« ZurückWeiter »
to tell us those things which you have heard from your mothers. In return, I will tell you some of those we have heard from ours. 'In the beginning, our fathers had only the flesh of animals to subsist on, and if their hunting was unsuccessful they were starving. Two of our young hunters having killed a deer made a fire in the woods to boil some parts of it. When they were about to satisfy their hunger, they beheld a beautiful young woman descend from the clouds and seat herself on that hill which you see yonder among the Blue Mountains. They said to each other, "It is a spirit that perhaps has smelt our broiling venison and wishes to eat of it; let us offer some to her." They presented her with the tongue; she was pleased with the taste of it and said: "Your kindness shall be rewarded; come to this place after thirteen moons, and you will find something that will be of great benefit in nourishing you and your children to the latest generations." They did so, and to their surprise found plants they had never seen before, but which from that ancient time have been constantly cultivated among us to our great advantage. Where her right hand had touched the ground they found maize; where her left had touched it they found kidneybeans." The good missionary, disgusted with this idle tale, said: "What I delivered to you were sacred truths; but what you tell me is mere fable, fiction and falsehood." The Indian, offended, replied: "My brother, it seems your friends have not done you justice in your education; they have not well instructed you in the rules of common civility. You saw that we, who understand and practice those rules, believed all your stories; why do you refuse to believe ours?"
When any of them come into our towns our people are apt to crowd them, gaze upon them, and incommode them where they desire to be private; this they esteem great rudeness and the effect of the want of instruction in the rules of civility and good manners. “We have,” say they, "as much curiosity as you, and when you come into our towns we wish for opportunities of looking at you; but for this purpose we hide ourselves behind bushes where you are to pass and never intrude ourselves into your company."
Their manner of entering one another's village has likewise its rules. It is reckoned uncivil in traveling strangers to enter a village abruptly without giving notice of their approach. Therefore as soon as they arrive within hearing they stop and halloo, remaining there until invited to enter. Two old men usually come out to them and lead them in. There is in every village a vacant dwelling, called the strangers' house. Here they are placed, while the old men go round from hut to hut acquainting the inhabitants that strangers are arrived, who are probably hungry and weary; and every one sends them what he can spare of victuals and skins to repose on. When the strangers are refreshed pipes and tobacco are brought; and then, but not before, conversation begins, with inquiries who they are, whither bound, what news, etc., and it usually ends with offers of service, if the strangers have occasion for guides, or any necessaries for continuing their journey; and nothing is exacted for the entertainment.
The same hospitality, esteemed among them as a principal virtue, is practiced by private persons, of which Conrad Weiser, our interpreter, gave me the
following instance. He had been naturalized among the Six Nations and spoke well the Mohawk language. In going through the Indian country, to carry a message from our governor to the council at Onondaga, he called at the habitation of Canassetego, an old acquaintance, who embraced him, spread furs for him to sit on, and placed before him some boiled beans and venison and mixed some rum and water for his drink. When he was well refreshed and had lit his pipe, Canassetego began to converse with him; asked him how he had fared the many years since they had seen each other, whence he then came, what occasioned the journey, etc. Conrad answered all his questions, and when the discourse began to flag the Indian, to continue it, said: "Conrad, you have lived long among the white people and know something of their customs. I have been sometimes at Albany, and have observed that once in seven days they shut up their shops and assemble all in the great house. Tell me what it is for. What do they do there?" "They meet there," says Conrad, "to hear and learn good things." "I do not doubt," says the Indian, "that they tell you so they have told me the same; but I doubt the truth of what they say, and I will tell you my reasons. I went lately to Albany to sell my skins and buy blankets, knives, powder, rum, etc. You know I used generally to deal with Hans Hanson, but I was a little inclined this time to try some other merchants. However, I called first upon Hans and asked him what he would give for beaver. He said he could not give any more than four shillings a pound; 'but,' says he, 'I cannot talk on business now: this is the day when we meet together to learn good things, and I am going to meeting.' So
I thought to myself, 'Since I cannot do any business. to-day, I may as well go to the meeting too,' and I went with him. There stood up a man in black and began to talk to the people very angrily. I did not understand what he said; but perceiving that he looked much at me and at Hanson, I imagined he was angry at seeing me there; so I went out, sat down near the house, struck fire and lit my pipe, waiting till the meeting should break up. I thought, too, that the man had mentioned something of beaver, and I suspected it might be the subject of their meeting. So when they came out I accosted my merchant. Well, Hans,' says I, 'I hope you have agreed to give more than four shillings a pound.' 'No,' says he; 'I cannot give so much; I cannot give more than three shillings and sixpence.' I then spoke to several dealers, but they all sang the same song-three and sixpencethree and sixpence. This made it clear to me that my suspicion was right; and that whatever they pretended of meeting to learn good things, the real purpose was to consult how to cheat Indians in the price of beaver. Consider but a little, Conrad, and you must be of my opinion. If they met so often to learn good things, they would certainly have learned some before this time. But they are still ignorant. You know our practice. If a white man in traveling through our country enters one of our cabins, we all treat him as I do you: we dry him if he is wet; we warm him if he is cold and give him meat and drink that he may allay his thirst and hunger; and we spread soft furs for him to rest and sleep on. We demand nothing in return. But if I go into a white man's house at Albany and ask for victuals and drink, they say: 'Where is
your money? and if I have none they say: 'Get out, you Indian dog! You see they have not learned those little good things that we need no meetings to be instructed in, because our mothers taught them to us when we were children; and therefore it is impossible their meetings should be, as they say, for any such purpose or have any such effect: they are only to contrive the cheating of Indians in the price of beaver."