« FöregåendeFortsätt »
feet long, though in breadth and height they did not much exceed the others.1 In shape they were much like an arbor overarching a garden-walk. Their frame was of tall and strong saplings, planted in a double row to form the two sides of the house, bent till they met, and lashed together at the top. To these other poles were bound transversely, and the whole was covered with large sheets of the bark of the oak, elm, spruce, or white cedar, overlapping like the shingles of a roof, upon which, for their better security, split poles were made fast with cords of linden bark. At the crown of the arch, along the entire length of the house, an opening a foot wide was left for the admission of light and the escape of smoke. At each end was a close porch of similar construction; and here were stowed casks of bark, filled with smoked fish, Indian corn, and other stores not liable to injury from frost. Within, on both sides, were wide scaffolds, four feet from the floor, and extending the entire length of the house, like the seats of a colossal omnibus.2 These were formed 1 BnSbeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1635, 81. Champlain says that he saw them, in 1615, more than thirty fathoms long; while Vanderdonck reports the length, from actual measurement, of an Iroquois house, at a hundred and eighty yards, or five hundred and forty feetl
a Often, especially among the Iroquois, the internal arrangement was different. The scaffolds or platforms were raised only a foot from the earthen floor, and were only twelve or thirteen feet long, with intervening spaces, where the occupants stored their family provisions and other articles. Five or six feet above was another platform, often occupied by children. One pair of platforms sufficed for a family, and here during summer they slept pellmell, in the clothes they wore by day, and without pillows. HURON DWELLINGS.
of thick sheets of bark, supported by posts and transverse poles, and covered with mats and skins. Here, in summer, was the sleeping-place of the inmates, and the space beneath served for storage of their firewood. The fires were on the ground, in a line down the middle of the house. Each sufficed for two families, who, in winter, slept closely packed around them. Above, just under the vaulted roof, were a great number of poles, like the perches of a henroost; and here were suspended weapons, clothing, skins, and ornaments. Here, too, in harvest time, the squaws hung the ears of unshelled corn, till the rude abode, through all its length, seemed decked with a golden tapestry. In general, however, its only lining was a thick coating of soot from the smoke of fires with neither draught, chimney, nor window. So pungent was the smoke that it produced inflammation of the eyes, attended in old age with frequent blindness. Another annoyance was the fleas; and a third, the unbridled and unruly children. Privacy there was none. The house was one chamber, sometimes lodging more than twenty families.1 1 One of the best descriptions of the Huron and Iroquois houses is that of Sagard, Voyage des Hurons, 118. See also Champlain (1027), 78; Brébeuf, Relation des Hurons, 1035, 31; Vanderdonck, New Netherlands, in N. Y. Hist. Coll., Second Ser., i. 19G; Lafitau, Miturs des Sauvages, ii. 10. The account given by Cartier of the houses he saw at Montreal corresponds with the above. He describes them as about fifty yards long. In this case, there were partial partitions for the several families, and a sort of loft above. Many of the Iroquois and Huron houses were of similar construction,
He who entered on a winter night beheld a strange spectacle: the vista of fires lighting the smoky concave; the bronzed groups encircling each, — cooking, eating, gambling, or amusing themselves with idle badinage; shrivelled squaws, hideous with threescore years of hardship; grisly old warriors, scarred with Iroquois war-clubs; young aspirants, whose honors were yet to be won; damsels gay with ochre and wampum; restless children pellmell with restless dogs. Now a tongue of resinous flame painted each wild feature in vivid light; now the fitful gleam expired, and the group vanished from sight, as their nation has vanished from history. the partitions being at the sides only, leaving a wide passage down the middle of the house. Bartram, Observations on a Journey from Pennsylvania to Canada, gives a description and plan of the Iroquois Council-House in 1751, which was of this construction. Indeed, the Iroquois preserved this mode of building, in all essential points, down to a recent period. They usually framed the sides of their houses on rows of upright posts, arched with separate poles for the roof. The Hurons, no doubt, did the same in their larger structures. For a door, there was a sheet of bark hung on wooden hinges, or suspended by cords from above. On the site of Huron towns which were destroyed by fire, the size, shape, and arrangement of the houses can still, in some instances, be traced by remains in the form of charcoal, as well as by the charred bones and fragments of pottery found among the ashes. Dr. Tache, after a zealous and minute examination of the Huron country, extended through five years, writes to me as follows: "From the remains I have found, I can vouch for the scrupulous correctness of our ancient writers. With the aid of their indications and descriptions, I have been able to detect the sites of villages in the midst of the forest, and by the study, in situ, of archaeological monuments, small as they are, to understand and confirm their many interesting details of the habits, and especially the funeral rites, of these extraordinary tribes."
HURON FORTIFICATIONS. 15
The fortified towns of the Hurons were all on the side exposed to Iroquois incursions. The fortifications of all this family of tribes were, like their dwellings, in essential points alike. A situation was chosen favorable to defence, —the bank of a lake, the crown of a difficult hill, or a high point of land in the fork of confluent rivers. A ditch, several feet deep, was dug around the village, and the earth thrown up on the inside. Trees were then felled by an alternate process of burning and hacking the burnt part with stone hatchets, and by similar means were cut into lengths to form palisades. These were planted on the embankment, in one, two, three, or four concentric rows, — those of each row inclining towards those of the other rows until they intersected. The whole was lined within, to the height of a man, with heavy sheets of bark; and at the top, where the palisades crossed, was a gallery of timber for the defenders, together with wooden gutters, by which streams of water could be poured down on fires kindled by the enemy. Magazines of stones, and rude ladders for mounting the rampart, completed the provision for defence. The forts of the Iroquois were stronger and more elaborate than those of the Hurons; and to this day large districts in New York are marked with frequent remains of their ditches and embankments.1 1 There is no mathematical regularity in these works. In their form, the builders were guided merely by the nature of the ground. Frequently a precipice or river sufficed for partial defence, and the line of embankment occurs only on one or two sides. In one Among these tribes there was no individual ownership of land, but each family had for the time exclusive right to as much as it saw fit to cultivate. The clearing process — a most toilsome one — consisted in hacking off branches, piling them together with brushwood around the foot of the standing trunks, and setting fire to the whole. The squaws, working with their hoes of wood and bone among the charred stumps, sowed their corn, beans, pumpkins, tobacco, sunflowers, and Huron hemp. No manure was used; but at intervals of from ten to thirty years, when the soil was exhausted and firewood distant, the village was abandoned and a new one built. There was little game in the Huron country; and here, as among the Iroquois, the staple of food was Indian corn, cooked without salt in a variety of forms, each more odious than the last. Venison was instance, distinct traces of a double line of palisades are visible along the embankment. (See Squier, Aboriginal Monuments of New York, 38.) It is probable that the palisade was planted first, and the earth heaped around it. Indeed, this is stated by the Tuscarora Indian, Cusick, in his curious History of the Six Nations (Iroquois). Brébeuf says, that as early as 1636 the Jesuits taught the Hurons to build rectangular palisaded works, with bastions. The Iroquois adopted the same practice at an early period, omitting the ditch and embankment; and it is probable that even in their primitive defences the palisades, where the ground was of a nature to yield easily to their rude implements, were planted simply in holes dug for the purpose. Such seems to have been the Iroquois fortress attacked by Champlain in 1615. The Muscogees, with other Southern tribes, and occasionally the Algonquins, had palisaded towns; but the palisades were usually but a single row, planted upright. The tribes of Virginia occasionally surrounded their dwellings with a triple palisade. —Beverly, Histori / of Virginia, 149.