. W.

* Some Indians are in the habit of keeping a memorandum of the lives they have taken, by cutting a notch for each on some weapon.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »