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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
England attained at once the acme of both her political and literary fame, during the reign of Queen Anne; while her American colonies, within the gloomy shadows of a distant and savage wilderness, were defending themselves from the horrors of impending starvation on the one hand, and aboriginal treachery on the other.
European intercourse with the Indians 223 had, during a period of one hundred years, produced no appreciable good effects on their general manners, opinions, and modes of life. The tribes located nearest the settlements dressed in blankets and strouds, instead of skins; used metallic cooking-vessels, instead of the clumsy clay akeek, 224 implements of iron and steel, instead of stone and bone; and the European fire-lock, instead of the flint arrow. The fur trade was, in their imagination, the great benefit which had resulted from the influx of civilized races. They hunted deer and beaver with increased vigor, indulging in luxuries of which their fathers had never even thought, and more particularly in the use of intoxicating liquors. They did not, however, in reality appreciate anything else which came from Europe. They still detested and discouraged the introduction of schools, letters, labor and the gospel, preferring to live, as their forefathers had previously done, by the chase, and not by
agriculture. Game was still plenty; their hunting-grounds being so vast, that they appeared as if of almost illimitable extent; and the tribes from Maine to Georgia, and from the Gulf of Mexico to the borders of the great lakes, feasted, danced and sung, rioted and warred with each other, precisely as their ancestors had done a century previous. When more sombre views of their existing condition were forced upon them, when the plow of the white man encroached so rapidly on their wigwams and hunting-grounds that difficulties resulted, they plotted against the settlers, making sudden attacks upon them, or enticing them into ambuscades. These fitful efforts were succeeded by a relapse into their primitive state of idleness and inaction, without having derived, from their spasmodic effort, any permanent advantage to themselves, or having inflicted any permanent injury upon the settlements.
During the establishment of the colonies, the impressions created by this feverish and changeful policy of the natives, were unfavorable to their sincerity of character. Wherever attempts had been made to introduce education and the gospel, and to graft it, as it were, on the original stock, they had submitted to it, as if in expectation of deriving therefrom ulterior advantages, with such mildness of manner, accompanied by such deep duplicity, as to deceive the guileless settlers; but, in the end, their real nature developed itself in the commission of cruel and treacherous acts. Such were the results of colonial experience in Virginia, between the period of the earliest successful establishment of the settlement at Jamestown, and the perpetration, in 1622, of that terrible massacre, under Opechan, or Opechanganough, when over 400 persons were killed in one day; among whom, the first victims were those who, with the aid afforded them by the benevolent in England, had labored most zealously and efficiently to teach the Indians, and to found a seminary of education for the tuition of the youth. Almost equally horrific was the plot concocted and successfully executed, in Massachusetts, in 1675, by Pometacom, after more than thirty years had been spent by Eliot, and his missionary compeers, in zealous and effective teaching of the tribes. These repulsive traits in the Indian character, did much towards repelling, and, for a time, may be said to have extinguished that benevolent and humane spirit with which they had been previously regarded. In Virginia, as in the entire South, these acts may be said to have originated a thorough detestation of the whole Indian race. Indeed, the details of these early deeds of sanguinary treachery, having been widely spread, throughout America and Europe, by means of newspapers and magazines, exercised an adverse influence, which is felt, even at the present day. It has been frequently asked, Who shall benefit such a people, and what good can arise therefrom? Unaided human reason tacitly acknowledges its inability to solve the problem; the gospel alone furnishes a motive for the efforts of the philanthropist.
Thus far, twelve of the original thirteen colonies had been established; Georgia, the thirteenth, being delayed for some time longer. Events, which followed each other in rapid succession, furnished us with a knowledge of Indian character, besides becoming
the main inducement for the establishment of our intercourse with, and the development of our policy towards, the entire group of tribes, located in the east, west, north, and south. The beginning of the eighteenth century was marked by three events in the history of the colonies, which exercised an important influence on the Indian policy. 1. Penn, who had entered the Delaware in 1682, selected a site for the capital of his colony, in the heart of the Lenno Lenapi territories, and, in 1701, laid out the city of Philadelphia. 2. Frontenac, the Governor-General of New France, to the chagrin of the Iroquois, 225 directed a post to be established in the country of the Wyandots and their allies, in the vicinity of the lakes. M. de la Motte Cadillac, who was entrusted with this duty, arrived, with a military force, at the straits between lakes Erie and Huron, in July of the same year, and founded Detroit, that central point of Indian influence, whose baleful effects were felt upon the western frontiers, during that long and bloody period of sixty years, marked by captivities and murders, previous to the fall of Quebec. 3. The founding of Louisiana. The first settlement was made, in 1699, at Bolixi, in the country of the Choctaws; but the province was not ceded to Crozat until 1712; nor was New Orleans founded until 1719. It was the policy of the French to establish trading and missionary posts first, and, subsequently, cities.
Meantime, the Indians, true to their instincts, did not abandon their system of massacre. The opening of the century was characterized by the South Carolina war with the Creeks or Appalachians; the daring and successful expedition of Colonel Moore against them, within the Spanish territories, in 1704; the wide-spread and startling massacre of the Tuscaroras, in North Carolina, in 1712; and the Yamasee massacre, in 1715.
The Tamasees were a portion of some twenty-eight small tribes, of the group of Chicoras, who occupied the coasts and islands, as well as the banks of the rivers, of South Carolina, and of whom the Catawbas appear to be the only remaining, but rapidly diminishing tribe. It was the Yamasees, reputed for their gentle manners, but bitterly revengeful disposition, who had encountered the early Spanish visitors to this coast with such intrepidity, retorting treachery by treachery. The Tuscaroras belonged to the Iroquois group; a fact that would clearly appear from philology, were it not also affirmed by their traditions, 227 and by the fact that, after their final defeat at Kienuka,
they fled to their kindred, the Five Nations, of western New York, and were admitted as the sixth canton. 228
Up to this period, there had been no attempt made at colonization in the country occupied by the confederacy of the Creeks, or Muscogulges. 229 This people, agreeably to their traditions, having immigrated from the west, crossed the Mississippi, the Alabama, the Chattahootche, and the Appalachicola, extending themselves towards the east, north, west, and south. At the earliest period of their settlement, and kindling of a council fire, or establishment of a government, they were located on the river Altamaha. There is no doubt that they conquered, and either killed, incorporated with themselves, or ejected, the prior aboriginal inhabitants. Hawkins informs us, that they conquered and carried the Uchees, as prisoners, from the southern part of South Carolina. Ogelthorpe, who originated the plan of the Georgia colony, about the year 1730, established it in the Creek territory, lying between the Savannah and Altamaha. Like those of the Puritans, the Marylanders, and the followers of Penn, the Georgia colony was designed for, and became, a refuge for oppressed or needy Europeans. The plan followed was, as had been the case in all previous instances of colonization, to bestow lands upon, and afford employment to, the colonists, to enable them to improve their condition, and, also, to sustain their high anticipations; always, however, paying a due regard to the rights and condition of the aborigines. The sovereignty and the fee simple of the territory was held to be vested in the crown; but the right to their usufruct, until settled by presents, or by actual purchase, was absolutely held by the Indians. The question was reserved as one for settlement by the administration, through the usual medium of treaty, as all the colonies had previously done. All had promised them justice, kindness, fair dealing; and all had urged upon them the benefits to be derived from the promotion of agriculture, arts, letters, temperance, and every other adjunct of civilization. Ogelthorpe offered the Indians similar terms to those tendered them by the Pilgrims of New England; by the Duke of York in New York and New Jersey; by Lord Baltimore in Maryland; and by Penn in Pennsylvania. The rewards arising from a life of labor and virtue, and the evils attendant upon error, were, in their estimation, in the hands of the Indians themselves. If the natives preferred idleness, inebriation, and vice; if, through neglect, they became the victims of disease, death, and depopulation, it must be considered part of that great physical and moral law, which entails the punishment as a sequel to the offence. Good men could but regret it. If an Indian would hunt deer, instead of guiding the plow; if he preferred alcohol to water as a beverage; and to idle away his time, instead of improving it, the political economist regretted, without having the power to deter him from pursuing his erroneous course. The moral and industrial law proclaimed to the Indians their mistaken policy, announcing to them, in accents of momentous potency,
the ordinary maxims which govern society, "Labor and thrive; be idle and dissolute, and die." "In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread." 230 The frequent errors and delinquencies of the Indians did not, however, dry up the springs of human charity and benevolence. Every decade had its philanthropists; and their beneficent deeds shine brightly, even at the present day.
Each new colony established in America gave to the Indian the same lesson which had been taught him by its predecessors. At the outset, civilization had apprized him of its requirements, and, though the Indian learned its lessons slowly, yet it was hoped that he did learn, and that he made some progress in the right direction. Hope induced perseverance, furnished an apology for ignorance, and forgave repeated injury. The baptism of Manteo, which was performed in Virginia, in 1586, may be regarded as indicating the outpouring of light at Cresswicks, in 1744. Such was the state of the Indians when the Anglo-Saxons first found them, and located on their borders.
Chapter II. The Aquinoshioni, or Iroquois.
The close of the seventeenth century appears to be a suitable opportunity for taking some notice of a people, whose power had then culminated. There were but two tribes of those which ranged the land east of the Mississippi, north of the Cherokees, and east of the Chippewas of Lake Superior, over whom they did not, at this early day, exercise a primary or a secondary influence; and, even of these excepted tribes, one was seated 1000 miles to the north-west, and the other 1000 miles to the south-west of their council-fire at Onondaga. The name of Aquinoshioni, under the figure of a long house, or council lodge, is indicative of their confederate character. Tradition refers the origin of their nationality and advancement to Tarenyawagon, a divinity, who, in his social state, while on earth, assumed the name of Hiawatha, and taught them the knowledge of all things essential to their prosperity. 231 By a hyperbole, they are also called Ongwi Honwi, or a people surpassing others. 232 The French, agreeably to their system, gave them the name of Iroquois, a term founded on two Indian radicals, with the Gallic terminal, ois, suffixed. 233
We are informed by Golden, who wrote their history to the period of the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick (1697), that the tribes composing this confederacy were not originally deemed superior to their neighbors. He commences their history at the epoch of the settlement of Canada (1608); at which time, he depicts them as being inferior to the Adirondacks, or Algonquins. They did not equal the northern group of tribes, either in hunting, war, or forest arts, though they possessed an element of subsistence in the cultivation of the zea maize. By ceasing to war against each other, and confederating for their common defence, they laid the corner-stone of their national establishment. They first successfully tried their united strength against the Satanas, 234 a cruel people, located on their borders, which so raised their spirits, that they, at length, went to war against the Adirondacks, who had been, primarily, their tutors in forest arts. After some reverses, they proved themselves an overmatch for the latter in stratagem, and, finally, obtained decisive victories over them in the St. Lawrence valley.
Mr. Colden furnishes us the history of the Iroquois during the period of about a century (1609 to 1697), in so clear and precise a manner, that our only regret is, that he carries it no farther. He perceives in this people a love of liberty, and a spirit of independence, which particularly mark them; but is at a loss which most to admire, their military ardor, their political policy, or their eloquence in council. The union of the cantons, each possessing equal powers, in one council, was the cause of their triumph among hunters in the east, west, and north, who acknowledged no government but that of opinion, and followed no policy but that actuated by revenge, or undefinable impulse. All the weighty concerns of the Iroquois were the subject of full deliberation, in open council; and their diplomatic negotiations were managed with consummate skill. When the question of peace or war was decided, the counsellors united in chanting hymns of praise, or warlike choruses, which, at the same time, gave expression to the public feeling, and imparted a kind of natural sanctity to the act. The majority of those who have given their attention to Iroquois history, have recognised, in their public acts, the germs of a national policy, which was suited to concentrate in their hands an imperial sway, which would have been characterized by greater subtlety and strength, than that of the Aztecs under Montezuma, or of the Peruvians under Atahualpa.
Their tribal relations being conducted according to fixed principles, so also were their commercial affairs, and under a system equally stable. A short time subsequently to the arrival of Hudson, and the building of Fort Orange, they formed a close alliance with the Dutch, who regarded the gains of commerce as the most decided advantage to be derived from their colony. They furnished the Indian warriors with guns, powder, flints, shrouds, blankets, hatchets, knives, pipes, and all other articles necessary for the successful prosecution of the fur trade, which was conducted on a basis so advantageous to both, that the mutual friendship then contracted was never broken. With the river Indians, of the Algonquin type, who lived in the same state of discord and anarchy as the other tribes, there occurred several, and some very serious, quarrels; but the union of the Iroquois and Dutch was intimate, and never more so than when the province was surrendered to the Duke of York, in 1664. By the terms of this surrender, the good will of the Iroquois was secured to the English. The trade with the Indians was wholly in the hands of Dutch merchants and traders, and their interpreters, who continued to conduct it. They had extended this traffic through western New York to the so-called "Far Indians," at Detroit, Saganaw and Michilimackinac, where there are still some of their descendants. 235 As the Iroquois had, for a long period, held the balance of power in America, this influence became very important to the English, and was analogous to the Algonquin alliance with the French, which, after the fall of Quebec, was also transferred to the English.
The attachment of the Iroquois to the English, alone saved western New York from becoming a French colony. From the time of the action with Champlain, that commander having supplied his Indian allies with guns, the Iroquois had been prejudiced against the French nation. At sundry periods they repelled the invasions of La Barre, Denonville, and Frontenac, and, also, resisted the establishment of missions at Oneida, Onondaga, and Ontario. Their delegates frequently stood in the presence of the Governor-General at Quebec, with wily dexterity counteracting plot by counter-plot. In truth, they defended the territory till the English colonies became strong enough to protect it themselves.
The French had found themselves so severely taxed to resist the Iroquois, that the conclusion of the peace of Ryswick was most welcome news at the castle of St. Louis. Colden observes, that the French commissioners who conveyed the intelligence of this peace to the Onondaga county, and, by negotiation, secured their assent to it, likewise esteemed it a blessing. To the French, heaven could not have sent a greater. "For nothing," it is remarked, "could be more terrible to Canada than the last war with the Five Nations. While this war lasted, the inhabitants ate their bread with fear and trembling. No man was sure, when out of his house, of ever returning to it again. While they labored in the fields, they were under perpetual apprehensions of being seized, or killed, or carried to the Indian country, there to end their days in cruel torments. They, many times, were forced to neglect both seed-time and harvest. The landlord often saw all his land plundered, his houses burned, and the whole country ruined, while they thought their persons not safe in their fortifications. In short, all trade and business was often at an entire stand, while fear, despair, and misery appeared on the face of the poor inhabitants." 236
Governor Clinton calls the Iroquois the Romans of the West. 237 Charlevoix, who visited the shores of Lake Ontario, in 1721, says, that he perceived a Greek element in their language. 238 While forming some Iroquois vocabularies, in western New York, in 1845, I found it to possess a dual.
Chapter III. The Indian Tribes, North and South, Slowly Arrive at an Apparently General Conclusion, that they Possess the Power to Crush the Colonies.
AT the time of the settlement of Georgia, not only had all the colonies of the crown of Great Britain been established, but every element, both foreign and domestic, necessary to their future expansion, had been introduced. Thus, the power and energies developed subsequently in the States of Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky, Ohio, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Wisconsin, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Oregon, as, also, in New England, of Vermont and Maine, were then all shadowed forth in the future. These States did not spring into existence until decades of years subsequently; but when they did culminate and put forth strength, they eliminated no new principles for adoption by the Indian tribes within their respective boundaries. As colony after colony was incorporated, the Indians were unceasingly urged to imitate the usages and manners, of European society, to practise the duties of men, to abandon the uncertain pursuit of the chase, to renounce the seductions of indulgence, and to turn a deaf ear to the doleful rites and enchantments of the soothsayers, jossakeeds, and jugglers. There was one exception on their part, to their lack of vigor in that typical appreciation, required by no small part of the early teachings of the ecclesiastics in the colonies; and that was the symbolical religion introduced by the Catholic communities, founded by Spain and France. The use of signs and symbols was quite in accordance with the ideas of the natives, who regarded the sun and moon as the symbols of the Deity, and represented person and passions by types of birds and animals, which included the entire range of species in the great classes of animated nature. But subsequent observers have been unable to discover that any very permanent moral impressions, as to personal accountability, were made on the Indian minds.
The French peasantry, who were in constant intercourse with the Indians, did not, themselves, profess or practice a very high standard of morality, and were, therefore,
the more acceptable to the natives, whose customs, manners, and opinions, they at once adopted. They never ridiculed their religious rites, and freely selected their wives from the tribes among whom they pursued their vocation, as boatmen, "merchant voyageurs," and runners to collect credits in the fur trade.
The courier du bois and the Indians resembled each other in a thousand little notions, regarding tastes, food, and dress. The Frenchman did not think the wigwam a dirty or a disgusting place; he went to gaze with complacency at the Indians'
The social teachings and manners of the French, so opposite to those of the English, furnish a true means of estimating the relative positions held by the two leading races of Europe who were so long opposed to each other on this continent, and are in some measure an apology for the Indian. They are believed, also, to have exerted a strong influence on the course of the Indians, in the great contest against the Anglo-Saxon race. Another apology may be made for the part which the Indians took in the wars so long existing between the European races. It would have required strong presence of mind and great forecast, to have resisted the influences and seductions which, from time to time, induced them to enter the field as auxiliaries, first on this side, then on the opposite. Those who could exert the strongest powers of persuasion, and most deeply interest the savages, were most sure of their services. It was the dark age of Indian history. The Indian was not the only one who lacked moral powers; the uncouth frontiers-man, as well as the mere buyer and seller of beaver and musk-rat, were not overstocked with it. Had the aborigines always been taught that, between nation and nation, as between man and man, duplicity was wrong; finesse and trickery, contemptible; deception, dishonorable; and treachery, abominable; there might have been better results. With him, war was a passion; he loved to see blood flow. But when he warred for others, he did so for nothing: a dupe at the outset, he was doubly a dupe at the close.
He embarked in these foreign contests with an entire blindness to his true interests,
fighting not for himself, but for others. Whether Louis or George prevailed, was not the true question. Others could laugh, but he suffered, whichever party succeeded. Take up his melancholy history for the half century we have under review, nay, for a whole century, and there are too many evidences that he played the part of a tool, a drunkard, or a madman. There was no battle in which he was engaged as a flank auxiliary, in which he did not lose men; but, for every one killed in action, he lost ten by camp diseases, by hardships, and by the unskilful medical treatment of his muskikinines. 239 "Will these paltry presents pay," said the venerable Wabisha, "for the lives we have lost in battle, and for our warriors who died on the road?" 240
The Yamasees and the Tuscaroras in the South were not the only tribes which, about the beginning of the seventeenth century, evinced a spirit of hostility, and commenced a series of massacres, and a war of extermination against the whites. Partial as the Indians were to the French, there were two nations whom the latter could not control. These were the Iroquois, and the Outagamies, or Foxes.
Who the Outagamies were is not known, and their early history is a blank. It has been inferred, from their language, that they were Algonquins, who used the Lenno Lenapi pronunciation, in which an l is substituted for n, giving to their speech a more liquid flow. They appear, at an early day, to have been ejected from, or forsaken by, the Algonquin family and political organization. Their traditions refer to a primitive residence at the site of Cataraqui, where, it may be supposed, they formed an intimacy with the Iroquois; and, if so, that they were one of the vengeful instruments of those immense piles of bones, and gigantic ossuaries, spread over the interior of Upper Canada. 241
In 1712, this tribe, swayed probably by the Iroquois influence, attempted to destroy Detroit, and, as in all similar cases, their movements were secret, and the attack sudden. There were then but twenty soldiers in the fort. Under various pretences they gathered in that vicinity; but the plot was revealed in time to save the fort. The assault was made on the 13th of May, but, on the same day, the commandant was greeted by the voices of a numerous party of friendly Wyandots, Ottowas, and Pottawattamies, who routed the assailants. The Outagamies then retreated to an entrenched camp, near at hand, but, becoming finally straitened for food and water, they were forced to sally out and take possession of a house nearer the fort, whence they discharged a most destructive shower of lighted arrows, which set fire to the houses within the works. Eventually defeated, they retired to a peninsula jutting out into Lake St. Clair, where they repelled a furious assault of the French and their savage
allies. After several days' preparation, during which artillery was brought from the fort, their position was stormed, very many killed, and the rest forced to flee to the upper lakes, and locate themselves on Fox river, flowing into Green Bay. Here the sequel of their history fully accords with the account given by the French, of their cunning and perfidious character. They harassed traders at all the portages leading to the Mississippi river, and spread war and alarm in all directions, as far as Lake Superior; but, being at length besieged by the French commander, De Louvigney, with a competent force, at a selected position, since called, on account of this event, Butte des Morts, or Hill of the Dead, they were overcome, and suffered immense slaughter, after which, the survivors fled to the banks of the Wisconsin. They were nearly destroyed, and received no further notice in our Indian history, until within the nineteenth century.
In 1712, at the time of the Fox assault on the fort of Detroit, the Iroquois nation comprised five tribes, or cantons; namely, the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The same year they were joined by the Tuscaroras from North Carolina, making the sixth canton. The latter, once a powerful tribe, had been nearly annihilated by the North Carolina forces, assisted by a chivalrous body of men under Colonel Barnwell of South Carolina. The accession of the Tuscaroras, however it might have pleased the cantonal government, could have added but little to the efficiency of a people, who had, from the earliest times, been the terror of the Indian tribes. Colden informs us that the Iroquois cantons had first attained power by their confederation, 242 their wisdom in council, their policy in the adoption of conquered tribes, and their superior bravery in war. 243 Governor Clinton tells us that their acquisition of power was much facilitated by their advantageous location in western New York, in a region abounding in game, of unsurpassed fertility of soil, and situated at the head of many large and leading streams, down which they could suddenly make their forays, after the successful execution of which they might return by land. 244
All the tribes in an east and west line, between Lake Champlain, the Connecticut, and the Illinois, acknowledged the supremacy of the Iroquois. North and south their sway extended from the mouths of the Hudson, the Delaware, and the Susquehanna, to the great lakes; thence, northwardly to the Ontawis, or Grand river, of Canada, to Michilimackinac, and to the entrance of Lake Superior. In 1608, under the name of Masawomacks, they were the terror of the Powhatanic tribe of Virginia; as Mingoes, they spread their dominion over Ohio; and, as Nado-wassies, they were the foes of all the Algonquin, or Adirondack races. At periods anterior to the arrival of
the colonists, they had prevailed over the once proud and powerful Lenno Lenapi, and placed them sub jugo. They threatened the very existence of Canada. Tribes, whom they could not subject to their stern policy, were exterminated by the club and the tomahawk.
It became a part of the policy of all the colonies to conciliate such a people; consequently, they were in fact parties to all important Indian treaties formed during the period of our early history, and, until the colonies finally assumed their independence. In every negotiation involving the question of boundaries, or the termination of a war, the first demand was, What will the Iroquois do? They still, in reality, held the balance of power.
Chapter IV. In the Contest for the Indian Power, between France and England, the Possession of the Mississippi Valley and of the Great Lake Basins became, in the End, the Prize Contended for.
THE close of the seventeenth century was marked by events which excite in us a more than usual degree of interest in the aboriginal policy. The settlements made at Bolixi, and on other parts of the open shores of the Gulf of Mexico, during the latter years of this century, were followed by the location of others in the Mississippi valley. New Orleans was founded in 1799. La Salle, by his discovery of the Mississippi river, had developed an important fact in North American geography. Such a river, and such a valley, could only be paralleled, in the history of the Old World, by the Nile and the Niger; and, in the New, only by the Amazon, the La Platte, and the Orinoco, of South America. But, unlike those streams, although passing through a region possessing an equally fertile soil, the climate and sanitary advantages of the country in its vicinage far transcended them.
The foundation of the city of New Orleans furnished a depot for the products of a region, whose extent and resources could scarcely be estimated. This entire territory, extending to the sources of the Arkansas, the Ohio, and the Missouri, as well as to the great chain of lakes, was filled with Indians, of various names and families, who roved in wild independence over its plains and through its forests, contributing to a new and most attractive branch of commerce, the fur trade. To wield political influence amongst them was, in fact, to secure the most direct means of promoting colonial success. The fine sylvan country of the Illinois had, from the period of its first discovery, been the universal theme of admiration. At an early day, posts were established, not only at Kaskaskia and Cahokia, but, having become the headquarters of mild ecclesiastical and commercial functionaries, they were continued up the Wabash, the Ohio, the Illinois, and the Wisconsin, where they were met by similar establishments, diverging from Quebec and Montreal. From this period may be dated the renewed prosperity of New France.
Fort Niagara, which commanded the Iroquois borders, had been founded as early as 1678;
ancient Gliuna, was built in 1727; Detroit in 1701; Vincennes in 1710; and, a short time subsequently, a series of minor posts, extending along the lake shores, from Green Bay and St. Joseph's to the Miami of the Lakes, and the Sandusky, and thence to Presque Isle, on Lake Erie. Among all the Indian tribes inhabiting these regions, the French king, French power and liberality, and French manners, were spoken of with praise, and regarded with admiration.
Such was the progress made by the new ecclesiastical establishments, that a commissioner, of high sacerdotal standing, was deputed by the Court of France to visit the western posts and tribes. Charlevoix, who performed this task, and whose journal and history furnish proofs of the zeal and learning he displayed, journeyed from Quebec, through the chain of lakes, to the Mississippi, which, in 1721, he descended to New Orleans. He made many valuable inquiries respecting the history and condition of the tribes, the results of which he reported to his government. In his era, the worship of an eternal fire, the great dogma of the Ghebir system, was still found to exist among the Natchez, or Chigantualga Indians, who accompanied its rites with imposing ceremonies.
The possession of the Mississippi valley was, in reality, the prize for which all these exertions were made; and the British colonies soon became aware, that a chain of military posts, extending from New Orleans to Quebec, was about to environ them.
In 1687, the Canadian authorities, with great formality, repossessed themselves of the Straits of Detroit, commemorating the event by the issue of a protocol. 245 In 1749, the Governor-General of Canada caused leaden plates, bearing suitable inscriptions, to be nailed to trees, and also others to be buried beneath the earth, in the Ohio valley, as a testimony of the re-occupancy of that valley by the French. They aimed, at least, to make the record strong. 246 But a fraction over fifty years elapsed, when these posts were extended up the Ohio to its source, at the junction of the Monongahela and Alleghany, where Fort Du Quesne was built, in 1753. The comprehensive and vigorous movements of the French secured the influence of the tribes, whom they supplied with goods, wares, and merchandise at all the posts. Virginia, the Carolinas, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, were the first to take the alarm. The French assumed the sovereignty of the country by right of its discovery by La Salle, and a long period had not elapsed when the western tribes attacked the southern and western frontiers, with a vigor which threatened the annihilation of the colonies.
In 1728, the Shawnees and Delawares, pressed by the Iroquois, and feeling the encroachments of the advancing settlements, fled across the Alleghanies to the Ohio valley. The Iroquois power had long previously driven the Lenno Lenapi in the same direction.
In 1736, the French local authorities reported to their home government, in Paris,
that they exercised a control over 103 tribes, comprising a total of 16,403 warriors, representing a population of 82,000 souls. 247 It no longer admitted of a doubt, that the object of the French was, by drawing this line around the colonies, to prevent them from extending their possessions to the westward beyond the summits of the Alleghany mountains. Such, indeed, was the boast of some of the leading Indian chiefs, who regarded the English as the nation which designed to infringe on their forest domains, to impose upon them the yoke of labor and letters, and to tread out their very existence. 248 The sanguinary inroads of the French and their savage allies on the frontiers, first brought the youthful Washington into the field. He was but sixteen years of age when, in 1748, he made his first exploratory trip in that direction. 249 Five years subsequently, he undertook his perilous official journey to the French post on Lake Erie, thus obtaining his first knowledge of the habits of a subtle foe, whose instability of purpose, and cruelty of character, required perpetual vigilance.
With respect to the great lake basins, they were, at an early date, in possession of the French. Lake Ontario was commanded by Forts Cataraqui, Niagara, and Oswego; Erie was secured by the location of Fort Le Nou, on the Straits of Detroit, and Lake Huron by Fort St. Joseph (the site of the modern Gratiot), situated at the head of the river St. Clair, as also by the old peninsular fort of
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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