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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
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Chapter I. — Aboriginal Population on the Shores of the Chesapeake.


DURING the year immediately following the establishment of the settlements in the Connecticut valley, the tribes of Maryland, proper, as distinguished from those of Virginia, were particularly introduced to historical notice. On the 27th of March, 1634, Leonard Calvert landed on the banks of a river, to which he gave the name of St. Mary, situated on the western shores of the Chesapeake Bay. Captain John Smith, who visited, and circumnavigated the bay, in 1608, furnishes the first account of the Susquehannocks — a bold, stalwart, and athletic tribe, who spoke in a hollow tone, with a full enunciation, and acquired his respect. The Indians located on the St. Mary's river, within whose precincts Calvert landed, were called Yaocomicos. Friendly relations were cultivated with the natives, who sold him a tract of land thirty miles in extent, for which they received axes, and other necessary articles.

In their manners, customs, and general character, these Indians closely resembled the Virginia tribes. They built their lodges in the same manner, as well as of the same materials, and in all respects practised the same arts, general rites and religious ceremonies. Like them, they acknowledged a great God, but also offered sacrifices to local Okees. They smoked tobacco, holding it in the highest estimation, cultivated the zea maize, hunted the deer, and snared water-fowl. Ethnologically they were descendants of the same race with the Powhatanic tribes, and spoke dialects of the great Algonquin language. Indeed, Powhatan claimed jurisdiction over the Patuxent, but it is doubtful whether his claims were much respected, or very efficiently enforced.

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This colony was founded under a charter granted by Charles I., through the influence of his consort, Mary, and appears to have been intended as a refuge for persons professing the same religion with the queen. Without entering into a dissertation on the subject, we need only say that, under the protectorate of Cromwell, who soon after gained the ascendency in England, Maryland became the resort of men holding various creeds, and the country obtained a wide-spread notoriety, as the land of tolerance. However men differed in their religious faith, they agreed, generally, in their mode of treatment of the Indians. Barbarism and Christianity could not exist in close proximity. Catholic and Protestant, alike, had united labor, virtue, temperance, arts, and letters together, as the corner-stone upon which they erected the superstructure of their colonies; and all the different sects taught their own doctrines with various degrees of success. It was impossible for people who worshipped God, and had been educated to revere his revealed word, to witness unmoved, the idolatry of savages, who made offerings to demons, regarded heaven as a place of sensual enjoyments, and deemed Christianity a myth, of equal credibility with that of Micabou, or of Hiawatha.

A good understanding, however, was maintained with this people, who, apparently, possessed mild and gentle manners, in the hope that their eyes might be so far morally and intellectually opened, that they might be brought under the influence of the gospel. The accounts of the Maryland Indians, generally, state that "they were a simple race; open, affectionate, and confiding; filled with wonder and admiration of their new visitants, and disposed to live with them as neighbors and friends, on terms of intimacy and cordiality. To the Europeans they seem to have been quite as much objects of curiosity, as the Europeans were to them. To Englishmen coming from the midst of a civilization, which had been steadily progressive for a thousand years, the persons, manners, habits and sentiments of the savages of North America must have been objects of lasting astonishment." 111

The following testimony respecting the Chesapeake Bay Indians is from the pen of Father White, who accompanied Calvert. "This race is endowed with an ingenious and liberal disposition, and what may surprise you when stated — an acuteness of taste, smell and sight, that even surpasses Europeans. They live mostly on a pap, which they call Pone, or Omini (hominy). They add, sometimes, a fish, or what they have taken, either beast or bird, in hunting. They keep themselves, as much as possible, from wine and warm drinks, nor are they easily induced to taste them, except in cases where the English have infected them.

"Ignorance of their language makes it, as yet, impossible for me to assert what are their religious opinions, for we have not full confidence in Protestant interpreters. These few things we have learned at different times. They recognise one God of heaven, whom they call our God; they pay to him no external worship, but endeavor

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to propitiate by every means in their power, a certain evil spirit, which they call Okee. They worship corn and fire, as I am informed, as gods wonderfully beneficent to the human race.

"Some of our people relate that they have seen the ceremony at Barcluxor. On an appointed day, all the men and women, from many villages, assembled around a great fire. Next to the fire stood the younger people; behind them the men advanced in life. A piece of deer's fat being then thrown into the fire, the hands and voices being lifted towards heaven, they cried out, Taho! Taho ! They then cleared a small space, and some one produced a large bag; in the bag was a pipe and a kind of powder, which they called Potu. The pipe was such as our countrymen use, but larger. Then the bag was carried around the fire, the boys and girls singing with an agreeable voice, Taho! Taho! The circle being ended, the pipe and powder were taken from the pouch. The potu was distributed to each of those standing round, which he put into the pipe and smoked, breathing the smoke over his limbs, and sanctifying them, as the smoker supposes. I have not been able to learn more than that they appear to have some knowledge of the flood, by which the world perished, because of the sins of men." 112

There is nothing, either in these ceremonial rites of Taho, and offerings of the fumes of the fat of animals, and of the nicotiana from consecrated pouches, to the god of fire, or in the traditions of a flood, or in the very language employed, to denote that the Maryland tribes differ essentially from others of the great Algonquin stock.

When Calvert landed, he was imbued with the most friendly feelings towards the Indians, for they were regarded with much interest in Europe, as a wild, but unknown race of men. As with the rulers of all the new colonies, a knowledge of the policy which controlled the Indian tribes was, with him, a subject of primary importance. It soon became evident that a great aboriginal nation, in the interior, was alike the terror and the aversion of all the midland and coast tribes. This governing power was the Iroquois, the dreaded Massawonacks of the native Virginia tribes, before the crushing force of whose prowess, the noble Susquehannocks, and their feeble allies, were, eventually, compelled to succumb.

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Schoolcraft, Henry Rowe.. History of the Indian Tribes of the United States: Their Present Condition and Prospects, and a Sketch of Their Ancient Status. Volume 6. . Philadelphia: Lippincott, Grambo and Co, 1857. [format: book; image], [genre: government document; report]. Permission: Northern Illinois University
Persistent link to this document:
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